London Irish Rugby club’s decision to recruit Paddy Jackson has cost the club a near 30-year relationship with drinks giant Diageo which had been one of its main sponsors.
Jackson and his fellow former Ulster and Ireland teammate Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted by a jury of raping the same woman at a house party in the summer of 2016 after a high-profile trial in Belfast.
However, the pair were subsequently sacked by Ulster and Ireland amid controversy over a series of explicit WhatsApp messages that were revealed during the trial.
Both players then headed to France where Jackson signed for Perpingnan in June 2018.
Earlier this week Diageo said it had serious concerns about London Irish’s decision to sign the 27-year-old while another sponsor Cash Converters UK said it was discontinuing its association with the club saying it was “committed to the highest possible standards when it comes to our investments in any sponsorships and collaborations”.
Last night Diageo confirmed its relationship with London Irish was over.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
London Irish said it had offered to meet the drinks giant on the issue, but Diageo did not take up that offer.
“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,” it said.
“The club has always respected the right for everyone to have an opinion, and their right to express that opinion.
“London Irish has been open and honest with all of its sponsors, including offering to meet Diageo’s senior management in Dublin in May, 2019. This offer was not taken up.