'Toxic' and 'vindictive' culture at Welsh Rugby Union revealed in damning report

A report into the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has uncovered "toxic" and "vindictive" behaviour towards some of its employees.

Some within the workforce experienced bullying and discrimination, with witnesses reporting feelings of powerlessness and fear, Dame Anne Rafferty's review of the union found.

Examples of the discrimination reported included the sharing of gossip that a female staff member had "slept her way" into her job, use of the phrase "hello sugar t***" and the use of slurs about women in same-sex relationships.

The review was launched in February after a BBC programme reported allegations of racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia connected to the WRU.

The union's leaders were criticised for "allowing problems to develop" and were said to be a "significant cause of the poor culture", the review said.

Former chief executive Steve Phillips quit within days of the BBC programme airing, and is set to be replaced by Abi Tierney in January.

Ms Tierney described the report as "incredibly humbling" and said some of the issues, actions and attitudes detailed were "hugely regrettable".

Thirty-six recommendations were made, including governance, complaints handling, the union's approach to inclusion and diversity, and investment in the women's game - which Ms Tierney pledged to action.

More than 50 witnesses or groups of witnesses - including past and present players - were interviewed for the review.

"The work environment had elements of bullying and discrimination and was experienced as toxic by some employees," the review said.

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Some witnesses said they endured "great stress" and issues such as "being burnt out, having anxiety, suffering mental health issues and seeing worse behaviour at the WRU than they had experienced themselves".

A number also worried about what would happen if their identity was revealed, with some players concerned about team selection but the majority fearing the WRU could be "unforgiving, even vindictive".

The review also found non-disclosure agreements had been "overused" at the WRU.

WRU chair Richard Collier-Keywood said the report was a "very difficult read" for "anyone who cares about rugby in Wales".

"It is clear that there were many opportunities to avert the serious problems described which were simply not taken," he said.

"We have a lot of work to do to win back the trust of our colleagues, our players, the volunteers who are the heart of our community game, and the supporters that buy tickets week in, week out."