ENGLISH CLUBS SAYING NO TO JACKSON
Embattled player desperately tries to rebuild career after rape trial
IRELAND and Ulster Rugby player Paddy Jackson has been turned down by several English clubs as he tries desperately to rebuild his career.
Mr Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were found not guilty of rape last month, had their Ireland and Ulster contracts revoked yesterday following an IRFU review.
Outhalf Jackson’s services are understood to have been pitched throughout the English Premiership, with
speculation suggesting a link-up with Gloucester, where former Ulster and Ireland player David Humphreys is Director of Rugby.
Jackson’s playing skills are understood to have been pitched to clubs in England and France.
Several English clubs have already turned him down.
‘Even though he was found not guilty, it would take a brave club to sign him,’ one director of rugby told the Irish Mail on Sunday.
‘He’s been offered everywhere, but a family club wouldn’t want to be associated with those [Whatsapp] messages.’
Jackson and Olding were unanimously acquitted by an 11-person jury at Belfast Crown Court last month in a trial which polarised opinion. At the centre of the case was a 19-year-old student who claimed she was raped by the two men during a party at Mr Jackson’s home in June 2016.
Two other players, Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison were also found not guilty on other charges relating to the case.
While Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25, were cleared of rape, there has been a strong public backlash about a Whatsapp message exchange published during the trial. Both players have vowed to rebuild their reputations.
Yesterday, the IRFU announced it had sacked the players because they had brought the game into disrepute. The duo’s departure was confirmed following an internal review into their conduct.
The IRFU and Ulster Rugby review had focused on the series of sexually explicit WhatsApp conversations involving the players and their friends about the sexual encounter at the centre of the trial.
In a statement, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said: ‘Following a review, conducted in the aftermath of recent court proceedings, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby have revoked the contracts of Patrick Jackson and Stuart Olding with immediate effect.
‘In arriving at this decision, the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby acknowledge our responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game: respect, inclusivity and integrity.
‘It has been agreed, as part of this commitment, to conduct an indepth review of existing structures and educational programmes, within the game in Ireland, to ensure the importance of these core values is clearly understood, supported and practised at every level of the game.’
It also announced a third Ulster player – referred to as CG in court, but identified by the MoS as Craig Gilroy – has been sanctioned and will not be able to return to the pitch until later this month.
‘Following a review of a text message sent by Craig Gilroy, the [IRFU] and Ulster Rugby have sanctioned him, following a disciplinary process in accordance with the terms of his contract. Craig will be unavailable for team selection until Thursday, April 26, 2018.’
Last week, the MoS revealed how Paddy Jackson’s and Stuart Olding’s fate would be decided this week.
And it is believed they were informed on Wednesday that they would both be dropped.
They were suspended from playing with Ireland and Ulster Rugby last July after they were charged with rape offences. Just four months earlier, in March 2017, Jackson signed a two-year contract with the IRFU which would have expired next March.
Meanwhile, throughout their suspension from the game, it is believed the two players were paid a retainer fee. And since the outcome of the trial, their names have been linked with clubs in England, France and Japan.
But yesterday, no one from either the Jackson or Olding camp were willing to talk about their future careers.
The players themselves issued statements hours after the IRFU made its announcement.
Paddy Jackson said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ by his bosses’ decision, adding: ‘However, I recognise that my behaviour has fallen far short of the values expected of me as an international player, a role model for the game of rugby and as a son and a brother. I am truly sorry. Since I was a young boy it was my ambition to play for Ulster and Ireland and I am extremely proud, privileged and honoured to have done so.
‘It is therefore with great sadness and regret but with many cherished memories that I leave that behind. I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this process. I have taken great strength from that support. I’d also like to thank Ulster and Irish rugby for the opportunities that they provided for me and I wish them, and all my former team mates every success.
‘My focus in the months and years ahead will be on rebuilding the trust placed in me by people throughout Ulster and Ireland.’
Meanwhile, his team-mate Stuart Olding said he was determined to rebuild his tarnished reputation.
‘I am very sorry that this day has come to pass. As I said outside court, the Stuart Olding that you read about in the trial is not the real Stuart Olding,’ he said.
‘The treatment that I have received since my acquittal, both fair and unfair, has made me even more determined to prove myself.’
‘Core values of respect, inclusivity and integrity’ ‘My focus will be on rebuilding trust in me’
text message shame: Stuart Olding, left, and Paddy Jackson