London Irish takeover: Star-studded consortium in talks to secure crucial funding for Exiles’ future

NFL legend Ray Lewis is among the members of the star-studded consortium trying to buy London Irish (Getty Images)
NFL legend Ray Lewis is among the members of the star-studded consortium trying to buy London Irish (Getty Images)

The consortium of former NFL and NBA stars bidding for London Irish are locked in talks to secure institutional funding crucial to the Exiles’ future.

Irish will be suspended from the Gallagher Premiership if they cannot complete the takeover by May 30, or prove sufficient funds for the 2023/24 season.

Two-time Super Bowl winner and ex-Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis is at the centre of the consortium aiming to take the Exiles’ helm, with former NBA stars Julius Erving, Allen Iverson and Dikembe Mutombo also involved.

The US sports stars turned business executives are all linked to NUE Capital, an investment firm whose initials stand for Network of Untapped Entrepreneurs.

Lewis and his consortium partners are working to finalise funding to complete their long-mooted takeover of Irish, and spokespeople for the group continue to insist the deal will go through on time.

The consortium chiefs are understood to be confident of meeting the RFU’s May 30 deadline – a timeline to which they insist they have always been working.

London Irish will be suspended from the Premiership if their takeover is not completed by May 30 (Getty Images)
London Irish will be suspended from the Premiership if their takeover is not completed by May 30 (Getty Images)

California lawyer Alfred ‘Chip’ Sloan has been attempting to help broker the deal for the US sports stars and NUE Capital.

The RFU has been left frustrated with Irish’s prospective owners’ lack of detail on their bid however, with the English governing body still waiting for key information on the consortium structure.

The NUE Capital team is yet to declare the figurehead of the consortium, though all the sports stars involved are described as among the main leaders.

A suspension from next season would plunge Irish’s very future into serious doubt, raising still further the already existing fears that a third Premiership club could go bust inside 12 months.

Premiership Rugby bosses have contingency plans for that eventuality, but have been pushing Irish’s current and prospective owners hard for details on the deal.

The Premiership would be expected to reduce to 10 teams for next season should Irish drop out of the league structure. Rival clubs would likely be given dispensation in salary cap terms to recruit Irish players should the worst happen and the club fold.

Irish owner Mick Crossan has been looking to sell the club all season, with the Brentford-based outfit in debt to the tune of £30million but also owning the prized Hazelwood Centre training ground, a facility suitably decked out to host NFL training camps.

The Exiles players and staff went six days without pay at the start of the month, with the prospective owners failing to deliver promises to cover April’s payroll.

Crossan stepped in at the 11th hour to fulfil his ownership responsibilities, but only when the players were poised to submit breach-of-contract notices.

Irish finished fifth this term in their best campaign since 2009, boasting a talented set-up of coaches and players, and one of the league’s most sophisticated academy systems.