Rugby Australia’s worst fears might have come true as Israel Folau announced legal action that could see them pay up to the tune of $10 million.
6 June 2019
Israel Folau will seek up to $10 million in damages from Rugby Australia in a lawsuit that looks to prove the termination of his Rugby Australia contract was “unlawful”.
In documents filed to the Fair Work Commission Folau seeks to have the May 20 sacking deemed unlawful as he pursues the $5 million value of his contract as well as other damages for lost opportunities.
— Miranda Devine (@mirandadevine) June 6, 2019
It is understood that if Folau is successful those other damages could see all damages total approximately $10 millions — and that figure has in the past been reported as potentially being able to bankrupt Rugby Australia.
“The termination has cost Mr Folau the best years of his rugby career, participation at the Rugby World Cup, the chance to become the greatest Wallaby try-scorer (a decades-old record he was likely to break), and the associated exposure and opportunities,” Folau’s application stated.
“As well as around $5 million in lost salary, Mr Folau will claim in respect of the loss of these opportunities (renewal of contract, sponsorships, etc).
“The damages will be particularised in due course, but will be substantial. In addition, Mr Folau will seek civil penalties.”
In a statement, Folau said he felt his treatment by RA and the Waratahs had left him no choice but to stand up for his beliefs.
“I will forever be grateful and proud to have played the sport I love for our nation. Ours is an amazing country built on important principles, including freedom of religion. A nation made up of so many different faiths and cultural backgrounds will never be truly rich unless this freedom applies to all of us,” he said.
“The messages of support we have received over these difficult few weeks have made me realise there are many Australians who feel their fundamental rights are being steadily eroded.
“No Australian of any faith should be fired for practising their religion.”
‘SACKED BY QANTAS’: LATHAM UNLOADS
The announcement came on the same day as the governing body were savaged in NSW parliament by state One Nation leader Mark Latham.
The former Federal Opposition leader launched a scathing attack on RA, its CEO Raelene Castle and Qantas boss Alan Joyce over the sacking of Israel Folau.
Latham declared under NSW parliamentary privilege that “there’s no doubt Israel Folau was sacked by Qantas”.
That was just part of an astonishing attack on the administration in the wake of Folau’s termination for multiple social media posts that had a homophobic narrative among other things and resulted in what was deemed a breach of his RA contract.
The last of those posts was when Folau warned on Instagram that Hell awaited “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters.”
At a Code of Conduct hearing he requested, the Wallabies star subsequently had his employment terminated, sparking debate on whether he could be dismissed for expressing fundamental religious views.
On that very point Mr Latham took RA and Qantas to task in his trademark fiery fashion.
Quoting Ms Castle, Mr Latham said: “I calculated — at least $10 million of annual sponsorship revenue — was at significantly greater risk as a result of Mr Folau’s conduct.”
He then accused Rugby Australia (RA) of acting at the behest of Qantas in firing Folau.
“The head of Rugby Australia is putting a commercial value on the religious freedom of Israel Folau,” Mr Latham said.
“That just shows the fix was in. Qantas knew Folau was going to get punted.
“Ms Castle was acting as the slave of (Alan) Joyce within her organisation. She knew what he wanted without even a direct conversation with him.”
Mr Latham cited D-Day in his address. “Seventy-five years ago today young men from across the free world stormed the beaches of Normandy … to fight for the freedom of all mankind … How in 2019 are so many Australians worried about the loss of religious freedom?” Mr Latham said.
“How in 2019 do we look at Israel Folau and wonder how a football player and resident of NSW has lost his job?
“We’re fighting dictatorial corporations who purchase … control of sporting codes.
“These big corporate chiefs preach diversity . . but they’re trying to impose uniformity.”
Mr Latham quoted Ms Castle’s written evidence which said days before Folau’s post Rugby Australia had commenced new commercial negotiations with Qantas on further sponsorship and that corporate partners had approached her to “express their concerns”.
Qantas provided a comment from Mr Joyce on the issue last month where he said: “We don’t sponsor something to get involved in controversy. That’s not part of the deal. We expect our partners to take the appropriate action. It’s their issue, they have to deal with it.”
FAMILY MATTER: FOLAU’S BROTHER GETS RELEASE
That news comes as Israel Folau’s brother John was granted his release from the NSW Waratahs.
John Folau, who played a handful of games for the Parramatta Eels from 2015-17, has been a fringe player for the Super Rugby franchise
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson confirmed on Thursday the 24-year-old had been granted a release for personal reasons.
“We gave John some time off for leave and he has come back to us recently and asked for a release, which we’re happy to grant,” Gibson told reporters.
“John has been in a difficult position for the last wee while. He has got really divided loyalties to his family and his brother and then also to the team. He wanted to stress how much he enjoyed being with the team and what a difficult decision it was for him.”
“We can all understand the loyalty he has to his family and to his brother and totally respect that position,” Gibson added.