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'A lot of supporters will not renew their season tickets. Ulster need to explain their decision'

Former out-half Paddy Wallace says Ulster’s decision to sever ties with Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding was commercially driven.

Olding (left) and Jackson (right) have had their contracts revoked by Ulster.
Olding (left) and Jackson (right) have had their contracts revoked by Ulster.
Image: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

FORMER ULSTER AND Ireland out-half Paddy Wallace says the province needs to publicly explain its decision to revoke the contracts of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ulster announced on Saturday that both players have been sacked, following a review of their conduct in the aftermath of recent court proceedings.

Irish internationals Jackson and Olding were last month unanimously acquitted of rape charges after a nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court. Jackson was also found not guilty of sexual assault.

Despite being found not guilty, the pair’s conduct has been heavily criticised by many quarters, with unedifying WhatsApp messages — disrespectful and derogatory of women — they exchanged after the night out that led to the rape accusation causing particular disgust.

Ulster team-mate, Craig Gilroy, has been suspended by the province until 26 April for a message he sent to the pair at the time, with major sponsors of both the IRFU and Ulster Rugby voicing their concern over the players’ conduct.

To that end, Wallace — who played 189 times for his home province and won 30 Ireland caps — believes the decision to sever ties with Jackson and Olding was commercially driven.

“The decision itself was probably the decision that had to be made given the public pressure that was mounting and also the sponsorship issue,” he told Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning.

“There is a sense from the fans that they have been left in the dark a bit. Quite a vague statement has come out and, just gauging the temperature of the Supporters Clubs, they feel they need a bit more information as to how they came to that decision.

“I have my own views on that but someone in Ulster Rugby has to come out and make that very clear.”

Defence Gives Evidence In The Ireland Rugby Internationals Rape Trial Jackson has been linked with a move to Clermont. Source: Charles McQuillan

The Ulster Rugby Supporters Club is currently canvassing opinion amongst its 938 members over whether they will protest against Ulster’s decision or not ahead of, or during, Saturday’s Pro14 game against Glasgow Warriors at Kingspan Stadium.

“The vast majority of official Supporters Club members are very disappointed,” Wallace continued.

“I think that’s because they are fans of the game. They probably feel that these guys have been acquitted and they are being judged on their text messages which were obviously completely out of order and that is the core issue here.

“That is why they are moving on, they didn’t meet the code of conduct Irish and Ulster players are held to.

“From that point of view, there was no decision to be made. I think the supporters, because they want to see Ulster being successful on the pitch, are sad to see the two players moving on.

“A lot of supporters will not renew their season tickets but Ulster have to look at the macro issue. Sponsorship accounts for €12 million of the revenue generated while ticket sales are only over €3 million.

“It was kind of a no-brainer from a monetary point of view and that’s probably what they based their decision on.”

The Sunday Times yesterday linked Jackson with a move to French Top 14 club Clermont, as the 26-year-old, who had established himself as understudy to Johnny Sexton in the international team, looks to rebuild his career.

Exeter Chiefs, meanwhile, have distanced themselves from speculation suggesting they are interested in bringing Olding to Sandy Park, while former Ireland coach Declan Kidney refused to comment when asked if he would be interested in bringing either to Premiership outfit London Irish.

“I don’t think they’ll be short of offers,” Wallace said.

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Ryan Bailey

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