Israel Folau’s code of conduct hearing has officially concluded that he committed a high-level breach with his social media post saying homosexuals will go to Hell last month. At the time Rugby Australia announced that they intended to tear up his contract, however there is a process to go through first. The hearing was the second stage, following Folau challenging the breach notice issued by RA.
The result was decided by a tribunal consisting of a representative of Rugby Australia, a Rugby Union Players Association representative and a mutually agreeable independent third party. To have his contract torn up Folau needs to have committed a high-level breach – and the tribunal now needs to decide whether the appropriate penalty is a fine, a suspension or dismissal.
Given the post in question remains up on Folau’s page, and that the dual international has not apologised or admitted wrongdoing, it is hard to see any other result than an immediate sacking. He has breached the code of conduct, and clearly has no intention of stopping what he is doing.
The process of sacking an RA contracted player for a code of conduct breach can be a long one. First, the player is given a notice that the governing body believes they have broken the code, and the proposed penalty. In this case, the penalty was immediate dismissal. The player is then able to request a hearing, which decides if there was a breach, how serious it was and the appropriate penalty.
The player can then request an appeal, which will result in a new tribunal hearing the same arguments and examining the same evidence. If they uphold the decision of the first tribunal, that’s it from RA’s point of view. However, the player can still take the organisation to court for breach of contract or unfair dismissal – and it is rumoured that the Folau case could end up in the High Court.