Israel Folau’s rugby return falls through after being branded ‘s**tstorm waiting to happen’
Talks for Israel Folau to join the George Illawarra Dragons have fallen through following backlash from fans and sponsors.
Folau, who was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team in 2019 after claiming that “hell awaits” gay people, has spent the last year in France playing rugby league for the Catalans Dragons.
There was shock and dismay among sporting fans in Australia when Ryan Webb, chief executive of the Dragons, told the NRL official website that they were “definitely interested” in Folau and have been in talks about signing a potential deal with him.
But the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) team announced that it had abandoned talks with Folau on Wednesday (3 February) after officials faced strident criticism, with gay former rugby player Ian Roberts saying it was a “s**tstorm” waiting to happen.
In a statement, the team said: “While the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased.”
The move came just hours after Roberts, who made history when he came out as gay in 1995, hit out at the team for considering signing Folau, saying his hateful views towards the LGBT+ community are directly linked to high suicide rates among queer people.
“At what point did someone at the Dragons think it would be a good idea to invite this s**tstorm into their club?” Roberts asked. “And that’s what it will be. You are welcoming this hurricane of offal.”
Israel Folau ‘s**tstorm’ will claim LGBT+ lives, Ian Roberts says.
“I would’ve thought the board and the coach could look at their position in rugby league, because this is about more than winning or losing,” Roberts added.
“It’s about the actual fabric of the game. Who thought this was a good idea? It’s mind-blowing.”
He continued: “You know that s**tstorm I was talking about? That s**tstorm claims lives. People don’t understand the effects of homophobia and the consequences.
“People in the LGBTIQ community know because it’s our reality. We’ve all lost friends to suicide. For any kid out of the suburbs now dealing with sexuality in a negative way, and self-harm is a reality, this s**tstorm is deadly.”
Folau has resolutely refused to back down on his anti-LGBT+ comments, despite his Australian career going up in flames as a result of his incendiary comments.
He was thrown a lifeline last year when the Catalans Dragons agreed to give him “a new opportunity to shine on the pitch” in spite of his extreme views.
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The Rugby Football League reluctantly agreed to register Israel Folau after receiving assurances from both the player and the Catalans over his future behaviour.
He’ll be forced to abide by the same rules if he wants to return to Australia, as St George’s proposal to the NRL contains strict stipulations around public and social media comments.
Pride in Sport, an organisation that encourages inclusivity in Australian clubs, said they would expect St George to have a zero-tolerance policy on discrimination if Folau joins.
“NRL is a code that prides itself as being a sport for everyone with strong values of diversity and inclusion,” co-founder Andrew Purchas said in a statement seen by Sky Sports.
“History has shown Folau’s repeated failures to abide by sporting inclusion policies despite assurances.”