Welsh rugby review describes damning “toxic” culture

Wales were beaten by Argentina in the 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.
Photo: photosport

A damning independent review of the Welsh Rugby Union published on Wednesday reveals a “toxic” culture of bullying and discrimination and said the organisation was an “unforgiving and even vindictive” place to work.

The review was established in February 2023 after a BBC programme reported allegations from former employees of sexism, discrimination and misogyny and led to the resignation of chief executive Steve Phillips.

His successor Abi Tierney, who takes up the role in January 2024, said the review’s report was “incredibly humbling and describes issues, actions and attitudes that are hugely regrettable. They should not exist in our, nor any, workplace.

“Of course, as leaders of the organisation, we all wholeheartedly condemn the attitudes and issues described but we are equally aware that our response needs to be greater than this,” she added.

“The fact that we have a report like this from an independent source identifying any issues and problems that exist in our culture is a great opportunity for us to transform the way we work.

“We can feel inspired that everything is out in the open. We can feel empowered that our people know they will be listened to and that we will act proportionately and appropriately to behaviour that is called out in the future. We will implement all of the recommendations of the panel.”

The review made more than 30 recommendations, that include the appointment of an oversight body and a better system for handling complaints.

Among its findings it said the WRU lacked the appropriate skills to run a 100 million pounds ($NZ208 million) business and that it tried to “manage away” complaints rather than dealing with the underlying issues.

It described the WRU’s Board as “dysfunctional, ill-equipped and unable to address the serious institutional and cultural problems it faced”.

The review said its three independent members had been struck by “how many people had experienced great stress from the connection with the WRU” and that “an unusual number worried about the consequences of their identity being revealed” due to the WRU being “unforgiving, even vindictive.”

WRU chairman Richard Collier-Keywood responded to the report by saying: “On behalf of the whole WRU, we are truly sorry to those who have been impacted by the systems, structures and conduct described in the report which are simply not acceptable. We have to do better, and we will.

“This report covers our governance, our culture, our approach to women’s and girls’ rugby and behaviours of leadership. For anyone who cares about rugby in Wales it is a very difficult read and it is a particularly difficult read if you work at the WRU. It is clear that there were many opportunities to avert the serious problems described which were simply not taken.

“We have a lot of work to do to win back the trust of our colleagues our players, the volunteers who are the heart of our community game, and the supporters that buy tickets week in week out.”

– Reuters

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