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Sponsor Diageo to meet London Irish over signing of Paddy Jackson

Former Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson
Former Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

The makers of Guinness have said that they will meet with London Irish chiefs this week over "serious concerns" regarding the signing of former Ulster star Paddy Jackson.

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The newly-promoted Premiership club last month announced the signing of the ex-Ireland international, who, along with his then Ulster and Ireland team-mate Stuart Olding, was found not guilty of rape at a trial in Belfast in 2018.

Diageo, in a statement released on Monday, has highlighted its concerns without making direct reference to Guinness's place as the Official beer of London Irish.

"We are meeting the club this week to discuss our serious concerns regarding their decision, which is not consistent with our values,” read the statement.

The London Irish website says  Guinness's "proud sponsorship" of the club began in 1992. As the club's longest standing sponsor, the website says Guinness is 'truly a part of the London Irish family'.

A London Irish spokesman said: "London Irish's management were aware that Diageo would be releasing a statement regarding the meeting scheduled for this week.

"There has been ongoing dialogue with all of our sponsors regarding the Paddy Jackson signing, as part of our continued commitment to work closely with all of our partners."

Last week, London Irish said Cash Converters' decision to discontinue its association with the club was not related to Jackson's signing.

Cash converters responded to a number of tweets about the club's decision to bring in the fly-half, saying it had decided - after a thorough review - to discontinue its association with the club.

"The club would like to clarify that the decision to part ways at the end of 2018/19 season was made before the announcement of player signings in May 2019, and for reasons unrelated to player signings," a club statement read.

Jackson will be linking up with former Ulster coach Les Kiss and ex-Irish coach Declan Kidney at London Irish.

When Ulster Rugby's new CEO Jonny Petrie spoke to the press in February, he effectively closed the door on a return to the club for either Jackson or Olding.

"I've been brought here to move this place forward and to do that I don't see that we should be reopening old wounds that have caused division within the sport and across society," he said.

"We want to draw a line in the sand and make this place about the rugby. We need to move this club forward."

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