Guinness has ended its sponsorship of London Irish rugby club over the signing of former Ireland International Paddy Jackson, who was cleared of rape last year.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) revoked the Ulster flyhalf’s contract following the trial in Belfast.

Since then he has been playing for Perpignan in France and is due to reunite at London Irish with former Ulster coach Les Kiss and ex-Ireland coach Declan Kidney.

In a statement drinks giant Diageo, which owns the Guinness brand, said: “We have met with the club to express our concerns. Their recent decision is not consistent with our values and so we have ended our sponsorship.”

Guinness have been linked to the club for some 40 years, since before the professional era.

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In response, London Irish said they were “understandably disappointed” by the decision and regretted the relationship had ended in such a manner.

“The club has always respected the right for everyone to have an opinion, and their right to express that opinion,” they said in a statement.

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Stuart Olding was also acquitted of rape
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Stuart Olding was also acquitted of rape

“London Irish has been open and honest with all of its sponsors, including offering to meet Diageo’s senior management in Dublin in May, 2019. This offer was not taken up.”

The trial of Jackson and fellow international Stuart Olding received massive coverage across both Ireland and Northern Ireland, where rugby is one of the few sports with a national team drawn from both sides of the border.

The players were accused of raping the woman in Jackson’s home in the early hours of 28 June 2016.

Jackson repeatedly denied he had forced the woman and that she had followed him to his bedroom on two separate occasions for consensual sex.

They were both found not guilty.