WRU criticised for ‘serious failure of governance’ over misconduct allegations
The Welsh Rugby Union was responsible for a “serious failure of governance” and missed opportunities to act on concerning behaviour within the organisation, a report has found.
A committee of Senedd members noted “systemic failures in the culture” of the WRU following allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia.
The issues first came to light in a BBC documentary which aired at the beginning of the year, after which the WRU announced an external taskforce had been set up to investigate.
Concerns female rugby players in Wales may have faced “unfavourable treatment” had been highlighted to the WRU two years ago in a review of the women’s game, extracts of which were published on Friday as part of the Senedd report.
The WRU expects its independent review panel (taskforce) to report “before the end of summer” and welcomes the Senedd’s suggestion that an implementation plan should follow soon after.
“It is unacceptable that it took a BBC documentary for the Welsh Rugby Union to act decisively to tackle long-standing toxic behaviour within the organisation,” read the 33-page Senedd sport committee report.
“There is a clear body of evidence that points to opportunities that were missed by the WRU to act on concerning behaviour, or to acknowledge and tackle a pattern of this behaviour.
“This includes formal complaints; the WRU entering into several settlement agreements in relation to allegations of sexism, racism and homophobia over several years; the review into the women’s game; and the resignation of Amanda Blanc (chair of Wales’ Professional Rugby Board).
“Taken together, these point to systemic failures in the culture of the WRU.
“The fact that senior management did not identify and tackle the problem is a serious failure of governance.”
The Senedd committee expressed its belief that little would have changed at the WRU had individuals not spoken to the media.
Nigel Walker, who stepped in as acting chief executive of the governing body following the resignation of Steve Phillips in January, admitted the initial allegations “made very challenging reading”.
Walker confirmed most of the recommendations made by the 2021 review into the women’s game had already been implemented.
The WRU said it was “fully committed” to enacting all of the recommendations of the ongoing review.
“We have already accepted that we have much work to do to ensure that we address our past failures and we again express our sincere remorse for the missed opportunities and failures described and offer our sincere apologies to anyone affected,” read a WRU statement.
“We are fully committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the current independent review into the WRU.
“The committee are right to highlight that we should not wait until the taskforce completes its work before we make changes, specifically to ensure that our staff feel safe, supported and valued, and that we tackle incidents and behaviours in a robust and consistent matter.”
Interim CEO Walker published details from a letter he sent to the Senedd after appearing before it in February alongside WRU chair Ieuan Evans.
In the document, he warned changing culture “takes time” but insisted the WRU is “determined” to do so.
“Whilst this period has been extremely challenging for us, I hope you can appreciate that our intention is to accept and learn from the challenges we face, and to change the way that we work day to day,” Walker wrote.
“The (2021) review made very challenging reading for us and described a committed squad of high-performance athletes frustrated by the support they were receiving, with failures in strategic and operational management.
“The review report also made clear that we had not ensured that our female players felt fully welcomed, valued and an equal part of our game.
“Changing culture takes time, but we are determined to do it.”
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