Sacked Wallaby Israel Folau's big payout from Rugby Australia could reportedly be at risk if the governing body goes under due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former fullback sued RA for religious discrimination after he was axed over his homophobic social media posts, with the two parties agreeing to a private out-of-court settlement – reportedly A$3 million – in December last year.
According to a report in the Australian, the settlement is being paid off in instalments and those payments could be decreased significantly if the financially strapped RA is forced into insolvency – which would mean Folau would end up becoming an unsecured creditor and likely only get paid out a few cents in the dollar.
Folau is currently playing for French rugby league club Catalans Dragons in the Super League, which is suspended due to the pandemic.
The 31-year-old is reportedly expecting his first child with Kiwi netball great Maria Folau.
After Super Rugby was postponed in March, RA estimated it would suffer a A$120 million loss from matchday and broadcast revenue if rugby does not go ahead this season.
However, the sport's financial situation was in dire straits well before the virus wreaked havoc – RA announced a loss of A$9.4 million for 2019 at its annual meeting on Monday.
On Tuesday, CEO Raelene Castle announced 75 per cent of its staff had been stood down without pay for the three months.
Like many other sporting organisations, RA will heavily rely on Government support to survive the Covid-19 epidemic, particularly if the upcoming international fixtures are impacted.
RA reportedly rejected a A$20 million-per-year offer from Foxtel for broadcast rights, the proposal being $37 million a year less than the current deal, while Castle has been slammed by several former Wallabies this week amid reports her job is under threat.
However, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Georgina Robinson jumped to Castle's defence, arguing no leader could have survived the unprecedented coronavirus outbreak.
"I think Raelene has some issues, [but] I don't think anyone in her position could have survived this crisis," Robinson said.
"I'm not sure that Phil Kearns - in her position - could have survived this crisis.
"She made a call eight months ago to turn down an offer for more product from Fox Sports for less money because she was confident – and the board was confident – there was another interested for the five-year broadcast right in the form of Optus.
"About a week before there was going to be money on the table for that deal, coronavirus pandemic hit. That is not a disaster of her making.
"Will she survive it? It's increasingly looking less likely."
Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons believes Castle is a victim of the sport's inherent sexism and lingering discontent about how she handled the Israel Folau saga.
"If you were to measure the antipathy against Raelene Castle, about a half of it, in my view, is because she's a woman and there is an in-built discrimination," FitzSimons argued.
"There is a lot of people in the rugby community who say, 'We can't have a woman running rugby,' … I'm not making it up. That's the truth of it.
"The other half is the Israel Folau issue. She was the one that said, 'Israel, here's your hat … you've got to leave'. In my strong view, she had absolutely no choice but to move Israel Folau on, but there's an enduring resentment over that from some quarters."
- with news.com.au