An Australian rugby star who said “hell awaits” gay people will have his contract terminated, officials have said.
Israel Folau has been found to have committed a “high-level breach of the professional players’ code of conduct” over the offending Instagram and Twitter post, which the Wallabies fullback made last week.
The Rugby Australia (RA) integrity unit said it warranted termination of his contract.
It comes a year after Folau, a staunch Christian, received a warning for making other homophobic comments on social media, but on that occasion he escaped with a warning.
This time, the 30-year-old was deemed to have gone too far, having said on his accounts on 10 April that “hell awaits” for “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters”.
The cancellation of his contract – a four-year deal signed last year – means he is set to miss out on the Rugby World Cup in Japan this summer, which he would almost certainly have been selected for.
He has won 73 caps for Australia and was a key member of the squad.
RA chief executive Raelene Castle said she and New South Wales Rugby Union chief Andrew Hore made “repeated attempts” to contact Folau last week, but he failed to communicate with them.
Ms Castle said the way he had expressed his religious beliefs was “inconsistent with the values of the sport” and described the language used in the post as “unacceptable”.
The announcement last week that RA intended to cancel his contract was welcomed by Pride In Sport, which aims to make Australian sport inclusive for LGBT people.
Andrew Purchas, founder of the Sydney Convicts, the first and most successful gay rugby club in Australia, said the decision “sends a strong message of what will and will not be tolerated in rugby”.
Folau has 48 hours to accept the sanction or seek an appeal hearing, but whatever he decides he faces an uncertain future in rugby.
His career in Australia appears to be over, with the Australian Rugby League ruling out a place for him there.
National team coach Michael Cheika also said he “wouldn’t be able” to select Folau again even if he was available, adding: “When you play in the gold jersey, we represent everyone in Australia.”
Clubs in Europe will also be wary of signing a player who has considerable baggage.
Over the weekend, England number eight Billy Vunipola was booed during an appearance for Saracens after he sparked controversy by defending the post made by Folau.
Vunipola, 26, wrote on Instagram last week that what Folau said “isn’t that he doesn’t like or love those people”, but only that “how we live our lives needs to be closer to how God intended them to be”.
He said “I don’t HATE anyone”, but added: “Man was made for woman to pro create that was the goal no?”
England rugby bosses said they would speak to Vunipola over his post, and he was booed by fans every time he touched the ball as Saracens suffered a 23-21 defeat at Bristol on Saturday.