Ulster Rugby CEO Jonny Petrie has revealed that the province were threatened with legal action if a large La Rochelle “delegation” weren’t allowed at the Aviva Stadium.
Having originally been scheduled to take place at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast, Ulster’s meeting with La Rochelle was moved to the Aviva Stadium after the pitch at the province’s home ground was deemed to be unplayable.
Petrie tweeted on Saturday morning that he believed the pitch was playable, but the decision had already been made to move the game to Dublin.
As the venue was changed at late notice, supporters were not permitted to attend the game at the Aviva Stadium due to issues with logistics, as well as concerns over spectator health and safety.
However, roughly 160 La Rochelle supporters were present at the Aviva Stadium, as they were registered as an “official delegation” for the French club.
Jonny Petrie on La Rochelle supporters at the Aviva Stadium.
Petrie took to twitter again to explain that Ulster were threatened with legal action if the La Rochelle “official delegation” weren’t allowed into the stadium.
“In case people wonder when watching the match, there is a large official delegation from the La Rochelle club attending, agreed by EPCR. Not as a result of us,” Petrie tweeted.
“It is an official travelling delegation from the club sanctioned by EPCR. We were informed of significant legal and financial sanctions if we didn’t grant them access.”
Grâce à l’action du @staderochelais, les 160 supporters maritimes venus en Irlande vont finalement pouvoir assister au match face à @UlsterRugby délocalisé à @AVIVAStadium de Dublin, qui était censé se tenir à huis clos @midi_olympique @ChampionsCup_FR @RugbyramaFR pic.twitter.com/G4fBZswacZ
— Vincent Bissonnet (@VBissonnet) December 17, 2022
The province are not happy.
Ulster will take a considerable financial hit as a result of the game being moved, as the province will refund all ticket holders who had been set to attend at Kingspan Stadium.
The presence of La Rochelle supporters at a game that was supposed to behind closed doors will not have helped either, with Petrie admitting on twitter that he was “fuming” about the whole situation.
Coming under intense criticism is nothing new for the EPCR of course, as the cancellation of matches last season also prompted some very unhappy reactions from clubs.