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Comment from WRU chair Ieuan Evans

Comment from WRU chair Ieuan Evans

Ieuan Evans says he will lead a new external Task Force to examine accusations of sexism at the Welsh Rugby Union and act immediately on his responsibility as chair to make changes.

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A full transcript of a recent open access interview on the subject is below:

Ieuan Evans opening address

“It was harrowing and distressing watching the programme on Monday. It was deeply disturbing for all of us who care passionately about the game. I am here to talk about a mandate as chair and a responsibility to make changes.

“I found that (the programme) deeply, deeply devastating. Rugby is a game that relies deeply on a culture on and off the field. We have to make this game welcoming, and the organisation as welcoming and inclusive, as it can be. The WRU is an iconic institution in Wales that relies on a huge amount of goodwill.

“You work hard to get that goodwill, but goodwill needs to be replenished, and people are now craving reassurance. We will address the issues, drive the changes and bring that trust and faith back.

“Every young girl and boy who plays rugby, to every volunteer at the clubs, every stakeholder, the Welsh Government, our partners. We need to reassure everybody concerned. In the organisation itself, our staff, players.

“It is not about individuals, this is a collective. It’s all of us. We need to embrace the challenge together.”

Q: People who have been on the board when allegations have been made are still entrusted with making those changes. Can they do that?

My ambition here and what I am to do with my mandate as chair is to bring in some external expertise and establish a taskforce to ensure they review everything and ensure that we establish and develop the right culture to ensure that it’s that welcoming institution we truly believe it’s capable of being.

Q: How will the taskforce look?

It is early to get the detail and scope attached to it, we will do that but we will require external expertise and I am certain of that. We need that. This can’t be an internal review, this has to be external with that genuine expertise we need from other organisations.

We don’t have monopoly and wisdom here. Other organisations, sports, entities, might have gone through similar experiences. We have to learn from those and that comes through genuine knowledge and expertise

I don’t have all the answers here, I need to reach out to others to help in that endeavour. It’s my responsibility as chair that this happens.

Q: Will the remit extend to how game is run in Wales as well as the culture?

It’s very early days and we haven’t got the scope of the details. We will convene a board meeting imminently to discuss our next clear path in mind and to reassure our stakeholders, the Welsh Government, we have heard the First Minister talking this morning in terms of the expectation. We take this humbling and sobering experience to heart but also ensure there is an outcome we can all be proud of.

Q: For confidence, people will want quick change. Steve Phillips is accountable as CEO. Is it time for him to go?

We are all ultimately accountable. This is not about individuals now, this is about a collective. We will sort this out with a huge amount of help externally. We all have a responsibility.

I bear responsibility as chair of the Welsh Rugby Union which has been such an integral part of my life, to ensure the culture is right and provide the outlet and enjoyment. Rugby is ultimately about joy, engagement with communities the length and breadth of our country to fulfil such an integral role.

It does not mean we ignore some fundamental issues we have to address and we need to ensure that’s the case. But it’s not about individuals about one person.

It’s not about just me, the chief executive, this is about a collective responsibility we all have to ensure the culture on the back of what how deeply distressed I was watching the programme that was broadcast on Monday and the articles that followed.

I found it devastating and I won’t back off the challenge.

Q. Steve spoke about grievances between 2017-19 but there have been grievances since Steve became CEO in 2020 with Amanda Blanc complaints etc. How responsible is this current regime? 

We take responsibility about what’s happening now. I’m concerned about what’s happening now and the future. I’m not here to talk about the detail and what’s happened in the past. I need to ensure the people who need reassurance and confidence that rugby in Wales is where it needs to be.

They want to engage with the Welsh Rugby Union, they want to engage with the sport, they want to join the clubs the length and breadth of this country. That’s what I’m focused on now, and that’s what I’m driving for. Mine and our responsibility is to make sure those changes happen.

Q. When you were watching the programme were you sat with your wife and your children? 

No, my children are up in London at the moment but I’ve spoken to them since. The first question I asked my wife was what are your thoughts.

It’s palpable the sense of desperation watching that and how harrowing it is. I apologise again for those affected not only by the events but also by watching the programme.

I found it distressing and I want to ensure that our game and our organisation is fit to be a modern, outward looking organisation. I think that’s our drive here.

Q. You’ve spoken about changing the governance before will you use this when you go around the districts to tell them you need to change etc? 

I have a mandate. I sent a letter out at the start of the season. My ambition is to ensure we change governance, to ensure we have a Board with the right skillset, with the right diversity, and not only gender, I’m talking about diversity in the broader sense diversity of thought, ethnicity.

I want a truly representative game in Wales and the Welsh Rugby Union is the governing body of the national game of Wales. We need to be truly representative.

I firmly believe that clubs are very cognisant of that. I think it’s up to us now to put a compelling, convincing case forward. It’s about what are we doing? Why are we doing it? I think we need to get back to that sort of element here.

I’m convinced that we can evolve and can progress. Governance doesn’t stop, it keeps going. We need to make sure we are a progressive organisation and going back to where we started in this a welcoming organisation, a game that’s for all, that people feel comfortable, and confident in engaging with us.

Q. Will you be calling a board meeting very quickly to discuss this?


Q. Will you be calling the meeting to find a way forward?

Yes. Having a pathway to move forward here. I think that’s fundamental to establishing and reestablishing the trust and the faith we need to ensure exists.

Q. Is an EGM needed now?

We need to establish that. I’ve already gone out at the start of the year in my first communication as chair having only been in a week or so prior to that in terms of our ambition to call an EGM I articulated in that note to clubs in terms of moving the governance forward.

There’s also a part we are talking about culture as well and yes it is intertwined but it’s also two separate elements as well. Yes, one can affect and influence the other and vice versa.

Nothing is mutually exclusive in Wales, everything interacts with each other so we will go back once we finalise a date.

We will then make sure. Perhaps it’s something we’ve learnt from the last time is the fact that that engagement, that interaction needed in the build up to an EGM. So roadshows, continuing engagement and continuing communication to establish why we are doing it and what we are hoping to achieve from it.

Q. What do you say to Charlotte Wathan?

I can only sincerely and heartfelt apologies to all affected, all affected.  I found it deeply distressing and I can only apologise for all affected by this.

Q. Can you comment on what Amanda Blanc is reported to have said?

It is not my place to talk about individual aspects of this now. My role today is to reassure listening, watching and reading that we intend to make changes, significant changes, we will bring expertise to ensure we can be the organisation we need to b for the future of our game and play such a fundamental role in Welsh life. We can’s abdicate responsibility. We need to be front and centre with this. And my responsibility is to lead that charge.

Q. Will you publish the Women’s review?

As part of a broader sense of our path moving forward a Board conversation – as it was commissioned by the Board- will take place as to what we do  but let me assure that a lot of the work that Nigel Walker in particular has done and the staff in the women’s performance department have acted upon on many of those recommendation from the review already and they continue to do so. This won’t stop. You have seen what the women’s world cup contributed – the sheer joy, the interaction the women had with the crowds, broadcasters and sponsors and so on, we are committed to the women’s game and intend to ensure that it continues to improve and move forward  because elite sport doesn’t stop, doesn’t slow down for anybody, it continues to progress and part of Nigel’s role is to ensure that is the case. It is a growth area of our game.

Q. Can you re-establish the nation’s trust?

We’ve got a job. There is no doubt about it. Goodwill is earnt the hard way and you can lose it very quickly. I hope there is still a residue of that goodwill, but it has been tarnished, there is no doubt about it, and we have to address that and earn that trust. That is going to take  a bit of time. We can espouse all we want, but it is about acting.

Q: Worst time in Welsh rugby for you?

It’s hard to know when you are imbedded in it. We live in challenging times, there are other issues ongoing at the same time, but nothing has more significance than this. If you were to offer me a grand slam or a successful outcome to this and resolving this, then culture comes first. Getting the culture right would trump a Grand Slam for me.

Q: On Governance?

We’ve commissioned a review to look at the governance. Hence the EGM last year where we got elements of what we wanted through, we didn’t get it all. My intention is to come back to the clubs and talk more. It is for us to convince through evidence, and engagement. Companies review their governance and performances annually. That’s what you do, you respond to your shareholders.

It doesn’t stop. We constantly revisit and we constantly review. I come from an international rugby background and I was reviewed every time I came off the field.

That’s the nature of things. Companies review their performances, their review their governance annually and respond to their shareholders.

It’s incumbent on us to do the same. We shouldn’t be resistant to it, bit it’d about us convincing. That’s the case.

Q: Will the ‘task force’ report be made public? Weren’t you devastated 10 months ago?

Nothing beats actually seeing it front of your face. When you see raw emotions, there were parts there that came to the fore that we wouldn’t have been aware of.

I think the scope and where we go with it is where we need to bed down. Going back to the trust issue, we regain it through actions. We need to act. It’s all well and good commissioning something, but if you don’t act off the back of something you commission then you have to question the value of it.

We need to ensure the value is there for the wellbeing of our game and the wellbeing of this organisation that means so much to so many people – for the staff, for the players, for our supporters, for our stakeholders, we have to ensure that is the case.

Q: Sponsors leaving?

My message to them, as I’ve articulated throughout this conference, is to offer reassurance that we will act on this, that we will challenge ourselves to be better, because we have to be better.

There is no standing still here. There’s no looking back. It;’s about looking to the present and the future and how we grow.

We look at our sponsors as being more than purely sponsors in financial terms. They are our partners. They share our values and we share their values. We reciprocate.

They need reassurance, which we will show.

We will engage with them, as we will engage with Welsh government and Sport Wales, and other stakeholders, with players, with staff.

When we establish the task force, and bring in that genuine expertise, I will play a significant role in it as well – vice-chair if it  comes to that, along with an independent.

I know we need to engage fully with our partners, they are so important.

They produce so much of the resource that we need for our game. They make sure our game flourishes and reaches into every pore of our community and our game.

We appreciate and cherish their support and we need to make sure it continues.

We will be engaging, we will be asking them and learning from them where we need to go forward.

I do not have monopoly on wisdom here. No-one does. We have to gain this through the genuine expertise and knowledge of everybody.

Q. What is the timescale on action now?

We need to sit down with the board imminently. Put it this way, I don’t think there is a long timeframe here.

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