Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has said allegations of sexism and discrimination against the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) are an opportunity for all other sport organisations in the country to change their culture.
The Sport Wales chair was giving evidence alongside acting chief executive Brian Davies at a Senedd committee hearing on Wednesday, which has been looking at the explosive claims made in a BBC Cymru Wales television programme last month.
Lady Grey-Thompson, a Paralympic gold medallist and crossbench member of the House of Lords, told members of the culture and sports committee that “this is the moment” for Welsh sport to address issues elsewhere as well.
“This is the moment in time for Welsh sports to say ‘this is happening here as well’.
“It’s horrendous what’s happened. And it’s deeply upsetting,” she added.
“But now that this has happened in Wales, it sends out a really strong message to lots of governing bodies to really make sure that not just their policy and processes are in place, because that’s one thing.
Following the allegations being aired, the WRU asked Sport Wales to advise them on what next steps to take, which led to them instructing Sport Resolutions – a global independent, not-for-profit, dispute resolution service.
Sport Resolutions has since appointed former Court of Appeal judge, Dame Anne Rafferty, to chair an independent review panel looking into the culture and behaviour within the organisation.
The scope of the review has been set by Sports Resolution and Sports Wales in discussion with the Welsh government and the WRU.
Mr Davies was quizzed on whether Sport Wales, a national body dedicated to developing and promoting sport and physical activity in Wales, was aware of the serious allegations against the WRU prior to the BBC report.
“I think it’s important in response to that to identify what our role is as a body, as an arm’s length body of Welsh government.
“We’re the agency responsible for promoting and developing sport and physical activity in Wales. We’re not an investigatory body. We have no legislative power.
“We do have duties as an organisation, we’re bound by certain legal duties. But in terms of the sector, we don’t really have that kind of responsibility, whether we should is another matter.
“So if someone does raise something informally with us, there is a limit to what we can do.”
He added later: “What we did know was that the governance arrangements of the WRU wasn’t good enough to deal with these issues, and that’s an area we do have influence on. And you could argue maybe we could have done that faster.
Mr Davies added: “I think maybe we’re losing sight of the fact as well that the people to blame here are the ones who hold these views.”
Mr Davies said Sport Wales did not have the authority to hold clubs to account on matters such as this, and said it did not have a structure to deal with external whistle-blowers and that if individuals approached them with specific concerns they could signpost them to the relevant agency.
Alun Davies MS argued that Sport Wales, as a body responsible for allocating public funds to the WRU’s Hub Programme and women and girls pathway, had a duty to uphold the Welsh government’s statutory values on equality.
In a heated exchange, Alun Davies said he “remained unconvinced” that Sport Wales had done enough to uphold that duty.