“It will be an opportunity for people to continue to demonstrate their support for Israel. What I can say is that the ACL will kick off that site by donating $100,000.”
The news came amid revelations Folau’s website was targeted by hackers and shut down for 12 hours following its launch last Friday.
A source close to Folau told the Herald the site, israelfolau.com.au, was forced to redirect all traffic to the GoFundMe campaign page after a denial-of-service attack in the early hours of June 21.
It was up and running by Friday night, while the crowdfunding campaign amassed about $250,000 in donations over the same period.
That had soared to almost $700,000 on Monday before GoFundMe Australia, a local company with a parent corporation in the United States, announced it had taken down the page for “violating its terms of service”.
“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,” GoFundMe Australia regional manager Nicola Britton said.
“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.”
Through a spokesman, Folau said he was “disappointed” by the company’s actions. He also claimed his wife, netballer Maria Folau, had been vilified in the media after voicing her support on social media.
“Since requesting public donations to help him with his legal action against Rugby Australia, Israel and his supporters have come under intense scrutiny in the media,” a spokesman said.
“Further, Israel’s website has been the target of what we believe was a sustained cyber attack and there has been a deliberate attempt to vilify his wife Maria for supporting her husband.
The legal profession will need to consider closely establishing ethical rules for practitioners who are conducting crowdfunded litigation.
Arthur Moses, SC
“While Israel does not intend to respond in detail at this time regarding the accusations thrown at him or his family, he wants it known that these attacks have hardened his resolve.”
The spokesman said Folau’s camp believed his campaign was on solid footing with regards to GoFundMe’s terms of service, but Law Council of Australia president Arthur Moses, SC said the company made the right move.
“Given the legal uncertainties surrounding the use of crowdfunding to raise money to support litigation, it is my view that GoFundMe took the appropriate action in cancelling Israel Folau’s fundraising campaign,” Moses said.
“GoFundMe is entitled to rely on its terms and conditions in order to terminate the fundraising campaign. It is the appropriate course of action.
“The issue of crowdfunding and its application to litigation opens up a range of complex issues that the legal profession and courts must now grapple with in order to protect the public and the integrity of the administration of justice.
“The legal profession will need to consider closely establishing ethical rules and guidance for practitioners who are conducting crowdfunded litigation.”
Folau’s church, the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, moved back to his father Eni’s Kenthurst home on Sunday. The Herald understands the move was made to make use of the family’s pool for a baptism, and not because of growing media scrutiny over the case.
The dual international, who was sacked by RA over an Instagram post saying “hell awaits” gay people, came under heavy fire over the weekend after asking the public to help fund his legal claim for unlawful termination against RA and NSW Rugby.
After earning what many believe stretches into the tens of millions of dollars over a 12-year professional career spanning all three of Australia’s winter football codes, Folau announced he was suing his former employers and seeking up to $10 million in damages in lost income and opportunities. Last week he launched his crowdfunding appeal for $3 million.
The parties will meet for mediation before the Fair Work Commission this Friday.
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.