MP calls for major review of rugby in Wales after WRU sexism claims
Labour MP and former Wales international Tonia Antoniazzi has called for a root and branch review of rugby in Wales amid sexism claims within Welsh rugby’s governing body.
Ms Antoniazzi said she was “really disappointed” that despite having raised concerns over sexism and misogyny at the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) last year, “nothing really happened”.
“It took some very brave women and an amazing journalistic team in BBC Wales Investigates to pull them together and evidence the poor behaviour that has gone on in the Welsh Rugby Union,” she said in the Commons.
The Welsh MP stressed “what we need is a root and branch review of rugby in Wales”, explaining: “What it means if you are a small child starting off being in tag rugby, to our elite game, male and female.
“What it means to the mums and dads on the side-lines to the ones washing the kit, to the people – to everybody, everybody in all of those clubs across Wales.”
The BBC probe into the culture at the WRU saw a number of its former employees making accusations about their time at the organisation.
Charlotte Wathan, general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February, claims offensive comments by a colleague left her in tears and feeling sick, while another unnamed contributor says she was left contemplating suicide by her experiences of bullying and sexism at work.
Incidents of racism and homophobia are also alleged.
WRU chairman Ieuan Evans has launched an external task force to examine the accusations within the governing body as it looks to address issues raised by the documentary.
At the Welsh affairs debate in the Commons, Ms Antoniazzi also stressed the importance of maintaining the anonymity of the people who will speak to the taskforce.
After claiming she has 30 emails in her inbox of “women and families” who want to tell her about their experiences with the organisation, the Gower MP said: “That is quite a lot of people that want to tell me, but there’s quite a few people that don’t want to tell anybody else.
“Because they fear the rhetoric. You know, there is a huge fear of the backlash that it will have on them.
“Charlotte Wathan, who spoke out in the BBC Wales investigates programme, is scared (she will) never get a job now.”
She went on: “Will he (the Welsh Secretary) look for reassurances from Sport Resolutions, will he state today that the anonymity of the people that need to speak to Sport Resolutions and to the taskforce that they are setting up that their anonymity at all costs must be kept?
“Because, otherwise, we will never get to the bottom and it makes a taskforce absolutely futile.”
Closing the debate, David TC Davies said: “I have already, after those allegations were made, reached out to the WRU and asked if I could have a meeting to discuss them.
“I’ve met briefly with (WRU’s acting chief executive) Nigel Walker, who I find an impressive individual, but it was an informal meeting and I don’t feel we really got down and addressed those issues.
“But my office has been in touch with the WRU and I’d certainly be very pleased to meet them a little more formally and to go through some of this as well.”
On the anonymity issue, he said: “Of course, (Ms Antoniazzi) is absolutely right that those people who have complaints need to have those complaints treated with anonymity and with respect.
“And I fear it may not just be rugby, I think many organisations probably have to deal with some of the issues that have recently been confronted.”
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If I took conspiracy theories seriously I would ask why is Tonia Antoniazzi, who has Italian ancestry, speaking out now when Wales are due to play Italy?
Sport is a devolved matter, MPs should be concerning themselves with UK wide matters.
The Senedd should also be holding the WRU into account as to why Welsh rugby is in such a dismal state.