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Mick Crossan pens open letter as London Irish go into administration

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

London Irish owner Mick Crossan has written an open letter explaining the financial hardship that resulted in the club getting suspended on Tuesday evening by the RFU and then deciding to fall into administration on Wednesday.

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The governing body of the game in England had given the Exiles a June 6 deadline extension to either complete its mooted takeover by an American-led consortium or else provide evidence that it had the ability to self-fund itself next term.

The news that Crossan last week only paid 50 per cent of the player and staff wages for May and the follow-up revelation that the HMRC would be taking action for an unpaid tax bill worsened the outlook in the lead-up to Tuesday’s deadline.

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With promised monies from the consortium subsequently failing to materialise despite repeated promises and with Crossan pulling the plug on his investment, the situation resulted in the RFU suspending London Irish from all competitions in 2023/24.

Its consequence has been to kill off the interest from the American consortium and Crossan has now decided his only option is to place London Irish into administration.

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In a 600-word letter, he explained what had happened in recent months and took exception to comments made on Tuesday night by RFU chair Tom Ilube regarding the precarious nature of the professional game in England. Crossan began: “As a lifeline fan of London Irish, the club’s suspension is bitterly disappointing, and I understand the sadness felt by the thousands of our loyal supporters and the frustrations of our incredible coaches, medical staff, back-office team, and players.

“But this decision has ultimately ended any hope of an acquisition of the club and has regrettably forced us to file for administration this morning.

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“Over the last seven months, I have been working closely with the RFU, PRL and representatives of NUE Equity to complete a widely publicised deal to acquire the club.

“Negotiations have been complex from the start, further complicated by issues regarding our tenancy at Brentford’s stadium and unrealistic demands from the governing body. But throughout, I have remained confident a deal could be made that would secure the long-term future of London Irish.

“As we neared the completion of the deal, I continually received promises, from both NUE Equity and Redstrike, that the acquisition would be completed imminently, and that funds would arrive within days.

“Right up to Tuesday’s final deadline, we continued to receive verbal assurances from the group. I have trusted that these were not hollow promises and agreed to financially support the club throughout to ensure it could finish the season and give the group time to conclude the dead.

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“Sadly, the promises have failed to materialise and, despite our very best efforts, it was not possible to meet the conditions set by the RFU club financial viability group Tuesday afternoon.

“Its subsequent disappointing decision to force our suspension has proved to be the tipping point where we will not be able to meet our current and future financial obligations. And after assessing our options last night, we agreed that administration offered the safest path forward for the club.

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“Since acquiring London Irish in 2013, I have made a significant financial investment to ensure we could compete at the highest level once again. We have worked tirelessly over the last few years to develop a more sustainable business model, trying to tap into the Irish community, developing new revenue streams, investing in our fantastic academy to develop future stars, and of course bringing the club back to its spiritual home in West London after 20 years away.

“However, the reality is that professional rugby in this country is going through a hugely challenging time and, as we know, many clubs are sadly still struggling to get back on a stable path following the pandemic.

“I have publicly stated, on numerous occasions, that I would be willing to pass on the stewardship of the club if we could find the right person or group to take it forward and secure its long-term future. After a decade of supporting the club financially, it is not feasible for me to continue absorbing the multi-million-pound losses of the club each year, indefinitely.

“The comments from the RFU chair, Tom Ilube, last night completely overlook the precarious situation other clubs are currently in.

“Collectively, owners of clubs are working very hard to transform their models, but the lack of real support, at times, is non-existent. And it speaks volumes that Ralph Rimmer and Chris Pilling have been appointed by the Government as independent advisers to work on the future stability of rugby union in the UK.

“The professional game in this country needs to be radically transformed. And the current leadership must urgently review its practices from top to bottom if it has a desire to see professional rugby continue in England.

“Administration has always been the last resort and something we hoped we could avoid. And we bitterly regret the difficulties it will present to each and every one of you.”

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