Rugby superstar Israel Folau faces the sack after tribunal finds him GUILTY of a ‘high-level’ breach of code of conduct for saying ‘hell awaits homosexuals’ – but wife Maria stands by her man
- Israel Folau was found guilty of a ‘high-level’ breach of player’s code of conduct
- Decision made by a Rugby Australia panel means his contract can be terminated
- Folau was sanctioned after his Instagram post saying ‘hell awaits homosexuals’
The playing career of Australia Wallabies rugby union star Israel Folau remains in doubt after he was found guilty of a high-level breach of the player’s code of conduct, a Rugby Australia panel has ruled.
Folau, a fundamentalist Christian, faced a three-member panel over three days of hearings to decide whether he had breached the code of conduct with a homophobic social media post that said ‘hell’ awaited ‘drunks, homosexuals, adulterers’ and others.
It means Folau will not receive any payout after he previously rejected a $1 million settlement from Rugby Australia to walk away from his contract.
A defiant Folau was pictured leaving the code of conduct hearing in Sydney on Tuesday night with wife Maria, a New Zealand international netballer, by his side.
A Rugby Australia panel has found Israel Folau guilty of a ‘high-level’ breach of player’s code
The panel will now consider what punishment the 30-year-old Wallabies fullback faces.
‘The panel 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 in a statement.
‘The panel will now take further written submissions from the parties to consider the matter of sanction.’
‘A further update with be provided after the panel delivers its decision on sanction.’
Israel Folau and wife Maria showed a united front as they left the code of conduct on Tuesday
Folau was issued with a ‘high-level’ breach notice last month after he shared a social media post which claimed homosexuals were going to hell unless they ‘repent’
The three-person panel, which consisted of chair John West QC, Rugby Australia representative Kate Eastman SC and the RUPA-appointed John Boultbee have retired to decide on Folau’s sanction following the epic code of conduct hearing in Sydney.
Had the panel deemed Folau’s breach of RA’s players’ code of conduct anything less than ‘high level’, the governing body would not have had the power to boot the three-times John Eales Medallist out of the game.
The best punishment Folau can now hope for is a suspension and/or a fine.
The panel’s decision may not be finalised for several days with no timeline established on when that will occur.
Both Folau and Rugby Australia will give written submissions to the panel before the sanction is handed down.
Israel Folau (pictured) now faces an anxious wait as the panel deliberates on his punishment
Folau also has 72 hours to lodge an appeal and have the matter heard by an all-new panel.
Rugby Australia and Folau’s Super Rugby side, the NSW Waratahs, have already publicly committed to terminating the player’s contract.
NSW Waratahs chairman Roger Davis called for a ‘quick’ and ‘common-sense’ settlement to the Folau saga on Tuesday.
Folau’s trial has stretched far beyond the rugby pitch, triggering a wider debate about freedom of speech and the power of employers to control their employees away from the workplace.
Folau and Rugby Australia are believed to have forked out an estimated $300,000 on legal bills since Saturday alone.
Folau’s Wallabies teammate Quade Cooper empathised with Folau’s plight but was uncertain whether there’s any way back for the stood-down star.
‘I’m not too sure – that’s something you would have to speak to (his Waratahs teammates) Bernard (Foley) and Nick Phipps and Michael Hooper and those guys about,’ Cooper told reporters earlier on Tuesday.
‘You feel for anyone who’s going through a difficult patch in their life.’
Folau faced a three-man panel at a code of conduct hearing in Sydney over three days
Wallabies hooker Taniela Tupou took to Facebook last week to pledge his support for Folau.
‘Seriously … Might as well sack me and all the other Pacific Islands rugby players around the world because we have the same Christian beliefs,’ Tupou posted.
However, several senior players, including halfback Will Genia and five-eighth Bernard Foley have indicated they may have difficulties playing with Folau if he returned.
Folau will become the first Australian athlete dismissed for expressing fundamental religious beliefs if he’s sacked.
Folau has played 73 Tests for the Wallabies and became Super Rugby’s all-time leading try-scorer earlier this year.
It’s not the first time Israel Folau has been in hot water for expressing his views on social media
The full-back of Tongan descent was given a formal warning by Rugby Australia last year after sharing a similar homophobic post that claimed gays were destined for hell.
He then signed a profitable contract extension in October.
Folau’s career kicked off in rugby league, where he played 91 NRL games, five Origin games for Queensland and represented Australia on eight occasions.
He also played 13 games for AFL club GWS Giants in 2011-12.
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