Belfast Telegraph

Jackson and Olding sacking: Furious fan demands answers from Ulster

By Brett Campbell

An Ulster Rugby fan who has been a season ticket holder for more than 12 years has threatened not to renew it.

It comes amid a furious backlash from disillusioned supporters who are considering staying away from Kingspan following the sacking of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Gary McDonagh is adamant that he will not renew his season ticket until the club fully explains its decision to axe two of its star players after they were acquitted of rape.

"I won't be renewing my season ticket for me or my son for the first time in 12 years," he said. "So many fans feel the same way, the level of anger and the sense of betrayal is unreal."

The married father-of-one slammed Ulster Rugby and IRFU officials for what he said was a lack of transparency over Saturday's decision to revoke Jackson and Olding's contracts.

"Sacking them, which comes after a 20-month suspension remember, was disproportionate to their actions - I'm not privy to the terms of their contracts, but that's the problem," he said.

"Ulster Rugby needs to get its house in order and senior officials must come out and account for the decision making process - they can't just sweep this under the carpet."

Mr McDonagh said that while the WhatsApp messages read out in court proceedings were appalling, he does not believe the lewd exchanges - which both men have apologised for - should end their careers.

"Paddy Jackson contributed one message to that group which was nowhere near as bad as the message sent by Craig Gilroy and yet he only received a short suspension," he said.

"They did not put these messages on Facebook or Twitter, it was a private conversation between friends which lacked any intention to offend - they also had no reasonable expectation that the messages would ever be in the public domain."

The Newtownabbey fan, who faithfully attends rugby matches with his 16-year-old son, accused officials of betraying fans and players by bowing down to corporate pressure.

"It's really disappointing that they have been spooked by sponsors and failed to live up to their own values," he added.

"The fans have stood up for the Ulster men, but the organisation has thrown them under the bus in the hope that this will all just go away."

He is also unhappy that Ulster held off on their long awaited announcement until after Friday night's clash with Ospreys.

"I suspect the decision was made during the week, but they didn't want an adverse reaction anywhere near the stadium," he said.

Determined to give the departing Tommy Bowe a good send off this Saturday at Ravenhill, Gary said the clash with Glasgow Warriors will be his last game "for a long time".

Belfast Telegraph

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