Ulster Rugby CEO, Shane Logan, has dismissed claims that an IRFU review panel allowed outside pressures to influence their decision to axe two Ulster players.
It was confirmed on Saturday morning in a joint statement by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby that players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding had had their contracts revoked.
“In arriving at this decision, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby acknowledge our responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game: Respect, Inclusivity and Integrity,” the statement said.
It provoked anger amongst a large number of Ulster supporters who felt the IRFU had caved in to pressure from sponsors and adverse public opinion on social media.
The high-profile trial which ran for nine weeks at Belfast Crown Court brought to light a number of sexually explicit and offensive text exchanges which sparked a wave of protest on social media and on the streets.
On Monday, Logan refuted claims the players had been hung out to dry and told the News Letter the decision was not made on the back of pressure from sponsors or other outside influences.
The Ulster supremo explained: “After the trial a review group was set up to look at all concerns.
“It produced a report for the IRFU management committee and the IRFU management committee unanimously agreed on the sanction, being to revoke their contracts.
“In terms of pressures I think you mentioned sponsors, no the decision was not made on the back of sponsors pressure.
“All views were considered and it was an extremely difficult and traumatic time with differing views with big numbers of people polarised with the same set of facts reaching conflicting conclusions.
“The review group looked at all that, but at the end of the day, I think the two players’ statements summed it up well.
“Each of them, and fair play to them for recognising it, were clear their behaviours had fallen far short of what was expected of them as role models.
“It is the role of us in rugby in Ireland to ensure that respect is grown and adhered too and it was on that basis that the decision was made,” he added.
A third player, Craig Gilroy, was implemented as a result of a text message he had sent, which was revealed during the trial.
He was suspended and his conduct reviewed, the IRFU sanctioning him to a ban from rugby until April 26.
Explaining why he was treated differently, Logan said: There was a different set of facts. And as per Saturday’s statement, Craig went through a disciplinary, facts were weighed up and an appropriate sanction applied.
“Because it is an employment issue I am not going to comment further on that.”