Israel Folau claims Rugby Australia contract cancellation cost him $14m

Israel Folau has alleged the cost of Rugby Australia cancelling his contract over his anti-gay social media posts has added up to $14m, according to court documents.

The rugby union star has also claimed one of the tribunal members who decided his case is biased because she has been involved in pro-LGBTI organisations.

Folau had his contract terminated by Rugby Australia in May over an Instagram post in which he said gay people, among others, were destined for hell.

Rugby Australia deemed the post constituted a high-level breach of his contract and Folau lost his $4m, four-year contract and several sponsorship deals. He has taken Rugby Australia to court seeking damages, an apology and reinstatement from RA and his former club, the NSW Waratahs.

In an amended statement of claim published on the Federal Circuit Court’s website on Wednesday, Folau stated his loss and damage of $14m consisted of:

  • His player contract from May 2019 to November 2022 of $4.2m

  • Lost guaranteed test match payments adding up to $300,000

  • Lost test match payments for 2022 of $150,000

  • Lost sponsorship revenue of $300,000

  • Lost Israel Folau branded kids’ camp payments of $300,000

  • Additional base salary and other payments of between $1.5m and $3m

  • Loss of money from the end of his international career of between $500,000 and $4.5m

  • Post-career benefits, including what would have been on offer for him if Folau had become captain of the Wallabies. This is estimated at between $450,000 and $1.25m.

Folau has also alleged one of the three members appointed to the tribunal by Rugby Australia to assess his contract breach earlier this year, Kate Eastman SC, should have been recused for apprehended bias.

The document states Folau objected to her appointment because Eastman had been a co-founder of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, an organisation Folau said had advocated for the LGBTI community. Folau alleged Eastman had been a member of other organisations that had advocated for the LGBTI community, or had an involvement in “the human rights sphere” and that this was not disclosed at hearings.

In the claim of bias, Folau also confirmed Rugby Australia’s allegation that he had offered to apologise for the posts.

The proposed apology stated: “I sincerely understand that what I have posted has been hurtful to some readers. This was never my intention, so for that reason, I wholeheartedly apologise for any pain or sense of confusion that that has caused.”

Folau also offered to be trained, and offered to have RA review his social media posts before they went up. Folau said he was willing to pay a fine and make a donation to Sydney Children’s hospital in Randwick and serve a suspension of four weeks.

Folau told the tribunal in April he had 15 team-mates and members of the coaching staff supporting him and urging him to return to the field.

Folau alleges that Eastman acted with bias because there was no attempt by her or the other tribunal members to go through conciliation or mediation before terminating his contract.

Folau reportedly told an Australian Christian Lobby conference last month that he would “absolutely” repeat the posts again, and earlier this month gave a sermon in his Sydney church linking the bushfires ravaging parts of Australia at the time to legalisation of same-sex marriage and the decriminalisation of abortion.

A mediation hearing for the case is set down for 2 December, but the hearing is not open to media.