Welsh Rugby Union: Chair Ieuan Evans launches external taskforce review with Steve Phillips to stay

Welsh Rugby Union chair Ieuan Evans says he will set up an external task force to examine accusations of sexism, racism and misogyny within the governing body.

Evans apologized for the harrowing and distressing allegations.

A WRU board meeting will be called imminently.

An extraordinary general meeting (EGM) had already been called for 2023 to attempt to modernize the governance of the union.

Two former employees have complained of a “toxic culture” at the WRU, while another former employee said he heard a racist term used in a work meeting.

Chief executive Phillips said he still believes he is the man to lead the organization although there have been calls from politicians for him to leave.

Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, chair Evans eventually backed Phillips’ position and insisted it was a collective effort.

“I have total confidence that we will get this right,” said Evans.

“That includes Steve. He is the chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union. We will get this right.

“We are all ultimately accountable. This is not about individuals now, this is about a collective. We need to embrace the challenge together.”

On Tuesday Phillips, who took over as chief executive in 2020, apologized for incidents between 2017 and 2019 when he admitted people felt they could not come forward to express their concerns.

Evans was asked how culpable the current regime is.

“We take responsibility for what’s happening now,” added Evans.

“I’m concerned about what’s happening now and the future.

“I’m not here to talk about the details and what’s happened in the past. I need to ensure the people who need reassurance and confidence that rugby in Wales is where it needs to be.

“They want to engage with the Welsh Rugby Union, they want to engage with the sport, they want to join the clubs the length and breadth of this country.

“That’s what I’m focused on now, and that’s what I’m driving for. Mine and our responsibility is to make sure those changes happen.”

Steve Phillips and Ieuan Evans at the unveiling of Warren Gatland as Wales head coach last month
Steve Phillips (left) and Ieuan Evans (right) at the unveiling of Warren Gatland (centre) as Wales head coach last month

Labor MP and ex-Wales international Tonia Antoniazzi and former prime minister Carwyn Jones have called for a Senedd inquiry, which Phillips said they would co-operate with.

The WRU has hbeen branded institutionally misogynistic by equalities minister Jane Hutt.

Evans says the WRU will be externally assessed as he sets up a task force.

“My ambition here and what I am to do with my mandate as chair is to bring in external expertise and establish a task force to ensure they review everything,” added Evans.

“To ensure we establish and develop the right culture to ensure that it’s that welcoming institution we truly believe it’s capable of being.

“It is early to get the detail and scope attached to it, and we will do that, but we require external expertise.

“This can’t be an internal review, this has to be external with that genuine expertise we need from other organizations. Other organizations, sports, entities, might have gone through similar experiences.

“I don’t have all the answers here, I need to reach out to others to help in that endeavour. It’s my responsibility as chair that happens.

“We will sort this out with a huge amount of help externally. We all have a responsibility. I bear responsibility as chair of the Welsh Rugby Union which has been such an integral part of my life, to ensure the culture is right and provide the outlet and enjoyment.”

Former head of Wales women’s rugby Charlotte Wathan has said she considered suicide and said a male colleague joked in front of others in an office that he wanted to “rape” her. The WRU says the accusation was independently investigated and remains unsubstantiated.

Evans was asked what his message was to Ms Wathan.

“I can only send sincere and heartfelt apologies to all affected, all affected,” added Evans.

“As a father of two young women I found it deeply distressing and I can only apologize for all affected by this.”

Speaking about the program, Evans added: “It was harrowing and distressing watching. It was deeply disturbing for all of us who care passionately about the game.

“As a parent of two young women, I found that deeply devastating.

“The first question I asked my wife was what are your thoughts. It’s palpable the sense of desperation watching that and how harrowing it is.

“I apologize again for those affected not only by the events but also by watching the program.

“I want to ensure that our game and our organization is fit to be a modern, outward-looking organization. That’s our drive here.

“Rugby is a game that relies deeply on a culture on and off the field. We have to make this game welcoming, and the organization as welcoming and inclusive as it can be.

“The WRU is an iconic institution in Wales that relies on a huge amount of goodwill.

“You work hard to get that goodwill, but goodwill needs to be replenished, and people are now craving reassurance.

“We will address the issues, drive the changes and bring that trust and faith back.

“Every young girl and boy who plays rugby, to every volunteer at the clubs, every stakeholder, the Welsh government, our partners. We need to reassure everybody concerned. In the organization itself, our staff, players.”

Evans says he knows the WRU “have a job” to restore faith in the organization.

“There is no doubt about it,” he said. “Goodwill is earned the hard way and you can lose it very quickly.

“I hope there is still a residue of that goodwill, but it has been tarnished, there is no doubt about it, and we have to address that and earn that trust. That is going to take a bit of time.”

Evans has been involved in Welsh rugby for almost 40 years as a player, captain, committee man and now chair.

Asked if this was the worst period he had experienced while involved at the WRU, he added: “It’s hard to know when you are embedded in it.

“We live in challenging times, there are other issues going on at the same time, but nothing has more significance than this.

“If you were to offer me a Grand Slam or a successful outcome to this and resolving this, then culture comes first. Getting the culture right would trump a Grand Slam for me.”

WRU sponsors Principality and Admiral have also expressed their concerns.

“My message to them is to offer reassurance that we will act on this, we will challenge ourselves to be better, because we have to be better,” added Evans.

“We look at our sponsors as being more than purely in financial terms.

“They are our partners. They share our values ​​and we share their values. We reciprocate. They need reassurance, which we will show.

“We will engage with them, the Welsh government and Sport Wales, and other stakeholders, with players, with staff.

“I know we need to engage fully with our partners, they are so important and produce so much of the resource we need for our game.

“We appreciate and cherish their support and need to make sure it continues.”

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