In line with our ongoing commitment to inclusion and diversity and the central role it plays in the current and future success of Scottish Rugby, we wish to communicate a set of findings that address allegations of institutionalised discrimination that we want to share today, following an extensive external review and internal discussions.
The allegations were made by former Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) Board member Julia Bracewell, who was also a member of the previously functioning Standing Committee on Governance (SCOG), which developed and led an organisation-wide governance review which concluded in September last year. Ms Bracewell previously resigned from her role with SCOG and subsequently resigned from the Scottish Rugby Limited Board in October 2022 and referenced the allegations in her resignation letter.
Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) commissioned an external review of the allegations made, which were about aspects of the transitioning governance structure of Scottish Rugby during the review process, as mentioned above.
Ms Bracewell’s requests were: (i) urgently appoint an independent review to consider whether there is institutional discrimination; (ii) whether there is any breach of Equality and non-discrimination laws; (iii) whether there was any failure to comply with good practice in this area.
The allegations were not about Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) or its activities.
The external review included internal interviews to develop findings based on evidence and perspectives shared and relevant documentation provided.
The governance review changes came into place in November 2022 and resulted in the creation of a new structure of three boards – (i) a new Scottish Rugby Union Board (SRU) providing Custodian oversight (ii) SRL, the operating board (iii) a new Club Rugby Board (CRB) to replace the Council.
The review’s findings were focused on the allegations about the transition of the then Scottish Rugby Council to the new Club Rugby Board and the process for establishing the company limited by guarantee (SRU) that the SCOG carried out in place at that time.
The main findings were as follows:
1. Appoint an independent review to consider whether there is institutional discrimination:
- 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.
2. Whether there is any breach of Equality and non-discrimination laws:
- Whilst as outlined above, 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. There was evidence to suggest there was a lack of articulated succession planning and strategy in this area. 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.
- Going forward, an independent Equality Impact Assessment would be helpful in providing areas to focus on for improvement and development.
- There is evidence that work is now underway to move towards more diversity in the governance structures through targeted recruitment campaigns. The recent recruitment campaigns for SRU Board have shown commitment to a more diverse and inclusive approach and have been fairly and professionally executed with the support of SRL’s Chief People & Engagement Officer.
3. Whether there was any failing to comply with good practice in this area:
The SRL Board has always taken Ms Bracewell’s allegations seriously and remains fully committed to inclusion and diversity being central to all its governance, recruitment, and operating practices.
Scottish Rugby, including Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) and Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), is 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.
Scottish Rugby has also welcomed the support of sportscotland in this process and will continue to draw on its expertise and guidance in this area.
Scottish Rugby Limited (SRL) Chair, John Jeffrey, said: “Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the work Julia Bracewell contributed to Scottish Rugby during her tenure with us and thank her for bringing these important matters to our attention.
“We have, at all times, taken her complaint seriously and, as quickly as possible, have conducted an external review to examine her allegations. Whilst we are working hard to deliver on our commitment to inclusion and diversity at all levels of our sport and, in particular, with the women’s and girls’ game, we know we have work to do as we move away from a historically male-centric sport.
“Careful and appropriate consideration is now being given to the findings of the report. It is our intention that a working group will be established to consider the findings and agree actions and recommendations for the way forward. We have reached out to Julia to ask if she would like to contribute to the process going forward.”