English Super League club Wigan have come up with a cheeky plan to coincide with Israel Folau's controversial return to the sport.
Folau was admitted back to the game after signing a 12-month deal with French side Catalans Dragons, 10 years after he last played in the NRL with Brisbane Broncos.
The former Wallaby was forced to explore opportunities outside Australia after sparking controversy with his outspoken religious ideals.
Folau's infamous Instagram post in which he warned hell awaits homosexuals resulted in his sacking from Rugby Australia last May.
After a protracted legal battle, the two parties finally agreed an out-of-court settlement in December after the former Wallaby sued Rugby Australia for religious discrimination.
His unpopular opposition to same-sex marriage has made him an almost untouchable proposition for Australian sporting teams, despite links to several NRL clubs.
Folau's move to the English Super League was largely greeted with outrage by the British rugby league community with Super League CEO Robert Elstone admitting he was disappointed at the signing but conceded there was little he could do to prevent it.
"Super League deplores the homophobic comments Israel Folau has made in the past, which squarely contradict our sport's core values," Elstone said.
"I have sought the opinion of informed voices connected to our game, and the majority share my disappointment that one of our clubs has chosen to sign him.
"There is a strong feeling that the decision to sign him lets down many people connected to our sport.
"I made Catalans Dragons aware of those views.
Hours after news of Folau's signing, Super League club Wigan announced a move that flies in the face of everything Folau stands for.
Wigan revealed that their first home match against Folau's new club, Catalans, would be Pride Day which will support the LBQT community.
News of Wigan's decision was overwhelmingly welcomed by fans on social media.
Well done Wigan, well done. Catalans are in Toronto June 28th, which is also the day of the Pride parade, I am sure a certain Dragons player will be thrilled.— Steve Fanning (@northtorontoguy) January 28, 2020
Be Catalan Dragons.— James Tyler (@yippeykeiyay) January 28, 2020
Sign Israel Falou (sacked by Rugby Australia for homophobic comments).
...19 MINUTES LATER...
Be Wigan Warriors.
Notice you play the Dragons on 22nd March.
Declare it your Pride Day match and intend to wear rainbow socks and laces for the game. pic.twitter.com/av65mFb9p0
This is the kind of shithousery I can always get behind. 20 mins after Folau signs for the Catalan Dragons, Wigan announce their home game against them to be Pride Day.— Nathan Jones (@jonzey0) January 28, 2020
Don't forget your rainbow shoelaces @IzzyFolau #EatShitLyle #IsraelFolau #PrideDay https://t.co/8kNzkzuKKD
I say this as a St Helens fan: this is awesome leadership from @WiganWarriorsRL 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 🌈— Steven Garner (@StevenGarner12) January 28, 2020
“Wigan Warriors confirm Pride Day for Catalans Dragons fixture after Israel Folau signing” https://t.co/PGOQt6YRIc
Wait so Wigan announced Pride Day AFTER Catalan signed Folau. That is shithousery of the highest level— James 🤙 (@NewSabre) January 28, 2020
Openly gay star slams Folau move
Super League's first openly gay player was one of the first to openly slam the decision of the Rugby Football League to allow Catalans to sign Folau.
Wakefield Trinity prop Keegan Hirst said he was shocked and disappointed at news of Folau's signing following his sacking by Rugby Australia last year.
"Our great game is tasked with fighting against homophobia and standing up for the values it puts such high stock in," Hirst Tweeted.
"It shows none of the bravery, camaraderie or integrity RFL expects from its players, staff and fans."
The Super League says it does "not have the authority to veto the registration of players and is satisfied by the due diligence carried out by The Rugby Football League," Elstone added.
"Israel Folau is a free agent, who has the right to work, and he has not been charged or found guilty of any criminal offence.
"Catalans Dragons has assured Super League that strict guidelines are in place to prevent the player from repeating his comments.
"They have also assured us that his contract will be terminated immediately should he do so."