OVER 100 Ulster Rugby fans have placed an advertisement in today’s Belfast Telegraph, calling on the club to reinstate Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding to the squad.
The full-page advert comes a week after an advert crowdfunded by 139 members of the public was printed in the same newspaper, calling for the players to be sacked.
Today’s advert described “the social media backlash” against the men as “cyber prosecution.”
Both men were acquitted of rape in a Belfast court last month.
The new advert is addressed to the leadership of the Irish Rugby Football Union and Ulster Rugby and reads: “As Ulster and Irish rugby fans, we want these innocent men reinstated and rightly allowed to resume their roles for both club and country. The IRFU should take note of the silent majority and not bow to the court of social media.
“We do not expect an answer to this letter, but we do expect them to play. Yours, Real fans standing up for the Ulster men.”
Mr Jackson and Mr Olding are currently subject to an internal review by the IRFU and Ulster Rugby to decide whether or not they should be allowed to play for the teams again.
One of the men behind the advertisement, a 35-year-old Belfast-based business owner, told the Belfast Telegraph: “These men have been upfront, they’ve said sorry for what they said and to continue to protest so viciously after people have apologised just isn’t right in my view.
“It’s the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and if that shows us anything, it’s that we’ve forgiven people for a whole lot worse.
“I don’t know where people want this to end for Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding. Ruin their careers, and then what?
“By all accounts, they’re decent young lads and they’ve faced up to what they’ve done. There are a lot of people out here who think a line has to be drawn under this now. They need to be allowed to get on with their lives.”
A spokesperson for the IRFU and Ulster Rugby said: “A review process in relation to this matter is underway and it would be inappropriate to comment on any matter pertaining to that process until it is completed.”