Northern Ireland news

Diageo ditch London Irish after Paddy Jackson signing

Former Ulster and Ireland fly half Paddy Jackson who has signed for London Irish Rugby Club.

Drinks company Diageo has cancelled all sponsorship of the London Irish Rugby Club as a response to the signing of former Ulster player Paddy Jackson.

The club signed Jackson in May of this year from French club Perpignan, just over a year after the 27-year-old's contract with the Irish RFU was terminated in the wake of a high profile rape trial.

The fly-half was acquitted of rape by a Belfast court last year, alongside three other men who had been charged in relation to the incident at Jackson's house.

Stuart Olding, who was at the time also contracted to Ulster Rugby, was also acquitted of rape.

Both men had their professional contracts cancelled over lurid messages exchanged via text and social media, which were revealed in court.

Jackson's former coaches Declan Kidney and Les Kiss had both moved to London Irish prior to the signing.

Mr Kidney said at the time "both myself and Les are looking forward to working with him in the future".

Howver, Diageo, the makers of Guinness, had said earlier this week that they would meet the club and had "serious concerns" at the signing.

Read more: Gillen Review recommends banning public from rape trials

Last night the drinks giants released a statement confirming its decision to terminate sponsorship.

"We have met with the club to express our concerns. Their recent decision is not consistent with our values and so we have ended our sponsorship".

London Irish this morning said it was disappointed by Diageo's action and had been "open and honest will all of its sponsors".

"London Irish’s management is understandably disappointed that Diageo has chosen not to renew its sponsorship agreement with the club, and particularly the manner in which the company has chosen to do so.

"The club has always respected the right for everyone to have an opinion, and their right to express that opinion," the statement continued.

"London Irish will be moving on without the support of Diageo, who have chosen to stand down after a nearly 30 year association with the club. It is regretful that this relationship has ended in the manner that it has."

Diageo is the second sponsor to ditch the club since the Jackson signing.

Cash Converters, terminated its relationship with London Irish in recent weeks. London Irish claimed the decision of Cash Converters to stop sponsoring the club was made before the announcement of player signings, including Mr Jackson's.

However, in a statement on Twitter Cash Converters said: "As a company, we are committed to the highest possible standards when it comes to our investments in any sponsorships and collaborations. As a result of a detailed and thorough review of our support for London Irish, we have decided to discontinue our association with the club".

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