Rugby: London Irish hit with winding up petitions

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - English Premiership rugby club London Irish were hit with three winding up petitions from the Government's tax authority HMRC on Friday, furthering the likelihood of their financial demise before the RFU's June 6 deadline.

According to filings at London's High Court, HMRC applied to wind up the club's parent company London Irish Holdings Ltd, and two other related companies.

On Wednesday the RFU, after being asked by the club's players and staff for more time, granted the club an extra week to show evidence of a much-discussed takeover by an American consortium or that they had the finance in place under current owner Mick Crossan to continue through the 2023-24 season.

If neither happened the RFU said the club, who finished fifth this season, would be suspended, becoming the third Premiership club to be ejected after Wasps and Worcester became subject to HMRC winding up orders late last year.

Players and staff were given half their May salaries this week, with the promise that the shortfall would be made up.

"The 4pm (1500GMT) deadline on June 6 is final and we have added the stipulation that the club must also fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees by paying the May salaries in full," the RFU said in a statement on Wednesday.

An HRMC spokesperson said they could not comment on the individual case but added: "We take a supportive approach to dealing with customers who have tax debts and only file winding-up petitions once we’ve exhausted all other options, in order to protect taxpayers’ money."

London Irish did not reply to a request for comment.

($1 = 0.7923 pounds)

(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, additional reporting by Sam Tobin, editing by Ken Ferris)