Steve Phillips resigns as WRU chief executive amid claims of ‘toxic culture’
Steve Phillips has resigned as chief executive officer of the Welsh Rugby Union amid allegations of a “toxic culture” at the organisation.
Phillips had resisted calls for his resignation, which came after a documentary aired allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia at the game’s governing body in Wales.
Former Olympic hurdler and Wales wing Nigel Walker moves up from the union’s performance director to take the acting CEO position with immediate effect.
A number of former Welsh Rugby Union employees took part in an investigation by BBC Wales – which was screened on Monday night – with accusations about their time at the organisation, detailing claims of a “toxic culture” there.
Charlotte Wathan, general manager of women’s rugby until her resignation last February, spoke of how a male colleague said in front of others in an office that he wanted to “rape” her, while another unnamed contributor says she was left contemplating suicide by her experiences of bullying and sexism at work.
WRU chair Ieuan Evans had vowed that an external taskforce will be established to help tackle the allegations that have been made.
Phillips attended the meeting about the new taskforce, but had since decided it was “time for someone else to lead the way”.
“It is with a huge amount of regret that I have decided to hand in my resignation,” said Phillips in WRU’s statement.
“I have always had the best interests of Welsh rugby at the heart of my every action and thought, but have come to the conclusion that it is now time for someone else to lead the way.
“This is a sport I love and is so admired around the world and I wish everyone involved in the game every success and my heartfelt best wishes.
“I am absolutely aligned with Ieuan’s commitment to re-examine and further improve the cultures and behaviours at the WRU and fully support the formation of a new independent Taskforce. I am pleased I have been able to start this process for the WRU.
“On a personal note, I wish Nigel Walker well and thank all of the dedicated staff at the WRU who can be extremely proud of the efforts and hard work they put in on a daily basis to the betterment of our game.
“I am on record already saying how much I hugely regret the feelings and emotions expressed recently by former members of staff.”
Responding to the resignation of Mr Phillips, Plaid Cymru’s sports, culture and international spokesperson, Heledd Fychan MS, said: “Steve Phillips’ position was untenable, and I welcome today’s news that he has stepped aside. It is the right action to take after the abject failure of the WRU to date to deal with very serious allegations of misogyny and sexism that were seemingly known to him and others.
“Nigel Walker’s appointment as Acting CEO must signal the beginning and not the end of the significant structural and cultural changes needed at the WRU.
“The Welsh Government should now consider whether it is appropriate for the WRU to receive any further public money until these changes are made. We need certainty that women are safe from horrific misogyny in rugby, as well as across society.”
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I don’t understand why an ‘external taskforce’ is needed to explain to people that you cannot say to a woman that you want to rape her. There isn’t a square millimetre of land anywhere on the entire planet where this is acceptable and yet such a place has been provided inside OUR national stadium. Anyone attempting to excuse this filth needs to follow the ex boss out of the door. Is it any wonder that Welsh Rugby is in such a poor state when this morale destroying hate cancer is eating away at its’ very core?
The WRU should now be looking for a new CEO with big business experience from outside Welsh rugby with the ability to run and develop a £100m company. Perhaps Amanda Blanc could be persuaded to return? Even if not, someone of her calibre, experience, integrity and vision. And the rest of the board and executive should all now resign and be replaced. Good luck to Nigel Walker as interim CEO and in his search!