London Irish players ‘were given an ULTIMATUM to accept 50 per cent of their wages or risk seeing the club fold’ in crisis talks… as the ailing Premiership club is granted one-week stay of execution amid takeover hope
- Mail Sport revealed the RFU has granted London Irish a week’s stay of execution
- The hope is a buy-out by American consortium can be completed to save club
- Reports say the players were given an ultimatum over their May salaries
London Irish players ‘were handed an ultimatum over their pay at a crisis meeting’ as the club’s future hangs in the balance.
The Premiership club was granted a dramatic stay of execution on Tuesday, as revealed by Mail Sport, so an American consortium can complete a takeover.
The RFU granted a week’s extension to complete a deal and avoid following the fate of Worcester and Wasps in dropping out of English rugby’s top-flight.
It came after the prospective buyers provided further financial information though senior RFU figures remain sceptical of their ability to take over the club.
But, as reported by The Times, there was a further twist on Tuesday night when Irish backtracked on a crucial commitment to pay their squad full May salaries.
London Irish players were reportedly given an ultimatum over their salaries as the crisis-stricken Premiership club was granted a week-long stay of execution to complete a takeover
The players were reportedly called to a crisis meeting on Tuesday night and told the club will fold if they don’t accept the offer of half wages now with the rest paid later
Paying player and staff salaries on time was a condition of the RFU granting the stay of execution.
The Times report that London Irish employees were told at lunchtime on Tuesday that Mick Crossan, who owns the club via his company Powerday, would cover the £500,000 payroll for May in full.
The players reacted with a mood of ‘cautious optimism’ they would receive their money on Wednesday as planned.
However, by dinner time, the offer of full salaries had been retracted. The players were called into an emergency meeting at 15 minutes’ notice and given an ultimatum.
They were reportedly asked to accept 50 per cent of their May salaries and not to submit breach-of-contract letters, on the promise that the new owners would cover the remainder in due course.
The Times said the players were told if they refused to accept the compromise, they’d receive no pay at all and the club would fold.
Indications were that the squad was leaning towards accepting the deal.
Irish had been told by the RFU they must meet a deadline of 5pm on Tuesday and prove either the American consortium had the finances to buy them or Crossan could fund the team for next season.
Club owner Mike Crossan must show he can finance the club next season or secure a sale
Mail Sport revealed on Tuesday that English rugby’s governing body had extended the deadline for the takeover to be completed by seven days.
However, there remains serious doubts the prospective buyers will be able to finalise the takeover in the additional time they have been granted given they have previously failed to tick the right RFU boxes in the last two months or more.
Mail Sport understands Crossan is nonetheless hopeful that will happen but what is certain is that Irish have been given an unexpected lifeline.
The RFU’s willingness to move on the strict deadline they had previously imposed on Irish reflects their desperation not to see a third Premiership club fall out of existence this season.
A letter to Irish’s players, which has been seen by Mail Sport, spelled out the uncertainty still facing Declan Kidney’s squad and the staff at the club.
‘The hope is the aforementioned information surrounding the funds will provide Mick with the comfort and backstop that the funds are in place from the investors’ side and he can do what he needs to do in the meantime to sustain us,’ the letter read.
‘Appreciate we are still working on verbal assurances here and not cold hard facts but we are at the deadline now. We have no further room for manoeuvre.
Irish supporters face an anxious wait to find out if their club will keep their place in the Premiership next season
‘My gut feeling is it would be very strange to be providing these assurances if the wheels weren’t well in motion to getting it (the takeover) done.’
Getting the deal done is what everyone at Irish, their prospective buyers, and the RFU wants but it is now up to those from the US to make the most of the extra time given to them.
If they don’t, Irish will tread the same disastrous path as Worcester and Wasps leaving them on the verge of falling out of existence and their players – chief among them Henry Arundell – being targets for other clubs. There is also the very real danger of many losing their jobs in rugby altogether.
London Irish Q&A
What’s the latest on London Irish?
The Exiles are still alive, but only just. The RFU’s willingness to give Irish’s prospective American owners a seven-day extension to the deadline previously handed to them to complete their takeover provides a ray of hope. It is one the US consortium interested in the Premiership club must take.
What happens next?
The US consortium – which contains high-profile figures from American sport – must prove to the RFU they have the funds to take on the club by the close of play on June 6.
The club are unlikely to be awarded a second extension by the RFU if they are unsuccessful
The RFU had previously said the deadline was 5pm Tuesday but have now allowed that to be moved by a week. It means the next seven days are do-or-die for Irish. If they can’t satisfy English rugby’s governing body by next Tuesday, it’s game over.
Will the takeover go through?
Irish’s current owner Mick Crossan will fund the June salaries of the players and staff which are due Wednesday to provide financial security for club employees while their futures remain in a state of limbo.
Crossan, Irish’s US investors, and the RFU are confident the extra time can allow the takeover to be completed but that is far from guaranteed. The clock is now ticking once again.
What happens if next week’s deadline isn’t met?
It is almost certain the RFU won’t allow Irish a second extension having surprisingly allowed wiggle room to the first deadline they had given of May 30.
If the US group can’t complete their takeover by 5pm on June 6, Irish will be suspended from the Premiership and follow Worcester and Wasps in tumbling out of English rugby’s top-flight.
Plenty of London Irish players face the prospect of needing to find a new club next season
Such a scenario would see Irish’s players and staff lose their jobs and the club likely plunging to the bottom of the English rugby pyramid.
Some players, like Henry Arundell, would be quickly snapped up by other clubs but many would find it tough to find employment elsewhere given the cash-strapped nature of the English rugby landscape.
What is the RFU doing to ensure the club doesn’t go bust?
The RFU is desperate to avoid losing a third Premiership club, hence why they have allowed movement on Irish’s deadline.
Work continues around the clock to ensure that doesn’t happen, both at Twickenham, in the corridors of power at Premiership Rugby, and in the US.
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