Ulster Rugby to continue ban of news journalists at pre-match press conferences
Only sports reporters will be allowed to attend to limit questions about the fallout from the players’ trial and subsequent dismissal.
Ulster Rugby is maintaining a ban on news reporters attending pre-match press conferences following the sacking of rape-acquitted stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.
Tuesday’s event, which is traditionally open to all media, is again set to be confined to rugby writers as the club moves to limit questions about the fallout from the players’ trial and subsequent dismissal.
Only sports reporters were allowed to attend the press conference at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast last Tuesday, when Ulster and Ireland hooker Rob Herring read a pre-prepared statement saying players were saddened by the duo’s exit.
That ban looks set to continue on Tuesday, when the weekend PRO14 match against Munster will be previewed, with the Press Association having been told its news reporters will again be excluded.
A PA news reporter was turned away from last week’s event as well.
News media have been barred because apparently too many questions about Jackson and Olding’s high-profile trial were asked at the first press conference in the aftermath of their acquittal last month.
Local rugby writers were angered last week when Ulster Rugby issued a statement saying the decision to restrict the media event to sports journalists was made “following consultation with regular press conference attendees”.
The rugby reporters insisted they had not requested any ban on news counterparts attending.
It is understood they had voiced concern with club officials about how the previous press conference had unfolded, but they insist they only asked for a more structured format to ensure rugby matters were definitely covered.
Despite Friday’s statement from the rugby writers, Ulster Rugby has maintained its stance to exclude news media outlets on Tuesday.
The ban has been criticised as “unacceptable” by the National Union of Journalists’ Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley.
@UlsterRugby Your ban on news reporters/agencies attending media conferences is unacceptable. As Assistant Gen Sec of NUJ I would urge you to facilitate working journalists doing their job. @NUJofficial @BelTel @IrishTimes @PA— Séamus Dooley (@Seamusdo) April 24, 2018
He tweeted: “@UlsterRugby Your ban on news reporters/agencies attending media conferences is unacceptable. As Assistant Gen Sec of NUJ I would urge you to facilitate working journalists doing their job.”
Jackson and Olding were sacked 10 days ago following an internal review into their conduct by their employers Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
While Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, were found not guilty of rape last month, other aspects of their behaviour had been heavily criticised, with major sponsors of Ulster Rugby having voiced concern.
The IRFU and Ulster Rugby review had focused on a series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations involving the players and their friends about the sexual encounter at the centre of the rape trial.
The messages, which referred to women in derogatory terms, were presented as evidence during the marathon nine-week trial at Belfast Crown Court.
Jackson and Olding had been accused of raping the same woman at a party at Jackson’s home in June 2016.
Last month, a jury of eight men and three women found the players unanimously not guilty of rape after deliberating for three hours and 45 minutes.
All jurors also acquitted Jackson of sexual assault.
Two other men, Blane McIlroy, 26, and Rory Harrison, 25, were also unanimously acquitted of lesser charges connected to the case.