More than five weeks since Israel Folau’s Instagram posts created a storm of biblical proportions for Rugby Australia, their three-member panel has today issued a sanction directing termination of Israel Folau’s playing contract for his high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct.
In a statement released late Friday afternoon, Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle did not mince words, stressing that the outcome was a painful situation for the game.
“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.,” Ms Castle explained in her statement.
“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.
The three-member panel John West QC (Chair), Kate Eastman SC and John Boultbee AM provided its final written decision today relating to the Code of Conduct hearing over Folau’s social media posts on April 10, 2019.
“We thank the tribunal panel for their decision and we respect the time, consideration and expertise the panel members brought to this process,” Castle continued.
“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,” she said.
New South Wales Rugby Union CEO, Andrew Hore said it was a difficult time for the sport, fans, players and the stakeholders.
“Israel has been a valuable member of the NSW Waratahs team since he started playing Rugby,” Hore stated.
“While NSWRU is disappointed to lose a player of Israel’s calibre, rugby has a Code of Conduct and values that we must adhere to ensure that our game remains a game for all, no matter people’s background or beliefs.
“We too thank the tribunal panel for the time they have taken to consider this issue and respect their decision,” he said.
Folau 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. Under the Code, appeals must be lodged within 72 hours of receipt of the sanction.