London Irish collapse like a house of cards


London Irish banned from rugby league Image: Coliseum GSVA

The professional rugby union club London Irish RFC (UK) have been suspended from the Gallagher Premiership and will not be able to play in any Rugby Football Union (RFU) league next season due to financial difficulties.

‘sky news’ stated that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced the above development after the club failed to prove they had the funds to compete in the 2023-2024 campaign.

The London Irish RFC was a professional rugby union club which competed in the Premiership, the top division of the English rugby union. The club played their home games at the 24,161-capacity Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire (UK) for 20 years, before moving for the 2020-2021 seasons to the 17,250-capacity Gtech Community Stadium in Brentford, West London.

In the 2022-2023 seasons, the London Irish encountered financial difficulty and were issued a winding-up order by the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid tax demand. To avoid suspension from the Premiership, the RFU issued a deadline to the club to provide financial assurances that they could continue paying the players and the staff. London Irish missed this deadline and were consequently excluded from competing in the 2023-2024 seasons – not only in the Premiership but in all professional tiers of Rugby Union in England.

The Premiership Rugby, officially known as the Gallagher Premiership Rugby, or the Gallagher Premiership for sponsorship reasons, is an English professional rugby union competition consisting of 10 clubs, and is the top division of the English rugby union system.

England (UK)-based the Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the national governing body for rugby union in England (UK). It was founded in 1871, and was the sport’s international governing body prior to the formation of what is now known as World Rugby in 1886.

Dublin (Ireland)-based the World Rugby is the world governing body for the sport of rugby union. The World Rugby organizes the Rugby World Cup every four years, the sport’s most recognized and most profitable competition.

‘sky news’ further stated that the London Irish, established in 1898, was given a six-day extension recently for either a takeover to be completed – they have been in talks with an American consortium – or to show they had the money to continue under their current ownership.

The deadline elapsed at 4 pm on June 6th and the RFU confirmed that neither the Irish’s owner Mick Crossan nor the American consortium planning to buy the club were able to prove they had the finances.

The RFU suspended ‘The Exiles’ from all leagues after failing to meet their commitments to pay the staff and the players in full for May.

The London Irish are the third Gallagher Premiership club to collapse this season – joining the Wasps RFC and the Worcester Warriors in becoming a casualty of the financial crisis gripping the Premiership, which will now become a 10-team competition.

The club are £30m in debt and last year Crossan said he would sell the London Irish for £1 if he could.

The London Irish said in a brief statement that it is exploring ways for the suspension to be lifted – “The club can confirm that London Irish has received correspondence from the Rugby Football Union to confirm suspension for the 2023-2024 seasons. The suspension will result in the club being unable to compete in the Gallagher Premiership, the Premiership Rugby Cup and the Heineken Champions Cup throughout the 2023-2024 campaign. The club continues to remain in active discussions with the RFU as to any circumstances that may result in the suspension being lifted.”

The Premiership Rugby Cup is an English rugby union knockout cup competition for teams in the Premiership Rugby and from the 2023-2024 seasons the RFU Championship. It was created in 2018 to replace the Anglo-Welsh Cup after the withdrawal of the Welsh regions.

The European Rugby Champions Cup (known as the Heineken Champions Cup for sponsorship reasons) is an annual rugby union tournament organized by the European Professional Club Rugby. It is the top-tier competition for clubs who compete in a predominantly European league.

Lausanne (Switzerland)-based the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the governing body and organizer of the two major club rugby union tournaments: The Heineken Champions Cup and the EPCR Challenge Cup.

Said Bill Sweeney, RFU Chief Executive, “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. In the absence of transparent proof of reliable long-term funding and for the duty of care for all involved at the club, the sad decision has now been taken to suspend the club from the RFU leagues. We will be working closely with the London Irish to confirm what the future of rugby at the club looks like. With regret, this will not be in any league in the next season.”

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