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Sport - when discrimination is allowed in the provision of goods or services

This advice applies to England

Generally speaking, a service provider isn't allowed to discriminate against you. However, there are some exceptions under the Equality Act 2010 in relation to some sporting competitions.

Read this page to find out more about what doesn't count as unlawful discrimination in relation to sporting competitions.

Separate sporting competitions for men and women

Sporting competitions where physical strength, stamina or physique are important factors in deciding who wins can be restricted on the basis of sex. If one sex is generally at a disadvantage compared to the other, it’s not unlawful to hold separate competitions for men and women.

For example, it's not unlawful to organise separate tennis or football competitions for men and women.

Exclusion of transsexual people from sporting competitions

The Equality Act also says it’s lawful to restrict the participation of transsexuals from sporting competitions where physical strength, stamina or physique are important factors in deciding who wins.

But this must necessary to make sure:

  • the competition is fair, or
  • the other competitors are safe.

Example

You’ve been refused participation in a women’s wrestling competition because you’re a transsexual woman. If the organisers can show that you would have an unfair competitive advantage or that your participation would be a risk to the safety of the other competitors, it wouldn’t be unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.

Selection on the basis of nationality or birthplace

Sports teams can select participants on the basis of nationality, birthplace or residence if the team is representing a country or an area or because of the rules of the competition. This isn't unlawful race discrimination.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

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