Plaid Cymru call for resignation of Welsh Rugby Union CEO
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Sports, Heledd Fychan MS, has called on the Welsh Rugby Union’s CEO Steve Phillips to resign following serious allegations of sexism and misogyny at the WRU.
A BBC Wales Documentary broadcast on Monday, aired allegations of a toxic culture within the WRU, with the former head of Wales women’s rugby Charlotte Wathan saying that she considered suicide and recounted that a male colleague had joked in front of others in an office that he wanted to “rape” her.
It has also emerged that Amanda Blanc, who chaired Welsh rugby’s professional board between 2019 and 2021, warned the WRU it had a problem but was taken to address the concerns.
Heledd Fychan MS, Plaid Cymru’s Sports spokesperson said: “The appalling claims of sexism and misogyny that have come to light raise grave questions for the WRU.
“Their abject failure to acknowledge the seriousness of these allegations show that there has been, and continues to be, a leadership vacuum at the Union.
“As CEO, Steve Phillips has been in a position to deal with these issues which will have been known to him for some time, but it’s taken a TV programme to get the WRU to address these issues publicly. As a result, the current CEO should resign, and new leadership brought in to bring about the changes that are desperately needed.
“Until the issues are dealt with and there is a change of culture, the Welsh Government should consider whether it is appropriate for the WRU to receive any further public money. We certainly can’t encourage women into an environment where they face this kind of misogyny.”
Mr Steve Phillips, who has been CEO of the union since September 2020, says he is “shocked and appalled” by allegations of racist, homophobic and sexist bullying within the governing body and called for “immediate” change.
In a lengthy statement released on Tuesday night, Phillips said: “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.”
Phillips, whose position is under intense scrutiny, continued: “We strive to maintain the very highest standards at all times and present a governing body which makes the whole of Wales proud.
“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.”
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