Steve Phillips has resigned from his position as CEO of the Welsh Rugby Union.
Nigel Walker will take over as Acting CEO with immediate effect.
Current Performance Director Walker has been appointed by WRU chair Ieuan Evans and his Board on an interim basis whilst the recruitment process for a new CEO is established.
The WRU’s chair Evans made an announcement concerning the next steps in the formation of a new external Taskforce which will investigate culture and behaviours on Friday (27/01/23).
Phillips attended the meeting about the new Taskforce, but has since reached the conclusion that he is no longer the person to lead Welsh rugby.
“It is with a huge amount of regret that I have decided to hand in my resignation,” said Phillips.
“I have always had the best interests of Welsh rugby at the heart of my every action and thought, but have come to the conclusion that it is now time for someone else to lead the way.
“This is a sport I love and is so admired around the world and I wish everyone involved in the game every success and my heartfelt best wishes.
“I am absolutely aligned with Ieuan’s commitment to re-examine and further improve the cultures and behaviours at the WRU and fully support the formation of a new independent Taskforce. I am pleased I have been able to start this process for the WRU
“On a personal note, I wish Nigel Walker well and thank all of the dedicated staff at the WRU who can be extremely proud of the efforts and hard work they put in on a daily basis to the betterment of our game.
“I am on record already saying how much I hugely regret the feelings and emotions expressed recently by former members of staff.”
Evans has described the meeting held with the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport and Chief Whip, Dawn Bowden to discuss a new independent Taskforce charged with investigating culture and behaviours within the WRU, as constructive.
He has confirmed Sport Wales will now advise on the process to appoint a Chair to oversee the investigation, set its scope and parameters and recruit key personnel to its panel.
“I thank Steve for his dedication and support for Welsh rugby,” said Evans.
“Steve has spent a large part of his professional career at the WRU, first as Finance Director and more recently as our CEO. He has made a significant contribution to our progress on the world stage in that time and most recently was instrumental in securing the return of Warren Gatland to the helm of the senior men’s side.
“He also brought in Nigel Walker as our Head of Performance, as one of his first acts as CEO, which has led to the introduction of professional contracts for the Wales Women’s squad and significant progression in the provision for the professional and amateur Women’s and Girls’ game.
“He successfully guided Welsh rugby through the coronavirus pandemic and has secured a new six-year verbal agreement with the PRB (Professional Rugby Board) and a signed ‘heads of terms’ designed to ensure a sustainable future for our professional game.
“We are delighted to be able to call on an individual, a businessman, and former elite sportsman, of Nigel’s calibre to come in as Acting CEO.
“Nigel will work closely with the new Taskforce and help lead us through the next urgent steps, as we seek to learn from the current serious and significant issues we face.”
No allegations were made against Steve Phillips in the recent BBC programme and he was not accused of any wrong doing.
Nigel Walker, OBE, was appointed Performance Director of the Welsh Rugby Union in July 2021.
The former Olympic athlete, Welsh rugby international and Cardiff RFC wing joined from the position of National Director at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and has also held a string of high-profile posts in Welsh sport since retiring from the game in the late 90s.
“There is no doubt that Welsh rugby is facing an existential crisis,” said Walker, who has also worked for the Welsh Institute of Sport and was Head of Sport at BBC Wales for five years and Head of Change for a further four.
“This has been a wake-up call. Perhaps it is a call that has been overdue. The first step to any recovery is admitting the problem.
“We must now listen intently to what people from outside our organisation are telling us. We care and are committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and we work hard in this space with dedicated resource and investment. But we need to do better. We need to do much better and we will.
“We will take the necessary corrective steps and stick closely to what the new Taskforce advises.
“I would like to add my gratitude to Steve Phillips who is someone I have always found to be open-minded, caring and dedicated to Welsh rugby.
“I will work tirelessly and relentlessly with our chair Ieuan Evans, with our Board and with the newly appointed Taskforce to ensure the WRU progresses to a better place.
“Welsh rugby is an integral part of Welsh society and we need to ensure that we are not only perceived as a welcoming institution with a place for all, but that our every action reflects this in all quarters of our business.”
Walker has also served as a UK Sport Board member from 2006-10, was Chair of the Major Events Panel and a member of the Audit Committee and a Commonwealth Games England Board member between 2014 and 2022.
A former international athlete and rugby union player, he represented Great Britain as a high hurdler before switching to rugby, earning 17 international caps for Wales and was awarded an OBE in 2019.