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Sponsor calls on WRU to act on sexism, discrimination allegations

By PA
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

A leading Welsh rugby sponsor says it expects the WRU to take immediate and decisive action with the governing body facing sexism and discrimination allegations. Principality Building Society, sponsors of Wales’ national stadium in Cardiff and supporters of the Welsh grassroots game, described the allegations as extremely concerning.

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A number of ex-WRU employees took part in an investigation by BBC Wales, which was 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.

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Vicky Wales, the Principality Building Society’s chief customer officer, said: “Principality Building Society takes great pride in supporting grassroots rugby within the diverse communities we serve, as we have for over 20 years. Principality wants to work with partners who share our values.

“The allegations in the emerging BBC investigation are extremely concerning, and we would expect the WRU to take the immediate and decisive action required to remove any discriminatory and bullying behaviours and to uphold the inclusive values that we should all live by.”

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Fans group JSG Cymru, meanwhile, has written to WRU chair Ieuan Evans in the wake of Monday’s programme, calling for WRU chief executive Steve Phillips to be sacked. The organisation, which represents official supporters’ groups of the four Welsh professional teams, said: “The BBC programme was distressing to watch and brings about many questions about what is happening inside the WRU.

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“With this in mind, we will be calling on the Welsh Senedd Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee to initiate an inquiry into the governance and leadership of the Welsh Rugby Union during Steve Phillips’ tenure.

“We are calling on you as chair of the WRU to relieve Steve Phillips of his position as chief executive immediately and instigate a full investigation into the culture in the organisation.”

In its most recent statement, 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”.

A WRU 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.”

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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.”

Cardiff Rugby, meanwhile, issued a strongly-worded statement condemning “the reported culture within our national governing body”. The professional region said: “Cardiff Rugby are distressed and appalled by allegations of discrimination and misogyny at the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), revealed by a BBC Wales investigation.

“There is no place in sport, or indeed anywhere in society, for discrimination of any kind, and Cardiff Rugby condemn the reported culture within our national governing body. We acknowledge and support the calls previously made by WRU chair Ieuan Evans to evolve the governance of the organisation to ensure the board are ‘truly representative’ and ‘skills-based’.

“The board of Cardiff Rugby now unanimously call upon the WRU and its board to implement this with immediate effect. We all have a responsibility to affect positive change, and Cardiff Rugby will not tolerate any kind of discrimination. We reaffirm our own commitment to ensuring rugby is a game for all people, of all backgrounds, genders, abilities and beliefs, and we continue to strive to make rugby a safe, inclusive and fair place for all.”

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