(Reuters) – Rugby’s Super League says it accepts that Australian Israel Folau has been legally registered as a player, after signing for Catalan Dragons, but says it has taken steps to be able to intervene in controversial signings.
Former rugby union player Folau had his contract with Rugby Australia torn up in May for posting a meme on social media that said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers” and other groups — one of a series of postings that angered LGBT campaigners.
Folau, who had enjoyed a successful stint in the National Rugby League with Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos before switching codes, was told he would not be allowed a return to NRL.
But the Rugby Football League (RFL) allowed the player’s registration with French Super League club Dragons, who he joined last month.
The Super League Board met on Wednesday and said: “With the season under way, we now feel it is important for Super League to separate what is an off-field matter from what is happening on the field.
“The Super League Board accepts the legalities around the RFL’s decision to register Israel Folau, and the Board has voted unanimously to put in place measures that ensure the Super League has greater authority to stop controversial signings such as this in the future,” read a statement.
“As a sport we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our great work in those areas.”
The owner and chairman of Super League side Hull Kingston Rovers has warned Dragons they could face legal action as a result of signing Folau.
The BBC said it had obtained an email in which Neil Hudgell put the Dragons “on notice” should Hull suffer financial loss due to the signing of the former Australia rugby union international.
In the email, he suggested action could be taken if a title sponsor withdrew, external investment was not secured or “quantifiable reputational damage is caused to the brand of Super League and its members”.
Wigan Warriors have said their round eight game against the Dragons on March 22 will be a Pride Day with the club’s players wearing Rainbow socks and boot laces and with gay rights groups invited to be part of the day.
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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