Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle is standing by the decision to settle with axed Wallabies star Israel Folau, saying it was right for the game.
Defiant Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle says the cost of settling with sacked Wallabies star Israel Folau is less than going to trial and gives the national body certainty it needs going into 2020.
Castle on Thursday defended RA’s handling of the Folau saga, from his re-signing on a four-year deal to his sacking in April to Wednesday’s settlement, which avoided a February court case.
Having earlier dismissed reports speculating on the confidential payout – up to $8 million was suggested – as “wildly inaccurate” on Twitter, Castle described them as “disappointing” in a hastily-called media conference at RA HQ.
The CEO said the settlement, which included apologies by both parties, was a commercial decision and not an admission it got it wrong.
“We didn’t back down – we needed to give the game some certainty,” she said.
Castle said the national body was covered by liability insurance but couldn’t discuss to what extent it covered the payout.
“The terms are confidential but what you do try and find is a situation that gives Rugby Australia some certainty and this settlement gives us that and also ensured that we were in the situation where the cost to RA was less than seeing a trial through to the end of February,” Castle said.
“Ultimately we had a number that we knew was more cost effective for us to settle than it was for us to go to court.
“There won’t be any money taken out of community rugby or we won’t have to make any changes to the budget situation.”
Castle reiterated that the organisation believed it made the right call in sacking Folau for his religiously-motivated, anti-gay social media posts.
“We didn’t get it wrong – we stood up for the values of Rugby Australia,” she said.
“We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and inappropriate messaging, that remains the same.
“We stuck to our values that inclusiveness is core to the key of rugby.”
Despite it falling well short of his demand of $14 million, Folau said on Wednesday night he was “extremely pleased” with the settlement and felt vindicated by the apology.
Castle said the RA apology was for hurt caused to Folau and his NZ netball star wife Maria, not for its action against him.
“There was an apology both ways because this has been very stressful,” she said.
“This has been a very hard time for the Folaus and Rugby Australia but at the end of the day it was about that difficult time that Rugby Australia has apologised for but we stand by our decision and the process we’ve been through.
“The person that chose to break the code of conduct was found guilty, his contract was terminated because of that.
“That stands up and continues to say, this is an inclusive sport and behaviour and commentary of this type is not acceptable.”
Castle was satisfied with the current player contracts but said RA would look to provide more clarity around social media and code of conduct clauses when they negotiated the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union next year.
“All players want is clarity, they want to understand clearly what the guidelines are and if we can do something to make those clear we will do that,” she said.
Castle said she felt she was still the right person to lead RA, and backed the way she and the board had handled the matter.
“I do because at the end of the day this has been very difficult – there’s not a business leader that leads an organisation that I’ve spoken to that hasn’t looked at this situation and gone, this is a very difficult thing.
“Ultimately we’ve had extensive support from the rugby community and also from the wider business community.”
Castle said that she couldn’t see a way for the 30-year-old to again play professional rugby in Australia.
“It’s clear to see our values are not aligned … I don’t believe he would sign under the current player contract.”