Ulster rugby fans to have their say on response to sacking of Jackson and Olding

Fans of Ulster Rugby will be consulted on what protest action, if any, should be taken following the sacking of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Both players had their contracts revoked “with immediate effect” at the weekend and were quickly being linked with moves to clubs in France and England respectively.

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were sacked after a review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby

Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding were sacked after a review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby

A large number of fans reacted angrily to the Ulster decision – claiming the dismissal was unfair and that it had been carried out at the behest of the club’s sponsors.

Last month Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, were acquitted of raping the same woman following a trial in Belfast lasting almost nine weeks.

However, there was a fierce public backlash against the players after details of lewd and derogatory messages passed between the players were revealed during the court proceedings.

A number of Ulster fans also threatened to stop supporting the team if the pair returned to the pitch in the club’s colours.

In response, the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club (URSC) said some members would consider not attending games if the pair were dismissed, while others posted messages on web forums calling for organised walk-outs and various other protests in support of the two players.

In its latest statement on the matter, the URSC – which has more than 900 members – said it will provide its “considered response in due course,” and only after consulting the membership.

In an email questionnaire sent to members on Sunday, URSC invited prompt responses to “help the committee accurately reflect the feelings of URSC members and act accordingly”.

Prior to the survey being circulated, some of the protest measures being considered by supporters of Jackson and Olding included: arriving late for games; leaving the stands at prearranged times during matches; not wearing club colours and boycotting food and drink outlets inside the Kingspan Stadium at Ravenhill.

Jackson and Olding have both issued statements expressing regret over the WhatsApp messages, and apologised for their behaviour.

A third player who has been suspended by Ulster over his involvement in the exchange of lewd messages, Craig Gilroy, also said he wanted to “apologise unreservedly” for any offence caused by the WhatsApp message he sent in June 2016.

The URSC said it “noted the outcome of the review” into the conduct of the three players.

“It has also noted the responses of the players concerned to the sanctions imposed,” the statement said.

“Previously URSC had said it respected the judicial outcome and the review process. Subsequently URSC asked that the review outcome be proportionate and in line with precedence.

“URSC will now examine the review outcome, and taking account of its members’ views, will provide its considered response in due course.”

The statement goes on to say: “We would encourage as many members as possible to respond to help the committee accurately reflect the feelings of URSC members and act accordingly.”