Northern Ireland news

Majority of Ulster Rugby supporters' club members surveyed are disappointed or appalled at Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding sacking

 Paddy Jackson (right) and Stuart Olding were found not guilty of rape last month. Pictures by Hugh Russell

Almost half of respondents to an Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club survey said that they were disappointed or appalled, but not surprised, at the sacking of players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. 

The pair were the subject of a joint IRFU/Ulster Rugby review into their conduct after misogynistic WhatsApp messages emerged during a rape trial.

The Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club (URSC) also said that they were calling off a protest against the revoking of the contracts of Jackson and Olding.

There had been calls for protests at Ulster's next home game - against Glasgow at the Kingspan stadium in Belfast on Saturday. But the URSC said "such action, whilst cathartic and no doubt headline grabbing, would have little impact on the hierarchy of either the IRFU or Ulster Rugby." 

More than 40%, equivalent to 390 members of the URSC, responded to the survey.

  • 17 members or 4% of respondents agreed with the statement: "Pleased they are gone, they have brought disgrace to Ulster Rugby. See you on Saturday."
  • 64 members or 16% agreed with the statement: "Move on, we are a Supporters’ Club and we support the club not individual players. See you on Saturday."
  • 176 members or 45% agreed with the statement: "Disappointed but not surprised by the outcome. URSC to write to IRFU/Ulster expressing same." The URSC added that "many respondents" changed “disappointed” to “appalled”.
  •  80 members or 21% agreed with the statement: "Appalled at the outcome – protest at the Glasgow game. See you outside on Saturday."
  •  52 members or 13% agreed with the statement: " Appalled by the outcome. Boycott Glasgow game. Won’t see you on Saturday.

Jackson and Olding were both found not guilty of raping a student at a party in Jackson's house in June 2016.

However, revelations that emerged during the nine-week trial of their account of the night about which the allegations were made and a general discussion of women have led thousands of people to take to the streets in demonstrations across Ireland.

Yesterday, a former teammate of Jackson and Olding said the team is saddened by their exit.

Reading a pre-prepared statement at a media event which barred news reporters, Ulster and Ireland hooker Rob Herring said the remaining players knew Jackson and Olding, who were last month acquitted of rape, would go on to be successful on and off the pitch.

The committee of the Ulster Rugby Supporters' Club said they would write to IRFU/Ulster Rugby to express members’ considerable dissatisfaction and disgust at "the recent turn of events." 

They advised members against a protest at this weekend's match against Glasgow. 

"Protest would also likely adversely affect the remaining playing squad for the last crucial matches of the season and would be disrespectful to players like Tommy Bowe making their final home appearance," he committee pointed out.

The committee noted that Jackson and Olding had "apologised fulsomely for their behaviour".

"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," the committee added. 

On Monday, Ulster Rugby's chief executive Shane Logan insisted money or sponsors' wishes did not drive the decision to axe the duo.

He said both men had made a "serious mistake" and had fallen "way short" of the standards expected of professional rugby players.

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