(Reuters) - Bristol Bears will take the place of London Irish in next season's Champions Cup, European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) said on Friday, weeks after Pat Lam's side narrowly missed out on qualification for the European competition.
London Irish were this week thrown out of the English Premiership after the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said the club had failed to meet a deadline to pay their players and prove they had a financially viable future.
Bears came ninth in the Premiership standings, missing out on the last Champions Cup spot to Bath, who thrashed Saracens 61-29 in their last game of the season to finish eighth on points difference after Ollie Lawrence's last-gasp try.
"As Bristol Bears are the highest-ranked club in the Premiership league table at the conclusion of the regular season which did not qualify for the 2023/24 Champions Cup, they will now replace London Irish in next season’s tournament," the EPCR said in a statement.
The RFU said on Friday that it would run London Irish's Developing Player Programme (DDP) and academy sides.
(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Nashik, India; Editing by Ken Ferris)