Unity is key to the future for embattled Ulster Rugby

The decision announced yesterday by the Ulster Rugby Supporters Club (URSC), that they will not stage a protest before Ulster's crunch match with Glasgow at the Kingspan Stadium on Saturday night, is a wise one.

Morning View
Morning View

Ulster’s rugby team, along with Northern Ireland’s footballers, have long been one our finest sporting institutions. Who wasn’t watching back in 1999 when the team lifted the European Cup and there have been many famous afternoons and nights under the floodlights of Ravenhill.

But without doubt this season has been tough to bear for the club’s players, officials and supporters.

When Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of rape charges last month we might have thought the controversy was approaching an end but since we have seen protests on the streets of Belfast and Dublin, protests before Ulster’s match last Friday night and a prolonged social media exchange of views (and insults) which has brought little credit on anyone.

The decision by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby to sack Jackson and Olding polarised views still further and a protest, or even a boycott, by Ulster’s own supporters looked possible earlier this week. But the supporters’ decision not to vote with their feet should allow the cloud to begin to lift over the Kingspan.

As our sports editor and rugby correspondent Richard Mulligan wrote yesterday, now is the time for unity, for the Ulster family to put this turbulent period behind them and concentrate on finishing a difficult season on a high.

That’s not to say that mistakes haven’t been made in the last week. Shane Logan, the Ulster chief executive, raised eyebrows when he suggested that Jackson and Olding could never play for Ulster again. While a period away from Ulster is for the betterment of all involved, there is no reason why either young man should not be given a second chance further down the line if they learn from their mistakes.