Sunday 19 August 2018

Rugby fans plan boycott over sacking of Jackson and Olding

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding. Photo: PA
Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding. Photo: PA

Adrian Rutherford, Rúaidhrí O'Connor and Conor Feehan

Ulster Rugby fans angered by the sacking of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding are considering protests at the club's next game.

And some have called for a boycott of this weekend's home match against Glasgow.

Others say they are thinking about snubbing the team colours or staging a late walk-in to Saturday night's clash in Belfast.

It came as former Ulster star Neil Best accused the club of "betrayal" and "scapegoating" the pair after the IRFU and Ulster Rugby formally announced at the weekend that they were revoking the contracts of Jackson and Olding.

The duo are assessing their options for next season after being released as a result of a union review of the court proceedings that cleared them of rape after a nine-week trial month.

French giants Clermont Auvergne could offer Jackson a route back into top-level rugby while Olding has been linked to a possible move to England.

Belfast Feminist Network activists hold a protest outside the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast ahead of Ulster's Pro14 match against the Ospreys last Friday. Photo: PA
Belfast Feminist Network activists hold a protest outside the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast ahead of Ulster's Pro14 match against the Ospreys last Friday. Photo: PA

Exeter Chiefs, Worcester Warriors and Gloucester have all been linked with Olding (25). However, Exeter forwards coach Rob Hunter insisted yesterday that Olding was "not on our radar at all".

Both men's representatives have been sounding out interest in the event that they would have to leave and there is thought to be a number of clubs ready to take them on despite the reputational damage resulting from the lurid nature of text messages that appeared in evidence during the trial and the strong backlash against the players on social media.

As a goal-kicking international out-half with 25 caps, Jackson (26) would command a high value on the open market in France. Out-halves command the biggest salaries and French clubs are the biggest payers. Johnny Sexton reportedly earned more than €700,000 per season at Racing 92. While Jackson would not be in line for that sort of money, he would expect improved terms from the Ulster deal he signed last year.

Ulster's official supporters club said it would be emailing a questionnaire to members asking for their views and how they should proceed. On some fan forums, supporters have called for a protest at Saturday's game or showing up late.

Irish Independent

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