Rugby Australia’s decision to tear up Israel Folau’s contract has been upheld after he was found guilty of a high-level breach of the players’ code of conduct.
An independent three-member panel, chaired by John West QC, provided its final written decision on Friday after finding Folau guilty earlier this month.
Folau was stood down by Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union on 12 April. He was served a notice of termination following his latest controversial social media posts in which he targeted ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators’ and warned: ‘Hell awaits you’.
His employers deemed Folau’s actions as a high-level code of conduct breach. The 30-year-old was given 48 hours to accept the sanction or have the matter referred to a code of conduct hearing, which he ultimately opted for.
Folau, who reportedly turned down a $1-million settlement offer, is expected to appeal the decision on religious grounds. Appeals must be lodged within 72 hours of receipt of the sanction.
‘While Rugby Australia accepts the panel’s decision directing termination of Israel Folau’s playing contract for his high-level breach of the code of conduct, we want to stress that this outcome is a painful situation for the game,’ RA chief executive Raelene Castle said.
‘Rugby Australia did not choose to be in this situation, but Rugby Australia’s position remains that Israel, through his actions, left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.
‘This has been an extremely challenging period for rugby and this issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team. But our clear message to all rugby fans today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.
‘I’ve communicated directly with the players to make it clear that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs and nothing that has happened changes that. But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we’re talking about respecting differences as well.
‘When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcomed in our game regardless of their gender, race, background, religion, or sexuality.
‘We thank the tribunal panel for their decision and we respect the time, consideration and expertise the panel members brought to this process.
‘Representing Australia and all Australians on the rugby field is a privilege. Selection is dependent upon a player’s ability to contribute to the Wallabies, and the game of rugby itself, in a positive and consistent manner both on and off the field. When players sign a contract with the Wallabies, they sign up to the values of the team and the sport.
‘Israel is a great rugby player and we are disappointed and saddened by the fact that he will not see out his four-year commitment to the Wallabies and Waratahs.’
‘He left us with no choice but to pursue this course of action.’
Rugby Australia has held a press conference to announce the termination of Israel Folau’s contract for a social media post which was critical of gay people.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) May 17, 2019
Photo: EPA/Bianca de Marchi