London Irish players told to prepare for the club’s suspension from the Premiership next week
London’s Irish players have been told to prepare for the poor club’s suspension from the Premiership next week, meaning they will have to look elsewhere for work
London’s Irish players have been told to prepare for the club’s suspension for next week’s Premiership, meaning they will have to look elsewhere for work.
The Exiles’ demise now looks inevitable following the side’s virtual meeting tonight 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 take part – which does not suggest he is willing to fund Irish until next season. And players were told that there is still no clarity in English rugby’s power corridors over their prospective new owners.
After a long weekend, ahead of Tuesday’s deadline set by the RFU for an acquisition or for Crossan to commit to funding the 2023-24 campaign, there is still no evidence of funding that a US consortium can be used to the debt-laden club. As was made clear to the Exiles squad, there is now absolutely no expectation of an eleven-hour break or delay.
After months of negotiations, the harsh reality explained to the Irish players is that the long-awaited purchase of the club by a group made up of former American NFL and NBA stars has not gone as hoped. This was even admitted in an internal email sent to staff by CEO Adrian Alli, which was seen by Mail Sport.
While claiming that “the deal is still active,” he also admitted “we have not yet received any funds, nor any confirmation of funds,” adding, “I have no details on the reason for the delay.” Alli went on to say that Crossan wanted 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 true.
If the Irish are suspended from competition by the RFU it would be another dismal development at the end of a season of turmoil in domestic play. 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 that saw Declan Kidney’s team finish fifth in the table.
It would mean reducing the top division to 10 teams; a streamlined model that has long been coveted by many within the club game. It would also mean England wing Henry Arundell, Red Rose center Will Joseph and up-and-coming World Cup contender, flanker Tom Pearson, are among those forced to move on.
A large number 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’s a grim fate for players who have performed admirably all season against a backdrop of behind-the-scenes turbulence and regular concerns over whether wages would be paid – culminating in a belated intervention from Crossan last month to prevent players from breach of contract filing letters.