Northern Ireland

Diageo part with London Irish over Paddy Jackson transfer

Paddy Jackson has made 25 appearances for Ireland Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jackson joined Perpignan after having his Ulster and Ireland contract revoked by the IRFU

Drinks giant Diageo has ended its sponsorship of the London Irish rugby team over the signing of former Ulster star Paddy Jackson.

Jackson was found not guilty of rape last year, but had his contract revoked by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU).

A spokesperson for Diageo said they met with the club to express concerns.

"Their recent decision is not consistent with our values and so we have ended our sponsorship."

In a statement to the BBC, London Irish said its management was "understandably disappointed" with Diageo's decision.

The club said that an offer to meet Diageo's senior management in Dublin in May was not taken up.

"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, a spokesperson said.

Mark Simpson, BBC Newsline Reporter: Irish knew there would be a backlash

The signs are that London Irish will stand by Paddy Jackson in spite of the commercial pressure.

It is clear that the club anticipated a backlash over the signing and were prepared for it.

Paddy Jackson was not at pre-season training, which began on Wednesday, but is expected to join soon.

A lot could happen off the pitch before the new season kicks off in September, but London Irish seem determined to have the 25-times capped Irish out-half in their team.

"It is regretful that this relationship has ended in the manner that it has."

Last month another sponsor, Cash Converters, terminated its contract with London Irish.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Paddy Jackson was unanimously acquitted of rape

A spokesperson later said the company was "committed to the highest possible standards" and there was "a series of reasons" for cancellation.

London Irish said the decision to part ways with Cash Converters was unrelated to the signing of fly-half Jackson.

Text messages

The IRFU's decision to revoke Mr Jackson's contract was linked to social media and text messages revealed in the rape trial last April.

In a statement after the trial, the rugby player said he would "always regret" the events of that night and apologised "unreservedly" for messages he sent in the aftermath.

He is due to join London Irish from Perpignan where he played in the Top 14.

His former Ulster coach Les Kiss and Ireland coach Declan Kidney are in charge at the English club.

The player was given his Ireland debut by Declan Kidney in 2013 and went on to win 25 international caps before his high-profile court case.

Following the court case, then Ulster Rugby chief executive Shane Logan said he "could not envisage" him playing for Ulster or Ireland again.

However, IRFU performance director David Nucifora said last June that he would not rule out him playing for Ireland in the future.

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