Rugby Australia 'asked sponsors to help move on from Folau case'
Raelene Castle, the chief executive of Rugby Australia, has come under criticism for an email she is reported to have sent to the rugby union body’s sponsors urging them to help draw attention away from a controversy involving one of the national team’s players.
Castle was contacting sponsors after Rugby Australia announced this week that Israel Folau, who has 63 appearances for Australia, would not be facing any sanctions after he posted comments about homosexuality on Instagram.
Earlier this month, Folau (pictured), in reply to another user on the photo sharing platform, said that homosexuals would go to “hell”. He later defended his views on athlete website the Player’s Voice.
According to various reports in Australia, Castle wrote in her email: “This has been very challenging for us all and I greatly appreciate your support and allocation of time to deal with this matter. There are lots of learnings for us all.
"We believe an important outcome of the next steps is to move this issue out of the media cycle. We understand you have been contacted by media and appreciate your support.”
In response to the letter, a sponsor told The Australian newspaper that Rugby Australia “seemed more concerned with the media cycle than the right thing to do."
It added: “They’re trying to control the media and the stakeholders. There’s no free speech for the stakeholders, but it’s OK for Israel. They want us to move this out of the media cycle, but I felt it was very weird to say ‘We appreciate your support’.”
Another sponsor said: “We’ll take it [the letter] with a grain of salt. We’ll handle the media how we choose to handle it.”
Rugby Australia has a large portfolio of sponsors including top-tier naming rights partner Qantas, which has already stated that it will remain involved, and second-tier partners HSBC and Superdry.
However, revenues are expected to fall by A$3 million ($2.3 million) this year as Buildcorp, the construction company which had naming rights to the National Rugby Championship, BMW, the German car giant, and Lion Nathan, the brewing company, have all opted not to renew deals.