Rugby AU open to supporting RUPA "Expressions of Faith and Beliefs Review"

by staff

Rugby Australia says it will support a new Rugby Union Players' Association "Expression of Faith and Beliefs Review" where it can after the initiative was launched on Tuesday.

RUPA on Tuesday announced the review, which the players body says aims to provide some clearer guidelines to players of faith about the line of respectability when it comes to expressing faith.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle said the organisation would support the review wherever it could.

“Rugby Australia is supportive of any initiative that aims to support the welfare of our players," she said.

"We look forward to working with RUPA to fully understand their plans for the review and how Rugby Australia can support it."

The limits, or lack thereof, on religious freedom in the workplace became a huge part of the public debate during the Folau process and RUPA said it was undertaking a review to help establish a clear line when it comes to players expressing their faith.

Many Australian rugby players hold devout Christian views and Castle said last week that she had contacted players in the wake of Folau's termination to ensure they felt comfortable to express their religious views in a respectful way.

RUPA said there needed to be clearer guidelines around this issue for players, to ensure everyone felt comfortable in expressing their views.

"RUPA notes that Rugby AU has not yet provided any clear or specific parameters to the professional playing group specifying how it expects individual professional players to express their faith and beliefs in manner acceptable to Rugby AU," RUPA said in a statement on Tuesday.

"To address this, RUPA will immediately establish and undertake an Expression of Faith & Beliefs Review alongside its players, incorporating advice from those with and without strong religious beliefs, with an aim to hold a first meeting of the review committee following the conclusion of the Super Rugby and World Rugby Sevens Series seasons.

"We will also invite both a Rugby Australia and a Super Rugby representative to participate in this RUPA-led review, and we wholeheartedly urge them to take us up on this offer of collaboration and to contribute to a landscape with clearly established guidelines for players, which players can have confidence in."

RUPA's statement described the Folau situation as a "sad" one for everyone involved.

"This is a sad outcome for Israel, his family, friends, teammates, opponents and all associated with Rugby in Australia and around the world. Israel leaves our game having played 96 Super Rugby matches, scoring a competition-record 60 tries, as well as representing his country in 73 Tests, scoring 38 tries, and winning three John Eales Medals," the statement read.

"As a diverse and inclusive membership association, RUPA’s formal responsibility has been to ensure that Rugby Australia (Rugby AU) adhered to the agreed procedures in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Code, irrespective of the subject matter. 

"RUPA’s first and foremost priority is the wellbeing of all professional Rugby players in Australia, past and present. RUPA will continue to support Israel to ensure that he, Maria and their broader family receive any personal support they need in this difficult transition from Australian Rugby."

RUPA said the aim of the review was to ensure all players felt supported in their freedom to express their religious beliefs.

"RUPA appreciates the difficult position which this incident has placed on Israel’s teammates and the broader professional playing group, and we will continue to support each RUPA member," the statement read.

"RUPA remains proud of its diverse playing group and is committed to empowering and supporting each of its members to have conviction to express their faith and beliefs confidently.

"Clearly, there remains a great deal of work to be done in relation to this subject, but what remains paramount and a non-negotiable is empowering all of RUPA’s members to feel confident in understanding their rights and their responsibilities when expressing their faith and beliefs."