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WRU chair promises 2024 change after ‘year to forget’

WRU chair promises 2024 change after ‘year to forget’

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) chairman Richard Collier-Keywood has promised things will change in 2024 after admitting 2023 “has been a year to forget” for the governing body.

Collier-Keywood has made his pledge in a new year letter to the Welsh clubs.

He has highlighted a six-point plan for 2024 including the need for a “One Wales” joined-up approach.

An independent report in November found aspects of the WRU culture were sexist, misogynistic, racist and homophobic.

It was produced by Dame Anne Rafferty, who has now been appointed as chair of a new external oversight group that will monitor the WRU’s progress in implementing the changes suggested by the report.

A BBC Wales Investigates programme, aired in January 2023, uncovered allegations of sexism and misogyny at the WRU. Chief executive Steve Phillips resigned and the WRU commissioned the independent investigation.

There has been major change at the governing body since an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) in March, which included Collier-Keywood being appointed as the first independent chair in July.

This was part of a new-look board appointed for 2024 with more rugby, business and commercial expertise recruited and the number of club representatives halved.

“Without negating all of the hugely positive things that have happened in 2023, both on and off the pitch and, I think we will all agree the WRU has had a year to forget in many ways,” wrote Collier-Keywood.

“We won’t let the issues we have faced define us, but we will learn from them.

“We have already done so and are progressing at pace with a new governance structure now in place and the recommendations from the Dame Anne Rafferty-led independent review setting out a positive roadmap for the future both culturally and from a governance perspective.

“With this in mind I’m delighted to announce, together with Sport Wales, we have invited Dame Anne to lead the external oversight group which will monitor and assess our progress against the recommendations of the independent review over the next three years.

“Dame Anne’s presence provides the gravitas and consistency of thought and analysis necessary to hold us to account in our progress at pace and she will be joined by two further independent members in the new year.”

Six-point plan for 2024

The Principality Stadium will host three men’s and one women’s game in the 2024 Six Nations

Collier-Keywood outlined six aspects the WRU will focus on in 2024.

  • Delivering a “One Wales” joined-up rugby approach
  • Creating a strategy for the WRU’s support of Welsh rugby and making more money to invest in the professional and community games
  • Encouraging an inclusive culture
  • Completing the work on the women’s strategy and investing in the women’s game in Wales
  • Investing in the welfare of players
  • Further improvements to governance

“We need an approach to Welsh rugby that reaches across the whole game and will join up what we do from community clubs to the elite game,” Collier-Keywood added.

“We are committed to building improved relationships with regions and community clubs that should help with this process.

“We are working on our plan, we will publish this in the spring of 2024 and will be accountable for its delivery.

“We need to work together across the regions and clubs to deliver a “One Wales” plan. A key part of this will be ensuring rugby in Wales is put on a sound and sustainable footing so we can invest in the game and communities that support it across Wales.

“The goals of this plan are clear that all our national teams – men’s, women’s and age-grade – need to compete with the best in the world.

“For this to be achieved we need strong domestic teams and a pathway that includes our clubs with a passionate and inclusive fanbase.

“The one consistent theme I have heard is the WRU does not have a strategy. This is one of the board and executive’s immediate priorities but this will not be a strategy we will dream up in a darkened room.

“We are committed to consulting widely externally to ensure the strategy gets the best possible input.”

The WRU also had to deal with the threat of a player strike in February for the home Six Nations match against England over contractual issues which was only averted three days before the game.

Collier-Keywood insisted improving relations with the four professional sides was one of his main priorities.

“I can assure supporters throughout Wales I am taking a significant personal interest in ensuring the WRU works as closely as possible with our regional sides because this one area, at this moment in time, is a keystone to future success for Welsh rugby,” he added.

New leader

Abi Tierney
New Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Abi Tierney will aim to push through cultural change alongside executive director of rugby Nigel Walker and chair Richard Collier-Keywood

Incoming chief executive Abi Tierney will officially become the first female WRU chief executive on 8 January, with interim Nigel Walker taking on a new role as executive director of rugby.

Tierney arrives from her position as director general of HM Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration.

It was for this role that Tierney was recognised in the New Year Honours. She was included on the Companions of the Order of the Bath (CB) list in recognition for public service.

“I am delighted, and humbled, to receive this honour,” said Tierney.

“I see it as recognition of the crucial services delivered by our civil servants across the migration and borders system.

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with them all. I am proud to have been part of these teams.

“With the new year comes a new beginning for me and for the WRU and I am looking forward to taking on the challenges ahead together with another excellent, proud and passionate team of dedicated individuals. I know we will succeed, together.”

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