Rugby bosses are sticking to their decision to ban news reporters from attending pre-match press conferences as the fallout from a recent rape trial continues.
News media have been barred by Ulster Rugby after apparently asking too many questions about the sacking of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were acquitted of rape following a high-profile trial last month.
The organisation says the conduct of news journalists at the first press conference after the acquittal “negatively impacted” the event.
But sports journalists have rejected Ulster Rugby claims that the move was made in consultation with them, with local rugby reporters insisting they did not request the ban on their news counterparts.
The latest row erupted after it emerged that the Press Association had been told its news reporters will be excluded from today’s press conference for the weekend match against Munster.
A PA news reporter was also turned away from a similar event last week.
A spokesman for Ulster Rugby said: “Ulster Rugby is contractually obliged by tournament organisers to deliver a match-week press conference that provides sports journalists with an opportunity to interview a coach and players regarding that week’s fixture.
“As previously stated, the conduct of news journalists at a recent press conference negatively impacted our ability to deliver a meaningful event that focused on rugby content.
“All media outlets are welcome to send staff who would regularly cover our press conferences and matches, as they have done in the past.
“News journalists interviewed Ulster Rugby’s chief executive following the outcome of the post-trial review, in order to allow the coaches and players to focus on on-pitch matters.”
A previous Ulster Rugby statement said the decision to restrict the media event to sports journalists was made “following consultation with regular press conference attendees”.
However the rugby reporters insisted they had not requested any ban, merely asked for a more structured format to ensure rugby matters were covered.
The ban has been branded “unacceptable” by the National Union of Journalists’ Irish secretary, Seamus Dooley.
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.”
Messrs Jackson and Olding were sacked ten days ago following an internal review into their conduct by Ulster Rugby and the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).
While both men were found not guilty of rape last month, other aspects of their behaviour had been heavily criticised.