Diageo ends London Irish sponsorship over Jackson
BREWING giant Diageo has ended its sponsorship of London Irish over the club's decision to sign former Ulster and Ireland star Paddy Jackson.
Jackson (27) moved to France to play for Perpignan last summer after his contract was cancelled by the IRFU in the fallout of his rape acquittal at a Belfast court last year.
Last month, it was announced he had signed with newly promoted Premiership team London Irish, but earlier this week Diageo, parent company of Guinness, said it had "serious concern" over the signing and would meet club officials to discuss it.
Last night Diageo confirmed it has ended the sponsorship with London Irish, an association dating back to 1992.
In a statement, a Diageo spokesperson 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."
Jackson, along with then Ulster and Ireland team-mate Stuart Olding, was found not guilty of rape at a trial in Belfast in 2018.
The IRFU cancelled both players' contracts due to messages that they exchanged with two other defendants over text and social media, which came to light as part of the court case.
The signing of Jackson was part of a major transfer push by London Irish following their promotion, with Sean O'Brien also signing.
The Leinster player is currently under investigation by the IRFU into allegations that he urinated on a man in a Dublin pub last month.
The decision from Diageo comes just days after another sponsor parted ways with the club.
Cash Converters last week confirmed it would not continue its association with London Irish.
"As a company, we are committed to the highest possible standards when it comes to our investments in any sponsorships and collaborations," it said in a tweet.
"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."
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney, who gave Jackson his international debut during his time as Ireland head coach, previously defended the decision to sign the out-half.
And the club last night said it was "understandably disappointed" by the Diageo decision and regretted the relationship had ended in such a manner.
"The club has always respected the right for everyone to have an opinion, and their right to express that opinion," it said in a statement.
"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."