Rapid Rugby could end up being Folau’s only lifeline
BILLIONAIRE Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest could provide Israel Folau with a lifeline if the Wallabies star is sacked.
Forrest's Global Rapid Rugby competition, which he started after the Western Force was axed from Super Rugby, is set to expand next year and the tournament is seeking star signings.
The Daily Telegraph understands that there is interest in making Folau the marquee signing of one of the overseas clubs - Hong Kong based South China Tigers, Singapore-based Asia Pacific Dragons, Fiji and Samoa are involved in a showcase 2019 tournament.
Forrest could not be reached for comment, but a tournament spokesman did not rule out a play for the fullback when asked specifically about Folau.
"Global Rapid Rugby has been talking to many high profile players, and will continue to do so," the spokesman said.
The potential lifeline comes as Folau's prospects dry up - the NRL's chairman Peter Beattie reiterated he would not be welcomed back - while sportswear company ASICS pulled their personal sponsorship after Folau's homophobic social media posts.
Folau's $4 million contract with Rugby Australia is in serious doubt after a three-person panel deemed that he had committed a high-level breach of his professional player's code of conduct on Tuesday evening, after 22 hours of hearings across three days.
The panel is not expected to finalise a sanction for Folau until next week, but termination is a strong possibility.
If that eventuates, 30-year-old Folau will struggle to land a deal overseas, given international based players and club owners have been critical of his ultrareligious views.
That's where Forrest, also a devout Christian, could swoop.
Forrest has previously spoken of how the Bible has inspired him to donate millions of dollars to charity.
However it's understood that if Folau was to sign with the second-tier competition, there would be stringent social media clauses inserted into a contract offer to ensure Global Rapid Rugby does not become engulfed in the same storm RA is enduring.
ASICS dumped Folau on Wednesday as an ambassador following backlash from their customers.
ASICS had personally sponsored Folau in a deal estimated to be worth $50,000 a year. They also sponsor the Wallabies, which remains until 2025, but have cut ties with Folau.
In a public statement, the company said: "ASICS is dedicated to sport and its healthy contribution to society. We believe sport is for everyone and we champion inclusivity and diversity.
"While Israel Folau is entitled to his personal views, some of those expressed in recent social media posts are not aligned with those of ASICS.
"As such, our partnership with Israel has become untenable and he will no longer represent ASICS as a brand ambassador."
Last year, after Folau's first anti-gay comments, Land Rover confiscated a sponsored car given to him.
The loss of the ASICS deal is another financial blow for Folau, who has already racked up legal expenses of six figures fighting for a payout from RA.
A high-level breach is what RA had determined Folau had committed with his April 10 Instagram post saying homosexuals and other sinners were destined for hell unless they repented.
That was a determination made by RA's integrity unit, and RA used that as the basis to announce they intended to terminate Folau's contract.
Folau's legal team argued that RA never made it clear exactly what the player could and could not post on social media, therefore if the panel ruled he had made a code of conduct breach, they'd have to deem it on the low or medium level scale, which would now allow RA to sack him.
But after Folau was formally warned for a similar post last year by RA, the panel decided he had met the high-level threshold. They have now adjourned to make a decision, although this is not expected until next week, with both parties making written submissions to them this week.