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Welsh rugby CEO quits over sexism allegations in organisation

Steve Phillips stepped down after a documentary aired allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia at the WRU.

Welsh Rugby Union’s now former CEO, Steve Phillips. Picture: www.wru.wales

LONDON – The chief executive officer of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) resigned on Sunday amid allegations of a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

Steve Phillips stepped down after a documentary aired allegations of misogyny, sexism, racism and homophobia at the WRU.

Former Olympic hurdler and Wales wing Nigel Walker has taken over as caretaker CEO, warning of an “existential crisis” for Welsh rugby.

“It is with a huge amount of regret that I have decided to hand in my resignation,” said Phillips in a statement issued by the WRU.

“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.”

In the documentary, which was aired last Monday, Welsh women’s rugby former manager Charlotte Wathan spoke of how a male colleague said in front of others in an office that he wanted to “rape” her and that she had considered suicide due to what she described as a “toxic culture” of sexism at the WRU.

“No allegations were made against Steve Phillips in the recent BBC programme and he was not accused of any wrongdoing,” the WRU statement said.

WRU chair Ieuan Evans had vowed that an external taskforce will be established to help tackle the allegations.

On Friday, the Welsh Rugby Players Association sent an open letter to Evans demanding that “the WRU and its leadership truly takes responsibility for living up to the inclusive values that rugby claims to pride itself on”.

Walker, who won 17 caps in the 1990s, was brought in by Phillips as performance director in July 2021 and now steps up to interim CEO.

“There is no doubt that Welsh rugby is facing an existential crisis,” he said.

“This has been a wake-up call. Perhaps it is a call that has been overdue. The first step to any recovery is admitting the problem.

“We must now listen intently to what people from outside our organisation are telling us.”

Walker said the organisation was “committed to equality, diversity and inclusion” but needs “to do better.”

“We need to do much better and we will,” he said.

“We will take the necessary corrective steps and stick closely to what the new taskforce advises.”

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