Super League will introduce measures to prevent controversial players from being signed by rugby clubs after Israel Folau took up a one-year contract with French side Catalans Dragons.
- Rival club had warned Folau signing could cause “reputational damage”
- He was sacked by Rugby Australia last year for homophobic social media posts
- Super League will stop such controversial signings in future, board says
The decision comes after a Super League board meeting in Salford, England, on Wednesday (local time) where Folau was the focus of conversation.
The meeting was called after the owner of rival club Hull KR warned Catalans of legal action if they signed Folau and it resulted in financial losses for clubs due to the potential withdrawal of sponsors or “quantifiable reputational damage to Super League and its members”.
Other clubs were said to back the position of Hull KR owner Neil Hudgell.
Twitter Dan Roan
Folau, a devout Christian, was sacked by Rugby Australia last May for making several homophobic social media posts.
Super League chief executive Rob Elstone told reporters in Salford it was powerless to stop the 30-year-old from playing in the competition but stressed it was important “to separate what’s an off-field matter from what’s happening on the field”.
“The Super League board accepts fully the legalities around the RFL’s (Rugby Football League) decision to register Folau, and the board has voted unanimously to put in place measures that ensure Super League has greater authority to stop controversial signings, such as this, in the future,” he said.
“As a sport we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our great work in those areas.”
Mr Elstone had previously said Super League “deplores” Folau’s past statements while the RFL had said allowing him to sign with Catalans had been a “difficult decision”.
Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch, who has defending his club’s signing of Folau, was a notable no-show at Wednesday’s board meeting.
Folau ‘super excited to play’
Twitter Roscoe Whalan
The Super League board meeting came on the same day Folau was unveiled in his Dragons uniform for the first time during a training run for the French rugby league club in Perpignan.
Folau had started his rugby league career with the Melbourne Storm in 2007 before a highly-publicised switch to AFL in 2011, only to defect to rugby union in 2013.
“I’m excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing,” he said in a video released by the Dragons.
“It’s been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Folau is not expected to play in the Dragons’ upcoming match against Wakefield this weekend.