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WRU inquiry: Welsh Rugby Union chairman Ieuan Evans responds to ‘disturbing’ allegations of bullying and sexism within the organization | News from the Rugby Union


Welsh Rugby Union chief Ieuan Evans says he will take steps to address culture within the organization and refuses to single out CEO Steve Phillips.

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Welsh Rugby Union chief Ieuan Evans says he will take steps to address culture within the organization and refuses to single out CEO Steve Phillips.

Welsh Rugby Union chief Ieuan Evans says he will take steps to address culture within the organization and refuses to single out CEO Steve Phillips.

Welsh Rugby Union chairman Ieuan Evans has described allegations of bullying and sexism within the organization as “distressing and disturbing”, while Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens says the WRU has to answer questions before a select committee.

A BBC Wales investigation broadcast on Monday evening saw allegations made by former WRU staff over their time with the organization, including incidents of racism and homophobia.

Former general manager of women’s rugby Charlotte Wathan claimed abusive comments from a colleague left her tearful and nauseated, while an anonymous contributor said she contemplated suicide as a result of experiences of bullying and sexism.

“I think we can all start with the point of how harrowing and upsetting an experience was while watching the program on Monday, deeply troubling for all of us who passionately care about the game,” Evans told media on Wednesday.

“I can only offer sincere and sincere apologies to all those affected.

“As a father of two young women, I found it very upsetting and I can only apologize to anyone affected by this.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens has called for an independent regulator to investigate the Welsh Rugby Union amid allegations of sexism.

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Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens has called for an independent regulator to investigate the Welsh Rugby Union amid allegations of sexism.

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Jo Stevens has called for an independent regulator to investigate the Welsh Rugby Union amid allegations of sexism.

Evans laid out plans to create a task force that would review the organization with a view to developing the “right culture to make sure it’s that welcoming attitude that we really think it’s capable of” .

“It is still early to add the details and the scope and we will do that, but we will need outside expertise and I am sure of that,” he said. “We need that. This can’t be an internal assessment, this has to be external with that real expertise that we need from other organizations.

“We don’t have a monopoly on wisdom here. Other organizations, sports, entities may have had similar experiences. We have to learn from that and that comes through real knowledge and expertise.

“I don’t have all the answers here, I have to reach out to others to help with that. It’s my responsibility as chairman to do that.

“It’s very early days and we don’t have the scope of the details yet. We will be convening a board meeting shortly to discuss our next clear path in mind and to reassure our stakeholders, the Welsh Government – we have the first We take this humbling and sobering experience to heart, but also make sure there is a result we can all be proud of.”

Evans was pressured into whether he thought it was time for CEO Steve Phillips to step down in light of the allegations and the apparent need for change.

Phillips released a statement promising a review of the organization’s process and procedures to ensure staff feel safe to speak out on issues that could make them feel uncomfortable, while being sexist, racist and homophobic behavior ‘strongly condemns’ and accepts that the WRU ‘has fallen short’. in presenting Welsh rugby to the world in its best light”.

“We are all ultimately responsible,” Evans said. “Now this is not about individuals, this is about a collective. We will solve this with a huge amount of outside help. We all have a responsibility.

“I have a responsibility as president of the Welsh Rugby Union, which has been such an integral part of my life, to make sure the culture is right and provides outlets and fun. Rugby is ultimately about joy, community engagement about the entire length and breadth of our country to play such an integral role.

“It doesn’t mean we’re ignoring some fundamental issues that we need to address and we need to make sure that’s the case. But it’s not about individuals or one person.

“It’s not just about me [or] the chief executive – this is about a collective responsibility we all have to safeguard the culture, based on how deeply saddened I was watching the program that aired on Monday and the articles that followed.

“I hated it and I’m not shying away from the challenge.”

When asked again if he still had faith in Phillips, he said, “I’m very confident we’ll get this right.

“So is Steve. He is the CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union. We will get this right.”

Evans reiterated that the situation is “not about individuals, this is a collective” before underlining the need to “take up the challenge together” when it comes to creating an accommodating environment for all.

“Rugby is a game that relies heavily on culture on and off the field. We need to make this game welcoming, and make the organization as welcoming and inclusive as possible,” he added. “The WRU is an iconic Welsh institution built on a tremendous amount of goodwill.

“You work hard to get that goodwill, but goodwill needs to be replenished and people now crave reassurance. We will address the issues, drive the changes and bring back that confidence and belief.

“Every young girl and boy who plays rugby, every volunteer at the clubs, every stakeholder, the Welsh Government, our partners. We need to reassure everyone involved. In the organization itself, our staff, players.”

Stevens: WRU must be publicly accountable

Welsh MP Stevens described the allegations as “extremely appalling and shocking”, while agreeing with the idea that WRU chief executive Phillips should be brought in to answer questions from the Welsh Affairs Select Committee, stressing the importance of outside input outlines.

She referred to the WRU’s decision not to release its self-directed rating in the women’s game and suggested the introduction of an independent overseer.

“We can’t let the WRU check its own homework, it hasn’t worked so far, there needs to be some independence, some sunlight on what has happened and is currently being done,” Stevens told Sky Sports.

“What does the WRU say about the changes already made to give some confidence? If they don’t say what they are doing, it won’t improve confidence in the organization’s leadership.

“I think there’s also a case to be made as to whether or not we should have an independent regulator for sports in Wales, whether it’s just rugby or across the board.

“What we’ve seen is a pattern over several years of problems with the governance of sports, whether professional or amateur.

“It’s a really important part of our national story and our psyche and well-being. I want sport to be open and safe for everyone and that includes not just people playing the game, but people who are part of the game.”

Stevens stressed the need for “significant changes” and questioned the future of CEO Phillips.

“I think if you look at what I said about leadership and leadership teams, Steve Phillips was part of the leadership at the WRU for a number of years, he was chief financial officer and then interim director and now full permanent director.” she said. “If I’m Steve Phillips I look at this and I think: am I building confidence in supporters, rugby clubs, players? Am I building confidence to lead the WRU out of this really difficult situation?” and be honest about it.

“He can make that assessment for himself. If I’m him, I think ‘am I the right person for this? I’m not sure’.

“We’ve seen statements from the clubs, a really good Cardiff club, we’ve seen it from supporters’ confidence, everyone wants to fix this, everyone wants it to get better, we want to be proud of every part of the game of rugby in Wales.

“That probably means some major changes are needed.”

It was revealed that Amanda Blanc, former chair of the Professional Rugby Board, had warned the WRU of an equality and diversity “ticking time bomb” in her 2021 resignation speech.

Stevens expressed the need for greater women’s representation at the top level of rugby in Wales.

“If we get people like Amanda Blanc we should be able to keep them and that didn’t happen here. That really says something about the culture and the organizational things that were going on in the WRU,” she added.

“Let’s have women’s voices at the top of the game. We have no shortage of really talented, successful, skilled, experienced businesswomen in Wales, let’s get them on the board.

“Let’s get a team that runs the WRU and that has all the things it takes for a company that is a multi-million dollar company, a flagship company and that puts Wales on the global stage, we want to be proud of it.

“For that to happen, we need to have the right structures, the right people leading the organization and the right culture.

“I see this is now a real opportunity for the WRU to wipe the slate clean, put the right things in place and get it ready, get it to a place where it’s not only fit for 2023, but for the future.”



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