'Their decision is not consistent with our values' - Diageo end London Irish sponsorship over Paddy Jackson signing
Diageo have ended their 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.
Today, Diageo have confirmed that they have ended their sponsorship with London Irish, ending an association dating back to 1992.
In a statement given to Independent.ie, 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."
London Irish said they were "understandably disappointed" by the 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," they 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."
International Rugby Newsletter
The signing of Jackson was part of a major transfer push by the club following their promotion, with Irish international Sean O’Brien also signing for London Irish.
The Leinster player is currently under investigation by the IRFU into allegations that he urinated on a man in a Dublin pub last month.
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 decision from Diageo comes just days after another sponsor parted ways with the club.
Online shopping site Cash Converters pulled the plug on its deal with the club last week.
Replying to a tweet that referenced the messages from Paddy Jackson at the centre of the IRFU probe, Cash Converters confirmed they will not continue their 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," read the 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.
"We are fully aware that there was a court case that Paddy was involved in but that has been dealt with," he said.
"What has gone on in the past had gone on in the past and we are just trying to move on to the future.
"We are trying to put the best team together and when someone with a bit of international experience becomes available and is willing to buy into what we are doing, we are very happy to have them."
London Irish CEO Brian Fraser also backed the decision to bring the 27-year-old to the club.
"We’ll judge the man when he’s here and the way he conducts himself but I’m fairly sure we’re comfortable with who he’ll be," Fraser said.