WRU scandal : Supporters call for resignations over sexism allegations inside Welsh Rugby Union

The scandal has been compared to the one which engulfed Yorkshire County Cricket Club in 2020 Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images

Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Steve Phillips should resign or be sacked "immediately", according to the official Joint Supporters Group of all four professional Welsh rugby teams.

It comes amid allegations of sexism and discrimination made against the organisation during a BBC investigation.

In an open letter to the chair of the WRU, they call for him to "relieve Steve Phillips of his position as Chief Executive immediately and instigate a full investigation into the culture in the organisation."

They are also calling for the Welsh Government to launch an inquiry into the scandal.

The official Joint Supporters Group are calling for WRU CEO Steve Phillips (left) to go Credit: PA

In the letter the group say they are "concerned" about the allegations, and and raise "many questions about what is happening inside the WRU."

The allegations are the latest challenge to face the WRU, with issues over finances in the professional game, poor performances on the international stage leading to the sacking of men's coach Wayne Pivac, and frustrations about the management of grassroots club rugby.

What is the background to the scandal?

Allegations of sexism and discrimination against the WRU come after the former general manager of women's rugby in Wales, Charlotte Wathan, claimed she faced offensive comments by a colleague which left her in tears and feeling sick.

Ms Wathan made the accusations, having resigned last February.

Another former WRU employee, who is unnamed, says her experiences of bullying and sexism at work left her contemplating suicide.

The WRU says it has reached an "amicable agreement" with Ms Wathan "satisfying both parties" following an investigation by an external law firm, but said a confidentiality agreement between the parties prevented them giving further details.

It also said another complaint had been investigated and then withdrawn, while new information brought up during last night's programme would be "followed up and acted upon".

Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi has been left "very concerned" for the women's game in Wales Credit: PA

But MP Tonia Antoniazzi, a former Wales international herself, said the revelations have left her feeling "great concern" for the women's game.

The Gower MP and Labour's shadow Northern Ireland minister has compared the situation engulfing the WRU to the racism scandal at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Former player Azeem Rafiq, who was the whistleblower in that case, gave evidence to a Westminster committee, and Ms Antoniazzi says an independent body may be needed to hold sporting institutions in Wales to account.

In a statement, the WRU says: "The Welsh Rugby Union condemns the use of racist, homophobic or sexist language and states in the strongest possible terms that racism, homophobic, sexist or bullying behaviour has no place in Welsh rugby."

The statement continued: "It is vitally important to note that we have a duty of care as employers to both the complainants and those complained against.

"That duty of care continues and we are deeply concerned about the effect of this programme on those individuals in respect of the fact the allegations described remain unsubstantiated following a thorough independent legal investigation."

Speaking on Monday, Warren Gatland said he was not fully aware of the issue following his recent return to coach the men's team Credit: PA

It added: "With respect to the comments made by Tonia Antoniazzi MP, the WRU invites the Labour MP for Gower to make direct contact on the issues she raises and would welcome the opportunity to discuss her concerns."

Asked about the emerging scandal yesterday, head coach Warren Gatland said it was difficult for him to assess the situation given his absence since the World Cup in 2019.

He said he was "pretty unaware of everything" which has emerged in recent days but "there's always two sides to every story". He added that the journalists asking about the situation "probably know more about it than I do".

Reaction to the scandal

Two of Wales' four rugby regions have so far publicly reacted to the allegations.

On social media, Scarlets, who play in Llanelli, said the scandal serves as a "reminder" more needs to be done to make the game more inclusive.

And Dragons, based in Newport, gave the same message.

Meanwhile stadium sponsor Principality says: “Principality Building Society takes great pride in supporting grassroots rugby within the diverse communities we serve, as we have for over twenty years. Principality wants to work with partners who share our values.

"The allegations in the emerging BBC investigation are extremely concerning and we would expect the WRU to take the immediate and decisive action required to remove any discriminatory and bullying behaviours and to uphold the inclusive values that we should all live by.”

In a statement the Welsh Government, who are facing calls to open an inquiry into the issue, say: “The Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport is engaging with the WRU on the immediate actions it must take to address the allegations set out in this investigation.

“The details in the testimonies provided are devastating.  We recognise the courage it takes to come forward after experiencing any form of harassment, bullying or abuse.

“Women and girls have the right to be safe in all aspects of their lives. The Welsh Government is committed to tackling abuse in the workplace and challenging damaging behaviour and attitudes head on so all women and girls in Wales can live fear free.”

There have been calls for the Welsh Government to launch an enquiry Credit: PA

Commenting on the news that serious allegations have been made against Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) officials, Conservative Shadow Sports Minister Tom Giffard MS says it is "bitterly disappointing to see what seems to be a culture of indifference to certain types of unacceptable behaviour and a lack of thorough investigation for these grievances."

He added: “I truly hope that all of these issues can be investigated fully to give those involved assurances that action will be taken and ensure that women are not discouraged from participating in the game or the governance of it.”