New Welsh Rugby Union portal aims to boost inclusivity in the sport

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The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has launched a new online service to promote inclusivity and diversity within Wales’ rugby clubs.

The union says the free and bilingual ‘Dysgu WRU’ portal is designed to “educate and inform” club members.

It includes webinars on topics such as such as understanding unconscious bias, tackling racism and creating a period positive clubhouse.

The WRU says the aim is to “enable clubhouses to thrive”.

“We need our clubhouses in Wales to be reflective of the emerging communities in which they sit,” said Angharad Collins, head of places for the WRU community department.

“We’ve been working on Dysgu WRU for the last 10 months and we’re really looking forward to seeing how it lands with the community.

“We want everybody to access [the portal], if you’re a mum or dad and you’re on the side of a field, right the way up to the chairperson of a rugby club, this system is accessible to everybody.

“The more we can embed the key themes of the webinars, the better and stronger the clubhouses will be for the future.”

Old Penarthians ‘saved my life’

One person who understands the power clubhouses can have is Simon Clarke, the founder of Speakeasy club, an organisation which promotes learning and the need to be inquisitive.

In 2021 Clarke was diagnosed with depression and found solace at Old Penarthians Rugby Club, where the WRU launched its new portal.

“This place, when I was really struggling through depression and severe anxiety, I always felt safe here, I never felt judged and this is my safe place,” said Clarke.

“The day I was told by the therapist that I had depression, I came to Old Penarthians and I was walking across the car park to meet my father and I turned around four times. It wasn’t the act of going to tell my father, it was going back into a place I love.

“I eventually went in and I never felt uncomfortable here.”

Clarke says he feels “emotional” that Old Penarthians was chosen as the venue to roll out the Dysgu portal.

“The Dysgu programme is superb, [it provides] the opportunity for communities in rugby to learn and upskill themselves, but also make their places more inclusive and sustainable,” said Clarke, 38.

“One of the challenges I had was that I was numb to every emotion. I feel quite emotional today to be in a place to learn about the launch and the impact it’s going to have, rolling the Dysgu programme out across the country is such a powerful thing.”

‘Accountability on every club’

Other subjects covered in the webinars include engaging with diverse communities, how to make a clubhouse more welcoming to women and girls and creating a menopause positive clubhouse, as well as health and safety, an introduction to VAT, good club governance, recruiting and retaining volunteers and social media for clubs.

Wales scrum-half Ffion Lewis, who was at the launch, says Dysgu WRU is an “incredible platform”.

“Community rugby is where rugby started for a lot of us. I was six when I started playing, but what’s important is it’s inclusive for everyone, no matter what age you are or your background,” said Lewis.

“For the girls’ and female game, with the period plan and a comfortable environment for women, it’s really important and it’ll be a real game-changer.

“We want to have as many girls getting involved and feeling comfortable in these clubhouses – it’s important these are welcoming areas.

“The accountability is on every club to take this opportunity on board to better their club, I hope everyone can see this incredible opportunity and buy in and learn away.”

Credit To Onwer