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Welsh rugby chiefs warned of ‘ticking time bomb’ before sexism claims

Top rugby officials in Wales were warned of an equality and diversity “ticking time bomb” before claims of a sexist culture at the Welsh Rugby Union emerged, the BBC reported Monday.  

Welsh women’s rugby former manager Charlotte Wathan said she considered suicide due to what she described as a “toxic culture” of sexism at the WRU.

Now it has emerged leading British businesswoman Amanda Blanc, who chaired Welsh rugby’s professional board, told the WRU it had a “deep rooted” culture and behavioural problems.

In her WRU leaving speech, Blanc, the chief executive of Aviva insurance, said she was questioned whether she had “sufficient business experience” to be the chairwoman of the WRU’s professional board.

Blanc, a UK government women in finance champion and Sunday Times Businessperson of the Year, quit after two years as Wales’ Professional Rugby Board chairwoman in November 2021 because she felt she was “not being listened to”.

In her leaving speech, as quoted by the BBC, Blanc mentioned a “truly offensive discussion” about reducing the sanctions for an elected WRU member after he had made misogynistic comments in public, including that “men are the master race” and women should “stick to the ironing”.

“To have to sit in a room and listen to some of you say that taking away too many free tickets from this man would be completely unfair, was beyond insulting,” said Blanc in her speech.

Her comments emerged after Wathan recalled how a male colleague, in front of others in an office, said he wanted to “rape” her.

Wathan added she and another female former WRU employee both considered suicide because of the “toxic culture” of sexism at the organisation.

The WRU, which has insisted it is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, said both cases were investigated and correct procedures followed.

One MP, also a former Wales player, warned the allegations were “on a level” with the racism scandal that rocked Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“I have great, great concerns about the future of women’s rugby in Wales,” Tonia Antoniazzi, who won nine caps, also told the BBC.

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