Reel fury! Members of England ladies’ angling team refuse to compete in world championships after team picks trans woman who used to be a rugby player
- Trans woman Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges was also allowed to apply to event
Members of the England ladies’ angling team have refused to compete in the world championships after a trans woman was allowed to join.
Members of the six-strong squad did not volunteer to participate in Italy at the Shore Angling World Championships in November because Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges, who was born male, was also allowed to apply.
It comes three months after The Mail on Sunday revealed the team had pulled out of the home nations competition because former rugby player Ms Hodges – who can cast her line at least twice as far as many women – had been selected.
The team’s captain said they were ‘humiliated’ when they won bronze with her at the 2018 world championships.
Heather, 66, who asked that her surname was not published, said: ‘It wasn’t a nice situation, mainly because all the other countries wouldn’t speak to us.
Members of the six-strong squad did not volunteer to participate in Italy at the Shore Angling World Championships in November because Becky Lee Birtwhistle Hodges (pictured here on March 15, 2021), who was born male, was also allowed to apply
‘The managers wouldn’t speak to our manager. They were all against us. When we went up to collect our medal, nobody clapped and people walked out.
‘Although Becky Lee would be an asset to my team, it’s unfair on everyone else. And if you win in a situation like that, you can’t enjoy the victory, because it feels like you’ve cheated.
READ MORE: Half of England ladies’ angling team quit after trans woman ‘with hands like shovels’ and who used to be a rugby player is selected to join their squad for physically demanding fishing championship
‘It’s a shame because the other girls would have applied for the World Championships if Becky Lee hadn’t been involved.’
The sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, has denied that trans women have a significant advantage. Its board has refused to stop Ms Hodges from applying to join the England team.
Ms Hodges had sex-reassignment surgery in 2019. According to a profile on an angling website, she has been fishing since she was ten.
But Heather said upper-body strength was a major advantage in sea fishing as competitors must cast weighted lines from the beach, often in adverse weather conditions.
‘Many of the Angling Trust board members don’t fish and don’t know the sport,’ she said. ‘A man can cast 150 yards, but I can only cast about 70 yards Some of the girls can only cast 50 yards. Body strength plays a major part and it gives Becky Lee a lot more water that she can fish in.’
Heather believes the Angling Trust has failed to deal with the issue because it wants to appear ‘inclusive’ and is worried about the embarrassment of being challenged in court.
When the team travels abroad, they usually share hotel rooms. However, Ms Hodges cannot share with the other women because her wife, whom she married before she transitioned, would get jealous, said Heather.
The team captain said: ‘Although Becky Lee (pictured) would be an asset to my team, it’s unfair on everyone else. And if you win in a situation like that, you can’t enjoy the victory, because it feels like you’ve cheated’
Fiona McAnens, director of sport at Fair Play For Women, which campaigns for women and girls’ rights, said: ‘These women know they would have an unfair advantage if they went to the world championships with a male in their team, and they’ve chosen to make a stand for fairness for all women. That takes courage.
‘These women are having to take the protection of their sport into their own hands. They shouldn’t have to give up their own opportunities, though. The rules are meant to provide fairness, but in this case the rules are not protecting fairness for women.’
Jamie Cook, of the Angling Trust, said the gender of an angler was based on their passport or gender recognition certificate. However, Sport England has ordered a review of diversity policy among all sport governing bodies to ensure ‘safety, fairness and inclusion’.
Mr Cook added: ‘This review is yet to be completed, and until it is our policy remains the same.
‘Team selection is currently based on this policy, but our ongoing consultation with women’s team members and managers, which will be a key part of our review, could see this change.’
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