London Irish players told to prepare for the cash-strapped club’s suspension from the Premiership next week which means they will have to seek employment elsewhere
London Irish players have been told to prepare for the club to be suspended from the Premiership next week, which will mean they have to seek employment elsewhere.
The demise of the Exiles now seems inevitable after the squad’s virtual meeting this evening with representatives from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the players’ union, the RPA. Mail Sport understands that current owner Mick Crossan was invited but did not participate – which does not suggest he is prepared to fund Irish through next season. And players were told that there is still no clarity in English rugby’s corridors of power about their prospective new owners.
Going into a long weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s deadline set by the RFU for a take-over or for Crossan to commit to fund the 2023-24 campaign, there has still been no proof of finance to be used by an American consortium to buy the debt-laden club. As was made clear to the Exiles squad, there is now no expectation at all that there will be an 11th-hour breakthrough or reprieve.
After several months of negotiations, the stark reality which was explained to Irish players is that the long-anticipated purchase of the club by a group including former American NFL and NBA stars has not progressed as had been hoped. This was even conceded in an internal email sent to staff by chief executive Adrian Alli, which has been seen by Mail Sport.
While he claimed that ‘the deal is still active’, he also admitted ‘we have received no funds as yet, nor confirmation of funds’ and added: ‘I have no detail as to the reason for the delay’. Alli went on to state that Crossan wished to arrange a meeting with players and staff next week, but by then the most likely scenario is that it would be a meeting to confirm that the worst-case scenario has come to pass.
London Irish players have been told to prepare for the club’s suspension from the Premiership
If Irish are suspended from competition by the RFU, it would represent another dismal development at the end of a season of turmoil in the domestic game. They would become the third club to be forced out of the Premiership in the space of eight months – following the collapse of Worcester and Wasps last autumn – despite a successful on-field campaign which saw Declan Kidney’s side finish fifth in the table.
It would mean the top division being reduced to 10 teams; a streamlined model which has been coveted by many within the club game for some time. It would also mean the likes of England wing Henry Arundell, Red Rose centre Will Joseph and emerging World Cup candidate, flanker Tom Pearson, being among those forced to move on.
A host of clubs in France and in this country are poised to sign the leading Exiles, but some will struggle to secure new deals in a saturated market, at this time of year. It is a grim fate for players who performed admirably all season against a backdrop of turbulence behind the scenes, and regular concerns about whether wages would be paid – culminating in a late intervention by Crossan last month, to prevent players submitting breach-of-contract letters.