Sexism in Scottish Rugby uncovered by review into ’allegations of institutionalised discrimination’
It has found that women were not taken seriously or respected in meetings and that a new board set up to help run the game may be non-inclusive towards women and not able to drive the women and girls’ game forward. There were also concerns over the “commitment to promoting the women’s game”. It’s a damning assessment of the way women are treated in the sport in Scotland and the review followed allegations which were made by former Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) board member Julia Bracewell, who stepped down in October 2022 and referenced the allegations in her resignation letter. Scottish Rugby said it has always taken Ms Bracewell’s claims seriously and remains “fully committed to inclusion and diversity”. John Jeffrey, chair of SRL, said: “We know we have work to do as we move away from a historically male-centric sport.”
The allegations came to light as the game’s governing body in Scotland underwent an overhaul of its governance structure. Part of the change saw the Scottish Rugby Council replaced by a new Club Rugby Board. In September last year, a special general meeting of member clubs of the Scottish Rugby Union voted with an overwhelming majority [97.89 per cent] in favour of a new governance structure for the organisation. This followed an organisation-wide governance review which was developed and led by a group called the Standing Committee on Governance (SCOG).
The external review, carried out by Emerge Development Consultancy, focused on allegations around the transition of the then Scottish Rugby Council to the new Club Rugby Board and the work of the SCOG.
The review looked at the allegation of institutional discrimination and found that:
- There was evidence of lack of female representation on both SCOG and the Council during the governance review process.
- The transition of Council to the now Club Rugby Board (CRB) has highlighted concerns in relation to the current composition of the CRB and how this may continue to be non-inclusive towards women and not drive the Women and Girls game forward.
- There was evidence that suggested that at times the previous Council did not behave in an inclusive manner towards women at meetings. The evidence presented by one witness suggested that behaviours by the then Council left some women feeling dismissed, and as though their opinions were not respected.
The review also looked at whether there had been any breach of equality and non-discrimination laws and found that:
- Whilst … there was some evidence of discriminatory practices within the previous SCOG group, there was no evidence of action plans existing to outline and activate greater equality for the Women and Girls’ game. However, there was no finding of a breach of the Equality Act.
- At the time of commencement of the changes, the resulting structure from the governance review process was not deemed to be of the standard that would pass an Equality Impact Assessment, due to the lack of evidence of strategy and activity implemented to promote diversity and inclusion.
- Concern was noted in relation to certain members of the then Council not showing the appropriate level of commitment to promoting the women’s game.
- Clear evidence exists that the formation of SCOG and recruitment of members into SCOG, did not address diversity and therefore, as a result, did not take into account appropriate representation of the Women and Girls game.
- There is evidence that work is now under way to move towards more diversity in the governance structures through targeted recruitment campaigns.
It was also suggested “that there is a need for people involved in the governance review to reflect and consider their bias and how, in particular, they support women i.e. becoming male allies”.
In response to the review, Scottish Rugby said it would seek to develop more female leaders in the game and was in the process of establishing a joint working group “to take forward the findings and lessons learned and consider other aspects that will strengthen the sport’s governance and management surrounding issues of inclusion and diversity”.
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