Welsh Rugby Union addresses ‘toxic’ homophobia, racism and sexism allegations

A photo showing Wales' rugby team in a scrum position during an Ireland v Wales Six Nations game

A number of former employees at the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have alleged sexism and homophobia are rife within the rugby governing body.

Appearing on Welsh Rugby Under the Spotlight, which aired on Monday (23 January) on BBC One Wales, the former employees cited a string of sexism allegations. The BBC Wales investigation also includes allegations of racism and homophobia – all of which the WRU strongly deny.

An ex-employee of the WRU, who asked not to be named, told the programme about homophobic comments made towards women’s rugby – including Wales’ national women’s team.

She said: “Being from a rugby family, and a rugby background, the concept of working for the WRU had always seemed like a bit of a dream. From the outside, the WRU was this bright shiny organisation. Inside of it, it’s just toxic.

“Some attitudes on the pitch were that we weren’t equals and women’s rugby was a game for lesbians.

“It wasn’t something they liked. It was something that was played on a Sunday on a day that didn’t interfere with the men’s game… it was just the culture.”

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‘I remember feeling sick’

The former general manager of women’s rugby, Charlotte Wathan, claims sexist comments from colleagues were so severe that she was regularly left in tears. Another, anonymous, contributor says she was left suicidal from her experiences of sexism and bullying at work.

Wathan tells the program “Someone [was] referring [to] me in an office environment that they wanted to rape me.

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“Take me back to the hotel, tie me to the bed and rape me. I remember feeling sick, like a punch to the stomach. I remember standing in shock thinking, ‘did I just hear that?’

“And everyone’s laughing, and there was a senior member of staff there. I left the room and burst into tears. I thought, ‘Crikey, is this what it’s come to?'”

Responding to the BBC allegations, a spokesperson said: “At the WRU we take any allegations from our staff seriously, in particular regarding the behaviour, attitudes and language described in the programme.

“If any allegations are substantiated, we will act very swiftly as such behaviour has no place in the WRU or Welsh rugby.

“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.”

WRU banned trans women last year

In 2022, trans women were banned from playing professional rugby by the WRU, despite the union having zero trans women playing the game professionally. The union’s move came after claims that advantages in strength and stamina were “significant and retained” after puberty.

This is despite the International Olympics Committee medical and scientific director Richard Budgett having previously said it’s “perfectly clear that performance is not proportional to your endogenous, in-built testosterone”, when announcing an end to IOC-mandated testosterone limits.

Despite the regression on trans inclusion, WRU said it “works hard and proactively on the vitally important area of inclusion throughout the game in Wales” and is “committed to an ongoing review of the policy as new evidence, research and insights become available”.

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