A NEW scheme called ‘Tell Us’ goes live on the SRU website tomorrow [Tuesday] with the aim of making it easier for participants in the sport to voice concerns or complaints about sexism, racism or homophobia. Designed to complement rather than replace existing disciplinary procedures, the initiative aims to assure players, volunteers and officials that any complaints they have about such matters will be treated seriously.
The sport both in Scotland and further afield has received a lot of negative publicity recently. Women players at Liberton RFC in Edinburgh making allegations of misogyny against officials after their section was disbanded, and women in Wales complaining about a culture of toxic misogyny within the WRU. Last week Liberton withdrew from East League 3, apparently after some male players had left in solidarity with their female former colleagues.
SRU head of rugby development Gavin Scott insisted that planning for ‘Tell Us’ had been under way for some time and insisted it had not been rushed through as a reaction to such issues. However, he accepted that those concerns made it obvious that rugby had problems which needed to be addressed.
“Scottish Rugby, and in particular the Rugby Development department, is committed to developing a culture where it is safe and acceptable for everyone involved in our sport to raise concerns about any unacceptable practice, behaviour or misconduct,” he said. “We’ve created Tell Us as a means of opening up an additional accessible channel of communication between our participants and Scottish Rugby, with the hope that we can act quickly and provide appropriate support where required to anyone who has been affected by examples of sexism, misogyny, homophobia or racism.
“Recent reports have highlighted that we still have some distance to go both as a society and a sport to ensure equality is respected when men’s and women’s teams co-exist. The more we can understand the issues being raised and address them, or support clubs to affect change then hopefully the faster we can achieve that objective. Tell Us is a practical way we can listen and learn, from particularly women and young female players and we hope it proves to be a useful resource.”
Gemma Fay, the head of Murrayfield’s Women & Girls’ Strategy, added: “If we want women and girls to come to our sport, be inspired and have ambitions to progress to their highest level, we need to ensure they are in supportive, positive environments from the beginning.
“Scottish Rugby has made a clear strategic and financial commitment to growing and developing the women and girl’s game and we will only achieve that if everyone is focussed on delivering experiences which are free from sexist or misogynist attitudes. I believe Tell Us shows that our sport is taking steps towards addressing behaviours and attitudes which need to change, providing an accessible and practical way for concerns to be raised and ultimately dealt with to move rugby forward.”
SRU vice-president Keith Wallace chairs the new Club Rugby Board which oversees the community game. He said: “Rugby plays a positive part in many people’s lives and we know the sport brings huge amount of enjoyment, alongside physical and mental well-being benefits.
“It is important we continue to make rugby environments as inclusive as we can and free from discrimination. In order to do this we need individuals to understand how their concerns can be heard, firstly through reminding them of existing processes, and secondly by adding the Tell Us channel to use when that does not work or suit. We can then act accordingly.
“I fully endorse the creation of the Tell Us resource as an additional measure and hope we can both support those who have been affected by outdated attitudes and use it to move our sport forward for everyone.”
Although ‘Tell Us’ is primarily an initiative to help players and others involved in the club game, in recent years the most serious allegation of sexism within the union itself has come at international level, from the family and friends of Siobhan Cattigan. They believe that the late Scotland forward received inadequate treatment for the head injuries she sustained in matches and at training, and that a male international would have been offered better treatment.
The SRU has so far resisted calls for an independent inquiry into the player’s death, but it was announced at last summer’s annual general meeting that a “fact-finding process” had been launched. Yesterday a spokesperson for the governing body, asked about the progress of the investigation, said: “That fact-finding process is continuing. We’re conducting a pretty thorough process. We’re still not at the conclusion yet – I can’t give you a time frame.”