Dragons issue statement after allegations of 'toxic' culture at WRU
THE Welsh Rugby Union-owned Dragons have issued a statement after the governing body was accused of sexism and discrimination.
A BBC Wales investigation screened on Monday night featured powerful testimony from a number of ex-WRU employees.
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 programme prompted a statement from the Dragons, who have been owned by the WRU since a takeover in 2017.
“The BBC Wales investigation into allegations of discrimination and misogyny at the Welsh Rugby Union is a reminder for everyone involved in rugby that our game has to drive out misogyny or discrimination of any kind,” it read.
“The allegations are for others to consider, but Dragons RFC wish to reaffirm our commitment to making rugby a safe and fair place for everyone.”
Chairman David Buttress replied to the message on Twitter.
“My thoughts are also with the women and men who were brave enough to speak up on this programme. I can only imagine how hard that must have been,” he said.
“I hope that anyone affected by this, gets the support they need and outlined at the end of the programme.”
Principality Building Society, sponsors of Wales’ national stadium in Cardiff and supporters of the Welsh grassroots game, described the allegations as “extremely concerning”.
Vicky Wales, 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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”