London Irish suspended from Premiership as financial deadline not met

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Rugby club has failed to meet deadline to provide financial assurances for next season

London Irish Rugby Club has been suspended from the Gallagher Premiership after failing to meet the deadline to pay players and staff. The club, which had until Tuesday (6 June) to complete a takeover or face suspension, will not be able to participate in any league next season.

Despite efforts by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and other stakeholders to secure the club’s long-term viability, the takeover by a US consortium did not materialise, and transparent evidence of funding was not provided. The suspension leaves the Premiership with only ten teams for the upcoming season, following the previous demise of Worcester Warriors and Wasps.

London Irish had enjoyed a successful season on the pitch, finishing fifth in the Premiership and reaching the final of the Premiership Rugby Cup for the second consecutive year. But off-field issues plagued the club, with debts totalling approximately £30 million and negotiations for a sale to a US-based consortium dragging.

The club’s owner, Mick Crossan, had to step in and pay overdue wages in April, narrowly avoiding breach-of-contract notices from players.

The RFU initially set a deadline of May 30 for the completion of the takeover or suspension from the Premiership. But due to ongoing negotiations, the deadline was extended to 6 June. In addition to the takeover, the club needed to provide evidence of funding for the next season and ensure full payment of salaries for May. At the same time, London Irish faced a winding-up petition from HM Revenue & Customs over an unpaid tax bill.

Image above: London Irish fans

“Desperately sad news”

The Premiership has experienced significant challenges recently, with the insolvency of Worcester and Wasps during the previous season. Both clubs went into administration within a span of three weeks and were subsequently expelled from the Premiership.

Wasps had their conditional offer of a place in the Championship withdrawn by the RFU, while Worcester was suspended after entering administration. Wasps will now compete at the lowest tier of English rugby, while the future return of Worcester remains uncertain.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said:

“This is desperately sad news for everyone who is part of the London Irish community as well as all the players, fans, staff and volunteers for whom this club means so much.”

Brentford FC, the owner of GTech Community Stadium where London Irish played their home matches, has not commented on the club’s departure.

Sources close to the club have previously commented that the wear and tear of rugby matches on the ground had resulted in expenses that significantly ate into any extra revenue derived from London Irish playing there, so for Brentford the loss of London Irish is not considered disastrous.