London Irish: Talks ongoing amid unpaid wages ahead of Premiership clash with Exeter
London Irish chiefs and Premiership Rugby bosses are battling to convince the club’s players to go ahead with Saturday’s league clash against Exeter.
Irish’s players and staff have still not been paid April’s wages, that should have cleared on Friday.
The Exiles’ prospective new owners covered Irish’s salary payment for March, and have agreed to continue bankrolling the top-flight outfit’s payroll.
The US consortium lined up to take the helm insists the delays are administrative banking issues, with payments coming from America.
But Irish’s players remain unconvinced, and were locked in further talks with representatives of both the current and prospective ownership groups this morning.
Rugby director Declan Kidney insisted the club has full insurance in place for Saturday’s match, and expects the players to fulfil the fixture.
The former Ireland head coach confirmed staff salaries have yet to be paid for April, with no date yet given by the Exiles hierarchy for receipt.
With Irish’s current and prospective owners seemingly unable to agree on any public statement, Kidney delivered a composed summation of the situation worthy of respect.
“Payday was last Friday and we have not received payment yet, players and staff,” said Kidney.
“But we have been given a lot of assurances from the prospective new ownership that that will happen over the coming days.
“We have been working towards the game going ahead.
“All insurances are paid up to date, and we are looking forward to the game going ahead on Saturday.
“The season started with conversations like this, so obviously there’s concerns around it, but they are not in our control.
“But we’ve had a lot of verbal assurances that things are working towards a positive conclusion.
“We are the professional arm of a club that’s 124 years old; we know our responsibilities.
“The people that work here are salt of the earth, fantastic people.
“Nobody is looking to have their hand held, they are just getting on with it.”
Irish’s takeover had been provisionally pushed back to July due to administrative work, delays that current owner Mick Crossan had wanted to avoid.
Premiership and RFU bosses are understood to be prepared to put pressure on both the current and prospective owners to solve the salary shortfall without delay, to set the Exiles onto a surer footing.
Irish’s players are now at liberty to submit breach-of-contract letters to their employers, with lawyers advising that as the best way forward.
The Brentford-based club would then have 14 days to complete the late salary payments, or risk players being able to walk away from the club.
London Irish’s players have raised concerns about whether they are fully insured for Saturday’s final Premiership match of the season, against Exeter Chiefs at the Gtech Community Stadium.
The club’s hierarchy and Premiership Rugby have both moved to allay fears, insisting all relevant insurances are still valid despite the delay in salary payments.
Irish’s players are yet to be convinced however, and also remain sceptical about the reasoning behind the overdue salary payments.
The growing crisis at Irish appears eerily similar to the plight of Worcester, one of two Premiership clubs that have already gone bust this season.
Worcester’s owners continually promised to settle financial shortcomings, only for those vows to fall short.
After players submitted breach-of-contract letters, the ownership paid the debts to the playing squad in full – but are understood to have left other club staff out of pocket.
Worcester eventually went bust in September, later to be thrown out of the Premiership.
Jim O’Toole’s Atlas Group consortium finally completed the Warriors purchase from administrators Begbies Traynor on Wednesday, but Worcester could yet fail to return as a rugby club at all.
The Atlas Group have refused to meet RFU criteria required to enter the second-tier Championship next season.
Worcester’s most likely route back therefore would be to start at the bottom of rugby’s pyramid, at level 10 in the grassroots game.