Diageo cuts ties with London Irish over Jackson signing

London (AFP) –


Drinks giant Diageo has terminated a sponsorship deal with rugby club London Irish after the signing of Paddy Jackson, who was acquitted in a rape trial last year.

Jackson and former Ulster teammate Stuart Olding were found not guilty of raping a woman in 2016 in Belfast after a night out following their return from Ireland's tour of South Africa.

However, both players were sacked from their Ulster and Irish Rugby Football Union contracts following an internal review in April 2018.

The high-profile court case brought to light a number of sexually explicit and offensive WhatsApp exchanges between the players.

"We have met with the club to express our concerns," a Diageo spokesperson told AFP.

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

Jackson, 27, played for Perpignan in France's Top 14 league for the past year before signing a two-year deal to join London Irish last month.

"London Irish?s management is understandably disappointed that Diageo has chosen not to renew its sponsorship agreement with the club, and particularly the manner in which the company has chosen to do so," a London Irish spokesman told AFP.

"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.

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

Another sponsor, Cash Converters, also terminated its contract with London Irish last month.

The club will return to the English Premiership next season after winning promotion in April.