News South Wales (NSW) Waratahs chairman, Roger Davis, on Tuesday called for a “quick” and “common-sense” settlement to the Israel Folau saga as a hearing into his dismissal over homophobic comments entered a third day.
The deeply Christian Folau, a Waratahs player, is challenging Rugby Australia’s intention to sack him for posting on social media that “hell awaits” gay people and others he deems sinners.
The closed-door code of conduct tribunal was initially scheduled for only one day but the governing body has said a decision is still not expected Tuesday.
Legal experts have warned that whatever happens an appeal is likely, potentially followed by a drawn-out court battle.
Davis said it was important to bring the matter to a close and prevent more negative headlines dominating the sport in the weeks and months ahead.
“This is a no-win situation for the game and fans and I’d like to see it resolved as quickly as possible,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I think a settlement is a common-sense approach… it would be smart. If this goes for a long time there are definitely no winners.
“Let’s see if we can bring some common sense to the table and work out a solution that keeps everyone happy, but with a three-party deal that’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Over the weekend, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper said a Aus$1 million (US$700,000) offer was made to Folau in a bid to avoid the tribunal, although Rugby Australia has refuted the report.
Folau, Super Rugby’s record try-scorer, has not played for the Waratahs since posting a banner on Instagram that read: “Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolators — Hell awaits you.”
Despite his career being at a crossroads, the Herald said Folau had been training alone to stay fit.
Rugby Australia asserts that he committed a high-level breach of its code of conduct that warranted a termination of his lucrative four-year, Aus$4 million contract.
Folau’s legal team has reportedly argued that the governing body did not include a social media clause in the contract, and said his posts were quoting sentiments from the Bible.
The case has proved complex and divisive, pitting Folau’s right to free speech and expression against the offence he has caused to others.
Several Pacific Island-origin players have supported Folau, while others, including within the Wallabies camp, have been critical.