Northern Ireland news

Ulster Rugby in a stand-off with sports journalists over claims they `were not consulted' about news reporter ban

Eleven sports reporters rejected Ulster Rugby's claim to have consulted them before banning news journalists from a press conference. Picture by Pacemaker

ULSTER Rugby was yesterday under fire after 11 sports reporters rejected its claim to have consulted them before banning news journalists from a press conference.

The province had claimed "non-sports journalists" attendance at a previous media facility had "caused significant disruption to regular attendees" who were "unable to access sufficient information and content" for their stories.

Ulster Rugby was referring to a press conference on Monday April 2 - the first time media had access to any representatives from the side since the acquittal on March 28 of its players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Traditionally open press events, Ulster Rugby turned away a Press Association (PA) reporter who attempted to attend the briefing on Tuesday.

PA were unable to cover the media event, as they have no sports reporters based in Ireland.

Ulster Rugby claimed the decision to restrict access "to sports journalists only" had been made "following consultation with regular press conference attendees".

However, according to the Irish Times, this was disputed by the body of journalists who regularly cover the Ulster Rugby beat.

"They claim in the email sent to Ulster Rugby on Thursday that they were not formally consulted about the matter and that they would not agree to any decision taken that prevented other journalists from attending Ulster Rugby press conferences," the newspaper reported.

"Thursday's email requested Ulster Rugby to reply before close of business. However no official reply was received."

Yesterday, Ulster Rugby insisted that it "did engage with several rugby writers" - including a number of those who signed the letter of concern.

"While a formal consultation process with all rugby journalists in Ulster did not take place, Ulster Rugby did engage with several rugby writers, all of whom are in the number of 11 who have subsequently written to us, and all of whom raised concerns about the conduct of news journalists who had attended a recent press conference," a spokesman said.

"The feedback from these conversations formed the basis of the action taken by Ulster Rugby, which was in the interests of delivering a meaningful, useful match-week press conference, as required by tournament organisers."

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