Welsh Rugby Union chairman Ioan Evans described the allegations of bullying and sexism within the organization as “appalling and disturbing”, while Wales’ shadow secretary of state Joe Stevens said the WRU must answer questions before the Select Committee.
The BBC Wales investigation, broadcast on Monday night, saw allegations made by former WRU staff about their time with the organisation, including incidents of racism and homophobia.
Former women’s rugby general manager Charlotte Whatan claimed a colleague’s offensive comments left her in tears and feeling bad, while an anonymous participant said she had suicidal thoughts as a result of the bullying and sexism she experienced.
“I think we can all start from the point of how horrible and disturbing the experience was watching Monday’s show, deeply troubling for all of us who care passionately about the game,” Evans told the media on Wednesday.
“I can only sincerely and sincerely apologize to all the victims.
“As a father of two young women, I found this deeply disturbing and I can only apologize to anyone who has been affected by it.”
Evans explained plans to create a task force that will review the organization with “the right culture in mind to make sure it’s the welcoming institution that we truly believe it can be.”
“It’s too early to know the details and the scope of that, and we will do that, but we will require external expertise, and I’m sure of that,” he said. “We need it. This cannot be an internal review, this must be external with the real expertise we need from other organisations.
“We don’t have a monopoly on wisdom here. Other organizations, sports, entities, may have gone through similar experiences. We have to learn from them and that comes through real knowledge and experience.
“I don’t have all the answers here, I have to reach out to others to help with that. As a chair duty it happens.
“It’s very early days and we don’t have the scope of the details. We will immediately convene a council meeting to brainstorm our next clear path forward and reassure our stakeholders, the Welsh Government; we have heard the First Minister talk about this. In terms of anticipation in the morning, we take this humbling and sobering experience to heart, but also ensure that there is an outcome that we can all be proud of.”
Evans was pressed on whether he thought it was time for chief executive Steve Phillips to step down, given the allegations and the apparent need for change.
Phillips issued a statement pledging to review the organisation’s process and procedures to ensure staff feel safe speaking out about issues they may feel uncomfortable with, while “strongly condemning” sexist, racist and homophobic behavior and acknowledging that the WRU ” failed to represent Welsh rugby.” to the world in the best light.”
“We’re all ultimately responsible,” Evans said. “Now it’s not about individuals, it’s about the collective, we will settle it with huge external help, we all have a responsibility.
“I have a responsibility as chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union, which has been an integral part of my life, to get the culture right and to provide outlet and enjoyment. Rugby is ultimately about joy, engagement with communities the length and breadth of us. country to fulfill such an integral role.
“That doesn’t mean we’re ignoring some of the fundamental issues we need to address, and we need to make sure that’s the case. But it’s not about individuals or one person.
“It is not only about me (or) the executive. this is about the collective responsibility we all have to ensure the culture, as a result of how deeply saddened I was to watch Monday’s broadcast and the articles that followed.
“I found it devastating and I won’t back down from the challenge.”
Asked again if he still trusted Phillips, he said: “I have every confidence that we will get it right.
“That includes Steve. He is chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union. We’ll get it right.”
Evans reiterated that the situation is “not about individuals, it’s about the collective”, before stressing the need to “take on the challenge together” when it comes to creating an environment that works for everyone.
“Rugby is a game deeply rooted in culture on and off the field. We need to make this game welcoming and the organization as welcoming and inclusive as possible,” he added. “The WRU is an iconic institution in Wales that relies on enormous goodwill.
“You work hard to get that goodwill, but goodwill has to be replenished, and people are looking for trust now. We will address the issues, propose changes and restore that trust and faith.
“Every young girl and boy who plays rugby, every volunteer at the clubs, every stakeholder, the Welsh Government, our partners. We need to reassure everyone concerned. In the organization, to our staff, to the players.”
Stevens: The WRU should be held to public account
Welsh MP Stevens described the allegations as “absolutely appalling and shocking” while agreeing that WRU chief executive Phillips should be taken to the Wales Select Committee for questions, outlining the importance of outside input.
He cited the WRU’s decision not to publish its own voluntary review into the women’s game and suggested the introduction of an independent regulator.
“We can’t have the WRU doing its homework, it hasn’t been done so far, there needs to be some independence, some sunshine on what’s happened and what’s being done now,” Stevens told Sky Sports.
“What are the WRU saying about the changes that have already been made to give some confidence, if they don’t say what they are doing then it won’t increase confidence in the leadership of the organisation.
“I think there’s a similar argument to whether we should have an independent governing body for sport in Wales, whether it’s just rugby or across the board.
“What we have seen is an example of the problems with the governance of sports, whether professional or amateur, over several years.
“It’s a really important part of our national history and our psyche and well-being. I want the sport to be open and safe for everyone, and that includes not only the people who play the game, but also those involved in the running of the game.”
Stevens stressed the need for “significant change” and questioned the future of CEO Phillips.
“I think if you look at what I said about the management and the management teams, Steve Phillips has been part of the WRU management for a number of years, he’s been the finance director, then the interim chief executive and now the permanent chief executive.” he said. “If I’m Steve Phillips, I look at it and think, “Do I inspire confidence in the supporters, the rugby clubs, the players? and be honest about it.
“He can make that assessment for himself. If it’s me, I think I’m the right person for this. I’m not sure I am.”
“We’ve seen the announcements from the clubs, a really good club from Cardiff, we’ve seen it from the supporters’ trusts, everyone wants to fix this, everyone wants it to get better, we want to make every part of the world proud. a rugby match in Wales.
“That probably means there will have to be some significant changes.”
Former Professional Rugby Board president Amanda Blanc warned the WRU of an equality and diversity “ticking time bomb” in her resignation speech in 2021, it has been revealed.
Stevens expressed the need for greater representation of women at the top of Welsh rugby.
“When we get people like Amanda Blanc we have to be able to keep them and that hasn’t happened here, that really tells you something about the culture and the organizational things that were going on at the WRU.” , he added.
“Let’s have women’s voices at the very top. We’re really not short of talented, successful, skilled, experienced business women in Wales, let’s get them on board.
“Let’s get a team running the WRU that has all the right things for a business that is a multi-million pound business, a leading business and puts Wales on the world stage, we want to be proud of that.
“For that to happen, we need to have the right structures, the right people leading the organization and the right culture.
“I see this as a real opportunity for the WRU to wipe the slate clean now, put the right things in place and get it ready, to put it in a place where it’s not only fit for 2023 but fit for the future.”