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Welsh Rugby Union told damning report must be ‘watershed moment’

15 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Dawn Bowden, Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism

A Welsh Government deputy minister says an independent report into behaviours and culture at the Welsh Rugby Union should “serve as a watershed moment that brings change for the whole of Welsh rugby”.

Witnesses interviewed as part of Dame Anne Rafferty’s review of the union reported feelings of powerlessness and fear, with the WRU described in the review’s 134-page report as an organisation which was “unsure on its feet”.

The review was launched in February following a BBC programme that reported allegations of racism, sexism, misogyny and homophobia connected to the WRU.

The review makes 36 recommendations in all, covering governance, complaints handling, the union’s approach to inclusion and diversity and investment in the women’s game.

Examples of discrimination reported included the sharing of gossip that a female staff member had “slept her way” into her job, use of the phrase “hello sugar t***” and the use of slurs about women in same-sex relationships.

In a written statement, Dawn Bowden MS, deputy minister for arts, sport and tourism, said: “The Welsh Government welcomes the publication of this report and the work of all those who contributed to the findings and recommendations.

“The report should serve as a watershed moment that brings change for the whole of Welsh rugby.

“We will now consider the report in full and meet with the WRU to discuss the recommendations and its wider plans.

“It is reassuring that the WRU has accepted, without exception, all of the recommendations of the review panel, with significant progress already made in some areas.

“The WRU must now focus on the task of restoring trust with all those interested in the game, including victims of unacceptable behaviour who have bravely spoken out.

“Like all sporting bodies in Wales, we expect the WRU to provide safe environments for staff, players and children and young people who participate in the game at all levels.

“Our ambition for the WRU is for this work to act as a catalyst that sees the organisation become a leader and exemplar for fair treatment across all nations and all sport.”

Clear statements

Speaking after the report’s publication, WRU chair Richard Collier-Keywood said: “We are making some very clear statements within the board and the whole organisation of what is expected going forward in terms of our culture, but you can’t just wish a culture into existence by talking about it.

“You have got to live it every day, you have got to talk with people about what it means to you, what it means to them.

“You build trust by actually following through and delivering what you say you are going to do, you build trust by being authentic, by being open with people, by being transparent.”

Wales’ four professional regional teams – Cardiff, Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets – issued a joint statement with the Welsh Rugby Players’ Association welcoming the independent review’s findings.

“The professional game in Wales has called for reform for many years because it was clear that change was needed,” the statement read.

“We are grateful to the expert panel for their recommendations.

“It is both critical these recommendations are implemented promptly, but also that the WRU focuses and displays the strong leadership that has been absent on the many challenges that have faced our game post the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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