Diageo, the owner of Guinness, has cancelled its sponsorship of London Irish Rugby Club due to the club's decision to sign former Ulster and Ireland out half Paddy Jackson.
Mr Jackson was acquitted of rape by a Belfast court last year, alongside three other men who had been charged in relation to the incident, including for less serious offences. Stuart Olding, who was at the time also contracted to Ulster Rugby, was also acquitted of rape. Both men had their professional contracts cancelled in the wake of the acquittal.
In a statement to The Irish Times, Diageo said: “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.”
Diageo said earlier this week it had “serious concerns” regarding the signing of Mr Jackson but did not at that time make any reference to its lucrative sponsorship deal with the club.
Cash Converters, another sponsor, terminated its relationship with London Irish in recent weeks. In a statement on Twitter the company 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.”
In a statement on Thursday evening, London Irish said its 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 said.
“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.”
It said the club would move 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,” the statement said.
It added that the club would make no further comment at this time.