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Tuesday Jan 24, 2023

Welsh Rugby Union at the centre of sexism storm following BBC investigation

The Welsh Rugby Union and clubs affiliated with it have been forced to release statements following the BBC Wales documentary that aired last night.

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In the documentary, former Welsh women’s rugby manager, Charlotte Wathan, told the BBC that she considered suicide due to the toxic culture at the organisation. It was claimed that a male colleague had bragged to others in the office that he wanted to ‘take her back to the hotel and rape her’. These shocking comments, made towards her, are said to have taken place at WRU’s Vale of Glamorgan training base in 2019. Causing her to feel sick to her stomach, Wathan told the BBC that she burst into tears and wondered “crikey, is this what it’s come to?”.

Another former WRU employee has come forward saying that she actually wrote a manual for her husband, should she take her own life. Explaining the situation, the former employee detailed the circumstances that took her to the dark place:

“This wasn’t about an incident here and an incident there,

“It was constant undermining of me or my gender by nit-picking at irrelevant stuff.

“It takes you to a very dark, dark place when you can genuinely look at your husband and think ‘you’re young enough to meet someone else and my daughter is young enough to get another mother’.

“I went as far as to start drafting a manual for my husband and what to do in the event that I died.”

Following the investigation which was aired just last night, the WRU and Welsh clubs themselves have all released statements. Welsh Rugby Union CEO Steve Phillips had the following to say:

Dear member club,

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I know you will have been shocked and appalled by the allegations in the BBC programme broadcast on Monday night and I am sorry to see how individuals who have worked for us felt.  Our culture was not where it needed to be, when we have employees not feeling confident enough to speak up between 2017 and 2019.

Following this programme we will, again, review the process and procedures we have in place to make sure all staff feel safe and supported in speaking up about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

The WRU knows it has fallen short in presenting Welsh rugby to the world in the best light. We have fallen short of the high standards I expect.

I strongly condemn the use of racist, homophobic or sexist language of any kind and state in the strongest possible terms that racism, homophobic, sexist or bullying behaviour has no place in Welsh rugby.  We strive to maintain the very highest standards at all times and present a governing body which makes the whole of Wales proud.

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We have consulted with our staff and we will re-examine our structures and procedures to make sure our employees find a business that is caring and sensitive to their needs and welfare and creating a safe and secure environment for everyone that comes into contact with us.

We will use the feedback we are currently experiencing to improve, we will listen and learn from what we are hearing and continue to work hard on ensuring Welsh rugby is a game for all with equality, diversity and inclusion at its heart.

The advancement of the women’s and girl’s game is a central part of WRU strategy and will continue to be so at both professional and community levels.

I cannot turn back the clock but I promise you we will start work on making necessary changes immediately.   I will not lead an organisation which would walk past or excuse any of the behaviour described.  I will not stand by and watch a culture which falls below the high standards we set.

We will re-examine how we behave in all quarters of the WRU, we will never be complacent in this area, not on my watch.

Much of the recent comment has been difficult to hear but I implore anyone, anywhere throughout the game who is affected by any of the issues raised to contact us immediately.

I care deeply about this subject, the WRU cares deeply and we will act to change wherever we find fault, genuine complaint or grievance.

We will do better.

Steve Phillips
WRU chief executive

Other Welsh teams have also released statements:

To view the full BBC report, click here.

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