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Anger sparked by French Super League club's decision to sign Israel Folau

Controversial player offered lifeline on strict condition he does not repeat his opinions on same-sex marriage.

Israel Folau has sparked controversy with his religious views.
Israel Folau has sparked controversy with his religious views.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ISRAEL FOLAU, RUGBY’s most divisive player, has been offered a route back into top-level sport by the Catalans Dragons.

The French Super League club, based in Perpignan, announced at lunchtime that they have signed the former Australian international on a one-year contract. However it comes under strict terms, namely that Folau is prohibited from repeating the type of comments that resulted in his dismissal by Rugby Australia.

The news comes just six weeks after Folau reached a personal settlement with Rugby Australia following their decision to terminate his contract earlier this season on the back of his controversial opinions on same-sex marriage.

Speaking today after signing, Dragons chairman, Bernard Guasch, said: “We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch.

We do not support or agree with Israel’s previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief. We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.

“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person. We have a signed agreement with the RFL. Any transgression will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club.”

In response Folau said: “I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League. I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them. I look forward to my return to the great game of Rugby League with the Catalans Dragons.”

In April last year, Folau used his personal Twitter accont to screenshot a news headline which stated: “Tasmania becomes first Australian jurisdiction to make gender optional on birth certificates”. Folau subsequently tweeted: ‘The devil has blinded so many people in this world. Repent and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free.”

The response from fellow athletes was strong, many criticising his stance. Today, in the immediate aftermath of the news breaking that he was joining the Dragons, Wigan Warriors confirmed their game against the French club on March 22 will be Pride Day, in support of the LGBTQ community.

 Here at Wigan Warriors we are committed to the core values of Inclusion and Respect, said the  Wigan Warriors executive director, Kris Radlinski.

“Our community foundation have a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives, and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected.

“Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being an forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message. We’re looking forward to working with charities, local and hopefully national groups, to make this day a success.”

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