Women's Rugby, Welsh Rugby Union

Women in Sport’s response to the Independent Review of the Welsh Rugby Union


We welcome the publication of the Independent Review of the Welsh Rugby Union, chaired by Dame Anne Rafferty. We commend the hard work of the independent panel and, especially, all the women who gave evidence. The opportunity that now exists to drive change in rugby would not exist without their testimony, and we are pleased to be working with the Welsh Rugby Union to achieve this change.

Why it Matters

Women's Rugby

The value of sport in developing resilience, courage, self-belief and belonging cannot be overstated. Team sport can give girls experience of leadership and joint endeavour and through it girls and women can find a love for sport and sense of joy which is not limited to the pitch. There is little doubt that normalising high quality team sport for girls could help to counter the pandemic of anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders, as well as other gendered health inequalities, that plague teenage girls’ lives.

A horrible history

The historic exclusion of women and girls from the high-profile team sport of rugby is an injustice with far reaching consequences. It was made clear to generations of women that rugby wasn’t a game they could play, despite being such a huge part of national identity and culture, not least in Wales. Gender stereotyping told – and still tells – women and girls that the rough and tumble world of rugby was simply not for them. Many women loved watching the sport even during these years, working and volunteering within it, and the report makes clear that many of these women were poorly treated. The report is correct to conclude that those responsible for running rugby in Wales, at all levels, have been slow to recognise the value and importance of the women’s game and of women’s contributions to rugby at local, regional and national level.

Girls' rugby

The exclusion of women from sport and their abuse in sport is not a problem unique to rugby. The history of sport is a horrible history when it comes to women. Women were often actively banned from taking part or mocked and ignored when they did, and there are simply too many examples to list. Indeed, Women in Sport was founded to tackle exactly these problems. It was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in sport at every level, and the paltry recognition for women’s sporting achievements, that inspired our founders to set up the charity almost 40 years ago.

What should happen now?

The specific instances of misogyny and the organisational culture that the review sets out is deeply concerning, as is the previous lack of support and focus on the women’s game. Change must come, and we’re pleased to see the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) accept the recommendations of the review in full.

The WRU is not alone in being slow to change and nor is it the first sport to face a crisis as a result of its hesitance, far from it. But a crisis is an opportunity for both the WRU and Welsh rugby for exactly that change.

Women in Sport is confident that the people we know in WRU are fully committed to the seeing this change through. The WRU’s new women’s health policy is a huge step forward, for example. The appointment of the WRU’s first ever female Chief Executive and a more gender equal Board is also vital progress. We know that gender equal leadership at the top of an organisation creates the most inclusive culture overall, not just for women but for non-dominant communities.

Girls playing rugby

Women in Sport is now working with the WRU to help support the changes they make for women, both on and off the pitch. We’re working with fantastic women and men from the organisation who are deeply and genuinely committed to realising the full potential of rugby as a force for good in Wales.

The nature of the change and the rate of change are both vital. But for the change to be deep and lasting it won’t be quick. A fundamental shift is needed in sport as a whole and in the WRU if its social value is to be realised. This should include the adoption of an anti-misogyny policy as well as more investment in the women’s game; the review recommends a thorough review of the data on investment in women’s rugby and that “spending should be in line with… spending on men and boys” – a gender budgeting approach which Women in Sport is championing across sport.

The position and importance of rugby in Wales gives the WRU a real opportunity to drive change for women in Wales; not just within rugby but in society as a whole.

The position and importance of rugby in Wales gives the WRU a real opportunity to drive change for women in Wales; not just within rugby but in society as a whole.
Women in Sport



Welsh rugby has an opportunity to transform and become a sport that is truly welcoming for women. The WRU also has the opportunity to become a truly welcoming place for women to work. We look forward to supporting the WRU to achieve greater gender equality in the game. But to ensure true and long-lasting change is created everyone involved in the sport – clubs, regions, sponsors, media – must all play their part.