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Saturday 27 February 2021

Tribunal rules that Folau anti-gay posts were a 'high-level' code of conduct breach

No sanction has yet been decided, though it is possible that the rugby star’s contact termination could stand.

Folau leaves his code of conduct hearing.
Folau leaves his code of conduct hearing.
Image: AAP/PA Images

A SYDNEY TRIBUNAL today ruled that homophobic comments posted to social media by Israel Folau amounted to a “high-level” breach of the sport’s code of conduct, but a sanction has yet to be decided.

The deeply Christian Folau challenged Rugby Australia’s intention to sack him from his lucrative four-year deal after he posted on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he says are sinners.

The governing body declared his actions a “high-level” breach, the only level that allows termination of a contract, and the three-person panel agreed after three days of legal wrangling.

Folau, Rugby Australia chief Raelene Castle and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika all gave evidence.

A decision on his punishment has yet to be made, but it could range from the unlikely scenario of allowing him to return to training and playing with the NSW Waratahs, firing him, or issuing fines or suspensions.

“The panel (John West QC, Kate Eastman SC and John Boultbee SC) has today provided a judgement that Israel Folau committed a high-level breach of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct with his social media posts on April 10, 2019,” Rugby Australia said.

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“The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction.”

No timescale was given for the sanctions to be handed down.

Folau, Super Rugby’s record try-scorer, has not played since posting a banner on Instagram that read: “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators — Hell awaits you.”

He escaped without sanction for a similar tirade last year before signing a new contract. Folau’s legal team reportedly argued that the governing body did not include a social media clause in the contract, and said his posts were quoting sentiments from the Bible.

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