WRU plan to appoint an external ‘taskforce’ to look into allegations of sexism, racism and misogyny within Welsh rugby… with chief executive Steve Phillips facing calls to resign
The Welsh Rugby Union plan to appoint an external ‘taskforce’ to look into accusations of sexism, racism and misogyny as the governing body continues to face febrile criticism.
Laying out his plans to get to the bottom of the problems on Wednesday, WRU chairman Ieuan Evans said doing so ‘would trump’ Wales winning a grand slam in the upcoming Six Nations.
Sportsmail first revealed last March that former WRU employee Charlotte Wathan had made a string of accusations about her treatment in her time at the organisation.
Welsh Rugby Union faces claims of a toxic sexism and discrimination culture in investigation
Charlotte Wathan, was general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February
Chief among them was that one of Wathan’s former colleagues had joked he wanted to ‘rape’ her.
Wathan featured in a BBC documentary this week in which she and more ex-WRU employees made further allegations against Welsh rugby.
WRU chief executive Steve Phillips has faced calls to resign with the organisation he heads up in turmoil. On Wednesday, Evans gave his backing to Phillips’ leadership.
‘It’s not about individuals, it’s a about a collective,’ said a remorseful Evans. ‘That’s far more important than any individual. I’ve total confidence we will get this right and that includes Steve.
‘My ambition is to bring in external expertise to ensure we review everything. It can’t be an internal review. It has to be external and we have to learn off other bodies. I don’t have all the answers.
Welsh Rugby Union chief Steve Phillips is facing calls to resign over the serious allegations
‘This will be done. It’s my responsibility as chair to ensure it happens.’
Evans added: ‘We will ensure we need to make the fundamental changes we need to.
‘Goodwill is earned the hard way and you can lose it very quickly. It’s been tarnished, no doubt about that and it’s going to take some time to get it back. Nothing is more important than this and getting the culture right comes first. It would trump a grand slam for me.
‘We have to figure out a way to regain the trust.’
On Wednesday, Wales held a press conference to look ahead to the start of the Six Nations which was completely overshadowed by the sexism allegations.
When Evans faced the media after Wales backs coach Alex King and prop Wyn Jones had done so, a backdrop showcasing the WRU’s sponsors was immediately reviewed.
One of those sponsors – Principality – has been among one of many Welsh organisations and individuals to call for change at the highest level of the WRU.
The prevailing view in Wales is that Phillips’ time is up. Phillips has already addressed head coach Warren Gatland’s players ahead of the Six Nations about the allegations.
Evans plans to do likewise with WRU staff.
Ieuan Evans said getting to the bottom of the problems ‘would trump’ Wales winning a Grand Slam in the upcoming Six Nations
A WRU board meeting to discuss the matter is imminent while Evans also plans an emergency general meeting to try and reform Welsh rugby’s archaic governance.
Asked what his message was to Wathan, Evans added: ‘I can only apologise for all those affected.
‘As a parent of two young women I found watching the programme deeply devastating. It was deeply disappointing for all of us who care about the game. We are confronted with challenging times. Rugby is a game that relies deeply on culture. We have to make the WRU as welcoming as it can be. The WRU is an iconic institution in Wales and it relies on goodwill.
‘That goodwill needs to be replenished. We will drive the changes we need to bring that trust back. We take this humbling and sobering experience to heart.
‘We are all ultimately accountable and we all have a responsibility. We have to ensure the environment is right. We can’t ignore the fundamental issues we have to address.
‘We need to ensure our organisation is fit for purpose. I’m convinced we can evolve and be a welcoming organisation.’