Rugby writers deny supporting Ulster in barring news journalists

Decision to bar some members of the press came in the wake of rape trial furore

  Paddy Jackson  and Stuart Olding:  were acquitted of rape charges but the trial generated unprecedented media interest in Ulster. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding: were acquitted of rape charges but the trial generated unprecedented media interest in Ulster. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Rugby journalists covering the sport have written to Ulster Rugby seeking clarification of an email sent out claiming Ulster Rugby had consulted them before restricting a press conference that took place on Tuesday to just regular weekly attendees.

This resulted in news organisations being denied entry to what have traditionally been open press events.

Following the intense media interest in the wake of the trial involving Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, Ulster Rugby sent a statement to the Press Association (PA) claiming a decision to ban entry to some members of the press was taken because questions regarding Jackson and Olding negatively impacted the work of regular journalists.

On March 28th Olding and Jackson were cleared of raping a woman in 2016. Two of their friends were also acquitted on related charges.

“The attendance of non-sport journalists at recent match week media events has caused significant disruption to regular attendees, who have been negatively impacted to the extent that they have been unable to access sufficient information and content for the days leading up to that week’s game,” said the Ulster Rugby statement.

“Therefore, following consultation with regular press conference attendees, it was decided that access to this week’s event would be restricted to sport journalists only.”

This has been disputed by the body of journalists, who number 11 and regularly cover the Ulster Rugby beat. They claim in the email sent to Ulster Rugby on Thursday that they were not formally consulted about the matter and that they would not agree to any decision taken that prevented other journalists from attending Ulster Rugby press conferences.

The controversial decision to ban reporters this week left the PA unable to cover the media event, as they have no sports reporters based in Ireland.

It is understood that Ulster Rugby decided to exclude news reporters because of their view that too many questions about the fallout from Jackson and Olding’s high-profile trial were asked at an Easter Monday pre-match press conference.

Thursday’s email requested Ulster Rugby to reply before close of business. However no official reply was received.