WRU facing sexual assault allegations from former employee 

ITV Wales Video report by Kate Lewis.

Words by Liz Perkins

A woman has claimed she was sexually assaulted in a cupboard at the Principality Stadium.

The victim, who claims she was subject to two attacks, during her time working at the iconic Cardiff venue has spoken out about her ordeal, which was alleged to have been carried out by a work colleague between 2019 and 2021.

No mention of the incident was featured in a damning report into sexism and misogyny at the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), which underlined the "toxic" and "vindictive" behaviour within the organisation when it was released in November of last year.

A culture of bullying and discrimination was highlighted after more than 50 witnesses or groups of witnesses - including past and present players - were interviewed for the review.

The WRU has now formally apologised directly to the individual involved and describes the behaviour as ‘totally unacceptable’. 

The victim told ITV Wales reporter Kate Lewis she felt "invisible" after being assaulted. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The woman revealed she froze with fear when the man carried out the assault. 

She said:  "He was waiting there in the cupboard in the office. He pulled the door shut and wedged me up against some of the stock and sexually assaulted me.

"I just froze, which I hate. I hate myself for it because I didn’t do anything.

"From the moment he had done it, I just wanted to be invisible."

The victim who wishes to remain anonymous said she was sexually assaulted a second time.

"He said he would never do it again and he came in to collect some post one day and he wasn't supposed to be in work. 

"He came up, it was just after Covid and we were just coming back in. 

"He came and found me and said you are going to have to come down to the office a minute". 

She continued: "In my head, I knew but stupidly I went. We got to the office and I thought I am not going to sit down so I stood by the door.

"He knew then I wasn't going to come in so as we came out he grabbed my behind. 

"I thought he's done it again, it took me back to the first time straight away like that.

"I just froze again."

She claimed he laughed in the wake of what had happened and said "See you tomorrow."

Following the inappropriate touching on both occasions, the woman received a text from the alleged perpetrator apologising for his actions.

Her allegations are amongst the most serious to surface after claims were exclusively revealed in March 2022 that another former Welsh Rugby Union employee had accused individuals within the governing body of joking about raping her and comparing her to Hitler. 

The female complainant underlined there was a culture of sexism and misogyny within the Welsh Rugby Union.

The situation at the WRU led the former chief executive Steve Phillips to quit the governing body in January 2023 and has gone on to be replaced by Abi Tierney in January of this year.

The independent review made thirty-six recommendations, including governance, complaints handling, the union's approach to inclusion and diversity, and investment in the women's game following an independent report.

It led the organisation to overhaul its 12-strong board, with former Wales internationals Claire Donovan and Jamie Roberts completing the new look contingent.

The latest victim told ITV Wales she had decided to talk about what had happened to protect other women. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The latest victim said she believed that her case should have been one of those at the heart of the review into the WRU.

On being asked, she said: "Yes, I'm disgusted really. To get the full picture you have to look at everything.

"You feel like they have just brushed me under the carpet. 

"I was a problem that they just wanted covered really and never brought to light.

"It's changed every part of my life. I don't go out, I have nightmares. I have panic attacks. 

"It's just not me."

She said she had taken the decision to talk about what had happened during her time at the Welsh Rugby Union to protect other women.

"I want it to stop. I want women to feel safe where they work and for people not to cover things up and feel like they can speak up. I didn't feel like I could and for work to be a safe place."

Responding to these latest allegations WRU CEO Abi Tierney said: "Firstly, it is vitally important for me, on behalf of everyone at the Welsh Rugby Union, to formally apologise directly to the individual involved. The behaviour described is totally unacceptable and was not ever, and will not ever, be tolerated.

 "Our culture did not prevent such an incident from happening and, whilst we know our people team worked hard to offer support and care over an extended period of time, some of our HR policies for addressing such incidences were not right. We have said already that we regret the use of non-disclosure settlements or similar arrangements where employment ended. 

"More widely, I would like to reiterate the full apology both myself and others have previously offered to anyone who has been affected by issues and challenges highlighted by our recent Independent Review. 

"Although the person has wished to remain anonymous, from the description of the circumstances,  it is our understanding that this is one of the cases examined by the review and in this way has already fed the recommendations for change that we are committed to deliver". 

WRU CEO Abi Tierney told ITV Wales: "The behaviour described is totally unacceptable and was not ever, and will not ever, be tolerated." Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Ms Tierney continued: "The review gives us a roadmap to continuous improvement and our current progress against the recommendations can be found here:  

"The review was conducted independently to the WRU. However, we know that the review team made many direct approaches and had an open call for people to speak to them and we co-operated with and encouraged this.

"Specifically, we made it clear that we would be happy for anyone to speak freely with the review team, including those who had left employment and were the subject of confidentiality arrangements.

"People who spoke to the review team did so on a confidential basis. We therefore cannot confirm and do not know whether this person decided to speak to the review or not".

Ms Tierney added: "We continue to encourage people to access our whistleblowing line if they are uncomfortable speaking to their line management about any issues.

"As we have already said, we understand that historical cases may come forward during and after the Review period.

"We continue to welcome dialogue with anyone involved or affected by any of the issues raised so that we can apologise to them and continue to learn and improve."

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