Information is emerging from Colombia about serious allegations concerning sexual and financial abuse linked to women’s rugby in the country.
It was a press release from the Colombian Rugby Federation last week that alerted us and other followers of the game outside the country that something was amiss.
The release spoke about that the Federation’s “energetic rejection of all threats of violence against any person or group of individuals who express their opinions about our sport".
“We emphasise the regular channel intended to resolve concerns", it went on. "We invite the community to use it in the formality it represents. We continue to work for the growth and strengthening of the values of Colombian Rugby”.
What on earth would be behind such a release?
It seems that the first signs of trouble arose when the Colombian women’s XVs team were called up for a training camp in Medellin in advance of their World Cup qualifier with Kenya – but were told that they would have to pay all of their own transport and accommodation costs.
This seems to have been the last straw and has opened the floodgates for a wave of complaints of growing seriousness concerning how the game is being managed, and how players are treated at all levels. Podcasts and social media posts started with the poor financial treatment of the national team but quickly expanded into allegations of “sexual harassment and gender-based violence” faced by players attending the camps.
What is more the problem is, according to the allegations, not limited to the national teams. Complaints against club coaches have been made "in Bogata, Santader and Medellin", with accusations of sexual abuse of players from the age of 13. One Bogata player has started to compile detailed lists of the allegations, which seems to have prompted the Federation’s press release. But the problem the players seem to have is that they are saying that people in the Federation who they are being asked to turn to for help are among those involved in the abuse or financial irregularities.
Attempting to follow this from thousands of miles away, and moreover in Spanish, is not easy and trying to get to the bottom of it all is near impossible. But it is very clear that something is going on in Colombia and it is not good and we will be trying to find out more.
World Rugby were not aware of the problem prior to our raising it with them.