Pressure on Ulster as sponsor expresses concern after rugby rape trial
A number of Ulster Rugby sponsors have expressed concerns to the under-pressure club in the wake of the trial of two players for rape.
Yesterday, one of Ulster Rugby's long term sponsors, Bank of Ireland - whose logo is amongst those on the side's shirts - became the first to voice apprehension over its relationship with the club.
Ulster and Ireland players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were found not guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of rape at Belfast Crown Court last month.
However, some of the details that emerged during the nine-week trial about the players' conduct and behaviour have led to criticism of Ulster Rugby.
Whether the two will play for Ulster or Ireland again also remains under review.
A spokesperson for Bank of Ireland, which has sponsored Ulster Rugby for 20 years, said it has conveyed its unease directly to Shane Logan, the chief executive of the club.
"As a sponsor of Ulster Rugby, Bank of Ireland is highly concerned regarding the serious behaviour and conduct issues which have emerged as a result of the recent high profile trial," the spokesperson for the bank told The Times.
"The bank has formally conveyed these concerns to the CEO of Ulster Rugby.
"It is of paramount importance to Bank of Ireland that our sponsorship activity aligns with and supports our core values, and reflects positively on Bank of Ireland through association.
"We understand that an internal review is under way. We expect this review to be robust, to fully address the issues raised, and that decisions will be taken - and policies and protocols be put in place - that fully address the issues that have arisen.
"Given that a review is under way, we won't comment further on this issue at this time." Ulster Rugby has a string of high profile sponsors and suppliers.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that a number of others have also spoken to Ulster Rugby.
However, last night several said they were reluctant to make any comment until Ulster Rugby's internal review into the matter had been completed.
A spokeswoman for Dale Farm said: "Dale Farm fully respects Ulster Rugby and IRFU's current internal investigation and as such is not in a position to comment on this matter."
Likewise a spokesperson for Moy Park said: "The company is an official supplier to Ulster Rugby.
"It would be inappropriate to comment further as Ulster Rugby and the IRFU are conducting an internal review."
The review is believed to be in its latter stages, and due to report within weeks.