Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara said the club accepted signing Israel Folau could be unpopular – as it emerged a rival Super League club have served the French side with a warning.
According to BBC Sport, Hull KR chairman Neil Hudgell has written to Catalans to advise of possible legal action if negative commercial implications arise from the arrival of the Australian player.
Hudgell reportedly said circumstances such as the loss of the competition’s title sponsor or “quantifiable reputational damage” to the Super League brand could trigger such action.
The BBC said Hudgell’s comments were supported by several other clubs.
Folau was sacked by Rugby Australia in May 2019 for what the body said was a “high-level breach” of its code after he posted hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” on Instagram.
He had been warned over previous online posts in 2018. Folau has not deleted that post from the social media platform.
Folau sought compensation and a confidential agreement was reached in December, with both parties issuing corresponding apologies after an end to their legal dispute.
Further comments from Folau in November, linking bushfires that devasted Australia to gay marriage and abortion, were described as “appallingly insensitive” by the nation’s prime minister Scott Morrison.
Catalans were not oblivious to Folau’s form for such remarks and have said nothing of the kind will be tolerated during his time with them, stressing his contract can be terminated should he step out of line.
Folau, 30, is returning to rugby league after 10 years away from the sport, during which time he played Aussie rules and rugby union, becoming a high-profile Australia international in the latter sport.
McNamara said of Catalans’ move for Folau: “We knew it would be controversial.
“An opportunity arose when an overseas player left our club, we needed an outside back. We looked in France, England and overseas. We went down the route of investigating a fair few players, Israel was on that list.
“Having spent a lot of time speaking to him and understanding him a lot more, and getting the reassurances we did, we made a decision as a club that we would support the signing of Israel and give him another opportunity in our game.”
Israel Folau est un Dragon
— Dragons Catalans (@DragonsOfficiel) January 28, 2020
In an interview shown on Sky Sports News, Folau said: “I’m excited to be back playing the game that I grew up playing.
“It’s been 10 years since I last played rugby league and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of a great organisation, a great team in the Catalans Dragons.”
Folau could make his debut for Catalans at Wakefield on Sunday.
Meanwhile, officials from all 12 Super League clubs are set to gather at a board meeting in Salford on Wednesday, with the issue of Folau’s signing an unavoidable point of discussion.