London Irish Kicked Out Of The Premiership
After missing a deadline to pay players and staff members, London Irish have been kicked out of the Premier League.
The team will not be permitted to participate in any leagues for the upcoming season after being given until Tuesday to complete a takeover or risk being suspended.
Irish, who placed fifth in the Premiership during the 2022–23 season, had been the target of a US consortium's purchase attempt.
According to a statement from the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the sport's regulatory body, the takeover had not occurred.
The Premiership in English rugby will likely only have 10 clubs next season due to the earlier collapse of Worcester Warriors and Wasps, despite plans made in 2021 to increase it to 14 teams.
According to Andrea Pinchen, chief executive of Leicester Tigers, the result was addressed by clubs halfway through the prior season.
Bill Sweeney, the RFU's chief executive, 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."
Sweeney stated that the Rugby Players' Association, Premiership Rugby, and the club had collaborated with the RFU to "do the utmost to secure the long-term viability of the club".
"To achieve this, it was imperative that transparent evidence of funding be presented to us," he added.
"This would have been either by the proposed buyers undertaking to provide all required working capital to meet the club's obligations for at least the 2023-24 season or the club providing evidence that it would continue to fund its operations throughout the 2023-24 season.
"Despite requesting this evidence over the last six months and receiving assurances on multiple occasions that we would receive proof of ownership and funds, it has not materialised."
The London Irish, how did they get here?
Irish had a strong season on the field, coming in fifth place and making it to the Premiership Rugby Cup final for the second straight year. However, there have been rumours of problems off the field for some time.
Owner Mick Crossan has been in lengthy negotiations to sell the team to a US-based company. It is believed that the club owes roughly £30 million in debts.
In April, just before players were about to submit notices of breach of contract, Crossan was forced to step in to pay unpaid wages.
The RFU pushed up the completion date for the takeover from the initial deadline of May 30 to Tuesday at 16:00 BST. Otherwise, the team will face a season-long ban from the Premier League.
Irish had to make sure all staff and players were paid in full for May after only receiving 50% of the money, in addition to completing the takeover or demonstrating they had the resources to run for the upcoming season.
Last Monday, the club received a winding-up petition from HM Revenue & Customs due to an unpaid tax debt.
London Irish Holdings Limited and London Irish Rugby Football Ground Limited were the targets of petitions that were submitted to the High Court on Friday.
Wasps and Worcester will leave the Premiership in 2022.
The petition to wound up the company was filed on the same day that the UK government named impartial advisors to support rugby after Worcester and Wasps folded early last season.
Within a span of 21 days, both clubs faced administration and were ultimately kicked out of the Premier League.
When the RFU withdrew a conditional offer of a spot in the Championship for the upcoming season, Wasps' doom as a top domestic team was sealed last month.
Alternatively, the two-time European and six-time English champions will compete "at the bottom of the pyramid" following their relegation to English rugby's 10th division.
In October, a month after Worcester experienced the same fate, Wasps entered administration.
After being taken over in December, they were denied the chance to move up to the second tier because the new owners could not show they could afford to pay their debts and other financial obligations.
After going into administration in September, just a few months after winning the Premiership Rugby Cup—their first significant honour—the RFU suspended Worcester.
Contracts for players and employees were terminated after a portion of the club was dissolved due to an unpaid £6 million tax debt.
Worcester was formally taken over by the Atlas Group in May after reaching an agreement with administrators Begbies Traynor in February.
The club's return date and the division in which it will play are unknown.
Following the club's demise, Atlas, led by former Warriors chief executive Jim O'Toole, withdrew from discussions with the RFU about competing in the Championship the following season and abandoned their plans to rename as Sixways Rugby.
Although there are still plans to merge with the first squad of regional tier-five club Stourbridge, nothing formal has been declared, and The RFU has warned Atlas that they would not be allowed to "buy their way" up higher in the league to begin at Tier 10 at the bottom.
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