Folau, Rugby Australia reach settlement in anti-gay sacking row

Sydney (AFP) –


Rugby Australia and Israel Folau reached a settlement Wednesday that will end the former Wallaby's multi-million dollar lawsuit over his sacking for anti-gay comments.

Rugby Australia apologised for "any hurt or harm" caused to Folau as part of a joint statement confirming the confidential agreement after two days of mediation aimed at avoiding a drawn-out and expensive court case.

Folau, an ardent Christian, was fired in May over a social media post warning "hell awaits" gay people and others he considers sinners.

"Rugby Australia and Mr. Folau wish each other well for the future. The parties do not intend to comment further on the terms of their settlement as it is confidential," the statement said

The 30-year-old former Wallabies full-back was set to demand Aus$14 million (US$9.5 million) in compensation, claiming he was unlawfully dismissed under legislation that bans sacking a person because of their religion.

Folau had claimed his religious freedom was at stake, winning backing from prominent conservatives and the Australian Christian Lobby, which raised more than Aus$2 million ($1.4 million) in just two days to help pay his legal fees.

The sport's governing body, which would have faced financial ruin had it lost the case, had argued the termination for "high-level" misconduct was purely contractual.

The joint statement acknowledged that Folau was expressing genuinely held religious beliefs and had not meant to offend anyone with his post.

"Mr. Folau wants all Australians to know that he does not condone discrimination of any kind against any person on the grounds of their sexuality and that he shares Rugby Australia's commitment to inclusiveness and diversity," it said.

The statement added that Rugby Australia and NSW Rugby "do not in any way agree with the content" of Folau's post.

The governing body also apologised for any hurt caused to Folau and his family, while Folau said he had not intended to cause any harm to the sport of rugby.

Folau was originally seeking Aus$10 million but boosted the amount by $4 million in an updated statement of claim last week, arguing he could have led the Wallabies to Rugby World Cup victory in Japan.

The statement made no mention of Folau's playing future.