Welsh rugby chief 'appalled' by racism and sexism claims

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WRU CEO Steve Phillips. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
WRU CEO Steve Phillips. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Welsh Rugby Union chief Steve Phillips has vowed to make immediate changes in the governing body after admitting he was "shocked and appalled" by allegations of racist, homophobic and sexist bullying.

Former WRU employees made the claims as part of a BBC Wales investigation which was broadcast on Monday.

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.

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Another unnamed contributor said she was left contemplating suicide by her experiences of bullying and sexism at work.

Incidents of racism and homophobia were also alleged.

Responding to the accusations on Tuesday, Phillips said: "I know you will have been shocked and appalled by the allegations in the BBC programme broadcast on Monday night and I am sorry to see how individuals who have worked for us felt.

"Our culture was not where it needed to be, when we have employees not feeling confident enough to speak up between 2017 and 2019.

"Following this programme we will, again, review the process and procedures we have in place to make sure all staff feel safe and supported in speaking up about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

"The WRU knows it has fallen short in presenting Welsh rugby to the world in the best light. We have fallen short of the high standards I expect.

"I strongly condemn the use of racist, homophobic or sexist language of any kind and state in the strongest possible terms that racism, homophobic, sexist or bullying behaviour has no place in Welsh rugby."

Phillips' position is now under intense scrutiny and he pledged to overhaul the WRU's structures to provide a more caring environment for employees.

"We have consulted with our staff and we will re-examine our structures and procedures to make sure our employees find a business that is caring and sensitive to their needs and welfare and creating a safe and secure environment for everyone that comes into contact with us," he said.

"I cannot turn back the clock but I promise you we will start work on making necessary changes immediately.

"I will not lead an organisation which would walk past or excuse any of the behaviour described. I will not stand by and watch a culture which falls below the high standards we set.

"We will re-examine how we behave in all quarters of the WRU, we will never be complacent in this area, not on my watch."

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