Bosses admit being in ‘denial’ over sexism and misogyny in Welsh Rugby Union
Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) bosses have admitted they “deny” the level of sexism and misogyny in the organization and said warning signs have been overlooked.
Chairman Ieuan Evans and acting chief executive Nigel Walker appeared before Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee on Thursday.
The men have been ordered to testify after a BBC Wales Investigates program last week aired serious allegations that rocked the WRU.
The union’s chief executive, Steve Phillips, resigned over the weekend and it was announced that an outside taskforce had been asked to conduct an independent review.
Apologizing to members, Mr Evans and Mr Walker said they accepted that there was a problem in the culture of the WRU and were committed to implementing all of the taskforce’s recommendations.
The chair’s name and the scope of the review are due to be released this week, Mr Walker said. He revealed that the independent chair is a woman who has worked in the judiciary.
Asked whether WRU staff who had been required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) would be allowed to testify as witnesses for the review, Mr Walker said he would “try to facilitate this to ensure they can be interviewed.” “.
However, he said they don’t currently know how many people have signed non-disclosure agreements.
Mr Walker said: “I think in any organisation, especially a big organization like Welsh Rugby Union, it’s possible that things will happen over a period of time and that people will turn a blind eye and not address those issues.”
“So the warning signs have been there for quite some time.
“When it’s presented as vividly as it was on this show, the BBC Wales show the week before last, it hits you like a 10-tonne truck.”
Mr Walker added: “To be honest I think as an organization we have been in denial about the scale of the problem.
“In the past there have been cases that have been dealt with – theoretically dealt with – and people have moved on and I think every single case is an indication that there was a broader problem but that people disagree.
“When you see it presented in a 30-minute program as it was, you have to act, unless you bury your head in the sand for another six or 12 months, and that’s our position in.
“None of us are proud of the position we’re in.”
Mr Walker said London-based arbitration firm Sports Resolution has been asked to conduct the review, but it is the responsibility of the Chairs to choose the other members of the panel, of which there will be three or four people.
The terms of reference have been set by Sports Resolution and Sports Wales in consultation with the Welsh Government and the WRU. Mr Walker endorsed the review’s report and the recommendations would be made public.
“It will look at the culture of Welsh rugby, including sexism and misogyny, which dates back to 2017 but could go back even further,” Walker said.
“We open our doors. The review can go in any direction the Chair wishes.”
Welsh Labor’s Jenny Rathbone MS questioned whether the WRU executive had the “ability” to change given the problems that had been “widespread” in the organization “for so long”.
Mr Evans and Mr Walker denied being aware of the broader culture of misogyny and both said they had not personally witnessed any incidents of sexism or discrimination.
They confirmed that no board member had been disciplined for claims.
Mr Walker said he had “no objection” to the release of a redacted version of the 2021 women’s rugby review but said talks about it were still ongoing.
He said the report would make “discomfortable” reading for those involved in the WRU.
Sport Minister Dawn Bowden was also questioned when allegations were brought to the attention of the Welsh Government.
Ms Bowden said she was aware of allegations of sexism and misogyny at WRU over the past year but had not seen any formal complaints, saying “I did what I could.”
Labor MP Tonia Antoniazzi, who appeared in the BBC documentary, said she wrote to Ms Bowden last year to set out her concerns.