AJ telling it how it is re Israel Folau...
"Politics is the resolution of conflict. By that definition, the politics of Australian rugby are worse than at any time in its history.
There are two ways to resolve conflict. The first is to keep throwing bombs in the hope that the enemy can be obliterated. It is clear to Rugby Australia that that is their only strategy; any other requires brains.
This was demonstrated by the evidence given by CEO Raelene Castle to the tribunal hearing into what is now known internationally as the Folau Affair.
It is seemingly clear from her evidence that the issue wasn’t about Folau or rugby. Why else would a decision have been made about Folau’s rugby future before he even got to the tribunal?
Castle told the tribunal that on the day Israel posted his religious views on social media, “I spoke with Mr Cheika … Mr Cheika’s view was that Mr Folau could not continue playing for the Wallabies.”
Just what Castle wanted to hear. She could then ring Qantas, indeed her evidence to the tribunal indicated just that.
As soon as the coach said Folau couldn’t continue to play, forget any tribunal, Castle stated: “That evening, I telephoned Miss Vanessa Hudson, chief customer officer at Qantas, knowing that the post would be very concerning to Qantas (Alan Joyce). Only days earlier, Rugby AU had commenced contract renewal negotiations for Qantas’ sponsorship of Rugby AU, the Wallabies and the men’s and women’s 7s teams. The post could not have come at a more sensitive time for Rugby AU’s commercial team. I told Miss Hudson that Rugby AU was taking Mr Folau’s post very seriously. I sent her a draft of the statement that Rugby AU planned to release the next day. Miss Hudson impressed on me that Qantas wished to see the matter resolved swiftly.”
So there we are. Rugby Australia doing the bidding of Qantas.
Don’t worry about the player or the long-term interests of the game and certainly don’t worry about the player’s rights.
Just assure your sponsor that you are going to sack your best player for expressing his religious views outside the workplace.
Don’t worry about reading first the Fair Work Act or the Australian Human Rights Commission Act.
As senator Eric Abetz, a former federal employment minister, said this week: “Under the Fair Work Act it is expressly unlawful … to discriminate against an employee on the basis of their religion.” Queensland federal MP Bob Katter went further, indicating he was drafting “a resolution for an inquiry which will reveal whether partially government-owned sponsors of Rugby Australia were involved in terminating Israel Folau’s contract on the grounds of religious freedom”.
Abetz has made it clear to the president of the Human Rights Commission commissioner Rosalind Croucher that it was “important that we clearly identify if, under the current law, an employer can sack an employee for expressing their religious beliefs on social media outside the workplace”.
None of that appeared to worry Castle. Her mind was firmly fixed on the sponsors.
Of course, sponsors are important. But an intelligent leader would accept the challenge of explaining rationally to a sponsor how the matter should be handled to accommodate sponsor, player and employer.
Not difficult, unless of course, you are incapable of fashioning such a good strategy and jump at the sound of grapeshot when a sponsor starts firing away.
After all, Castle did tell the tribunal: “Later on 11 April 2019 (the post was on April 10 and we hadn’t gone anywhere near a tribunal but Castle and Co had seemingly made up their mind) I called Miss Hudson from Qantas.
“I updated her on the situation (remember, this is barely a day after the post and Folau’s goose is cooked) and told her that, confidentially, Rugby AU would be working towards a process to terminate Mr Folau’s contract and that Miss Hudson can share that position with Qantas chief executive Mr Alan Joyce. Miss Hudson texted me later that day saying that she had only shared the update with Mr Joyce and he was appreciative of the transparency and he said that a speedy resolution by Rugby AU was paramount.”
That is described as Qantas calling the shots. By the way, somewhere in all of this there was a person involved whose title at Rugby Australia is “general manager of people and culture.”
You couldn’t make it up.
Because there seems very little intellectual clout within the administration of the game, Rugby Australia pushed the punitive button immediately, when calm, considered mediation could easily have prevailed.
We are not dealing with a monster here. We are dealing with a gifted, modest, gentle, highly religious Polynesian young man who would walk to the end of the Earth and back before hurting anyone.
Yet, in recent days, he has had to cop headlines that he was prepared to offer Rugby Australia the chance to view all his future religious social media posts.
That is rubbish. But you get the picture. Here is this money-hungry rugby player, prepared to do anything to hang on to his job.
Rugby Australia have been briefing against Folau. How little do they know him? This is about his faith and his Bible.
You and I might watch television at night. Hoping that Folau was comfortable with all this swimming around him, I asked him what he did at night. He said simply: “I read my Bible.”
Yet he has to read that he was willing to undergo training with religious leaders. Again, presumably, to hang on to his job.
Israel’s reply to me was simply: “Training? Why do I need training? This is what I believe.”
I admire his simplicity, his courage and his faith.
Of course, now this matter is in the hands of lawyers. Why wouldn’t it be? You see, the same Rugby Australia rules apply to parents, supporters, fans and everyone in the sport.
Surely the code of conduct isn’t just going to be thrown at a high-profile player. Pages seven and eight apply to coaches. I have written previously, the Wallabies coach is in breach. Pages nine and 10 apply to administrators. I have written before that Castle is in breach.
Page 11 applies to match officials. Page 12 applies to spectators/parents and fans. Pages 13 and 14 apply to “all other participants”.
In relation to the use of social media, it says: “By all means share your positive experiences of rugby but do not use social media as a means to breach any of the expectations and requirements of you as a player (page six), as a coach (page seven), as an officer (page 10), as a match official (page 11), as a participant of rugby (page 13), contained in this code or in any union, club or competition rules and regulations.”
So, will thousands of parents of young players and fans also face charges before a code of conduct committee (page 12) for expressing an opinion on their personal social media account, let alone in mainstream media, that is in conflict with the “expectations and requirements” of the RA board?
As one of my correspondents, Patrick Byrne, points out, what constitutes the breaching of “any of the expectations and requirements of you?”
Does this mean expressing a view on social media about issues such as same sex marriage or transgender people playing rugby?
As Byrne asks: “Will fans and parents expressing such views on their personal social media be brought before a code of conduct committee and banned from attending rugby matches?”
After all, 40 per cent of Australians voted for marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Are they to be silenced from expressing an opinion that could be taken to offend the board of Rugby Australia or the Qantas CEO?
We are in dangerous territory here and the way the politics of the game are being played, there is no resolution in sight beyond expensive and embarrassing litigation. But it is clear the management of the game doesn’t care.
You look at the game in England on the eve of a World Cup and it is flourishing.
A full house at Twickenham as 80,000 supporters turned out to watch Saracens and Exeter go head to head in the English Premiership club final. Both teams put on a great show in a thrilling match.
I am sure the talent was no better than that on display when the Brumbies recently won handsomely at home in Canberra. The difference is the turnstiles in Canberra barely turned: 6000 attended, if you counted some people twice.
How is it that Saracens can get Will Skelton trimmed down and playing great rugby but the Wallabies and Waratahs can’t?
But if you were Skelton, would you be rushing home to play for the Wallabies when the game in Australia is such a mess; when the demands of sponsors seem to drive the decision-making of the CEO and the chairman?
Why would a talented Pacific island player turn his back on a trophy-winning club to make up the numbers in Australia?
We are spending money we haven’t got, wasting it on massively expensive lawyers to prosecute, alienate and humiliate our best player.
It’s time for the parasites to depart the field before the game in Australia resembles the Argentinian model, where most of our players will play in Europe because we won’t have the resources to keep even NSW and Queensland afloat.
The game is being run by clowns and until we get rid of the clowns, the circus music will continue to play."