Israel Folau’s contract with Rugby Australia has been terminated following a code of conduct hearing that concluded on Friday afternoon.
The three-member panel tasked with providing Rugby Australia with a recommendation on how to proceed – John West QC, Kate Eastman SC, and John Boultbee AM – ruled that Folau’s four-year contract, reportedly worth $4 million, should be severed as a result of his recent anti-LGBTI social media posts.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
Castle added that she has made it clear to the players that Rugby Australia fully supports their right to their own beliefs, unless it comes at the expense of inclusiveness and “respecting differences”.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
In April, Folau posted on Twitter that Tasmania’s legal reforms for trans and gender diverse people were a sign that people should “REPENT and turn away from your evil ways”, drawing criticism from Rugby Australia’s major sponsor Qantas.
He later posted an image on Instagram which stated that “hell awaits” gay people, similar to the social media posts that landed him in hot water last year.
Co-founder of the Pride in Sport Index and Vice President of ACON, Andrew Purchas, said he welcomed the decision of Rugby Australia to end its contract with Folau.
“This decision sends a strong message that homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated in Rugby Union,” he said.
“The views of Mr Folau on LGBTQ people do not reflect community standards and expectations. Such statements work against the significant progress on acceptance and inclusion that is being made by sporting codes, clubs and organisations across Australia.
“Homophobia and transphobia has no place in sport, whether on or off the field.”
Folau now has the option to appeal the panel’s determination of a high-level breach of the Code of Conduct and the sanction handed to him today. An appeal would have to be lodged within 72 hours of receipt of the sanction.