Money did not drive the decision to sack rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, the head of Ulster Rugby has said.

Shane Logan also rejected criticism that the two players, whose contracts were revoked at the weekend, had been effectively hung out to dry by their club and country.

Mr Logan, who has refused to quit his position as chief executive, said he believed both men had made a "serious mistake" but he hoped they would have success elsewhere.

He said: "They have done a lot for Ulster and Irish Rugby. They have made a very serious mistake.
I hope that they will learn from that and I hope they fulfil their potential going forward."

Mr Jackson, 26, and his 25-year-old team mate Mr Oldin were found not guilty of raping the same woman in June 2016.

Mr Jackson was also unanimously acquitted of sexual assault.

Mr Logan said he did not believe they would ever play for Ireland or Ulster again.

The high-profile trial which ran for nine weeks at Belfast Crown Court brought to light a number of sexually explicit and offensive text exchanges which sparked a wave of protest on social media and on the streets.

Protesters gathered outside the home of Ulster Rugby Kingspan Stadium last weekend

However Mr Logan dismissed claims that the IRFU had caved in to social media pressure or that the decision was motivated by money.

He said: "No sponsor including Bank of Ireland drove the decision. We have taken on board everybody's views right across society, right across our supporter group, our sponsor group, our players, clubs, volunteers, we are part of society.

"But at the end of the day, having looked at all those things, the decision was based on alignment with what it is we stand for in particular the value of respect.

"The players themselves admitted in their own statements that they were way short of what was expected of them."

Speaking publicly for the first time since the rape trial ended last month, Mr Logan said he had been "shocked" by the arrests, trial and content of the lewd messages which were discussed at length during the court case.

"I think we were all shocked because I don't think what subsequently emerged was in line with what we knew of them or indeed how we expect any of us to behave," he said

"We waited quite deliberately with the IRFU before trying to adjudicate or weigh the facts and what had happened post trial.

"The IRFU's management committee unanimously made a recommendation to revoke the players contracts. I think I would concur with the statements of the two players, on a couple of occasions, that they were way below the standards expected of role models. That sums up how we all feel about it.

"It was way short of acceptable." he added.

Both Mr Olding and Mr Jackson have expressed regret that their future no longer lies with Ulster.

Mr Logan said the morale in the team, which has been struggling this season, had also taken a battering.
However he insisted his position at the top was not under threat.

He said: "My role isn't in question. My role here, in very traumatic circumstances, is to do at least two things.

"One, is to ensure that the existing reinforcement programmes that players receive and people across rugby receive are as effective as possible.

"The second thing we have to do is try and recognise that people have very different points of view and to try to find positive territory, a unified approach to move forward.

"We are going to put the decision behind us and move on.

"There is no question that all of us have been significantly affected by the charges and the staff.

"I think the players and the staff and wider rugby has done well to do as well as they have done in very difficult circumstances.

"We have got to focus on finishing the season as strongly as possible."

Mr Logan said: "We expect our players to behave as role models and the two players have admitted they didn't and that was the basis primarily on which the decision was taken.

"There has been huge coverage, a massive range of opinions expressed but at the end of the day we in Irish rugby have to take the right decision for the good of the team at all levels.

"The overwhelming sentiment is one of sadness.

"It has been extremely difficult and traumatic for everybody involved in the case.

"There are absolutely no winners but our role is to try and set the right course for the future.

"The decision is made and we have got to manage the future now."

Meanwhile Mr Logan also declined to comment on speculation about settlement fees.

"That like any relationship between employer and employee is not something that is in the public domain," he said.