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Damning report into Welsh rugby

A highly critical report about the culture in the Welsh game has been published with serious issues raised about the way in which women in the WRU and women involved in playing at the highest level have been treated in the past. 

The report was commissioned in the wake of a BBC Wales programme earlier this year which outlined distressing allegations of sexism and a gross culture for women at the WRU. 

It details a litany of complaints around bullying, sexism and racism and lists significant issues around the women’s game.

Central to the investigation is now published correspondence from former board member Amanda Blanc, one of the UK’s most impressive businesswomen, who resigned from her role and outlined damning views on how the game was run in Wales. 

Among a long list of issues, she details in her resignation letter what she called a “truly offensive discussion” for example about reducing the sanctions for a WRU District Council member who had made public misogynist comments. 

“I still can’t quite believe what I heard. Women should know their place in the kitchen and stick to the ironing. Men are the master race. 

“Set in the context of the world as it is today - racism in cricket, gender equality being a priority, diversity and inclusion being integral to every organisation - you are sitting on a ticking time bomb.”

In another depressing section tthe report looks at how women’s players and the women’s programme has been treated historically in Wales. 

Among the details it says problems for the women’s game could be seen in three ways: “grievances, the high turnover of support staff and results.”

It described a poor environment and problems which were building for years, which eventually could no longer be contained because of the scale of the challenges facing Welsh women’s rugby and the fact that the culture and governance of the WRU were unable to deal with them.  

Eventually a performance review was commissioned into the women’s game but it was never published, though this report does highlight that the opening paragraph said: 

“The headline finding from the review is that investment, support and development of the WRU women’s performance game is sorely lacking and is a strategic, operational, financial, commercial, political, social and reputational risk to the WRU. Change is needed, investment is needed, patience is needed, and results will eventually come but only if the WRU acts now to take advantage of this excellent opportunity to build long-term success.” 

The way in which elite women’s players and the women’s game were treated are also laid out. 

A former senior executive referred to the women’s game as an “adaptation” of rugby.  

A member of the men’s performance staff described the women’s team as “a sore on the arse” without challenge from a senior executive. 

There were “inordinately high levels of staff turnover” in the women’s programme, visible to the public, to investors and to partners, and a reluctance to change had prevented implementation of the plan. 

The report was delivered by a panel led by former High Court judge Dame Anne Rafferty.

It included former England international and World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and mediator Quentin Smith, who was a former chair of Sale Sharks and current chair of the Football Association's Exceptions Panel.

There have been significant changes in the Welsh game in recent months with the appointment of a first female CEO, and wider governance changes.