SRU launch ‘Tell Us’ scheme to combat racism, sexism and homophobia

"I believe Tell Us shows that our sport is taking steps towards addressing behaviours and attitudes which need to change" - Gemma Fay

Gemma Fay
Gemma Fay, Scottish Rugby's head of women and girls' strategy. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

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.


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“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.” 


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About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

20 Comments

  1. We move forward and if it helps one person or makes people think of their own actions then that’s fine by me. 🐻

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      • No I’m not, I try and look at the bigger picture and not focus on individual incidents. If you don’t think it will do any good then fine by me but I think it will. The actual publication of this statement will make people think, it is not easy times not only in rugby but in life in general.

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    • It’s extremely difficult from a distance to comment however with apparently only the Liberton allegations to suggest looking at a ‘bigger picture’ would seem to me slightly premature. This is a situation that is receiving more ‘coverage’ than is justified without fuller and further particulars. In one of the media articles it seemed that the intransigence could well be six of one and half a dozen of the other.
      Quotes “the women’s team claimed the requirements were those of a coach and an administrator to take on tasks that had previously been completed by team members”: what was the reason why that could not continue? I’ve not seen any clarity on that.
      “Players suggested the committee hire a club welfare representative” – why ask the committee to ‘hire’ someone, if you think about it you are asking them to spend money to prove they are wrong.
      Other criticism from a Ms. Sandham [and others] was at best hearsay and as for “I won’t repeat any of the language used” that offers no substance to the complaint and frankly considering social media and the way in which society has changed I don’t think there are too many shrinking violets of any Gender in this day and age, so repeat the comments that justifies the specific complaints.
      Until evidential proof shows that this is anything other than a localised situation it seems to me to be an excessive reaction from the SRU regardless of other aspects and as yet unsubstantiated criticisms: as ever other views are available.

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      • it isn’t a reaction to one incident.

        Its a policy of the type many organisations have. Funny how we want the SRU to act professionally, then moan when they do

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      • If you say so but what are the other incidences other than the obvious one that has Court action pending ?
        And knee jerk responses are not in my opinion a ‘professional’ way of going about things, but as I say that is my opinion, others are available.

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      • George, its a standard policy. One espoused by many organisations. It will have no bearing on a pending court case, none.

        Its a good policy. Or do you think it isn’t?

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      • Well I thought I made it reasonably clear that under the circumstances as I understand them, no: it doesn’t seem to be a necessary action, at the present time.
        I am of an opinion that it will just be another cost that will escalate and in all probability will attract spurious complaints with little or no foundation of the nature of the serious categories suggested.
        If genuine complaints of a serious nature are shown to be fact on the basis of evidence that is another aspect, however IF there was justification in another quote –”“The leadership at a lot of these [rugby] clubs across Scotland do tend to be quite homogenous, and have certain thoughts and ideas,” Ms Sandham added.”
        I would only say where is the evidence of that, unless otherwise informed it is little better than hearsay and ‘tend to’ doesn’t do anything to indicate to me that there are problems that necessitate diverting SRU staff at a cost, as I said on the evidence produced.

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      • sorry George, your post says more about you than anything else. Stuck in the past, and appear to be opposing anything to do with advancing women’s rugby or attacking misogyny. Its not a good look

        This is minimal to no cost; absolutely zero cost if no whistles are blown.

        But yes, we should all just turn a blind eye and pretend there is and never will be a problem

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      • With regard to your response and your ability to judge my character from my comments. I rather think you may be the sort of individual that hears and reads what you want to hear and takes the view of them that confirms your own convictions rather than considering the other persons point of view and argument, but at least my post has my name on it.
        With regard to women’s rugby no problem at all providing it emerges in an organic fashion and not at the behest of the URC who frankly ‘big it up’ in order to promote their sales approach with suggestions of adding women’s professional clubs to their tournaments. The Pizza is the same size no matter how it is sliced.
        Now what else was there? I know: ‘providing no whistles blown’, a comment apparently myopic to my concern that spurious complaints would be encouraged, as for your assertion that I consider “there is and never will be a problem” rather ignores my comment that should there be evidence of a problem of sexism, misogyny or homophobia that it subsequently justifies investigation, however at the present time I have observed nothing to suggest that is the case.
        However other views even those of a ‘septic’ nature are available.

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      • I would suggest you re-read your post septic and you will see the very definition of “not a good look”.

        Is really should be possible for people to accept a contrary opinion without resorting to inventing nonsense to rubbish the poster with a different view. It really isn’t a good look.

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      • George, I’m telling you how your posts come across. You have opposed funding for the women’s game. You oppose this very good policy initiative.

        And its all very well saying the pizza is the same size – sharing it more fairly (in the fastest growing part of the game) is correct, and policies which help people raise issues are a good thing.
        False accusations are easily refuted and the worst kind of whataboutery used as an excuse to criticise.

        I am the sort of person who tells it as I see it. You on the other hand are happy to follow every conspiracy theory and stuck in the past

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  2. This troubles me. I’m willing to give those involved in coming up with this the benefit of the doubt that they genuinely feel that it is helping to address an important issue. That being said, this is the sort of policy you’d expect to see in East Germany in the 1970s, not a sports governing body in 2023. “Tell Us”? If people are breaking the law, then report them to the police. If not, deal with it in the appropriate way. We live in a democratic society and our clubs clubs are democratic societies. Vote! With your feet if you have to. And well done to the Liberton Ladies team for taking the action that they did. Let it be a lesson to others and episode that the game as a whole can learn and grow from. Instead it appears the SRU has reached the point where reporting allegations directly into Big Brother is a serious policy!

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    • Really? You would have expected a sports governing body in East Germany in the 70s to enquire about how cases of harassment were being dealt with by sports clubs who were members of their overall organisation. Interesting. I didn’t know that’s what it was like in the 70s in East Germany

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      • When you see the kind of things that are written on Twitter or by malcontents on the internet against people they simply don’t like, this is a legitimate concern.

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  3. How long does the SRU require to reveal some authenticated (ideally completely independent) conclusions and accordingly take appropriate action, if necessary on the subject of its own responsibilities & dealings at all relevant levels in relation to Siobhan Cattigan’s tragic demise?

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    • Forever it seems. So many opportunities to do the right thing ignored and now there is the inevitable legal case they can hide behind that to do and say nothing.

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  4. Not been rushed through? Seriously they are trying that line.

    The Scottish Rugby tweet says “members of our game”. Just who are they exactly? Either they are members of clubs or they aren’t. Unless they have created some special category of membership that transcends rugby clubs?

    And how will these complaints be investigated and by whom?

    If we are going to use disciplinary measures against clubs and their officials perhaps Scottish Rugby should look closer to Murrayfield? What sanction for bring the Union into disrepute were made for the botched employment tribunal with Keith Russell? For the World Cup fiasco and fine? For the terrible handling of the Cattigan situation.

    Perhaps fix your own sty first before trying to criticise others.

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