London Irish sponsorship deals threatened by Paddy Jackson signing

London Irish sponsorship deals threatened by Paddy Jackson signing
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 7: Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Laganside courts on March 7, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Ireland and Ulster rugby player is accused of raping a woman in June 2016 at a property in south Belfast along with fellow Ulster and Ireland international Stuart Olding. The defence is scheduled to open it's case today after a delay due to a juror's illness. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

A surprise announcement saw the London Irish English rugby club’s Guinness sponsorship agreement has been canceled, as a direct result of their signing of ‘under fire’ Irish player Paddy Jackson.

25-cap Irish International Paddy Jackson was at the center of court proceedings in 2016, with unproven allegations of rape now having a counter-effect on his 2019 London Irish signing. Announced on May 7, the decision and the associated bad publicity after the court trial – where Jackson was found not guilty – has seen the UK owner of Guinness, Diageo, this week pull their sponsorship deal with the club.

London Irish corporate Guinness sponsorship deal canceled

With any legal investigation or court action, corporate investors and sponsors make business decisions. In the case of Diageo, the International beer brand has become the second major sponsor to remove their support.

Diageo released a statement, describing London Irish’s decision as “not consistent with our values so we have decided to end our sponsorship”. Acquitted of the allegation of rape, Paddy Jackson had been signed although he had lost his IRFU contract at the time.

The recent news provoked reactions both lauding and criticizing the decision. Corporate sponsorship, especially in this case where the long term name association between London Irish and the world-renowned Irish beer brand, could come under pressure due to both public and value-based associations.

Premiership club sign Paddy Jackson after Rape charges acquitted

Former Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were accused of and tried in a complex rape case. They were eventually acquitted of the charges.

“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,” said London Irish chief executive Brian Facer in the club’s first comments on the recent signing of Jackson, who has been playing this season in France with Perpignan [who were relegated from the elite Top 14 league].

“We’ve got strict codes of conduct and obviously he’ll have to adhere to the same code of conduct that we do off the field and on the field,” the London Irish boss told the Irish Times.

It is not for us at Last Word on Rugby to make any comment on their innocence or otherwise. However, their acquittal left lingering questions that sponsors have not been prepared to take the risk on.

As the fallout from the Guinness sponsorship arrangements impacts London Irish, the rights and wrongs of both the signing of Paddy Jackson, and his vindication from the court proceedings, may still have ramifications on both corporate and individual player sponsorship agreements.

For rugby fans, the teams return to the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership has now sadly become secondary. In terms of the sport, that is a shame.

No matter how you see the culture, club values or legal proceedings outcomes, the team still have a huge challenge ahead of them in the Gallagher Premiership. Without the support of major sponsors now, that could become an even ‘bigger hurdle’ than was originally planned when Paddy Jackson was signed back in May.

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