Israel Folau: Sacked Australian rugby star's new fundraiser earning $1,000 a minute

25 June 2019, 06:33 | Updated: 25 June 2019, 09:27

Israel Folau has found another way to raise funds for his legal battle against Rugby Australia after his GoFundMe page was shut down.

The sacked Australian rugby star had his $5m (£2.7m) contract with the Wallabies and his club side the Sydney-based New South Wales Waratahs terminated in May over a social media post which was critical of gay people.

In the 10 April Instagram and Twitter post Folau wrote "hell awaits" for "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters".

He set up a GoFundMe page to raise $3m (£1.6m) to help him fight his dismissal by Rugby Australia in the courts.

Thousands of people donated more than $750,000 (£409,000) before the website closed his page on Monday, saying it violated its terms of service by promoting the "discrimination or exclusion" of LGBT people, and that all donors would be refunded.

But later the same day, the Australian Christian Lobby took up Folau's cause, hosting a fundraising drive on its own website and donating $100,000 (£54,000) to start the appeal.

The group's managing director Martyn Iles said the case was about "religious freedom" and that they were getting involved "because it's right and it sets an important legal precedent".

The appeal had raised more than $1m (£819,000) by Tuesday morning with the total rising by almost $1,000 a minute.

In a statement over the weekend, Folau said: "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."

He said he had already spent £55,000 of his own money on the ongoing case against Rugby Australia.

"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," he added.

The 30-year-old was criticised for launching his crowdfunding campaign last week, with former Wallabies teammate Drew Mitchell comparing Folau's case to other GoFundMe pages to fund medical bills for sick children.

Mitchell wrote: "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."