Australia take 'painful' decision to sack Folau over homophobic tweets

Israel Folau. More

Israel Folau. More

An independent panel has ruled against Christian rugby player Israel Folau and backed Rugby Australia's (RA) decision to terminate his contract over an Instagram post quoting the Bible.

The three-member panel, comprising John West QC, Kate Eastman SC and John Boultbee AM, announced on Friday that it had chose to terminate the Wallabies star's employment for what had been determined a high-level breach of RA's code of conduct. Win a VIP overnight stay for two in the exclusive GUINNESS Rugby Hotel in Glasgow's Celtic Park for the GUINNESS PRO14 Final.

New South Wales Waratahs' Folau, who escaped punishment for similar comments a year ago, said he was "deeply saddened" by RA's decision.

"The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God's word".

'Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.

"Rugby Australia's submission to the [Code of Conduct] tribunal was that we had multiple conversations, myself directly with Mr Folau, and also through his manager, and set out our very clear expectations", Castle said.

"This is a decision that will change the landscape for sport across Australia and perhaps internationally".

"This issue has created an unwanted distraction in an important year for the sport and for the Wallabies team", added Castle.

Australian rugby union player Israel Folau leaves a Code of Conduct hearing in Sydney, Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Rugby Australia declined to punish Folau, though its inclusion policy states: "Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion".

If Folau chooses to pursue an appeal, Rugby Australia's strained finances will take another hit, and Castle urged Folau to consider those implications before he opted for another courtroom battle.

Castle's handling of the case has come under heavy scrutiny, with former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones suggesting that Folau wasn't aware that a second social media condemning homosexuals to hell would put his multimillion-dollar contract in jeopardy.

PSI co-founder Andrew Purchas said in a statement: "We commend Rugby Australia, as well as New South Wales Rugby Union, for their leadership and courage throughout this process".

"I would like to thank my wife Maria for her love and encouragement to true to our beliefs".

"We have been humbled by the support we have received from family, friends, players, fans and the wider community", he said.

"Thank you also to those who have spoken out in my defense, some of whom do not share my beliefs but have defended my right to express them", Folau said.

"Representing Australia and all Australians on the rugby field is a privilege".

The 30-year-old Folau appeared before the hearing to fight Rugby Australia's decision to terminate his contract after he posted in mid-April on social media that gay people, along with other "sinners", will face damnation unless they repent.

The row upset backers of the game with sportswear company ASICS dumping him as a brand ambassador while Qantas, the Wallabies biggest sponsor, made clear it was not happy.

Folau has 72 hours to appeal the decision to terminate his four-year AU$4 million (£2.2 million) contract and indicated today that he is considering further legal action.

"Israel is a great rugby player".

The controversial post caused a stir on social media with many users accusing the player of homophobia.

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