It is very disappointing, to say the least, that the European Rugby decision-makers have decided that Ulster’s quarter-final match against Munster will be played at 1.45pm on Easter Sunday. Given the Christian commitment of so many Ulster supporters, as well as the players, it is worse than unfortunate that the ERC authorities have in effect denied Christian supporters of Ulster the opportunity of supporting their team in this important match.
I love Ulster Rugby and for the past number of years I have been a season ticket holder at Ravenhill. Friday nights at Ravenhill are great events, and have been enjoyed by many Christian youth groups as a good social outing. But my commitment to Jesus Christ takes precedence over anything else, and on the most important day in the Christian calendar I plan to be with my fellow Christians worshipping and praising my Risen Saviour. I am grieved that I cannot travel to Thomond Park to stand up for the Ulstermen. I imagine that a significant number of my fellow supporters will also be very disappointed and will feel that their “right” to support their team has been taken away from them.
It’s not that I want everyone to conform to a strict sabbatarian position with regard to sport, and I recognise that there is tradition among many people on this island of participating in and supporting sport on Sunday. But for those of us who are committed to our local church each Sunday, and especially on Easter Sunday, this decision means that we are unable to follow our team to Limerick.
Some years ago there was a controversy over Ulster being required to play their home matches on Sundays and that decision was quickly reversed following representations from the Ulster supporter lobby. I hope that the reaction of Ulster supporters puts some pressure on the ERC to re-think this bad decision.