In 1950 the ‘kings of football’ were presented as certain to win, but what followed was calamitous
Roll back 70 years to a grey, austere postwar Britain, still in ruins, still enduring food rationing, queues and misery, a nation where football provided a scarce escape. It was also when, for the first time, England took part in the game’s major global tournament, the World Cup, which began on 19 June 1950 in Brazil.
To hyperbole stirred up by the national prints, England were presented as certain to be returning home triumphantly from South America with the Jules Rimet trophy. Failure was never considered. Here, after all, was the greatest assembly of footballing talent ever to leave England’s shores: Matthews, Finney, Mannion, Mortensen, Wright and Milburn, a confection of Boy’s Own heroes. It was, after all, England’s game.
Fox Sports issues apology for ‘poor taste’ TV sketch
What started out as a fun and inclusive initiative has turned sour after the NRL’s scheme to put cardboard cut-outs of fans in stadiums was hijacked.
Over the weekend a photograph of mass murderer Harold Shipman made an appearance in the stands, then a TV sketch featured an image of Adolf Hitler, prompting furious criticism from Australia’s Jewish community.
Barça play Real Mallorca at 10pm on Saturday 13 June
Real Madrid to host Eibar at training ground on 14 June
Barcelona will resume their bid to defend the Spanish title on Saturday 13 June with a trip to Real Mallorca, while Real Madrid will host Eibar the following day as La Liga confirmed dates for the first two rounds of fixtures after the restart.
Ernesto Valverde’s side will kick off their first game back at 10pm local time (9pm BST). Real Madrid’s match with Eibar will kick off at 7.30pm (6.30pm BST), with Atlético’s trip to face Athletic Bilbao at 1pm (12pm BST).
Hamilton: ‘I see those of you who are staying silent’
Driver condemns response from ‘white-dominated sport’
Lewis Hamilton has spoken out on the killing of George Floyd, and offered a damning condemnation of the silence from others in Formula One, including his fellow drivers.
“I see those of you who are staying silent, some of you the biggest of stars yet you stay silent in the midst of injustice,” he wrote. “Not a sign from anybody in my industry which of course is a white-dominated sport.”
“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” wrote Jordan in a statement posted by the Charlotte Hornets, the NBA team he owns. “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”
EFL confirms plan to restart three days after Premier League
Games behind closed doors with broadcast plans still unclear
The EFL has announced the Championship season is set to resume on 20 June and will end “on or around 30 July” with the play-off final.
“Following Saturday’s announcement by the Government to allow elite sporting events to return behind closed doors, the EFL has this weekend agreed to a provisional restart date of the weekend of 20 June 2020 for matches in the Sky Bet Championship,” an official statement said.
Andrew Flintoff had struggled through his final Test but then he ran out Ricky Ponting and it provided a memory for the ages
I was a relative latecomer to Test cricket. The 2005 Ashes kickstarted it all; the summer of Michael Vaughan’s heroes coincided with the birth of my first son, a blur of hot, restless nights spent watching recorded Channel 4 coverage (the last year Test cricket was shown on free-to-air TV) while trying to jiggle a baby back to sleep. I never made it to a game that year but the seed was sown.
For some reason, in those years of small children, a full day out of the house, getting gently drunk with a few friends and a bag of sausage rolls, became an incredibly compelling prospect. There was also the cricket, of course. Each summer I started block-booking tickets for a day at my local ground, the Oval. Takers down at the Dads’ Club were never hard to find.
Newcastle hosts under strict protocols and no spectators
Cost of closure since mid-March put at £50m by BHA
Shortly after 1.05pm on Monday, one of a dozen horses will cross the winning line at Newcastle racecourse and racing will become the first major professional sport in Britain to log a result in its record books since the middle of March. A few hours later, there will be handshake-free conclusions to the first matches in snooker’s Championship League tournament in Milton Keynes. Sport, of a kind, is finally returning and until the Premier League resumes on 17 June racing will have the spotlight largely to itself.
As well as an opportunity to attract new fans, Monday’s 10-race card in the north-east will come as an immense relief for the tens of thousands whose livelihoods depend on racing, above all the freelancers – jockeys included – who have not earned a penny from their trade for nearly three months. On-course bookmakers, though, will not be present just yet.
Sancho reveals message reading ‘Justice for George Floyd’
Thuram takes a knee after scoring for Mönchengladbach
Jadon Sancho and Marcus Thuram have sent out a powerful message of solidarity towards those protesting in the name of George Floyd, after scoring in their respective Bundesliga games.
The England winger revealed a slogan on his undershirt after scoring for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn. This followed the Mönchengladbach forward Thuram taking a knee in a goal celebration earlier on Sunday, as his side beat Union Berlin.
Organisers aim to shake up second races at same venues
European leg of calendar set to be announced on Monday
Formula One has proposed using a reversed grid qualifying session as part of a new format for racing’s resumption this season. The F1 group, the governing body, the FIA, and the teams have already discussed the proposal and it is understood it has broad support but that the world champions, Mercedes, oppose the concept. A formal vote and decision will be made early this week.
F1’s proposal is specifically targeted at events where one circuit would host two races. The sport is expected to announce the European leg of its rescheduled calendar on Monday. It will open with two back-to-back races at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and is also set to include two races at Silverstone, subject to coronavirus restrictions.
The elder Hegerberg shares how Ada’s successes motivate her and the source of her passion for the power of football
Andrine Hegerberg – Andy to her family and friends – laughs when I ask her about sibling rivalry with her younger sister, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner, Ada. “I try to just turn it around,” she says with a grin. “When we’re playing with our dad, I’m always joking around. If I have a better practice than her, I’ll be like: ‘I’m better than the Ballon d’Or.’ I flip the coin and use it as a motivation, rather than being jealous. That wouldn’t help anyone.”
The Roma midfielder, and senior Hegerberg by two years at 26, also has the upper hand from the two times the sisters have met on the pitch, with Ada at Lyon and Andy then representing Paris Saint-Germain. They drew in the league and PSG pipped Lyon to the French Cup in torrential rain. “So far I haven’t lost a game against her,” she says with another big grin. “At least that’s something I have. During family dinners that’s what can go to. My mum was like: ‘OK, that’s fair enough, actually.’”
The two young stars’ criticisms of police brutality after George Floyd’s killing were brave in a culture uneasy with black athletes speaking out
A couple of weeks ago Naomi Osaka decided that it was time to eradicate her shyness once and for all. It was exhausting, she said, missing out on moments because she was too terrified to speak in the presence of people she admired. Her options for socialising limited in quarantine, she set up a series of interviews with players. Before long, fellow players Frances Tiafoe, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gaël Monfils and Iga Swiatek were her subjects. “I’m coming for every tennis reporter’s neck,” she said.
On Saturday afternoon Osaka’s new reporting skills were put to use on Instagram as a follower jumped into the comments section with criticism and accusations. After claiming that Osaka, who has already amassed a fortune after only a few years at the top, would “loot everything”, he ended with a lecture: “Martin Luther King would be disappointed in you people.” Osaka responded with sharp and concise questions: “You people? Who is you people? Just for clarification.”
Coronavirus has left Super League’s two overseas teams with the prospect of playing home games in England and could hinder further expansion in North America
For 125 years, rugby league’s greatest strength has perhaps been its instinct for innovation. For a sport that often finds itself in the shadows of its sporting cousins, it has consistently tried to broaden its own horizons.
Never has that been more evident than this year. Catalans Dragons and Toronto Wolfpack play in Super League, Toulouse in the Championship and new teams from Ottawa and New York are due to join the Rugby Football League in 2021. However, as all professional sport plots a route back to normality, league’s most exciting asset could now be perceived as its biggest vulnerability. “This situation will make it difficult for expansionism moving forward – we’ll have to adapt,” says the Toronto chairman, Bob Hunter.
Formula could decide final placings if season halted again
FA against cancelling relegation from the Premier League
Premier League sides battling against relegation are expected to oppose the implementation of a points-per-game calculation if the Covid-19 pandemic forces the season to be suspended again after its proposed resumption on 17 June.
While the league is aiming to finalise plans around Project Restart on Thursday, one pressing issue is which three teams should be relegated if the season is halted for a second time. Clubs in the bottom six believe it would be unfair to use a mathematical formula to decide relegation, especially as some teams fighting for survival have more inviting run-ins than others.
Crisp manufacturer Tyrrells will not renew rugby union deal
Premier 15s confident of finding more active sponsor
News on Tuesday that Tyrrells would not be renewing their title sponsorship of the Premier 15s for next season seemed on the face of it a blow for top-flight women’s rugby, but with clubs having been assured that their funding from the RFU remains ringfenced, and some in the sport not exactly mourning the crisp manufacturer’s departure, mood at the top of the game remains buoyant.
Judd Trump and Neil Robertson will both play in Milton Keynes this week as snooker begins to exit the Covid-19 lockdown
On 10 March, with Covid-19 ravaging the north of Italy, the Cheltenham festival just getting under way, uncertainty descending like a fog across the rest of Europe, his daughter exhibiting flu-like symptoms and his own health in doubt, Neil Robertson decided to pull out of the Gibraltar Open. “Health comes first before any bonus on offer,” he said at the time.
Players now have a way forward but with time running out on the season, questions remain about how it will shape up
Premiership clubs will learn on Thursday when they can start playing again but it is set to be at the end of July, one month later than intended. That leaves them with the choice of playing the rest of the campaign to its conclusion, nine rounds of matches and two play-off weekends, and delaying the start of the following season, or cutting it short and risk having to pay their broadcasters, BT Sport, a rebate.
Players are due to return to training by the end of the week, first in small clusters who all arrive at the training venue separately and maintain the rules on distancing throughout, and later in groups when contact will be allowed. The gap between starting training and playing will be at least six weeks, the time the Pro14 is budgeting for.
Racing in the UK resumes on Monday but behind-closed-doors meetings will bring no respite to one part of the industry
A reduced version of racing’s caravan will roll up to Newcastle for Monday’s resumption, but spectators are not allowed and that means on-course bookmakers must also remain at home.
Trainers, jockeys and stable staff can get back to work, while high street betting shops could open up in a fortnight. That leaves the bookies who normally work at the track still sidelined and fretting about the future.
Crowdless, noiseless and possibly even passionless, the resumed season will not be a return to normality
Football and its followers can start to cheer up a bit now that there is a Premier League restart date to look forward to, though no one could be foolish enough to imagine normality will return on 17 June.
Cynics are already pointing out, for a start, that on that date the two outstanding games in hand are going to be played first, so that if anything goes wrong all the clubs in the Premier League will at least have played the same number of matches should curtailment of the season suddenly reappear as an option.
Midfielder tweets: ‘We have to stand up for what we believe in’
Floyd’s death at hands of Minneapolis police prompts protests
The Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie took to the pitch for Saturday’s Bundesliga game with Werder Bremen wearing an armband reading “Justice for George”, the African-American whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has led to protests across the United States.
After the match McKennie tweeted: “To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on to long feels good!!! We have to stand up for what we believe in and I believe that it is time that we are heard! #justiceforgeorgefloyd#saynotoracism.”
The rustiness on display in Germany since play restarted shows how valuable regular drilling is but Dortmund v Bayern was an overtly modern game of exceptional quality
All sporting events have their myths, the useful narratives hung on them as the flags are lowered on the final day and we have to work out what the past month, all that effort, all that emotion, all that money, was for. Remember how the 2012 Olympics in London brought us together as an open, multicultural nation inspired to a more active future? The 2006 World Cup, we were told, was about the patriotic celebration of a new Germany. And perhaps it was.
However immersion in the Bundesliga over the past three weeks suggests the most tangible legacy was the wholesale adoption of pressing.
Leonardo Bittencourt piles pressure on faltering Schalke
Hoffenheim eye European place after victory over Mainz
Werder Bremen boosted their chances of escaping relegation from the Bundesliga with a spectacular goal from Leonardo Bittencourt that gave them a lifeline 1-0 win at Schalke on Saturday. The result left Bremen in 17th place on 25 points from 28 games, two points behind 16th-placed Fortuna Düsseldorf, who occupy the relegation play-off spot and were playing leaders Bayern Munich in the late kick-off.
A lacklustre first half failed to produce any fireworks but Bittencourt grabbed a potentially vital winner for Bremen in the 32nd minute when he unleashed a fine effort into the top corner from 25 yards.
Deputy team principal hopeful of seeing out season
‘We will find the investment we need’
The Williams team and their name will continue in Formula One, the deputy team principal, Claire Williams, has said. She has expressed optimism for the future despite the team announcing on Friday they were considering putting the operation up for sale and seeking investment because of financial pressure.
The team suffered a £13m loss last year and are facing a further shortfall because of the coronavirus crisis and Williams are now appraising potential offers to buy the team or of investment, and have already entered discussions with some interested parties.
Horse racing will be first sport to resume on Monday
Premier League season set to restart on 17 June
The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has outlined the strict conditions for competitive sport to resume safely behind closed doors in England from Monday 1 June, paving the way for the first domestic live action in almost three months. The news allows the Premier League to go ahead with its plans to restart playing on Wednesday 17 June, while horse racing will resume on Monday at Newcastle with a 10-race card. The first major event will be Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, while snooker will also resume this week.
More strains and short-term muscle injuries expected
Clubs raised issue after spike in Bundesliga lay-offs
Premier League clubs have been told games will still go ahead once the season restarts even if they are down to just 15 fit players, it has emerged.
West Ham vice-chair Karen Brady has revealed the subject of depleted squads was discussed in Thursday’s conference call between clubs after Bundesliga teams reported a spike in strains and short-term muscle injuries following the resumption of football in Germany.
Date for resumption set to be pushed back to August
Play-off final in October clashes with Six Nations plan
The restart date for the Premiership looks set to be pushed back from late July until August after Gloucester said they did not expect clubs to return to training for another month. That would mean staging the play-off final in October and a clash with plans to play out the postponed Six Nations.
The Premiership had been aiming to resume on 27 June and play the season to its conclusion before, after a short break, starting the 2020-21 campaign on time. That will not happen and the end of July is looking less likely with medical experts recommending players train for at least six weeks before a resumption.
‘We have to win seven or eight to get into Champions League’
Spurs’ hopes boosted by key players returning from injury
Harry Kane thinks Tottenham will have to win “seven or eight” of their remaining nine Premier League games if they are to get in the Champions League next season. Spurs’ hopes were in tatters before the season shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic but the three-month hiatus has given them a chance to resurrect their push to finish inside the top four.
Kane, Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn – who were all due to miss most of the rest of the season – and Moussa Sissoko are now fully fit for the proposed restart on 17 June. They are still up against it, sitting seven points off fourth-placed Chelsea but have key games against Manchester United, Sheffield United, Arsenal and Leicester, while they will hope that Manchester City’s appeal against their European ban is rejected.
Burnley’s goalkeeper on his lower-league journey, learning not to fear mistakes and his desire to dislodge Jordan Pickford
The goalkeeper’s lot is the peculiarity that hides in plain sight. They train alone most of the time, their technical and fitness work being entirely bespoke, and, come match day, it is preferable that they see as little of the ball as possible. Their view of the pitch is different, fixed and detached – everything feels different – and, for them, the game is as much psychological as physical, the ultimate test of focus.
Nick Pope uses words such as “singular” and “individual”. The Burnley and England goalkeeper remembers how as a young player, he had no teammate to talk him through matches, to offer positional tips. You are on your own between the sticks and the deal can seem thankless, unbalanced; one in which reliability, even excellence, is taken for granted and single mistakes tarnish reputations.
Clive Mendonca’s hat-trick and Michael Gray’s ashen face are among the memories from an incredible encounter
Football stirs the same emotions in all of us. Joy and despair, fragile optimism and resigned acceptance. Yet it’s how we manage these feelings that shapes our relationship with the game.
As a youngster, football was my master. All I wanted in the world was to see my team, Charlton Athletic, walk out at Wembley Stadium, and also, if it wasn’t too much trouble, to see us play in the Premier League. Both always seemed improbable, and yet, remarkably, on one heady late-spring day in 1998, via the Division One play-off final against Sunderland, I was offered one and the tantalising prospect of the other.
‘I don’t like the men complaining we would get the same money’
World No 3 does not want equal pay but supports tours merging
The world No 3, Karolina Pliskova, has called male tennis players who complain about women claiming equal prize money “super weak”. The Czech player, who returns to action in the newly-created LiveScore Cup in Prague next week, insists she does not crave equal pay but is not happy about men who speak out against it.
It is an issue that is sure to raise its head over the coming months following recent calls for a merge between the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours – something Pliskova supports. There is currently equal pay at the four grand slams but a big disparity during the rest of the year.
The former England footballer Emile Heskey has called for extra precautions to be taken for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) footballers when the Premier League returns to screens in June, three months after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to a halt.
With a provisional restart date for the of 17 June with all games behind closed doors, the former England, Liverpool and Leicester striker said all footballers, but especially those from minority backgrounds, would feel nervous about returning to play.
Any player not included in the 55-man group named by selectors has little hope of an international future
There must be some grumpy English professional cricketers out there this weekend. Let me try to bowdlerise their thoughts: “Our wise selectors have plucked out 55 players for training ahead of the proposed international matches this summer and I do not appear to be among them. Fifty-five represents no fewer than five cricket teams so this is a source of some disappointment since I thought that I might still have the chance of the ultimate honour, playing for my country, in the foreseeable future. This now seems a rather distant dream. So it’s back to the nets, whenever that is allowed for the journeymen dirt-trackers. Que sera, sera.” The unbowdlerised version probably would not take so long and it might sully your morning.
Most of the names on the longest list ever produced by the England selectors are predictable and by and large they come from the obvious sources. No one employed by Derbyshire, Glamorgan, Leicestershire and (promoted) Northamptonshire has been selected; Surrey provide the most players with nine (they signed Reece Topley in the winter); there are seven from Lancashire and six from Yorkshire and Somerset. One oddity is that Essex, the county champions in two of the past three years, have just one player selected, Dan Lawrence.
The Spanish second-tier side appointed Sandoval on the eve of lockdown. He got to know his players via Zoom but is finally on the training pitch
José Ramón Sandoval has been Fuenlabrada’s manager for 11 weeks but hasn’t taken charge of a single game. He has led only two full training sessions at the Segunda División club, has barely met his players and never even got presented to the media, let alone the fans. He has suffered coronavirus and his timing could hardly have been worse, but he’s wearing a huge grin. Not that you can see it under the Fuenlabrada face mask he ordered himself. “This period has been a like doing a master’s,” he says.
Sandoval had just overcome a hernia operation when Fuenlabrada, based on the outskirts of Madrid, called him. He had been out of work for 16 months, since the second of two short-lived spells with Córdoba. His appointment was announced on 11 March and there was a brief session that evening, his first contact with the entire squad. The following morning, 15 hours into the job, he had his second. And, it turned out, his last. That day, Spain’s football teams were sent home and told not to come back. His presentation was cancelled: this was not the time, the club decided. A state of alarm was declared two days later, the country locked down. “I’m a tsunami, taking everything with it, but after a day the tsunami was stopped,” says the 52-year-old, who made his way into management via amateur clubs starting in the mid-90s, having made little impression as a player.
They might be the fiercest of rivals on the field, but off it the two nations can be the snuggest of bedfellows when it suits them
In the end it was much ado about nothing. The fate of this year’s men’s T20 World Cup, among other agenda items, has been deferred until 10 June after Thursday’s much-anticipated International Cricket Council board meeting was hijacked by concerns over “confidentiality”, prompting an independent investigation into the matter that the ICC says will be undertaken by its own ethics officer and “supported by global experts”.
As host nation of the competition, these are days Australia can seemingly ill afford to waste. But in truth everything is falling nicely into place for a domestic ruling body crying poor at every turn. Although the ICC is playing down suggestions the T20 World Cup will be postponed, there isn’t a figure in the game who isn’t convinced otherwise.
Project Restart has shrunk the sport to an elite pursuit within a sterile bubble, throwing up questions no one can answer
Well done, everyone: we did it. They said it wasn’t possible. They said it wasn’t safe. They said it would be tactless to start up one of the world’s most lucrative sports leagues while thousands are dying. They said it wouldn’t be a fair competition. They may still be right about all of this, of course. More on that in a moment.
But for now, football is back. Watch it. Drink it in. Lose yourself in a pure six-week football bender: 92 Premier League fixtures, spread across every day of the week and every conceivable time slot, all of it live on television, much of it free to air. Take that, null-and-voiders; dry your tears, PPG; up yours, Troy Deeney. Football is back and all it took was the spectre of financial catastrophe and the sight of Germany handling things far more adeptly.
Roger Federer is the world’s highest-paid athlete for 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic knocked soccer’s Lionel Messi off top spot, according to the annual Forbes list released on Friday.
The Swiss tennis great, owner of a men’s record 20 grand slam singles titles, earned $106.3m in the last 12 months, including $100m via endorsements, to move up four places and become the first player from his sport to top the list in the 30 years the business magazine has published the rankings.
Former NBA player Jackson speaks at rally for fallen ‘friend’
Teenage star Gauff issues call to action with powerful video
Bengals’ Joe Burrow, Dolphins’ Brian Flores also speak out
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson said he would not allow the police to “demean the character of George Floyd” at a rally in Minneapolis in remembrance of the handcuffed black man who died in police custody on Monday after being pinned to the ground and pleading that he could not breathe.
“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin,” Jackson said to onlookers at the Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda on Friday afternoon. “A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up your background to make it seem like the bullshit that they did was worthy. When was murder ever worthy?
German top flight is first major women’s league to resume
The Frauen Bundesliga, the top tier of women’s football in Germany, resumed on Friday after a two-month shutdown. League leaders Wolfsburg picked up where they left off, routing Cologne 4-0 to maintain their unbeaten season.
Pernille Harder opened the scoring from the penalty spot, before forward Svenja Huth doubled the lead just before half-time. The visitors kept the three-time defending league champions in reach, but Alexandra Popp made sure of victory with 66 minutes played.
Study finds players need six weeks of training before matches
Also warns of increased risk of injury and anxiety
The Premiership is unlikely to return until late July at the earliest following a study – co-authored by the Rugby Football Union’s chief doctor – which finds that players will need six weeks of training before matches can begin.
The study, written by a group of leading medics including the RFU’s Simon Kemp, also warns of the increased risk of both injury and anxiety among players when returning to training and competitive matches.
10 mins: Wing-back Daley Sinkgraven motors forward, the ball eventually worked to Kai Havertz, who makes his first cameo, wriggling into space in the area and seeing his shot deflected behind.
7 mins: Vincenzo Grifo, Freiburg’s creative spark out wide, sees his snap-shot deflected behind. Two corners follow, neither of which are dealt with particularly well by Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky.
As Ben Stokes has shown, recognising perfection is impossible and not worrying about failure can be key to great success
In Ford v Ferrari – the Oscar-nominated film that tells the story of Le Mans 1966 – there’s a memorable scene where driver Ken Miles looks out over a racing circuit at dusk. “Out there is the perfect lap,” Miles tells his young son. “No mistakes, every gear change, every corner, perfect. Can you see it?” “I think so,” his son replies. “Most people can’t,” says Miles.
During this sporting hiatus I’ve been pondering perfection, and the discipline it takes to achieve it, born of the sense that everyone around the world is using their Covid-enforced break more productively than me. I picture writers hunched over laptops, artists at easels, chefs in kitchens, all finalising the masterpieces that will enrich our worlds on their return. Meanwhile in backyards and garages, ranks of mini-Messis and Serenas and Steve Smiths clock up their 10,000 hours, while I perfect the length of my afternoon nap.
Taylor replaces Nick Cushing as City Women’s head coach
Former Wales forward sold on ‘the whole package’ by Cushing
The former Wales international Gareth Taylor has called the decision to apply for the Manchester City Women’s head coach vacancy a “no brainer” after receiving encouragement from the former manager Nick Cushing.
The former Fulham manager on the day 28 years ago that Yugoslavia were thrown out of the Euros and why he still wants to keep going
“They’re sad memories,” Slavisa Jokanovic says. “The current generation of players won’t play this summer but they’ll get the chance next year; we had the Euros taken away from us and never got it back.”
This Saturday was supposed to be the Champions League final, the club season then giving way to the European Championship. Instead, the 552 footballers who should have been joining national teams across the continent have been left in limbo, denied perhaps the best days of their lives. For most, at least it’s not for long; for those 20 men, it was forever.
Television viewers can look forward to six weeks of wall-to-wall summer football coverage from 17 June onwards
The League has set a provisional date for return of 17 June. That’s a Wednesday, when two games would be played: Manchester City v Arsenal and Aston Villa v Sheffield United. They are the two fixtures left over from March. Once completed, all clubs will have played 29 games each. A full programme of fixtures would then follow at the weekend.
The Russian won 12 titles and Olympic silver, but she came to take everything in her career so seriously that the pressure suffocated
The oldest Dinara Safina press conference archived on the internet dates back to 2003. Safina was 16 years old, ranked 63rd and she had just defeated Anna Kournikova, the most famous Russian player across the lands. As usual, many questions were about people other than Safina; about Kournikova, her mother, her superstar brother. Finally, somebody wondered what she actually wanted from her own career. “The sport life is so short,” she responded. “I just want to enjoy it and don’t get injured.”
Safina went on to achieve a career that most athletes could never envision. She won 12 titles, Olympic silver and reached No 1. She bullied top players with her brutal weight of shot, reaching three grand slam finals. Even though she never won Roland Garros, she is one of the best clay-court players of the 21st century.
Striker has made it clear his preferred option is Liverpool
Premier League leaders have until 15 June to sign him for £52.7m
Liverpool have not given up on signing Timo Werner this summer with manager Jürgen Klopp this week telling the board that the Germany international would be perfect for his team.
The runaway Premier League leaders have not made an official bid for the 24-year-old while they prioritise dealing with the coronavirus crisis. However, they are still keen to make the transfer happen this summer, and have been assured that Werner will wait for Liverpool to make a decision before choosing his future club.
A charity webcast recalling a famous 1958 FA Cup tie is being held to help people hit by the coronavirus crisis
A Friday night in early January 1958 in Cumbria and Keith Burkinshaw of Workington Reds is meeting Duncan Edwards of Manchester United. Burkinshaw, who was in the army with Edwards in Wales, enjoys a catch-up with one of United’s greatest footballers before tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round tie, when he will play for fourth-tier Workington against Matt Busby’s English champions of the past two seasons.
The game takes place in front of a record home crowd of 21,500 at Borough Park and they see Workington stun a first-choice United XI featuring Harry Gregg, Roger Byrne, Bill Foulkes, Mark Jones, Eddie Colman, Edwards, Kenny Morgans, Albert Scanlon, Bobby Charlton, Dennis Viollet and Tommy Taylor, via a six-minute Clive Colbridge goal that gives them a deserved half-time lead. It was a moment to remember even if United did go on to win 3-1.
The gamble of mixing up the running order paid off when Kriss Akabusi overhauled the individual champion on the anchor leg
What’s the most underrated non-annual sporting event of all time? Here’s a contender: the 1991 World Athletics Championships, too often boiled down to Mike Powell v Carl Lewis in an astonishing long jump, and Liz McColgan reducing a 10,000m field to puddles amid harrowing heat and humidity in Tokyo.
Plus: the top six in the men’s 100m all went under 10 seconds. Marie-José Peréc and Michael Johnson stormed to their first global titles, while Finland’s Kimmo Kinnunen flashed in the pan furiously with a 90-metre javelin effort. It was a time, too, before relays became a vehicle to help performance directors meet medal targets. The men’s 4x400m, the final event at Japan’s National Stadium, had everything.
The world No 1 bounced back from a shock 18-move defeat by a little-known Brazilian on Twitch to lead the US blitz specialist 3-0 after the first round
Magnus Carlsen took a commanding 3-0 first set lead on Thursday against his arch-rival, America’s blitz specialist Hikaru Nakamura, when the world and US champions met in a best of three sets semi-final of the Lindores Abbey Rapid. The event, which continues on Friday afternoon, is an online version of the 2019 tournament staged in the distillery at Newburgh, Fife, Scotland.
There has been needle between the pair owing to Nakamura using his Lindores appearances to promote his own Twitch channel and the chess.com website, which Carlsen objected to in a strongly worded tweet. Further tweet exchanges before and during Thursday’s games have been widely interpreted as coded jibes.
Individual sessions at county venues under ECB guidance
No place for Liam Plunkett or Alex Hales in 55-man group
England have named a bumper 55-man training group, with a host of new and returning faces joining the core squad.
Thirteen uncapped players from the county game have been invited to resume work under English and Wales Cricket Board guidance: Dan Lawrence, James Bracey, Phil Salt, Henry Brookes, Brydon Carse, Amar Virdi, Laurie Evans, Will Jacks, Ollie Robinson, Richard Gleeson, Sam Hain, Tom Helm and Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
There are also returns for Pat Brown, Ben Duckett, Liam Livingstone, David Willey and Reece Topley but there is no place for the World Cup winner Liam Plunkett or the out of favour Alex Hales.
The expanded group will not be brought together in one place, with individual sessions at county venues the only form of training approved and they do not represent an official England squad. Format-specific squads will be named at a later date.
The final goal at the old Wembley marked the end of an era – and the start of the golden generation’s big-stage letdowns
The final goal at the old Wembley had all the hallmarks of a footballing fairytale: it was a long-range thunderbolt that snatched an unlikely win and gave the complacent favourites their comeuppance. Only problem was, those favourites were the hosts of the party. In the final match at the old national stadium on 7 October 2000, England were beaten by the Germans. Again.
There’s an irony that the party pooper in question would go on to become one of his country’s most popular players on these shores: a German whose long career in England left him with a cricket obsession and an enduring scouse-Bavarian twang.
Five additional matches also proposed for neutral grounds
Man Utd and City among those likely to have games moved
Police have set out the Premier League matches they would like to be played at neutral venues, which would include any Liverpool game where the title could be won.
The matches which have been requested to take place at neutral grounds are Manchester City v Liverpool, Manchester City v Newcastle, Manchester United v Sheffield United, Newcastle v Liverpool and Everton v Liverpool. The police statement adds that “the game in which Liverpool could secure the league title” should also be moved, but this may end up needing to be more than one match if the Jürgen Klopp’s side do not clinch it at the first attempt.
F1 team may sanction partial or complete sale of the company
Mercedes reaffirm commitment to F1 amid Wolff exit rumours
The Williams Formula One team is to consider putting itself up for sale in order to ensure its future. The team, still one of the most successful and longest running in F1 has been fiercely independent in the hands of owner Sir Frank Williams since its debut in 1977. However, after announcing losses of £13m last year and under increasing financial pressure because of the coronavirus, Williams are to open negotiations on the partial or complete sale of the company.
On Friday the team issued a statement announcing it was to take a “new strategic direction” and would use financial advisors to review their position and identify and assess businesses interested in investment or takeover. Williams stated they were already in discussions with a small number of potential investors.
Fans and staff felt betrayed when their manager fled in a promotion season – now he’s back to save them from the drop
They say never go back but, 16 months on from an acrimonious exit, Nathan Jones’s return to Luton ranks as one of the more unlikely managerial comebacks. “People say you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that but deep in my heart this feels right,” he said. “I’ve had time to think and talk it over with my wife and the key people in my life, and that includes going to God with it, and it sits right. I have peace with this decision – other decisions I’ve made, I haven’t. When I have peace, they are normally the right decisions.”
Some supporters still have grievances with Jones for what they deemed a sly and sudden departure to Stoke, where he lasted seven months before being sacked in November with the club in the Championship relegation zone. But it was not just fans left with a sour taste in the mouth when the Welshman moved on midway through a season that culminated in Luton being crowned League One champions.
The former world No 1 will play in six-day tournament
Brother Jamie’s event to be broadcast on Amazon Prime
Andy Murray will return to action on 23 June as part of a six-day tournament organised by his brother. Jamie Murray, the seven-time Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles champion, has helped put on a behind-closed-doors tournament called ‘Schroders Battle of the Brits’.
It will see the Murray brothers and the likes of Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans play each other at the Lawn Tennis Association’s Roehampton Base. The tournament, which will crown singles and doubles champions, will be screened live on Amazon Prime and raise a minimum of £100,000 for the NHS.
It was 67 days since the last NRL match was played. The world has changed due to Covid-19, and so has rugby league. The game looked different, felt different and sounded different. It was no less engaging though. Its essence – brute force the showcasing of speed and skill and athleticism – remained the same.
Frauen Bundesliga is restarting and the NWSL will be back in June while conservatism has crippled the English game
On Monday the Women’s Super League and Championship seasons were ended by the Football Association after weeks of waiting for what had become an inevitable announcement.
While women’s football in England has become the latest sporting casualty of Covid-19, elsewhere the situation is being used to help fuel the growth of the game. On Wednesday details of a one-month 25-game Challenge Cup tournament in the US were unveiled, scheduling women’s football as the first sport to return in the country. And on Friday the Frauen Bundesliga resumes with the league leaders, Wolfsburg, playing struggling Cologne.
Scotland’s cautious path out of lockdown means that sport will not be possible, even behind closed doors, until next month
The British Horseracing Authority said on Thursday that it is planning a resumption of racing in Scotland at Ayr on 22 June, “in accordance with the Scottish government’s route map for exiting lockdown”, with fixtures also planned for Hamilton Park (24 and 28 June) and Musselburgh (30 June) before the end of next month.
Final declarations for Monday’s card behind closed doors at Newcastle, which is expected to be the first meeting in Britain since mid-March, are due to be published on Friday morning, but Scotland’s more cautious path out of lockdown in comparison to that in England means that sport will not be possible, even behind the closed doors, until later in the month.
Wolves midfielder excited to be training properly alongside his teammates with the Premier League return finally in sight
News of the Premier League’s return is music to the ears of Rúben Neves, even if it means the guitar lessons he started during lockdown may have to fade into the background. The midfielder had just completed Wolves’ first contact training session in more than two months on Thursday when news broke that his team could return to match action on the weekend starting 19 June.
Neves can already envisage repeating his pre-match routine. “Coldplay are my favourite band and that’s the kind of music I always listen to before a game,” the 23-year-old said. “Normally the last song I listen to before I take off my headphones is Fix You. I like the words and it helps me to get concentrated for the match.”
Sprinter trained over longer distances in lockdown
Asher-Smith relieved when Olympics postponed
Dina Asher-Smith has described how running with deer has kept her fit during the Covid-19 lockdown, also admitting she felt relieved when the Olympics were postponed because of the near-impossibility of training sufficiently.
If the Tokyo Games take place next year, Asher-Smith will be highly favoured to build on her 200m gold medal from the 2019 world championships. But that could hardly have felt a more remote prospect when the first British woman to win a global sprint title found herself making do with a complete change of rhythm, and surroundings, over longer distances in a deer park in recent weeks.
Top-flight football has been given the go-ahead to resume in Italy from 20 June. Italy’s minister for sport, Vincenzo Spadafora, said that Serie A would be allowed to restart after a conference call involving the league, the players’ association and the Italian Football Federation.
“The meeting was very useful,” Spadafora said. “Now Italy is starting again and it is right that soccer starts again too.
Organizers say ‘virtual event’ will be held as alternative
Next year’s Boston Marathon is scheduled for 19 April
The Boston Marathon has been canceled for the first time in its 124-year history.
Organizers said Thursday that they instead will have a “virtual event” in which participants who verify that they ran 26.2 miles on their own will receive their finisher’s medal. The race had originally been scheduled for 20 April before being postponed for five months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ruling calls policy a violation of civil rights of ‘female athletes’
DeVos-led department may seek to withhold federal funding
Connecticut’s policy allowing transgender girls to compete as girls in high school sports violates the civil rights of athletes who have always identified as female, the US Education Department has determined in a decision that could force the state to change course to keep federal funding and influence others to do the same.
A letter from the department’s civil rights office, a copy of which was obtained Thursday by the Associated Press, came in response to a complaint filed last year by several cisgender female track athletes who argued that two transgender female runners had an unfair physical advantage.
Meetings rescheduled due to quarantine restrictions
F1 season due to begin with two races in Austria
The British Grand Prix is expected to be confirmed for August as part on the Formula One calendar next week. F1 is to shortly announce the opening eight European meetings of the season, of which Silverstone will host two back-to-back races behind closed doors, set for 2 and 9 August.
It is understood the calendar is ready to be confirmed subject to the government providing clarity on travel restrictions for the teams. The season is due to begin with two back-to-back races in Austria, the first on 5 July. Silverstone was to follow with two meetings but the 14-day quarantine on entry into the UK forced F1 to reschedule their plans.
Plans afoot for reduced County Championship and T20 Blast
ECB says fans may be allowed with season running into October
Hopes for an English county season being staged this summer are on the rise despite the announcement on Thursday that no domestic professional cricket will take place before 1 August because of the coronavirus pandemic.
While the England and Wales Cricket Board looks set to confirm an international men’s schedule for 2020, starting with the visit of West Indies for three Tests in July under biosecure conditions, the prospects for a county season had appeared bleak. But despite pushing the potential start date back for the third time this year, the ECB has now confirmed that plans are being formulated by its Professional Game Group for a reduced domestic season that could run into October and see both first-class cricket and the T20 Blast played in three regional groups.
Tour continues on 22 July with a run of six events in the UK
All tournaments will be played behind closed doors
The European Tour will resume on 22 July with a run of six tournaments over six weeks in the UK. The calendar has been wiped out since 8 March because of the coronavirus pandemic but a return date has now been set, with the British Masters at Close House near Newcastle the opening tournament in July.
With the season to run through until December, all tournaments will be played behind closed doors and subject to strict safety and testing protocols.
‘Only a few weeks left to save professional football as we know it’
Proposes a Football Finance Authority to help clubs
The MP Damian Collins, supported by 18 MPs and former Football Association and English Football League chairs, has written to the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, the Football Association and the EFL demanding urgent discussions to address the potential financial catastrophe confronting lower-division clubs.
The letter, which is also supported by Charlie Methven, the co-owner of Sunderland, and Philip Day, the chairman of Grimsby, outlines a six-point plan aimed at preventing a looming scenario with many clubs folding as a result of the current crisis.
MLB players say they will not accept further salary reductions
Owners have proposed 82-game season starting in early July
Baseball players appeared likely to propose more regular-season games this year while holding to their demand for full prorated salaries, people familiar with their deliberations told the Associated Press.
Washington pitcher Max Scherzer, among eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee, issued a statement late Wednesday night calling management’s proposal for more salary cuts a non-starter.
If a player contracts coronavirus he could be isolated and substituted as an extension of the concussion regulations
England’s Test series against West Indies and Pakistan look ever more likely to happen, albeit behind closed doors. We await confirmation from the government that this will be permitted even though it may be that the resumption of international cricket has not been at the top of their list of priorities of late.
Meanwhile in the offices of the England and Wales Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council the details of the necessary protocols for playing a Test in such extraordinary times are being finalised. They must try to anticipate every eventuality although the guidelines may not include mandatory 60-mile journeys as an eyesight test for umpires. Among many other precautions, a plan of action is needed should any of the players be laid low with the virus during a game.
Law trials include eliminating reset scrums and choke tackles
New Zealand union already said it will not be adopting trials
The Premiership will not be adopting any of World Rugby’s law trials designed to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, the Guardian understands. The law trials, announced by World Rugby on Thursday, include eliminating reset scrums and choke tackles, the introduction of an “orange card” for high tackles and reducing the “use it” time from five seconds to three.
All the trials, which are optional, are designed to reduce the risk of transmission among players by bringing down contact in rucks, scrums and mauls by 25-50%. The trials come after a study by World Rugby’s medical experts but adopting them will be at the discretion of each union. The New Zealand union has already said that it will not be adopting them when Super Rugby Aotearoa begins next month and while the Premiership would need approval from the Rugby Football Union it does not intend to seek it.
Which athletes and clubs should turn off their phones?
Which former cricketer claimed his Twitter had been hacked after a picture of a penis appeared, before being swiftly deleted?
Which club recently tweeted a photo of the wrong man when announcing their newly appointed manager?
Which footballer tweeted a picture of an expensive car soon after a heavy defeat, claiming it was "totally accidental" and "happened whilst driving and my phone was in my pocket"?
Which striker edited his Twitter profile to say he played for Burnley, when he had actually just signed for Premier League rivals Crystal Palace?
Which footballer tweeted this obvious post-match cut and paste job: “Can you tweet something like ... Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again”?
After joining them on loan, which footballer was found to have previously called his new club "sheepshaggers" on Twitter?
Which World Cup legend accidentally tweeted a screengrab from his computer with pornography visible in a web browser tab?
Which former striker admitted he had been "left red faced" by accidentally tweeting a link to a porn site?
Who made the old copy-and-paste error when he posted: "Tweet to be put up tonight - Massive test for us tomorrow"?
Lastly and perhaps most embarrassingly, which footballer has often posted to express his admiration for Robbie Williams?
Fifty years ago the England captain was arrested for theft. But was it a prank? Did the piece of jewellery even exist?
“Only those four walls know the truth,” Hernando Rojas reflected, jabbing a gnarled finger into the distance, a crooked smile creasing his cheeks. “But something strange went on that day, I can assure you.”
Rojas was well into his 80s when he finally packed it in as the resident shoe shiner at Bogotá’s emblematic Hotel Tequendama. But for almost 60 years he was the eyes and ears of the establishment’s lobby – watching everyone, observing all. From Fidel Castro to Jimmy Carter, Neil Armstrong to Pelé, many were the stars to cross the famous foyer floor. Yet it was a blond Englishman that the octogenarian remembers best. “A giant; the most elegant man I’d ever seen,” Rojas recalled when I saw him a few years back. “Bobby Moore, champion of the world.”
Jones left under a cloud to manage Stoke in January 2019
Graeme Jones stepped down in April to clear way
Nathan Jones has been reappointed as manager at Luton, just 16 months after leaving the club for Stoke.
Having announced former boss Graeme Jones was leaving the Championship club during April as a means of reducing costs during the hiatus caused by the coronavirus crisis, the Welshman has been confirmed as successor on his 47th birthday.
Gary Bettman has announced plans to complete the NHL’s coronavirus-interrupted season with an expanded 24-team postseason, but one question persists: Why bother?
Sites, dates and times are to be determined, but the National Hockey League is planning to complete its coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 season at some point this summer with its best aspect by far, the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Premiership Rugby is hoping to restart the season in July but it would be wiser to wait until infection rates drop further
What comes first, your job or your health? It is a question many are asking as lockdown restrictions gradually start to ease with the aim of rekindling the economy, rugby players among them.
Premiership Rugby is hoping to resume its season in July, a date that will be considered on Thursday by the professional game board after the government’s approval of contact training taking place. If the sport does kick off, it will look markedly different with World Rugby rolling out a set of optional rule changes, limiting face-to-face contact to help minimise the risk of one player passing on Covid-19 to another.
Lockdown has enabled the Scottish midfielder to fully recover from injury and he will give everything to drag Villa to safety
John McGinn scored the goal that secured Aston Villa’s promotion last season, then he opened their account in the Premier League and now, after recovering from a broken ankle, he says he is raring to save Villa from relegation when the season restarts.
He was due to return to action against Chelsea in March but that match was postponed when the league was paused. Since then McGinn, like everyone else, has been playing a waiting game.
Rider has had little chance to prove form and fitness
Ellingworth denies rumours of Froome switch talks
Mark Cavendish’s chances of racing at this year’s Tour de France have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, Bahrain-McLaren team principal Rod Ellingworth has admitted.
Cavendish is hoping to get an opportunity to add to his tally of 30 Tour stage victories if the race goes ahead on its rescheduled start date of 29 August. But the 35-year-old, who joined his old coach Ellingworth at Bahrain-McLaren on a one-year deal after two seasons dogged by illness and injury, has had little chance to prove his form and fitness with racing on hold since mid-March.
This week’s roundup also features Champions League highlights, Lance Armstrong and Football Italia
1) This was supposed to be Champions League final week, with a return to Istanbul, scene of 2005’s all-time classic, hosting the showpiece this Saturday evening. The Ataturk Stadium appears to have had something of a scrub-up since then. Those missing the Champions League can relive the thrills and spills of last season’s competition here.
What are you most looking forward to when sport returns to normal and will you be as passionate as before?
In a parallel world, the FA Cup final was contested at Wembley on Saturday and attention is now turning to the Champions League final in Istanbul this coming weekend. The domestic leagues have been settled; the Football League play-offs have come and gone; and, instead of planning weekends around Premier League games and weeknights around European fixtures, sports fans are turning their attention to Wimbledon, the Open, Euro 2020 and the Olympics.
But that will all have to wait. Sport is making a gentle, spluttering comeback – with managers in masks, substitutes sitting six feet apart and players reluctant to celebrate with their teammates – but sport as we knew it will not be back for some time. What do you miss most about the old normal? Gathering in the pub for a big Champions League night? That quickening walk to the ground as you hear the team being read over the Tannoy? Sitting down to watch Match of the Day with your family? Being part of an ongoing soap opera that punctuates your weekends, connects you to your friends and gives you something to talk about with people you have never met before?
One giant screen and two smaller ones will be used as AGF Aarhus try to make the best of playing behind closed doors
On Thursday night, Denmark will become the second country in mainland Europe to restart their league season after neighbouring Germany. In the opening fixture AGF Aarhus welcome local rivals Randers but it is on the sidelines where history will really be made. In front of one stand a giant screen, 40 metres long and 3m high, will be filled with fans watching via video link.
Supporters have signed up for free tickets to take part and can even choose their preferred section of the “virtual stand”. Two smaller screens will allow for neutrals and away fans to be there, too. The concept, created in partnership with Zoom, has taken weeks of preparation. “I’ve never been so busy before a game, which is funny when there are no spectators,” says AGF’s head of media, Soren Carlsen. “My colleagues, to put it bluntly, have been working their arses off to get everything working.”
Sport! Real, actual, professional live sport! It’s been what seems like an age since Australians last had the chance to watch a sporting event, but here we are, finally, with the NRL – trailblazers in their own way – on the cusp of becoming the first major league in the country to get back down to business on a pitch.
It’s been exactly 67 days since the referee’s whistle brought an end to the NRL as we knew it, back on 22 March, before the Covid-19 pandemic brought the league – and all sport around the globe, with a few notable exceptions (hello Belarus!) – to a shuddering halt.
Waca will host one-off Test against Afghanistan instead
Australia have not lost a Test at Gabba in over 30 years
Australia will host India at their Gabba stronghold in the four-Test series with Perth missing out on a match in the lucrative tour.
Western Australia had hoped to host Virat Kohli’s India at the state’s Optus Stadium but were defeated by Queensland Cricket’s bid for a match at the Gabba, where Australia have not lost a Test in over 30 years.
In much the same way that you don’t need to be an optician to appreciate that loading the family into the car for a 60-mile pre-journey journey is not the best way to test your eyesight, an intimate working knowledge of Bunsen burners, pipettes and Erlenmeyer flasks was never going to be a prerequisite for forecasting that hundreds of thousands of sports fans rubbing shoulders in close proximity during a pandemic would result in unnecessary illness and fatalities.
RB Leipzig’s faint title hopes fade further in draw
Dusseldorf win increases pressure on Schalke’s David Wagner
RB Leipzig’s faint title hopes faded further after Krzysztof Piatek’s late penalty earned Hertha Berlin a point at an empty Olympiastadion on Wednesday, Julian Nagelsmann’s sidehaving been reduced to 10 men in a fluctuating Bundesliga encounter on Wednesday.
The result left Leipzig third on 55 points from 28 games, nine behind the leaders, Bayern Munich, and two adrift of second-placed Borussia Dortmund, while Hertha moved up one place to 10th on 35 points.
Yvan Le Mée recalls how his client somehow switched West Ham for the Bernabéu, a move that landed the agent the nickname David Copperfield
There were only two days of the 2009 January transfer window remaining when Yvan Le Mée answered his phone. At the other end of the line was a representative from Real Madrid inquiring whether it would be possible to take his client Julien Faubert on loan from West Ham for the rest of the season.
Le Mée, already a veteran of what is known in Europe as the “mercato” having started as an agent representing Arsenal’s Gaël Clichy, could scarcely believe what he was hearing. Faubert, capped once by France in 2006, was an injury-prone winger who had made only eight appearances for West Ham since joining from Bordeaux in 2007 and was not the type of player who usually attracted the attention of one of Europe’s most famous clubs.
Newcastle United fans dream of a return to the Champions League should Mike Ashley sell the club, but the politically sensitive Saudi-funded takeover seems to have stalled
Glance at some recent headlines concerning Newcastle United and it would seem safe to assume that the Saudi Arabian flag is already fluttering high above St James’ Park. For the moment, though, fans mesmerised by speculation that Philippe Coutinho, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane and Kalidou Koulibaly are all Tyneside-bound must make do with photographs of an estate agent’s “Sold” sign deposited outside the Milburn Stand.
It was a joke intended to celebrate the apparently imminent end of Mike Ashley’s thoroughly miserable 13-year ownership of Newcastle and mark a long-mooted, largely Saudi-funded £300m takeover of the club. Yet, for the moment at least, the laughter has stopped.