Damning report shows extent of sexism and misogyny at Welsh Rugby Union

A damning review of the Welsh Rugby Union has revealed the extent of the misogyny and sexism at the organisation.

Among some of the evidence the independent review panel heard, was how a WRU representative had expressed views that 'men are the master race' and how there was gossip about how a female manager had 'slept her way' to a job.

Other information revealed how slurs about women in same sex relationships were thrown around the organisation.

Revelations about a toxic and misogynistic culture first came to light 11 months ago on the eve of this year’s Six Nations.

It led to chaos exploding at the WRU after a number of employees made allegations about misogyny and sexism, with the then CEO Steve Phillips resigning and sponsors considering their positions.

It led to the new Chair and CEO of the WRU being hauled in front of a Senedd Committee vowing to implement any changes from an external report.

With that report now landing, it includes 36 recommendations in total, with the WRU saying it is committed to ensuring all are actioned. 

The organisation's new chair, Richard Collier-Keywood says the WRU must and will do better.

“I want to start by saying again that on behalf of the whole WRU, we are truly sorry to those who have been impacted by the systems, structures and conduct described in the report which are simply not acceptable.   

“This report covers our governance, our culture, our approach to women’s and girl’s rugby and behaviours of leadership. For anyone who cares about rugby in Wales it is a very difficult read and it is a particularly difficult read if you work at the WRU.

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

“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.  

“This report is really helpful in providing a path for some of what we need to do to earn back that trust. 

“We have already committed to listen, learn and change. Nigel Walker, Ieuan Evans, Abi Tierney, I and the whole Board have all committed to accept the findings on behalf of the WRU.

"We have also committed to implementing the recommendations and we intend to do that at pace. We welcome, in particular, the proposal for there to be ongoing monitoring and independent oversight of our progress. 

“We have already made significant progress this year in a number of areas referenced by the report and its authors. Thanks to the changes voted through by over 97% of member clubs in March this year we have made significant changes to our governance.  We have a new Chair, a new Board, a new CEO and a new Executive Director of Rugby all in place from January 2024. 

“The Board should consist of eight appointed directors and four directors elected by the community game. Six of the new appointed directors have been announced, with one more to be named, and four of these are women. The elections for the remaining places will take place later this year.  

“There has also been a step change in the way that the women’s high-performance programme is supported in the last few years. The professional women’s rugby programme has received significant investment with 32 full-time contracts now in place for our players, and a wider strategy for women and girls rugby will be delivered in 2024. 

“Significant change is never easy. We are committed to operating transparently and building trust across and beyond the game of rugby in Wales. We look forward to developing a new strategy re-establishing our values across the WRU. 

"In particular, we commit to placing equality and inclusion at all levels at the heart of what WRU stands for and represents."

Interim CEO of the WRU, Nigel Walker, says his organisations needs to listen better.

Meanwhile, the interim CEO of the WRU, Nigel Walker, has said much work is still needed.

“We will make sure we have understood all the recommendations and the implications of these and work hard with our stakeholders to implement the necessary changes. 

“Many of the recommendations in relation to our Board and on enhanced investment in the women’s game at a national level have been delivered or are in progress, but we recognise that we still have much more work to do.

“Some of the changes will need consultation with our wider rugby family and in particular our clubs. I am confident we will be able to put all the recommendations into practice, and I am heartened that we have already seen a strong commitment of our clubs to reform

“The report provides a wider challenge to us, to better listen and learn as an organisation. We will be talking to colleagues and our partners to make sure that the recommendations are put in place through effective collaboration. 

The WRU's Group CEO, Abi Tierney, has said: “The Independent Review’s report is incredibly humbling and describes issues, actions and attitudes that are hugely regrettable. They should not exist in our, nor any, workplace. 

Abi Tierney is the WRU's first appointed female Chief Executive Officer. Credit: WRU

“Of course, as leaders of the organisation, we will all wholeheartedly condemn the attitudes and issues described but we are equally aware that our response needs to be greater than this.  

“We will implement all of the recommendations the Independent Review panel has made. My colleagues have committed to doing this and I commit to doing this too. 

“But we will also go deeper than this.  We will take what the review has found to heart and not only fix the issues identified but also to build a culture and values that we can all be proud of.  

“We will do this together. We will, because of the pain we are going through now and with gratitude to those who have spoken up and made us listen, become better.

“The fact that we have a report like this from an independent source identifying any issues and problems that exist in our culture is a great opportunity for us to transform the way we work.

“We can feel inspired that everything is out in the open. We can feel empowered that our people know they will be listened to and that we will act proportionately and appropriately to behaviour that is called out in the future.   

“We can feel confident that we not only have procedures and structures in place to make this achievable, but that we have a workforce which is encouraged and able to speak out, to talk to us and to help us improve.  

“We will only improve if we do this together, if we listen, and not only listen but hear, and if we act appropriately in response. The review and its recommendations will help us do that, but we must also be fully invested in the idea that we all need to evolve, change and progress together.”

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