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Rugby clubs tighten rules after controversy over Folau move

SALFORD, England (AP) — Israel Folau’s move to French rugby league team Catalans Dragons has prompted angry rival clubs to introduce measures giving them more control to stop what they described as “controversial signings” in the future.

Catalans have faced a backlash for handing a 12-month deal to Folau, who has been widely condemned for posting homophobic comments on social media which led to him being fired by Rugby Australia last year.

The arrival of Folau dominated the agenda at a routine meeting of clubs in Europe's Super League in Salford, England, on Wednesday and they came to an agreement on how to deal with future signings which damage the integrity of the competition.

"The Super League board accepts the legalities around the Rugby Football League's decision to register Israel Folau,” Robert Elstone, the league’s executive chairman, said, “and the board has voted unanimously to put in place measures that ensure the Super League has greater authority to stop controversial signings such as this in the future.

"As a sport, we have an impressive and enviable track record when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion and we will continue our great work in those areas." Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch missed the meeting, despite being requested to attend by the other clubs. The French team was instead represented by its football manager and a consultant.

Neil Hudgell, chairman of Super League team Hull KR, has written a letter to Catalans warning them of possible legal consequences in the event of his club losing out financially because of the presence of Folau in the league.

In an Instagram post in April that caused widespread outrage and led to his suspension by Rugby Australia, Folau condemned "drunks, homosexuals" and warned "hell awaits" them. He was later fired before reaching an out-of-court settlement with the organization in December. In November, Folau linked the bushfires that have devastated Australia as God’s punishment for legalizing same-sex marriage and abortion.

Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch has said his club does not agree with Folau's views and that it signed an agreement with the Rugby Football League that any transgression by the player will trigger an immediate termination of his contract and a substantial fine for the French club.

Folau arrived in France this and has trained with the Dragons of Sunday's game at Wakefield Trinity.

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