Israel Folau has GoFundMe page to help fight legal battle with Rugby Australia shut down

24 June 2019, 06:25 | Updated: 24 June 2019, 10:31

Online donation website GoFundMe has shut down the page of Israel Folau, who sought to raise £1.6m to meet the legal costs of challenging his sacking by Rugby Australia.

GoFundMe will issue refunds to 7,000 donors who had contributed around A$760,000 (£414,000) to former Wallabies fullback Folau's cause before his online campaign was halted.

Folau has faced widespread criticism over his move to seek public donations to fund his legal challenge.

His £2.2m four-year contract with Rugby Australia was terminated in May when the national body found he had breached the code of conduct with a social media post that said "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolators".

In a statement, Nicola Britton, of GoFundMe Australia, said: "Today we will be closing Israel Folau's campaign and issuing full refunds to all donors. After a routine period of evaluation, we have concluded that this campaign violates our terms of service.

"As a company, we are absolutely committed to the fight for equality for LGBTIQ+ people and fostering an environment of inclusivity.

"While we welcome GoFundMe's engaging in diverse civil debate, we do not tolerate the promotion of discrimination or exclusion.

"In the days since Mr Folau's campaign launched, more than one million dollars have been donated to hundreds of other campaigns, large and small, across Australia. Those acts of kindness are the heart of GoFundMe.

"Our platform exists to help people help others. Australians have shown themselves to be among the most kind and generous people in the world. We look forward to helping more Australians fund-raise for causes they care about in the coming months and years."

A spokesperson for Folau said the decision was "very disappointing", adding: "Unfortunately, GoFundMe has buckled to demands against the freedom of Australians to donate to his cause.

"There appears to be a continuing campaign of discrimination against Israel and his supporters."