Sacked Folau raises compensation claim to Aus$14 million

Sydney (AFP) –


Sacked Israel Folau increased his demand for compensation against Rugby Australia to Aus$14 million (US$9.5 million) Wednesday, claiming that he could have been Wallabies captain.

The stridently Christian fullback was fired in May for "high-level" misconduct after posting on Instagram that "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.

The 30-year-old is pursuing legal action against Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby, claiming he was unlawfully dismissed under legislation that disallows sackings because of a person's religion.

The governing body insists his firing was purely contractual.

Folau had previously been seeking Aus$10 million for lost earnings, but this has been increased by Aus$4 million, which if successful could plunge Australian rugby into financial difficulties.

A trial has been set for February unless court-ordered mediation in December is successful, with Folau lodging an updated statement of claim in the Federal Circuit Court, which was made public Wednesday.

Folau has gained the support of prominent conservatives and is cashed up after the Australian Christian Lobby raised more than Aus$2 million in just two days to help pay his legal fees.

Super Rugby's record try-scorer, who has played 73 times for the Wallabies, said his four-year contract termination would cost him Aus$4.2 million.

His new claim also tallied match payments, Aus$1.5 million a year he could have earned with Rugby Australia after 2022 and a similar amount annually should he have opted to play with an overseas club towards the end of his career.

Lost sponsorships and missed revenue that comes with competing at World Cups and possibly captaining the Wallabies were also used to justify his demand.

Rugby Australia had no immediate comment on the new claim.

Folau argued in an earlier statement of claim that his dismissal was "an unreasonable restraint of trade" because it stopped him playing the sport.

Last month his lawyers said he offered a series of concessions to Rugby Australia for what they called a "low-level" breach of the governing body's code of conduct.

These included paying a fine, serving a four-week suspension, and "submitting to mentoring sessions about how he could practise his faith publicly and how he could best articulate his religious views and beliefs on social media".

Earlier this month Folau, who became a born-again Christian in 2017, sparked outrage by suggesting in a sermon that destructive bushfires and drought ravaging Australia were "God's judgement" for the legalisation of same-sex marriage and abortion.