Sunday , February 28 2021

Ulster Rugby introduces sexual approval classes for players

Ulster Rugby has introduced a behavioral class for academy and professional players.

The BBC has reported classes will include a discussion of sexual agreements submitted by charity Women 's Aid.

The move comes after the rape trial earlier this year involved two former Irish and Ulster star rugby stars.

A jury found Ulster and Irish players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (25) unanimously guilty of rape in March.

Both players have moved to France to continue their careers after their Ulster contract was terminated.

Although they were released, problems surrounding the approval, use of alcohol and a series of explicit WhatsApp communications provoked widespread criticism.

IRFU promises "to conduct an in-depth study of existing education structures and programs" to uphold their core values ​​"respect, inclusiveness and integrity".

In response, IRFU introduced classes on sexual consent, alcohol and social media for all professional players in Ireland earlier this year.

Classes delivered by the English language consulting company, Gleeson Mills, are very interactive and play a role.

Dr Deirdre Lyons, head of the player development program at Rugby Players Ireland, said the classes were about "having open and honest conversations with players about what happened in Belfast and what happened in their sport".

Speaking to BBC News NI, Operational Director of Ulster Rugby, Bryn Cunningham, said that Ulster Rugby's reputation had been damaged by the rape trial.

"Regardless of what happened we knew that there would be damage to reputation from that," he said.

"We are ready for that and there is still work to be done to improve some of that."

Mr Cunningham said the classes would help players make good choices in their lives.

"The group of players will go through maybe five to six three-to-four-hour sessions that are quite intensive on one of our days," he said.

"It will cover a variety of different fields.

"A lot of things will be around social life and social involvement – every time a player comes out, how they behave and how they can protect themselves too.

"It could be a situation with the opposite sex, it could be a situation where it is with other people who want to be antagonists or want to start a fight."

Northern Ireland's Women's Chief Executive Jan Melia said the charity was working with Ulster Rugby to develop classes for players.

"This is a program made based on what we do in the community," he said.

"A broad framework is what is safe and what is not and how we become safe and if there are problems how we talk about the problem.

"The subtleties will depend on the class and those involved in the class too."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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