Tuesday 21 August 2018

Fans 'appalled' at decision to axe Jackson and Olding

Supporters' group will write to IRFU but vows not to stage protest

Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson have had their contracts terminated by Ulster
Rugby and the IRFU. Picture: Sportsfile
Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson have had their contracts terminated by Ulster Rugby and the IRFU. Picture: Sportsfile

David Young

Many Ulster Rugby fans were either "appalled" or "disappointed" that Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding's contracts were revoked following their rape acquittals.

The supporters group said it would write to Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) to state its "considerable dissatisfaction and disgust at the recent turn of events".

But it ruled out a protest against the treatment of the two stars, insisting it was time to move on from the fallout of the recent high-profile rape trial in Belfast.

Ulster Rugby Supporters Club canvassed members on potential action around this Saturday's PRO14 home game against Glasgow, in the form of a demonstration or boycott.

From a membership of around 930, there were 390 respondes to the survey. It was issued after the weekend decision by Ulster Rugby and the IRFU to terminate Jackson and Olding's contracts.

Only 17 (4pc) selected the option "Pleased they are gone, they have brought disgrace to Ulster Rugby".

One-in-three respondents said they were appalled by the decision to axe the duo and urged one or other of the protest options.

Many supporters (45pc) said their disappointment should be conveyed in the form of a letter.

Ulster Rugby Supporters Club said a protest would probably have an adverse impact on the team in the closing stages of the season and would be disrespectful to players such as winger Tommy Bowe, as Saturday's encounter marks his last home game for the province.

It said while a protest at the Kingspan stadium in Belfast would be "cathartic and no doubt headline grabbing" it would have "little impact on the hierarchy of either the IRFU or Ulster Rugby".

"The URSC will therefore be writing to IRFU/Ulster Rugby next week to express members' considerable dissatisfaction and disgust at the recent turn of events," said the statement.

"This has been a grim period in Ulster Rugby's justifiably proud history. It has proved horribly divisive and distracting. Whilst some cannot forgive and others certainly won't forget, it's now time to move forward. To use our own mantra, it's now time to SUFTUM (Stand up for the Ulster men).

"In particular, URSC reiterates its call to supporters to stand as one with the team on Saturday.

"Finally, URSC notes that Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding have apologised fulsomely for their behaviour which they have admitted was below acceptable standards. The URSC would like to thank the players for their on-field efforts for both Ulster and Ireland and wish them well in their rugby futures, wherever that may be."

Jackson (26) and Olding (25) were found not guilty last month of raping a woman at a house party in June 2016.

But other aspects of their behaviour were heavily criticised, including a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations involving the players and friends.

Irish Independent

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