Wigan Warriors have the perfect solution to being forced to play against anti-gay rugby star Israel Folau

Wigan Warriors players acknowledge their fans at the end of the Betfred Super League between Cataland Dragons and Wigan Warriors match at Camp Nou on May 18, 2019

The Wigan Warriors rugby club will stand up to the return of anti-LGBT+ rugby star Israel Folau – by declaring a ‘Pride Day’ on the day of their match against his team.

The player – who was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs and Australia’s national team last year after claiming that “hell awaits” gay people – signed a new deal to play for France-based RFL team Catalans Dragons.

Folau’s new club is part of the Super League, meaning the majority of Folau’s away matches will be on British soil.

In response, the Wigan Warriors declared that it will celebrate “Pride Day” on March 22 –  the same day the club will face off against Folau and the Warriors.

Wigan Warriors will don rainbow laces for Israel Folau clash.

The club’s players will wear rainbow socks and laces for the fixture, while local LGBT+ groups will be invited to be part of the day.

Wigan Warriors executive director, Kris Radlinski: “Here at Wigan Warriors we are committed to the core values of inclusion and respect. Our community foundation have a long history of supporting local LGBTQ+ groups and initiatives, and we want everyone who engages with our game to feel welcome, valued and most of all, respected.

“Rugby League has a strong history of inclusion, of breaking down barriers and of being an forward-thinking sport. I think that today more than any day that it is vitally important we reiterate that message.

“We’re looking forward to working with charities, local and hopefully national groups, to make this day a success.”

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, a candidate for the Labour leadership, told PinkNews: “I look forward to celebrating Pride Day with other Wigan warriors.

“Rugby League is rooted in communities and our community has a proud history of standing together against intolerance.

“Ata time when LGBTQ+ hate crimes have been on the rise it’s more important than ever that we speak out against bigotry and show solidarity.”

Out former rugby star Keegan Hirst also condemned the signing.

He said: “I’m shocked and disappointed at the signing of @IzzyFolau. Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in.

“It shows none of the bravery, cameraderie or integrity @rfl expects from its players, staff and fans.”

Israel Folau was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs for homophobic comments less than a year ago

Israel Folau was sacked from the New South Wales Waratahs for homophobic comments less than a year ago. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Israel Folau will get ‘a new opportunity to shine on the pitch’.

Far from backing away from his anti-LGBT+ beliefs, Folau has repeatedly reasserted them in recent weeks – blaming the devil for transgender children and claiming that bushfires devastating Australia are “God’s judgment” for same-sex marriage.

But despite his extreme views, Catalans Dragons chairman Bernard Guasch handed him a one-year contract.

Guasch said: “We want to give Israel a new opportunity to shine on the pitch. We do not support or agree with Israel’s previously expressed and controversial views which are based upon his sincerely held religious belief.

“We do not share or condone those views and we are totally committed to our club and our sport being open and welcoming to everyone.”

He claimed that any further anti-LGBT views from Folau would trigger an “immediate termination” of his contract – despite Folau’s public insistence that he would rather give up rugby than homophobia.

“We do not believe that those views should be publicly expressed, especially by a high-profile sports person”, Gausch said.

He added that per an agreement with the RFL, “any transgression [of conduct standards] will trigger an immediate termination of Israel’s contract and a substantial fine for the club”.