EXCLUSIVE: London Irish players have been told to prepare for the cash-strapped club’s suspension from the Premiership next week which means they will have to look for work elsewhere
London Irish players have been told to prepare for the club to be suspended from the Premiership next week, meaning they will have to look for work elsewhere.
The Exiles’ demise now seems inevitable after the squad’s virtual meeting on Friday night with representatives from the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the players’ union, the RPA. Mail Sport understands current owner Mick Crossan was invited but did not attend – which does not suggest he is willing to fund Irish until next season. And the players were told there was still no clarity in English rugby’s corridors of power about their future new owners.
Over a long weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s deadline set by the RFU for the takeover or for Crossan to commit to funding the 2023-24 campaign, there was still no proof of the finances an American consortium would use to buy the club full of debt. As the Exiles squad made clear, there is now no expectation of an 11th-hour breakthrough or reprieve.
After several months of negotiations, the clear truth explained to the 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 expected. This was even hinted at in an internal email sent to chief executive Adrian Alli’s staff, seen by Mail Sport.
While he claimed that ‘the deal is still active’, he also admitted that ‘we haven’t received the funds, or confirmation of the funds’ and added: ‘I don’t have details about the reason for the delay’. Alli has revealed that Crossan wants to meet with the players and staff next week, but in the meantime the most likely scenario is a meeting to confirm that the worst-case scenario has occurred.
London Irish players have been told to prepare for the club’s suspension from the Premiership
London Irish owner Mick Crossan did not participate in a virtual meeting with the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the players’ union, the RPA
If Irish are to be suspended from the RFU competition, it will represent another sad development at the end of a season of turmoil in the domestic game. They will become the third club to be forced out of the Premiership in eight months – following the relegation of Worcester and Wasps last autumn – despite a successful on-field campaign which saw Declan Kidney’s side finish fifth in table.
This means that the top division will be reduced to 10 teams; a streamlined model that has long been admired by many in the club game. It also means the likes of England wing Henry Arundell, Red Rose center Will Joseph and emerging World Cup candidate flanker Tom Pearson are among those forced to move on.
A host of clubs in France and this country are poised to sign top Exiles, but some will struggle to secure new deals in a saturated market, at this time of year. It’s a sad fate for players who have performed admirably throughout the season against a backdrop of chaos behind the scenes, and regular worries about whether wages will be paid – culminating in a late intervention by Crossan last month, to prevent players from submitting breach of contract letters.