The ‘Last Word’ on Rugby Australia Israel Folau settlement

The 'Last Word' on Rugby Australia Israel Folau settlement
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While confidential in its nature, the Rugby Australia Israel Folau settlement decision, and the long-drawn-out process has come to a conclusion. This week, arbitration has seen a settlement of the Folau social media fracas.

Not quite a circus, although with the mass media attention, religious context and freedom of speech connotations, the decision from both parties to settle out of court, has ended a passage in the player’s career that could be defining.

No doubt he is talented. Never in question, was the commitment that he showed when on the field. Yet, from now on, the sad chapter of the Rugby Australia/Israel Folau relationship will certainly tarnish their reputations.

How the public feels about both the organization and the individual, will be known over time. The cost to both will be hard to value, but it has come at a high price.

Rugby Australia Israel Folau settlement

With the Israel Folau settlement reached, some might be asking how much? Reports have been wildly ranging from $8 million dollars, to a figure [more realistic] of $3.1 million. No one will know for sure, as the legal bounds are strict – and neither party will want to breach any conditions.

Legally binding, the actions are close to being one of a divorce settlement. Arguing over the process, the rights of both employee and employer, meant the termination of Folau’s contract stands. While the sports governing body has had to apologize, it has concluded the argument. Folau is out of a job, without sponsors and in a way, pushed out of the back door (after the confidential settlement) rather than leave head held high.

He can’t walk out proudly, and neither can Rugby Australia.

The cost to the individual may only be seen in how quickly he can find a new team. That could be in rugby, although unlikely to be any side in Australia. That embarrassment will certainly want to be avoided. In a statement, Rugby Australia (RA) said, “We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and inappropriate messaging, that remains the same.

“The terms are confidential but what you do try and find is a situation that gives RA some certainty and this settlement gives us that and also ensured that cost to RA was less than seeing a trial through to the end of February,” Raelene Castle stated publicly.

Offshore teams are also pessimistic of the player’s worth. Alonso Meyer, CEO of the Bulls Super Rugby franchise claimed, “I’m not sure if it is Folau’s lawyer, but a lawyer approached us to hear if we are interested in contracting him.”

Meyer said in an interview with Netwerk24. “Initially I was excited but if you look at this matter with a sober mind then it’s simply not worth the risk. He is controversial and you’ll expose yourself by contracting him”.

If Folau is to realize anything over the next short period of looking at invitations of a new contract in rugby, rugby league or even Australian Rules, he could end up ruing the post he uploaded, so many months ago.

Rugby Australia had no other choice but to reject Folau

“Taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game”. That honest account from Rugby Australia sums up the ‘end of the road’. No longer prepared to accept his anti-gay and religious statements, the game could not retain Israel Folau.

While some still argue for religious freedoms, of an understanding that individuals rights were in question, the Rugby Australia decision to terminate his contract in April of this year, was a decision that the majority have called fair. The minority; whether supporting the player or the faith of the person, are allowed their beliefs. But what is moral, and what is popular, are two different topics.

More people were outraged at his ‘hate speech’ inference that sectors of the community, would ‘go to hell’. That is unacceptable for any public figure. And the response from sponsors and stakeholders gave RA no choice but to take action.

Now the reputation of the Chair, Cameron Clyne and members of the board, are under question. With the Israel Folau settlement finalizing the saga, heads are likely to roll in the wash-up. Clyne already signaled he will stand down at the next AGM……although, it may come earlier than that.

Possibly not the CEO; who still has the difficulties of negotiating a positive broadcast agreement, but the boardroom could be chastised by a public who sees more negatives than positives.

In the New Year, the expectations of a new board, and new aims for the organization are unquestioned. The future for the individuals is unclear, however, Israel Folau will still be stigmatized for his role. Even if he thought his religious beliefs allowed him freedom to express them.

Those actions though, resulted in a contract breach and reputational loss that may be much harder to value, than his confidential settlement will be.

And that is the last word on that subject.  


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