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WRU facing allegations of sexism and discrimination following BBC investigation

23 Jan 2023 4 minute read
Tonia Antoniazzi. Picture y Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0).

The Welsh Rugby Union is facing allegations of sexism and discrimination which have left MP and former Wales international Tonia Antoniazzi expressing “great concerns” over the women’s game in the country.

A number of ex-WRU employees have taken part in an investigation by BBC Wales, to be screened on Monday night, making accusations about their time at the governing body.

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, according to BBC Wales Investigates.

Incidents of racism and homophobia are also alleged.

The WRU said that an “amicable resolution” had been reached with Wathan “satisfying both parties” following an investigation by an external law firm. It said a confidentiality agreement between the parties prevented further details.

It noted that another of the complaints had been investigated and subsequently withdrawn, while new information included in the broadcast would be “followed up and acted upon”.

Duty of care

A spokesperson said: “The Welsh Rugby Union condemns the use of racist, homophobic or sexist language and states in the strongest possible terms that racism, homophobic, sexist or bullying behaviour has no place in Welsh rugby.”

A statement continued: “It is vitally important to note that we have a duty of care as employers to both the complainants and those complained against.

“That duty of care continues and we are deeply concerned about the effect of this programme on those individuals in respect of the fact the allegations described remain unsubstantiated following a thorough independent legal investigation.”

But Antoniazzi, who once played for Wales as a prop and now represents the Gower constituency and serves as Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland minister, remains concerned by the testimony.

She likened the evidence to the racism scandal which hit cricket following Azeem Rafiq’s allegations against Yorkshire, and believes an independent body may be needed to hold sporting institutions in Wales to account.

“This is on a level of what’s happened in cricket. I have great, great concerns about the future of women’s rugby in Wales,” she told the BBC.

“There has to be an independent body set up to look at complaints of… all complaints when there are issues within governing bodies, sporting governing bodies in Wales. There needs to be somewhere to go.”

Responding to those comments, the WRU said: “With respect to the comments made by Tonia Antoniazzi MP, the WRU invites the Labour MP for Gower to make direct contact on the issues she raises and would welcome the opportunity to discuss her concerns.”

Warren Gatland

Wales head coach Warren Gatland, meanwhile, was asked about allegations facing the WRU when he attended the launch of this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship in London on Monday.

“It’s difficult when you are in a team environment, that’s the only dealings you get, with your coaches and players on a daily basis,” Gatland told reporters.

“Those things only came to light to me over the last few days. I was pretty unaware of everything, and I am just trying to get up to date with everything as well.

“All I can say is, it’s easy to ask those questions, but there’s always two sides to every story. You probably know more about it than I do.”

In a separate interview with the BBC, Gatland said: “For me, it is something I don’t know a lot about. I’ve been away since the World Cup in 2019.

“I’ve not not really read too much of the press about things.”

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1 year ago

Feel good factor starting to come back and what do you know, BBC (Real name: EBC) pulls this out of their hat. Not arguing wether it’s true, only about how convenient it is.

1 year ago

The WRU is a disgrace. There needs to be a wholesale clear-out of this shambolic, prehistoric organisation if Welsh rugby is to thrive.

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