Eighteen softball players at UBC say they've been discriminated against because of their gender after their team was downgraded from varsity status to a club sport. 

The players, who all attend UBC, launched a civil action in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday against the university citing gender discrimination, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and misrepresentation. 

The students claim the university's decision in February to reduce their team's status has harmed the tradition and reputation of the program.

UBC Women Softball Team

UBC's women's softball team say they were downgraded from varsity status to a club sport by the university because of their gender. (UBC Thunderbird Sports)

UBC ordered a review of all varsity sports and earlier this year announced 24 of 29 teams will retain their varsity status.

The remaining five including the women's softball team — were re-designated as competitive clubs. The other four downgraded teams are ski teams.

The funding review was announced in 2012 to prioritize funding for the university's varsity sports programs after the university decided not to join the NCAA.

"The softball girls believe they've been made the scapegoat of the system," said the students' lawyer Kerri Farion, a former member of the UBC team. 

The men's baseball team, which has 30 spots, kept its varsity status while the women's softball team, with 18 players, was downgraded.

The softball players chose to attend UBC because it had varsity standing and because they were promised long-term funding and a softball facility, according to Farion. 

"This is a high-handed process that has excluded them and it will take years to overcome this short-sighted plan," said Farion.

The loss of its varsity status will keep the softball team from competing at high-calibre intercollegiate competition, Farion said. 

UBC spokesman Randy Schmidt said the university has not yet received the statement of claim filed Wednesday and cannot comment before its lawyers have seen the documents.