Showdown looms with RA officials
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.