Abi Tierney has promised to deliver “North Star” leadership to guide the Welsh Rugby Union away from what has been described as a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

Tierney will join the WRU next January at the latest after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is the director general for customer services and ethics advisor and chair of its people committee.

Her appointment comes nearly seven months after Steve Phillips resigned as WRU chief executive following a BBC documentary which aired allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia and the existence of a “toxic culture” at the game’s governing body.

“People realise mistakes have been made, people are disappointed in what’s happened but there’s an absolute passion, desire and commitment to turn it around and make a difference,” Tierney said at a press conference in Cardiff.

“My job is to harness that and give people them that North Star that they can go towards. I wouldn’t have taken the job if I hadn’t seen that potential.

“I’ve done due diligence on this job. I’ve left a job I love and it had to be the right move.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve been getting to know my colleagues and stakeholders. All I see is potential. I can feel it, it’s almost visceral.”

WRU chiefs admitted being in “denial” after the damaging allegations were broadcast in January and said warning signs were missed.

An external taskforce was set up to carry out an independent review and the report will be published soon. The WRU has said it will accept all the recommendations in the taskforce report.

Tierney said: “I’m holding my thoughts just a little until we get that report and what we need to do on the back of that.

“But someone used the word ‘unity’ when we met with the Welsh Rugby Council and I’ve got the chance to create that.

“What’s the alternative? We can’t not have rugby and we can’t have it described as that. When I heard about this job I thought ‘if not me, then who?

“I would be disappointed if someone else got it? I knew I could do the job, so I didn’t want that regret.”

The WRU has pledged that 40 per cent of its 12-person board should be women and the organisation insists it is on schedule to fulfil that ambition.

Tierney, whose father comes from Barry and admits to having “goose bumps” when she was appointed, says she understands the “additional responsibility” that comes with being first female to be WRU chief executive.

She said: “I’ve used the word responsibility but I’ve been appointed not because I’m female, but because of my leadership skills and capabilities.

“I know people will look up to me and we can all see the world of women in sport opening up with the Lionesses, the Ashes and netball this summer.

“I’m part of that but 10 years ago it would have been a lonely place sat here, but actually I feel I’m part of a movement in some ways.

“It’s a movement that’s going to go from strength to strength and (Welsh Rugby Union) has put me at the forefront of that by having faith in me as a female to lead the organisation. The dream is that young girls see this and think they can do it as well.”

WRU chair Richard Collier-Keywood described Tierney’s appointment as a “hugely significant moment for Welsh rugby”.

He added: “I want to be really clear that we did not appoint Abi because of her gender.

“She was the best candidate and were the best candidate a man we would have appointed him. I think it’s helpful the two outstanding roles are gender-balanced, but I want to be clear she was the best candidate.”

Nigel Walker, who has acted as interim CEO since Phillips’ departure, will become the WRU’s first executive director of rugby when Tierney takes up her role.

Abi Tierney has been appointed the first female chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tierney will join the WRU before the end of 2023 after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is the director general for customer services and ethics advisor and chair of their people committee.

Her appointment comes nearly seven months after Steve Phillips resigned as WRU chief executive amid allegations of a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

“Abi’s appointment is a major coup for Welsh rugby,” said Richard Collier-Keywood, who succeeded former Wales wing Ieuan Evans as WRU chair last month.

“She has worked successfully across the private and public sectors in delivering commercial value and improving the culture of some complex organisations.

“The role of the WRU is to support and serve Welsh rugby across our elite teams to our 270 community clubs.

“Her mantra of ‘putting customers at the heart of everything we do’ bodes well for the many fans of rugby in Wales.

“I believe Abi will make a major contribution to our enjoyment of all aspects of the game in Wales. I am delighted she has decided to join us.”

Welsh rugby was rocked in January by a BBC documentary which aired allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia at the WRU.

A committee of Senedd members noted in June that the WRU was responsible for a “serious failure of governance” and missed opportunities to act on concerning behaviour within the organisation.

Tierney will take over from interim chief executive Nigel Walker, the former Olympic hurdler and Wales international who will now become the WRU’s first director of rugby.

Tierney said: “The opportunity to lead the Welsh Rugby Union is an immense privilege and I relish the chance to make a lasting positive difference at such a critical time.

“My passion and commitment for this role is unquestionable and I feel a huge sense of pride having grown up in a family where my dad is from Barry and where rugby has been a constant and positive force in our lives.

“Rugby has the ability to enable life chances and develop people on and off the pitch. In this role, I intend to take that heritage and the skills and learning I have gathered in my career to deliver the significant cultural advancement Welsh rugby deserves. I have a track record in positively shaping an organisation’s culture.

“I am an inclusive leader and I will do my utmost to promote belonging, trust, understanding and mutual support at all levels in Welsh rugby.

“Alongside Richard as chair, Nigel in his new and vitally important role as director of rugby and my colleagues on the board, and the rest of the executive staff, we will realise the full potential of Welsh rugby in the years ahead and I look forward to the challenge.”

Tierney will join a revamped board which already includes new independent non-executive director Alison Thorne, with Chris Morgan standing down to allow the move.

The WRU says its stated – and member approved – ambition to ensure that at least 40 per cent of its 12-person board should be women remains on course.

Recruitment is ongoing for a further INED appointment, as well as a board member with specific responsibility for the women’s game and further elections for new council members are taking place this summer.

The Welsh Rugby Union was responsible for a “serious failure of governance” and missed opportunities to act on concerning behaviour within the organisation, a report has found.

A committee of Senedd members noted “systemic failures in the culture” of the WRU following allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia.

The issues first came to light in a BBC documentary which aired at the beginning of the year, after which the WRU announced an external taskforce had been set up to investigate.

Concerns female rugby players in Wales may have faced “unfavourable treatment” had been highlighted to the WRU two years ago in a review of the women’s game, extracts of which were published on Friday as part of the Senedd report.

The WRU expects its independent review panel (taskforce) to report “before the end of summer” and welcomes the Senedd’s suggestion that an implementation plan should follow soon after.

“It is unacceptable that it took a BBC documentary for the Welsh Rugby Union to act decisively to tackle long-standing toxic behaviour within the organisation,” read the 33-page Senedd sport committee report.

“There is a clear body of evidence that points to opportunities that were missed by the WRU to act on concerning behaviour, or to acknowledge and tackle a pattern of this behaviour.

“This includes formal complaints; the WRU entering into several settlement agreements in relation to allegations of sexism, racism and homophobia over several years; the review into the women’s game; and the resignation of Amanda Blanc (chair of Wales’ Professional Rugby Board).

“Taken together, these point to systemic failures in the culture of the WRU.

“The fact that senior management did not identify and tackle the problem is a serious failure of governance.”

The Senedd committee expressed its belief that little would have changed at the WRU had individuals not spoken to the media.

Nigel Walker, who stepped in as acting chief executive of the governing body following the resignation of Steve Phillips in January, admitted the initial allegations “made very challenging reading”.

Walker confirmed most of the recommendations made by the 2021 review into the women’s game had already been implemented.

The WRU said it was “fully committed” to enacting all of the recommendations of the ongoing review.

“We have already accepted that we have much work to do to ensure that we address our past failures and we again express our sincere remorse for the missed opportunities and failures described and offer our sincere apologies to anyone affected,” read a WRU statement.

“We are fully committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the current independent review into the WRU.

“The committee are right to highlight that we should not wait until the taskforce completes its work before we make changes, specifically to ensure that our staff feel safe, supported and valued, and that we tackle incidents and behaviours in a robust and consistent matter.”

Interim CEO Walker published details from a letter he sent to the Senedd after appearing before it in February alongside WRU chair Ieuan Evans.

In the document, he warned changing culture “takes time” but insisted the WRU is “determined” to do so.

“Whilst this period has been extremely challenging for us, I hope you can appreciate that our intention is to accept and learn from the challenges we face, and to change the way that we work day to day,” Walker wrote.

“The (2021) review made very challenging reading for us and described a committed squad of high-performance athletes frustrated by the support they were receiving, with failures in strategic and operational management.

“The review report also made clear that we had not ensured that our female players felt fully welcomed, valued and an equal part of our game.

“Changing culture takes time, but we are determined to do it.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.