Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were last month acquitted of rape charges, have been sacked.
Employers Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union have confirmed Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding’s departure following an internal review into their conduct.
While the Jackson, 26, and Olding, 25 were found not guilty last month after a high-profile trial, other aspects of their behaviour have 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.
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 in-depth 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.”
In a statement, Jackson said: “I am deeply disappointed about the outcome of the IRFU and Ulster Rugby’s internal review.
“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.”
Stuart Olding also issued a statement expressing his regret.
It said: “It is with regret that I have been informed that the IRFU have decided to revoke my contract.
“As I said outside court following my acquittal, I am and will always be fiercely proud of having played for my province and country.
“I very much wished to continue to have the opportunity to represent them.
“Regrettably, influences outside of my contractual arrangement have made it impossible for that to happen. “I said outside court that the Stuart Olding that you read about in the trial is not the real Stuart Olding.
“The treatment that I have received since my acquittal, both fair and unfair, has made me even more determined to prove myself.
“With the support of my family and friends I shall seek new challenges elsewhere. I bear no one any ill will.
“I am very sorry that this day has come to pass.
“To those who have supported me through these last 20 months and especially the fans who continue to support me, I thank you all.”
Fellow Ireland and Ulster star Craig Gilroy, who was not involved in the trial, has been disciplined for sending one of the offensive messages that was outlined to the court.
He had already been made unavailable for selection and will now face a further two-week suspension.