‘We will get this right’: WRU chair vows to tackle racist, homophobic and sexist bullying

The Welsh Rugby Union is facing serious allegations (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)
The Welsh Rugby Union is facing serious allegations (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

Welsh Rugby Union chair Ieuan Evans has vowed that a taskforce that includes “external expertise” will be established to help tackle allegations of racist, homophobic and sexist bullying within the governing body.

A number of former WRU employees took part in an investigation by BBC Wales – which was screened on Monday night – with accusations about their time at the organisation.

Charlotte Wathan, general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February, claims offensive comments by a colleague left her in tears and feeling sick, while another unnamed contributor says she was left contemplating suicide by her experiences of bullying and sexism at work.

Incidents of racism and homophobia are also alleged.

It has sparked calls from fans for WRU chief executive Steve Phillips to be sacked, while major sponsors of the game in Wales have expressed grave concerns during the damaging fallout.

Asked specifically about Phillips’ future, former Wales captain Evans said: “I have total confidence that we will get this right.

“That includes Steve. He is the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union. We will get this right.

“I can only sincerely and heartfelt apologise to all affected.

“As a father of two young women, I found it deeply distressing, and I can only apologise to all affected by this.

“The WRU is an iconic institution in Wales that relies on a huge amount of goodwill.

“You work hard to get that goodwill, but goodwill needs to be replenished, and people are now craving reassurance. We will address the issues, drive the changes and bring that trust and faith back.

“It is not about individuals, this is a collective. It’s all of us. We need to embrace the challenge together.

I cannot turn back the clock, but I promise you we will start work on making necessary changes immediately

WRU chief executive Steve Phillips

“I want to ensure that our game and our organisation is fit to be a modern, outward-looking organisation. I think that is our drive here.

“My ambition here is to bring in some external expertise and establish a taskforce to ensure they review everything and ensure that we establish and develop the right culture to ensure that it is that welcoming institution we truly believe it is capable of being.

“This can’t be an internal review, this has to be external with that genuine expertise we need from other organisations. Other organisations, sports, entities, might have gone through similar experiences.”

Phillips has written to the WRU’s member clubs, stating: “We will re-examine our structures and procedures to make sure our employees find a business that is caring and sensitive to their needs and welfare.

“I cannot turn back the clock, but I promise you we will start work on making necessary changes immediately.

“Much of the recent comment has been difficult to hear, but I implore anyone, anywhere throughout the game who is affected by any of the issues raised to contact us immediately.”

Fans group JSG Cymru wrote to Evans calling for Phillips to be dismissed and the Principality Building Society, sponsors of Wales’ national stadium in Cardiff and supporters of the Welsh grassroots game, described the allegations as “extremely concerning”.

Evans continued: “We need to sit down with the board imminently. Put it this way, I don’t think there is a long time-frame here.

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“We can’t abdicate responsibility. We need to be front and centre with this, and my responsibility is to lead that.

“I hope there is still a residue of that goodwill, but it has been tarnished, there is no doubt about it, and we have to address that and earn that trust.

“Nothing has more significance than this. If you were to offer me a (Six Nations) Grand Slam or a successful outcome to this and resolving this, then culture comes first.”