Cardiff Rugby director calls for Welsh Rugby Union CEO Steve Phillips to resign

WRU CEO Steve Phillips told ITV Wales on Tuesday he didn’t feel it was currently "necessary" for anyone to lose their jobs over the allegations. Credit: ITV Wales

A director of one of Wales' four professional rugby sides has called for Steve Phillips to leave his role as Welsh Rugby Union CEO.

Hayley Parsons OBE, a Non-Executive Director of the board of Cardiff Rugby, penned the open letter to WRU Chair Ieuan Evans.

In it she also calls for the WRU Board to resign or be sacked, adding: "We will not stop campaigning until change is actioned."

In response, WRU chair Ieuan Evans reiterated his plan to appoint an external task force to come into the organisation and review how the Union is run.

This week the WRU has been rocked by allegations of misogyny and bullying.

They come at a time when the game in Wales is at breaking point, with the nation's four regions in a desperate situation.

The governance of Welsh rugby has long been questioned and the regions do not yet have a financial agreement in place with the WRU beyond this season.

It means the regions are unable to offer new contracts to players, with the threat of an exodus of Wales' best players looming.

With that in mind, Parsons wrote to Evans and her letter has been publicly endorsed by another figure at one of Wales' regional teams, Dragons Chair David Buttress.

Parsons writes: "In my role as a non-executive director at Cardiff Rugby, I constantly witness and have to deal with the fallout of incompetence at the Welsh Rugby Union.

"I believe the Board, in its current state, does not possess the expertise and experience to run the WRU, which is essentially a £100 million company.

"As a group of individuals, they are not fit for purpose."

Steve Phillips told ITV Wales he was "truly sorry" for how some ex-employees felt while working for WRU. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Earlier this week Ospreys head coach Toby Booth labelled the financial situation in Wales as "catastrophic" as an impasse continues.

Addressing the relationship between the Union and the regions, Parsons wrote in her letter: "As regional clubs we hold back on a range of issues, too scared to go against the Union for fear of retribution, because of the utter choke hold it has on us."

Ms Parsons is the founder of price comparison website GoCompare and sold her stake in the company for over £40 million.

In 2019, she became the first female director at Cardiff Rugby.

She also lamented the departure of Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc, who chaired the Professional Rugby Board between 2019 and 2021. Blanc left her position after feeling like she was unable to instigate change.

After leaving, Blanc was named as the Sunday Times' business person of the year for 2022.

“How many more experienced, professional and good people need to leave Welsh Rugby before you take action and say enough is enough?” Parsons continued.

“I am pleading with you to make the right decision for the WRU, as a business and for rugby as our national sport.

“You are surrounded by amazing business professionals who already invest their time and energy into Welsh rugby. We need a clear overarching business strategy the whole of Welsh rugby and its regions can work towards.

"I can only sincerely, and I mean heartfelt, apologise for all affected. All affected."

Yesterday Welsh Rugby Union chair Ieuan Evans apologised to those who had been affected by the alleged incidents of discrimination.

On Tuesday meanwhile, WRU CEO Steve Phillips said he didn’t feel it was currently "necessary" for anyone to lose their jobs over the allegations.

WRU chair Ieuan Evans responded to Hayley Parson's open letter today by thanking her for her "constructive and heartfelt comments" and committed to writing back to her "in detail" as well as meeting in person to discuss the matter.

“As I made clear in statements yesterday, I will now lead on the composition of a new externally sourced Taskforce which will review our culture, systems and structures," he said.

“We need to respond to the public scrutiny we are currently experiencing, but this is also the right thing to do.  We are listening.

“We are not deaf to the observations and criticisms we are receiving and we must re-examine, re-evaluate, act decisively where we find wrong-doing, and move forwards.  We will do this together, we take responsibility together.  We will also seek outside influence and counsel as well as looking within to the likes of our independent Board directors as Hayley suggests. 

“I am already on public record, in a letter I wrote to member clubs for the New Year, with my ambitions to evolve the governance structure of the WRU with the Clubs and we will address this challenge with renewed vigour immediately.  We will use the pressure we are under now, the pressure we have drawn on ourselves, to get better, to improve.  I will not waver from this task.”