It capped a robust back-and-forth between Fordham and the outgoing RA chair, who phoned in to address claims made by 2GB producer James Willis.
Willis had called into Fordham’s show to claim RA directors were considering dismissing Castle over her management of the Israel Folau settlement agreement earlier this week.
“There’s a board meeting on Monday and board members have told me today they are talking about the idea of dismissing Raelene Castle,” Willis told Fordham.
“That will be discussed on Monday for the simple reason they were kept in the dark on the Israel Folau matter, told it was a black-and-white case, Folau would be sacked, no money entitled, they’ve now had to pay a huge amount of money. The board’s angry.”
Clyne was furious about the comments, labelling it “one fabrication after another”.
“First of all the board meeting on Monday is a regularly scheduled board meeting, Raelene’s future is not on the agenda,” he said.
“Well, let me tell you that [regarding] the settlement discussions, the Rugby Australia board and the NSW board were fully informed all the way through and both were unanimously supportive of the settlement discussion.”
RA and Castle have come under heavy fire from all sections for resolving the case through a confidential settlement after a three-day, court-ordered mediation process, the last formal attempt before the case was due to go to trial in the Federal Circuit Court.
Folau sued RA and the NSW Waratahs for unlawful termination under the Fair Work Act, claiming he had been sacked in May because of his religion. He wanted $14 million in compensation, an apology and reinstatement.
The settlement amount has not been revealed, but legal experts and board sources have told the Herald a figure of between $4 million and $5 million would be a likely figure. The court-ordered mediation was the second formal attempt at settlement, but the Herald is aware of at least two other attempts made by RA and the Waratahs’ legal teams since May to offer an out-of-court solution.
Clyne took aim at claims the settlement would cost the game at its grassroots.
“Let me just talk about why we settled. The first thing I want to knock off is that this will have not one impact on community rugby, we’re emphatic about that,” he said.
“We did not want to have a situation whereby prolonging this case and paying legal fees, we were going to damage community rugby. The only reason we settled was we got to a number with Israel Folau’s side where it was cheaper for us to settle than to continue to run the case. It is not our job to take money away from community rugby to run the case.
“He (Folau) had an opportunity to have his case funded by external parties, we did not. The only reason there was unanimous support from the Rugby Australia board and the NSW board to settle the case was because it was cheaper for us to settle than to continue to run the case.”
RA also face a tense broadcast rights negotiation, with the current $57 million per year deal running up at the end of 2020. The organisation went through an exclusive negotiation with longtime partner Fox Sports but said at the end of it they would test the market.
The move appears to have incensed Fox Sports executives and has led to reports the pay television broadcaster is considering walking away from rugby.
Fordham told Clyne that he believed Fox Sports had “lost faith” in Castle.
“What about the TV rights deal? There’s a real feeling at the moment at Foxtel that they’re not going to deal with Raelene Castle, they’ve lost faith in her,” he said.
Clyne replied: “That is absolutely nonsense and that is not the feedback that we’ve had.”
“That is absolutely not the message that we’re getting and the nonsense suggesting she’s turning down deals and all that sort of stuff, it’s our obligation to try to get the right outcome for the game and look at all the options available.”
There is one vacancy on the RA board at the moment and another three are due to come up when Clyne, Brett Robinson and Paul McLean step down at the annual general meeting on March 30.
The other directors are former Wallaby Phil Waugh, former premier club president and businessman Hayden Rorke, senior tech executive Pip Marlow, veteran funds management executive John Wilson and Castle, who sits on the board as chief executive.
Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.