'We are concerned': Aussie sports launch protest against 'Israel Folau law'

Australian cricket, rugby league, AFL, tennis, rugby union, netball and soccer could experience a slump in participation if a proposed religious freedom law is passed, the sports' governing bodies say.

The Coalition of Major Professional & Participation Sports (COMPPS) - Cricket Australia, NRL, AFL, Tennis Australia, Rugby Australia, Netball Australia and the FFA - are concerned the laws will allow players to speak out recklessly.

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The laws come after the furore created by rugby player Israel Folau's controversial Tweets against homosexuals.

The Sydney Morning Herald and the Age report that the sports have now lodged a submission on the proposed laws, which they say could prevent them from protecting their reputations and brands.

"Damage could include but is not limited to: failure to attract new sponsors, damage to reputation, media distraction, reduced rates of participation, reduced interest in sport and loss of confidence in the brand," the COMPPS submission said, according to the newspapers.

Israel Folau in action for Catalans Dragons. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

COMPPS also said the laws would lead to disputes between players over "statement's of the belief" both in public and online.

"We are concerned that the breadth of the definition of 'statement of belief' and the absence of a clear test within the bill to assess such beliefs could lead to the protections in the bill being used in bad faith to justify statements which are otherwise discriminatory or against the values or beliefs espoused by COMPPS members," the submission said.

There are also concerns about the failure to mention the impact of social media in the bill - a massive bone of contention in the Folau saga.

“COMPPS members must have the ability to sensibly regulate the public speech of its employees to promote inclusiveness and protect against the real risk of disrespectful online behaviour,” the statement reads.

“The bill essentially gives the person who makes statements of belief a privileged position over other rights, which does not accord with global human rights doctrines or the underlying intentions of sport to promote respectful relationships.”

Israel Folau in action for the Wallabies in 2018. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Folau booed in English Super League debut

Sporadically booed by fans, Israel Folau struggled to make an impact before helping set up the winning try for Catalans in his first Super League match in England.

The Dragons beat Hull 34-29 at KCOM Stadium with the sacked Wallabies star taking a stunning catch from a short kick-off, which saw fellow Australian James Maloney score with two minutes remaining.

Until instigating what was a remarkable comeback win for the visitors, Folau made just a handful of carries and was well contained in just his second league game in a decade.

With the signing of the 30-year-old three-quarter again heavily criticised in the lead-up to the Hull clash, Folau was also booed during the warm-up and again after his first touch.

However, there seemed few home fans who booed the Australian during the match, with Catalans fullback Sam Tomkins copping most of the home support's attention for much of the second half.

Catalans boss and former England coach Steve McNamara hailed Folau's contribution.

"To come up with the short kick off and for Izzy to go up there and take it one-handed and it gives us a chance to win it, we are obviously happy with the end result," he beamed.

"He is a special player and it was a special catch. I thought we under-used him during the game, I thought we could have used him more.

"I thought he was solid today without being spectacular but he comes out with a really good play to give us a last chance."

With Yahoo Sports Staff