Show­down looms with RA of­fi­cials

The Southland Times - - SPORT -

Rugby Aus­tralia is set for an ugly show­down with its ma­jor spon­sors af­ter de­cid­ing to not take ac­tion against Is­rael Fo­lau over his anti-gay com­ments.

It’s un­der­stood RA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rae­lene Cas­tle is sat­is­fied with the ‘‘re­spect­ful’’ way in which the Wal­la­bies’ high­est-paid player clar­i­fied his re­marks in a first-per­son on­line col­umn.

In the col­umn, Fo­lau threat­ened to walk away from the game if RA of­fi­cials asked him to. He also took aim at Cas­tle for mis­rep­re­sent­ing his ‘‘po­si­tion and com­ments’’ at a me­dia con­fer­ence fol­low­ing their meet­ing in Syd­ney last week.

De­spite this, Cas­tle and RA are sat­is­fied with his com­ments and will not take ac­tion against him.

But the de­ci­sion to bend for the rene­gade Wal­la­bies and Waratahs player, who is off con­tract at the end of this sea­son, is set to anger ma­jor spon­sors who have been watch­ing the is­sue fes­ter.

In their eyes, there has been a ma­jor back­flip.

It is un­der­stood RA told its ma­jor cor­po­rate part­ners last week it was go­ing to take ac­tion against Fo­lau over his claim in an In­sta­gram com­ment that gay peo­ple were go­ing to ‘‘hell un­less they re­pent of their sins’’.

Yes­ter­day morn­ing, some spon­sors told The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald they be­lieved Fo­lau was about to re­ceive a breach no­tice at any mo­ment. In­stead, the op­po­site has hap­pened.

Cas­tle and RA have been un­der enor­mous pres­sure from Fo­lau’s clos­est al­lies, not least in­flu­en­tial broad­caster Alan Jones, to al­low him to say what he wants be­cause of his re­li­gious be­liefs.

The de­ci­sion not to breach Fo­lau is sure to bring Cas­tle’s po­si­tion into ques­tion af­ter Fo­lau was highly crit­i­cal of her in his Play­ers’ Voice col­umn.

‘‘Af­ter we’d all talked, I told Rae­lene if she felt the sit­u­a­tion had be­come un­ten­able – that I was hurt­ing Rugby Aus­tralia, its spon­sors and the Aus­tralian rugby com­mu­nity to such a de­gree that things couldn’t be worked through – I would walk away from my con­tract, im­me­di­ately,’’ Fo­lau wrote. ‘‘At no stage over the past two weeks have I wanted that to hap­pen.

‘‘I felt Rae­lene mis­rep­re­sented my po­si­tion and my com­ments. And did so to ap­pease other peo­ple, which is an is­sue I need to dis­cuss with her and oth­ers at Rugby Aus­tralia.’’

Rugby Aus­tralia’s Rae­lene Cas­tle.

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