Israel Folau’s GoFundMe page shut down as fundraising efforts breach terms of service for promoting exclusion

Sacked Australian rugby player asked his fans to raise £1.6m to pay for his legal fees in fighting his contract termination

Sacked Australian rugby player Israel Folau launches fundraising campaign to pay for legal costs

Israel Folau’s controversial GoFundMe page that aimed to raise A$3m (£1.6m) to pay for his legal fees in fighting his contract termination by Rugby Australia has been removed after it was found to have violated the terms of service.

Folau was sacked by Australia’s governing body for expressing homophobic views on social media, having been found to have committed a “high-level breach” of the players’ code of conduct which came a year after he said in Instagram that gay people will go to hell unless they repent to God.

The 30-year-old appealed his contract termination, which was rejected, and has now taken legal action against RA after claiming he was the victim of unfair dismissal based on his religious beliefs, with the former rugby league star also indicating that he will take the case to the High Court is necessary.

But after launching a GoFundMe page last Thursday to try and raise funds to pay for his legal fees, the fundraising attempt has been closed after generating around A$750,000 (£409,000), after he was found to have breached the terms of service by promoting discrimination and exclusion.

"After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service," said Nicola Britton, of GoFundMe Australia, who also confirmed that the money would be refunded.

"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity. While we welcome GoFundMes engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion."

"Our platform exists to help people help others," she added.

Folau set up the page after his A$4m (£2.2m) contract was terminated following his posts on social media that all homosexuals would go to hell.

An independent panel upheld that decision and Folau announced he was taking the case to the Fair Work Commission.

The 30-year-old was accused of greed following the launch of the fundraising drive, with ex-Australia wing Drew Mitchell heavily critical and referencing the many seriously ill people using GoFundMe to foot medical bills.

Mitchell tweeted: "You are in a fight that you chose to be in after you broke the terms of your contract, the kids below are in a fight they never wanted to be in and yet you think you deserve donations more than they do? It's no longer about religion, it's about you and your greed."

Folau would have proved one of Australia's top draws at the autumn's World Cup in Japan, but his 73-Test Wallabies career is in tatters.

Folau aimed to raise more than £1.6m to pay for his legal costs 

Former Wallabies centre Morgan Turinui posted: "Whichever side you fall on the Izzy Folau debate surely we can all see the ignominy of this."

Folau had already received more than A$750,000 (£409,000) in donations to the website, on which he had added a statement.

"My faith is the most important thing in my life," he wrote.

"I try to live my life according to the Bible and I believe it is my duty to share the word of the Bible.

"Earlier this year, I uploaded some messages from the Bible on my Instagram page. I believe that sharing the Bible is an act of love and compassion.

"Indeed, what makes our country so wonderful is that we have such a diverse community made up of so many different cultures and values.

"But my faith defines me as a person. I do not believe that it is fair or right that I be punished for my religious beliefs.

"Rugby Australia have already said that they will divert significant resources to fight me in court. Even if I win, Rugby Australia can appeal.

Folau was sacked for his social media outburst

"My wife Maria and I have already spent over A$100,000 (£55,000) of our own money, and that was just to try and deal with Rugby Australia's internal tribunal processes.

"The money I am asking for is solely to fund the rest of my action in court.

"I know I am putting myself on the line - this action will be very costly in terms of time, money and reputation - but I do not intend to stop now.

"I have the fight of my life on my hands and every little bit will help."

Additional reporting by PA

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