London Irish file for administration after Premiership suspension

London Irish file for administration after Premiership suspension
London Irish file for administration after Premiership suspension

London Irish have filed for administration following their suspension by the Rugby Football Union from all leagues for failing to provide proof of funds and ownership for next season.

Mick Crossan, who has owned the club since 2013, said he had been left with no other option after the failure of a takeover from US consortium NUE Equity, headed by Californian lawyer Chip Sloan.

With debts of more than £30 million and facing a wind-up petition from HMRC for an unpaid tax bill, Crossan, in an open letter to staff and players, said it was no longer “feasible for me to continue absorbing the multi-million-pound losses of the club each year, indefinitely.”

Crossan explained his frustration at the failure of the takeover after receiving repeated verbal assurances it would be completed in time to meet the RFU’s deadline on Tuesday, which had already been extended by one week. He also called for a radical overhaul of the professional game in England.

“Over the last seven months, I have been working closely with the RFU, PRL and representatives of NUE Equity to complete a widely publicised deal to acquire the club,” said Crossan in a statement.

“As we neared the completion of the deal, I continually received promises, from both NUE Equity and Redstrike, that the acquisition would be completed imminently, and that funds would arrive within days. Right up to [Tuesday’s] final deadline, we continued to receive verbal assurances from the group. I have trusted that these were not hollow promises and agreed to financially support the club throughout to ensure it could finish the season and give the group time to conclude the deal.

“Sadly, the promises have failed to materialise, and, despite our very best efforts, it was not possible to meet the conditions set by the RFU Club Financial Viability Group [on Tuesday] afternoon.”

Crossan also warned that other clubs were also in a precarious position and called on the administrators of the game to “urgently review their practices from top to bottom.”

“Collectively, owners of clubs are working very hard to transform their models, but the lack of real support, at times, is non-existent,” he said. “It speaks volumes that Ralph Rimmer and Chris Pilling have been appointed by the Government as independent advisers to work on the future stability of rugby union in the UK.

“The professional game in this country needs to be radically transformed. And the current leadership must urgently review its practices from top to bottom if it has a desire to see professional rugby continue in England.”

‘A club that could bring people together’

Barry Everitt with London Irish - GETTY IMAGES/Jamie McDonald
Barry Everitt with London Irish - GETTY IMAGES/Jamie McDonald

Barry Everitt, London Irish’s record points-scorer, has spoken of his heartbreak at the club’s suspension from the domestic game.

Everitt, 47, who holds the record for the most points scored in a single Premiership season with 343 in 2001/2002, said that the club “occupied a particularly special part” of his life and those of his team-mates.

“I am absolutely gutted for a club with such a long history and such a strong community of players past and present,” said Everitt, who was nicknamed “the Boot” due to his goal-kicking accuracy.

“It is devastating when you think of the special history of the club going back to when they were competing for trophies and the lean years, too. It was always a club that could bring people together.

“Sunbury was an incredible base for the community of players from all around the world, whether they were English or Irish or from overseas. It was a great glueing agent for people of all different backgrounds. You had Australians, Kiwis, Pacific Islanders and players from right across the world coming together and forming friendships and bonds that are still there.

“When the news first came out that the club was in difficulties, there was a flurry of texts between us all just saying how the club occupied a particularly special part of all our lives.

“It built a genuine community and that extended to our supporters. They were what made the club so special and those are the people I probably feel most sorry for right now having spent so many years following the club. They would make their way to Sunbury to see matches, to Reading and now to Chiswick. To have that taken away is really heartbreaking.”

Everitt’s heartache was mirrored by current Exiles. Oli Hoskins, the Australian tighthead who joined the London Irish during a Championship stint in 2016, added on Twitter that the club was a “legitimate home away from home”.

“I’m completely devastated,” wrote the 30-year-old, who is set to hold talks with Saracens. “This club meant more to me than just a job. It was legit a home away from home and had people involved that I considered a part of my family.

“Thank you to all the fans, players & coaches over the last seven years. It’s been incredible. I love you all.”

Seilala Mapusua, the former Samoa centre who played in Irish’s sole Premiership final appearance in 2009, said he was thinking of everyone connected to the club.

“Such a sad day for this special club,” he wrote on Twitter. “A lot of memories and a big part of my career. Thinking of all those that are a part of and have been involved with London Irish.

“Love to you all. COYI.”