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London Irish suspended by RFU

London Irish have been suspended from the Premiership after missing a deadline to pay players and staff.

The club, who were given until Tuesday to complete a takeover or risk being suspended, will not be allowed to play in any league next season.

A US consortium had been trying to buy Irish, who finished fifth in the Premiership during 2022-23.

A statement from governing body the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the takeover had not materialised.

Despite plans announced in 2021 to expand its top division to 14 teams, English rugby faces the prospect of a 10-team Premiership next season after the earlier demise of Worcester Warriors and Wasps.

That outcome was discussed by clubs midway through last season, according to Leicester Tigers chief executive Andrea Pinchen.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney said: "This is desperately sad news for everyone who is part of the London Irish community as well as all the players, fans, staff and volunteers for whom this club means so much."

Sweeney said the RFU had worked with the club, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players' Association to "do the utmost to secure the long-term viability of the club".

"To achieve this, it was imperative that transparent evidence of funding be presented to us," he added.

"This would have been either by the proposed buyers undertaking to provide all required working capital to meet the club's obligations for at least the 2023-24 season; or the club providing evidence that it would continue to fund its operations throughout the 2023-24 season.

"Despite requesting this evidence over the last six months and receiving assurances on multiple occasions that we would receive proof of ownership and funds; it has not materialised."

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