Hope fading at London Irish as players told to prepare for club's suspension by RFU

·3-min read
London Irish players - Getty Images/David Rogers
London Irish players - Getty Images/David Rogers

Hope is fading at London Irish, with players told to prepare for the club to be suspended by the Rugby Football Union if  it fails to meet next Tuesday’s deadline on a takeover deal.

Representatives from the RFU, the Rugby Players’ Association and Premiership Rugby, in the shape of chief executive Simon Massie-Taylor, joined a meeting with club staff on Friday evening.

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There, despite assurances from an Irish figurehead that the takeover was “active” just hours earlier via email, growing pessimism was spelled out. As far as the RFU is concerned, “zero progression” has been made. There remains a lack of information over the funds of the US consortium purportedly interested in acquiring the club from Mick Crossan.

Crossan himself is thought to have been invited to join the meeting, but was not involved, raising further questions over his willingness to finance the club if the consortium’s takeover falls through.

The prospect of a third Premiership club going to the wall within a year, following Worcester Warriors and Wasps to leave more players and staff thrust into unemployment, is becoming more real. Indeed, a source suggested that many front-line players at Irish “have things lined up”.

Henry Arundell, the explosive 20-year-old who made his first England start against Ireland in the Six Nations, would be a prize recruit for any Premiership rivals with room under the salary cap. Back-rowers Tom Pearson and Matt Rogerson, like Arundell in contention to make Steve Borthwick’s World Cup training squad, are two more leading lights at Irish.

Earlier on Friday, shortly after 2pm, staff were told that over a takeover deal remained “active”, but that no funds have materialised with just four days until the RFU’s deadline of May 30.

In an email to club staff from acting chief executive Adrian Alli, which has been seen by Telegraph Sport, it was said that Crossan has been working around the clock in order to “progress” a deal with US buyers. However, it was conceded that clarity over the required funds was still forthcoming.

“The deal is still active, with Mick speaking to the US into the night and early hours of the morning to progress,” reads the email from Alli.

“We have not received the funds as yet, nor confirmation of the funds, but have had email communication this morning to indicate that these are expected imminently and now have more details over the remitting bank.

“I have no detail as to the reason for the delay other than needing to go through certain approvals for fund release.”

The email then suggested that a Zoom call between Crossan and the squad would be set up for next week in order to shed further light on an increasingly bleak situation.

Earlier this month, the RFU imposed a deadline of May 30 for the takeover to be completed or for the current ownership to show evidence that Irish could be funded through next season. Failure to do so would result in the club being suspended from participation in the Premiership and any other competitions.

Telegraph Sport has previously revealed that the head of the US consortium aiming to buy Irish is Alfred ‘Chip’ Sloan, a California-based lawyer and former sports agent. Players and staff at Irish are due to be paid by next Wednesday, having only received their wages for April late after Crossan stumped up to pay them.