Trans darts player excluded from Devon tournament 'because of her gender'

-Credit: (Image: Courtesy of Gavin Lewis© SWNS)
-Credit: (Image: Courtesy of Gavin Lewis© SWNS)

A trans darts player says she has been left "broken" after claiming she was was excluded from a national competition due to her gender. Samantha Lewis, 28, had hoped to compete in the female category at the England Darts Open in Devon, but was told by organisers that she was "not welcome."

England Darts had previously released a statement stating that they would not include trans athletes as it would "result in the demise of our Women’s sport." But Samantha, who competes at the county level, argued that a player's success relies on their "skill" and "precision" rather than their physical attributes.

And while she doesn’t agree with trans athletes competing against ‘natural birth women’ in sports such as boxing and weightlifting, she feels there is no unfair advantage in darts. Samantha said of the decision: "That was very disheartening getting that message because I’ve always wanted to go down there and play in that competition.

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"I finally get the chance to and then I’m told I’m not allowed, just because of my gender identity… it’s broken to me. I don’t feel like I have an advantage over natural-birth women. It’s all to do with the practice you put in.

"It’s a skill sport. I know that you’re using your arm to throw it at the board, but it's having that precision skill to be able to throw something to such an accurate target. I do agree that trans women shouldn’t play [competitively] in physical sports like football, rugby, swimming, boxing. But darts is a skill sport, not a physical sport."

Samantha, a support worker from North Cave, East Yorks., whose transition journey started at 14, caught the bug for darts by watching her dad compete in pubs and tournaments. She started taking part competitively roughly six years ago and now plays for the Humberside County Darts side.

But Samantha said she often faces abuse from fellow players and those at venues, who make offensive remarks on account of her gender. She said: "In the mixed competitions, [people have] shouted ‘There’s a man playing with another man, against a man and a woman’, and horrible comments in person. It’s very off-putting and distracting.

"Obviously, I’m looking to do well in darts, but then I’m thinking, ‘Oh god, is something going to happen? Is someone going to attack me? I feel like I’m constantly on edge. I go live on TikTok as well, so obviously I get a lot of abuse on there, as well as some messages."

Samantha Lewis, 28, had hoped to compete in the female category at the England Darts Open in Devon, but was told by organisers that she was “not welcome” -Credit:Courtesy of Gavin Lewis© SWNS
Samantha Lewis, 28, had hoped to compete in the female category at the England Darts Open in Devon, but was told by organisers that she was “not welcome” -Credit:Courtesy of Gavin Lewis© SWNS

Samantha said she was thrilled to put herself forward for the England Darts Open, which was held on June 9 this year at the North Devon Resort, Ilfracombe. But she then received a message via Facebook on May 31 from a member of the governing body stating that her entry was being refused.

The England Darts representative said their decision had come after she made “derogatory remarks” concerning one of their official on social media. However, Samantha denied she had made any offensive comments towards the individual and claimed the decision had more to do with her gender.

She said about her frustration: "They’re putting it like, ‘It’s to do with all the physical sides of men having more of an advantage, and men win more things.’ But my argument was if that’s really the case, then why haven’t I beaten you all in all these years?

"I’ve only ever made one final, which I lost in... I’ve won one that was just a local competition. The rest have all been losing first or second round."

Samantha said she was now expecting to compete in local events for a period where she knew she would be accepted. She added: "Of the big competitions, I’m going to take a backseat for them for now, just stick to local, little competitions. It’s a personal choice just because of all the abuse and hate."

Tommy Thompson, chairman of England Darts, said in a statement posted to its website on April 18: "England Darts has canvassed its players and executives in this very important issue concerning the future of Women’s darts, and how England can continue to protect the integrity within our sport for its female members.

"To compete and associate ourselves in events with non birth gender females in Womens [sic] events would be seen as accepting this situation, along with sending a message out that we are condoning and contributing to a situation which will ultimately result in the demise of our Women’s sport, a sport many people across our sport, have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort for many years in securing the right of Women to have their own championships where they compete on a level playing field with their fellow female born competitors.

"This decision has not been made hastily, and whilst certain International Championships may be affected by this decision, depending upon the views of others, nothing has ever been achieved without possible sacrifice, and England Darts are fully supportive of our Women and urge everyone within England Darts and fellow International Organisations/Associations to support Women’s Darts.

"We will not be drawn into being judgemental about any person’s life style choices, that is entirely their own choices, and is nothing to do with England Darts, neither will we be drawn into any abuse of any individuals, this decision is to protect the integrity of Woman’s Darts as a sport in its own right."