Belfast Telegraph

Ulster fans plan individual protests ahead of Glasgow Kingspan clash

By Jonathan Bell

Some Ulster Rugby fans are planning their own individual protests at Saturday's final home game of the season against Glasgow.

Fans appear split over the fallout from the rugby rape trial which saw Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding lose their jobs. They have also voiced their unhappiness at chief executive Shane Logan.

Some have called for all to get behind the team and roar them on to what would be a vital home win while others have said they are determined to protest not just over the treatment of Jackson and Olding but also over the stewardship of the province by chief executive Logan. He has refused to quit despite mounting pressure from the fans.

The independent Ulster Rugby Supporters Club stopped short of calling for a protest at Saturday's game - saying that while it would be headline grabbing it would have little impact on Ulster chiefs and likely an adverse impact on the game. They also said it would be disrespectful to players such as Tommy Bowe and Paul Marshall, as Saturday’s encounter marks their last home game for the province.

Instead the club was to write to Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) expressing their disappointment at the decision to sack Jackson and Olding.

Some fans were disappointed with the decision by the supporters club and suggested holding some sort of protest on the 10th minute during the game. Paddy Jackson wore that number for Ulster. There have been suggestions of a late walk-in or even a boycott of team colours.

Others have said they are heading to the Kingspan with the sponsor logos on their shirts blanked out. A move in protest at the club's backers who many belief influenced the decision. However, that was rejected by Ulster chief Mr Logan who said finance did not play a role.

Chris Watts plans his own "one-man protest".

Belfast man Chris watts will be heading to the game with the sponsor logos blacked out and 'Logan out' taped to the back.

"I'm the one-man protest," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

The 30-year-old has been a regular at Ulster since 1999 and has held a season ticket for almost 15 years.

"I'm not renewing," he added, "of the five of us who attend only my dad is going to renew his season ticket. A lot of fans say the same.

"It's not just with the treatment of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding although the club need to be more open about the decision and how it was made and why. It is also Shane Logan. No doubt he has turned around the financial fortunes of the club.. but it has not been good enough in terms of playing results of late."

Chris said that while he won't be renewing his season ticket, he still intends to support the province and will be part of the away support through the next season.

"I may not have a big impact from just one person, but I just don't see it as money well spent now."

On the final game of the season he said it was "understandable" the supporters' club decision not to hold a protest.

"There will plenty in the stadium. I don't think there will be a noticeable drop in attendance. Given it's the last game of the season at home and the last one for some of the players it would be a hard decision not to go."

If we remain disunited it won't do anybody any good. Shane Logan

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph this week - the first since the decision on Jackson and Olding - Shane Logan said his position was not in question.

He said: "I think that we have to understand people's firmly held views, but if we remain disunited it won't do anybody any good.

"It won't do the players any good, it won't do rugby any good. What we have to do is do our best to accept radically different points of view.

"We've got to do our best to finish off the season as well as we can, we accept it hasn't been a good one, and we've got to prepare as best we can for next season."

He added: "A CEO, in both good times and in difficult times, is to find the way to move forward. In my eight years, we've had six and a half years and we've had a very tough last year. What we have to do is keep moving on towards positive territory. No organisation goes through universally good times, it's how we respond to the bad times that defines us.

"My role is to keep us moving on to the best possible territory."

Jackson (26) and Olding (25) were unanimously cleared last month of raping the same woman in June 2016. Jackson was also unanimously acquitted of sexual assault.

At the weekend Ulster Rugby and the IRFU revoked their contracts following an internal review into their conduct.

It focused on a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations involving the players and their friends about the encounter at the centre of the rape trial, which referred to women in derogatory terms.

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