The WRU will ask member clubs to approve a proposal that the Board’s next chair should be an appointed Independent Non-Executive Director (INED), that its composition should include at least five women (out of 12 members) and that its skill-set should be significantly more diverse.
The gender imbalance, where the WRU Board currently includes one woman (INED Cat Read) and eleven men, will be corrected by appointing women to at least two of the newly proposed four INED directors positions.
In addition, at least one of the national representatives elected from the Council will be a woman, under the new proposals, and one of either the chair of the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) or the elected/appointed/selected representative for the women’s game will be female.
One of either the WRU CEO or independent WRU Chair will also be expected to be female.
A majority of 75% of members at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM), to be called imminently, will need to vote in favour in order to pass the proposals.
Further modernisations to be proposed include, increasing the number of INEDs elsewhere on the Board, appointing, selecting or electing a Board representative with a specific remit to represent the Women’s and Girls’ game and reducing the representation of National and District council members.
The WRU Board will still be formed by 12 individuals, but the new proposals are designed to ensure a greater diversity of business skills, mindset, gender and cultural representation – ensuring it is truly representative of all of Welsh rugby and fit for purpose.
The proposals will double the number of independent representatives (INEDs), who are appointed rather than elected, on the Board from three to six and reduce the number of elected national or district members, elected from the WRU Council, from eight to four.
All of the proposals have been unanimously pre-approved by the existing Board, with incumbent chair Ieuan Evans leading the campaign to achieve a 75% majority for each of the proposals with the full support of fellow directors.
The details behind the proposals, which meet Welsh Government expectations for governance change at the WRU, will be put to the member clubs in an EGM currently scheduled for 26th March 2023 (but which will be brought forward if logistics allow) and is subject to their approval.
A version of the headline proposal, that the next WRU chair should be an appointed INED rather than an elected director (as is the current restriction) was rejected at the WRU’s last Annual General Meeting.
It achieved a high percentage of votes in favour, 66%, but fell short of the 75% required, but Evans believes signs are positive that the shortfall can be made up at the 2023 EGM.
“The onus is on us to explain to members the benefits of the proposals we are making and we will do so, but I also think members will understand the necessity of what we are trying to achieve, having had time to reflect on and digest last year’s AGM proposals,” said Evans.
“We are asking members to allow us to make significant changes to our constitution, which they won’t do lightly and rightly so.
“But we must also be wholly transparent about the scale of change necessary to ensure the survival of Welsh rugby.
“We need to enact change to ensure our game is able to survive and flourish at all levels in Wales.
“There has been extensive consultation with the WRU Board approving these recommendations in September 2022 after completing an independent external review of our governance and its effectiveness.
“The proposals address all of the key recommendations from the external review and it is our central plea to members that they allow us to make these changes for the good of the game in Wales.
“There is a stark choice before us, to wither or flourish and we will be visiting clubs and districts around Wales to explain our mission here and to implore them to vote these vital modernisations though.
“There has been much talk of an existential crisis in Welsh rugby in recent days.
“Passing these proposals will help us address these issues and many others and ensure we have a modern, fit for purpose, representative Board to take Welsh rugby into a new modern era and to restore the trust and pride of those around us.”
The WRU Board is responsible for the stewardship of the company, overseeing its strategy, conduct and affairs and is responsible for the long term success for the company. It works alongside the Professional Rugby Board (PRB), whose INED chair also sits on the WRU Board, which runs the professional game.
The community game is run and governed by the Community Game Board (CGB), which benefits from a ring-fenced annual budget of over £10m.
Members of the WRU Council form the CGB and also provide (currently eight, to be reduced to four) directors to the WRU Board.
New proposals will also transform the WRU Council to ensure it is representative of the diverse rugby communities across Wales.
Membership of the Council will be broadened to drive diversity, inclusion and equality.
The council’s composition will be expected to actively contribute to the diversity of the elected Board Members.
The full composition of the Board would be:
CEO and Independent Chair – at least one of these individuals will be a woman
Four Independent Non Exec Directors – at least two INEDS will be women
Chair of the PRB (independent on appointment) and Elected or appointed or selected representative for the women’s game – at least one of whom will be a woman
Four National and district council members including Chair of the CGB – at least one of whom will be a woman