Welsh Rugby Union boss resigns amid mounting homophobia, sexism and racism allegations

Steve Phillips wears a white button-up shirt and blue jacket as he stands in front of a red banner displaying the Welsh Rugby Union logo and WRU lettering

Steve Phillips resigned as chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) amid allegations of homophobia, racism and sexism at the game’s governing body in Wales. 

Several former WRU employees took part in the investigation by BBC Wales, which aired on Monday (23 January), with accusations there was a “toxic culture” at the organisation. This includes allegations of sexism, racism and homophobia. 

Phillips faced calls to resign over the governing body’s handling of the issues raised in the documentary. He initially promised to continue in his role and usher in change for the WRU but has now heeded the calls to stand down. 

“It is with a huge amount of regret that I have decided to hand in my resignation,” Phillips said

“I have always had the best interests of Welsh rugby at the heart of my every action and thought, but have come to the conclusion that it is now time for someone else to lead the way.”

Phillips said he is “absolutely aligned” with WRU chair Ieuan Evans’ “commitment to re-examine and further improve the cultures and behaviours at the WRU”. 

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Warren Gatland walks onto the pitch with Steve Phillips and Ieuan Evan with the Welsh Rugby Union logo below their feet
Steve Phillips (C) said he’s “absolutely aligned” with Welsh Rugby Union chair Ieuan Evans’ (R) commitment to “further improve the cultures and behaviours” at the organisation. (Getty)

Evans said that an external task force will be established to help tackle the allegations and clean up the WRU. He told WalesOnline that the task force will “review everything and ensure that [the WRU] establish and develop the right culture”. 

Phillips added he’s on the “record already” saying how much he “hugely” regrets the “feelings and emotions expressed recently by former members of staff”. 

Performance director Nigel Walker will take over as acting chief executive with immediate effect while the WRU search for Phillips’s successor.

Phillips’ resignation followed a turbulent week for the Welsh Rugby Union amid shocking claims from former staff. 

A former employee of the WRU, who was not named, told the BBC programme about homophobic remarks made towards women’s rugby, including the country’s national women’s team.

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

“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.”

Charlotte Wathan, the former head of Wales women’s rugby, said she was regularly left in tears because of the culture at the WRU. She claimed a colleague joked in front of others in an office environment that “they wanted to rape [her]”. 

Another anonymous staffer said she was left suicidal after her experiences of sexism and bullying at work. 

The WRU said it 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”.

The Welsh Rugby Players Association sent an open letter to Evans on Friday (27 January), demanding the WRU and its leadership take “responsibility for living up to the inclusive values that rugby claims to pride itself on”. 

“Otherwise, discriminatory behaviours, with a lack of condemnation and consequences, create an environment that discourages people from being part of our game, including but not limited to women and those from marginalised groups,” the group wrote. 

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