Israel Folau signing to prompt Super League rule change
Last Updated: 06/02/20 6:10am
The Super League board says it has accepted Catalans Dragons' controversial signing of Israel Folau, but adds it will move to ensure it has powers to prevent such deals in the future.
The dual-code international was signed by Catalans late last month on a one-year deal despite opposition from Super League and the Rugby Football League (RFL).
Folau was available after being sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 for positing anti-LGBT+ comments on social media.
On confirming Folau's registration, the RFL admitted it had been a "difficult decision" but said the "moral responsibility" on signing players rested with clubs and, with Folau not charged or guilty of a criminal offence, it felt it could not prevent his participation.
Super League clubs met in Salford on Wednesday to discuss the 30-year-old's arrival, following which they released a statement reading: "Super League has clearly and consistently outlined its position on Israel Folau.
"With the season underway, 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.
"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."
Catalans' chairman Bernard Guasch failed to attend Wednesday's meeting, preferring to remain in France on business.
This was despite Guasch being asked by the other Super League clubs to attend, with Folau's signing the main topic on the agenda.
Sky Sports' Fraser Dainton on a historic day for Rugby League
Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch was conspicuous by his absence, electing to stay in France to attend to an issue at his business. While he did send a representative, every other club sent their chairman or chief executive - such is the level of feeling about this issue.
After a meeting that lasted four hours, Super League CEO Robert Elstone emerged to read the statement - which appears to be an attempt to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.
But there are far more questions than answers here. What exactly will these measures look like? How will they be enforced? Given that the RFL had no legal grounds to block the player's registration in this case, what will the legal ramifications be if Super League attempts to block a player in the future? What about controversial players who are already playing in Super League?
Despite the apparent fury among some clubs, it seems there is now nothing they can do to stop Israel Folau being a Super League player. The decision comes down to the moral compass of those willing to make the deals.
Rugby League is a sport that prides itself on inclusion and diversity. There are plenty within the game who would prefer to see this player excluded. Others believe in giving second chances, and educating those who make mistakes.