Official Ulster supporters club call for 'early reinstatement' of Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

By Stephen Barry

The Ulster Rugby Supporters’ Club (URSC) have hit back at the 'concerned fans' behind an advertisement calling for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to never be allowed represent Ireland or Ulster again.

In a statement sent to Ulster Rugby by chairman Jonathan Bill, the official independent supporters group call for the "early reinstatement to playing duties" of Jackson, Olding and Craig Gilroy, who are currently under an internal IRFU/Ulster Rugby review.

Craig Gilroy, Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding

They said the "vast majority of members" support this and further warn that "many" members have made it clear that failure to do so "will strongly influence their decision on season ticket renewal or their future Kingspan [Stadium] attendance". They add that this could "impact adversely on support for the team and income for Ulster Rugby through the ticket sales".

Jackson and Olding were acquitted of all charges in a rape trial last month.

Messages made public during the trial from a WhatsApp group conversation, which also included Gilroy, led to him also being placed under review.

Last week Gilroy apologised for his "totally inappropriate" comment, while Jackson also apologised for taking part in the "degrading and offensive" conversation.

In the wake of his acquittal, Olding also expressed deep regret for his involvement in the incident.

The advert calling for Jackson and Olding's removal, published in the Belfast Telegraph last week, called the content of the messages "reprehensible".

"Such behaviour falls far beneath the standard that your organisations [the IRFU and Ulster Rugby] represent and as such we demand that neither of these men represents Ulster or Ireland now or at any point in the future," said the message from 'concerned fans' in the advert crowdfunded by 139 members of the public.

The URSC, which has 938 members, said it had no involvement in the advert and "doubts that any of the 139 who contributed financially... are amongst its membership".

They say they've received no calls from members calling for players involved to be banned and "on the contrary, the vast majority of members have made it clear they wish to see their early reinstatement to playing duties".

The group also hit out at "uninformed" and "unhelpful" social media commentary and the "disproportionate attention" given to the advert.

While acknowledging the "difficult and traumatic" recent events, the group say it "respects both the judicial outcome and the IRFU review process which it regards as a matter solely for the players and their employer".

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