Rugby-WRU denies sexism claims, local MP demands investigation

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) on Monday denied allegations made in a BBC documentary that some former employees suffered sexist discrimination, as a Welsh MP and former women's international player called for an enquiry into all Welsh sporting bodies.

In a BBC Wales programme to be screened on Monday several former WRU employees make accusations about comments and behaviour they said were sexist and discriminatory.

The WRU said most of the claims had previously been dealt with "amicably", though in a statement it said it would reopen one case after the BBC programme highlighted new evidence.

Charlotte Wathan, who resigned as the WRU's general manager of women's rugby in February 2022, told the programme she was left in tears and feeling sick after offensive comments made by a colleague.

Reuters was not able to contact Wathan or her legal representatives for comment on the BBC report or the WRU statement.

The WRU said it had not taken part in the BBC programme due to confidentiality clauses agreed when it settled its case with Wathan.

Welsh MP and former prop Tonia Antoniazzi told the BBC she was deeply concerned about the future of women's rugby in Wales: "There has to be an independent body set up to look at complaints - all complaints when there are issues within governing bodies, sporting governing bodies in Wales."

The WRU said it condemned the use of racist, homophobic or sexist language or behaviour, and said that it had worked hard to find a solution to the cases brought to light. It would act swiftly if any allegations were substantiated, it added.

Welsh rugby chiefs said one complaint highlighted by the BBC had been withdrawn but an investigation into a second allegation would be reopened following new information brought to light by the BBC. The evidence would be "followed up and acted upon."

Welsh rugby's governing body urged Antoniazzi, who represents a constituency in Welsh rugby's heartlands in southern Wales, to contact the WRU to discuss her concerns. Reuters was not immediately able to reach the lawmaker for comment.

New Wales coach Warren Gatland, speaking at the Six Nations launch in London on Monday, said he had only been made aware of the concerns in the past few days.

"I was pretty unaware of everything and I'm just trying to get up to date with everything," said Gatland, who was previously in charge of Wales from 2007-2019.

"All I can say is, it's easy to ask those questions but there's always two sides to every story. You probably know more about it than I do."

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Jon Boyle)