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Is Jameis Winston the most baffling player in the NFL?

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Jameis Winston, once again, started a game on the worst possible note. For the fifth time this season – and the 10th time in his career – he threw an interception on the game’s opening drive, this one to the Detroit Lions’ Jahlani Tavai. It looked like it was going to be one of those Jameis Winston Games, but it ended up being the other kind: he bounced back to throw four touchdowns in a 38-17 victory for the . It was yet another chapter in the up-and-down career of a quarterback who continues to show tantalizing flashes of being an elite signal-caller while also showing a frightening predisposition for ugly turnovers.

In Sunday’s win, Winston became the first quarterback in history to throw for at least 450 yards in consecutive games. He’s also thrown for over 4,573 yards on the season, which currently puts him ahead of the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott for the league lead, to go alongside his 30 touchdowns. Sounds great, right? Here’s the problem: the interception increased Winston’s season total for picks to 24, with many of those giveaways avoidable. He’s also incredibly sack-prone – he’s been sacked 43 times on the year – and has shown a frustrating inability to learn when he needs to throw the ball away. At no point during his pro career, has he shown any sign of improving all-important ball security.

Ultimately, as much as the Bucs must love games such as the one Winston gave them on Sunday, those strong performances may be making it more difficult for them to figure out what to do at the end of the season. Do the Buccaneers hand an extension to a young quarterback capable of putting up monster numbers? Do they place the one-year franchise tag on him and hope that he becomes more consistent in his sixth year as an NFL starter? Or do they let another team take up his services and find a replacement quarterback in free agency? It’s not like they have had a tremendous amount of success with Winston – he has yet to lead them to the playoffs.

Winston’s troubled history may make that third option more attractive. The Buccaneers drafted Winston out of Florida State University, where he was the subject of a high-profile sexual assault allegation, one that eventually ended with him coming to a (he was not charged over the allegations). There were also several other less serious incidents that occurred during his college career: a citation for shoplifting and a suspension for shouting vulgarities in the campus cafeteria. Tampa Bay took a risk with Winston but hoped that he would keep out of trouble once in the NFL.

He didn’t. In 2018, the NFL suspended him three games after he was accused of groping an Uber driver (Winston was never charged over the incident ). The NFL report : “As a result, the investigation had concluded that Winston violated the Personal C club great quit Roma last summer after feeling isolated in his front office role.”My withdrawal was a bit unexpected, but correct. Now I accepted it, but I needed two years, because it was not my decision. In any case, I never regretted my decisionsonduct Policy by touching the driver in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent and that disciplinary action was necessary and appropriate.”

The Buccaneers clearly have a conundrum. Winston can win games for the team, he can lose games for the team and there’s a chance that legal or personal issues could prevent him from taking the field altogether.

In a league where starting quarterback options are plentifuLoftus-Cheek has revealed how he has endured a tough season.The 24-year-old has been sidelined since May with an Achilles injury, but he has recently returned to first-team training.”Tough times are definitely hard to stay motivated,” he told the clul, it would be an easy decision for Tampa Bay to move on and let another team take on the risks. That doesn’t describe the modern NFL, however, where teams seem to be constantly installing and discarding proven mediocrities. Because of this, there must be an temptation within the organization to stick with the Devil They Know and hope that he keeps coming up with games like the one had had on Sunday.

. After Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown at least one interception against 31 NFL teams. In other words, . In fact, in what was likely his last game at MetLife Stadium, he ended up throwing three to various Dolphins defenders. Manning also, however, threw two touchdowns and led his team to a 36-20 victory, which was well appreciated by the hometown fans who rewarded him with a standing ovation.

. Congratulations to every fantasy football player who had Drake on their roster: he managed to score four touchdowns in a 38-24 Cardinals win over the Cleveland Browns. As you can imagine, Drake also accumulated plenty of carries (22) and a ton of yardage (137) in an Arizona victory that essentially sealed Cleveland’s playoff fate.

“Walking in here with Stretch (assistant to the head coach, John Streicher) I said one idiot was going to ask me that question” – Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel, LeShaun Sims’ punt return at the end of the Titans’ 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans.

You can’t blame Vrabel for coming into the press conference a little bit heated. His team’s record, after all, fell to 8-6 thus putting the Titans in second place in the AFC South behind the 9-5 Texans. To be fair to the reporter in question, it wasn’t an entirely ridiculous question, as the Titans would have had better field possession, and slightly more time on the clock, had Sims not returned the punt during their final drive of the game. Vrabel, however, had a point by emphasizing that was hardly the key play in what ended up being a frustratingly close loss, one that puts their .

The Cincinnati Bengals’ execution – or lack thereof– on this onside kick was emblematic of their 34-13 loss to the New England Patriots. The Patriots improved to 11-3 thanks to the general ineptitude of the 1-13 Bengals, who are still successfully pursuing the No1 pick in next year’s draft. Given how poorly the Bengals have been playing all season, it feels baffling that the Patriots would decide that they would need to resort to underhand methods to defeat them.

Or, it would be baffling if this were any other football franchise we were talking about. Before the game, footage of a Patriots employee videotaping last week’s game between the Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The videographer, who is heard sheepishly offering to delete the potentially-illicit footage, has been suspended. The NFL is currently investigating the incident and suggests that this story is not going away any time soon.

— The Oakland Raiders played their final game at Oakland Coliseum before the franchise relocates to Las Vegas next season. It was not the storybook ending that the hometown fans were hoping for. The Jacksonville Jaguars snapped a five-game losing streak with a 20-16 comeback win. Who knows, however, maybe there was something fitting about the Coliseum hosting .

— The Baltimore Ravens on the back of a ridiculous performance by MVP frontrunner Lamar Jackson, who broke Michael Vick’s single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Jackson now has put together 1,103 yards on the grounds to Napoli on Sunday made it four winless friendlies in a row for the Reds.But Dutch star van Dijk believes the return of the club’s stars, including Mohamed Salah, Alisson, Roberto Firmino and Salah Mane, will be important for Sunday’s Community Sh to go along with his 2,889 passing yards and, frighteningly enough, he’s only in his second year in the NFL.

— Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears ended up doing the exact opposite of clinching on Sunday. With their 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, combined with the Minnesota Vikings’ 39-10 win over the increasingly hapless Los Angeles Chargers, the Bears were officially eliminated from postseason contention.

— The Philadelphia Eagles beat Washington 37-27. They now have a 7-7 record, which keeps alive hopes that whoever wins the NFC East – and gets home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs – could end up having a winning record at the end of the regular season. Their divisional rivals, the Cowboys, are also 7-7 after they beat the Rams on Sunday.

— Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner made this athletic grab to intercept Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. It was among three interceptions that Allen gifted Seattle in the 30-24 Seahawks victory. It was a dazzling reminder of just how great a defensive player Wagner is, which made it even rougher when he later . There was better news for the Seahawks later in the afternoon, as the Atlanta Falcons’ 29-22 upset road win over the San Francisco 49ers meant that Seattle ended the day as the top seed in the NFC.

Wayne Rooney scores stunning goal from beyond halfway line for DC United

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continues to add to his highlight reel in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday night he scored for DC United from beyond the halfway line for one of the best goals of his long career.

The goal came in the 10th minute of DC’s game against Orlando City. Rooney picked up the ball in his own half and say Orlando goalkeeper Brian Rowe well off his line. He proceeded to drive the ball over Rowe, and was promptly mobbed by his teammates. It proved to be the only goal of the game.

Roor and RB Leipzig have undergone managerial change this season. Julian Nagelsmann took charge of the German club last July and turned them into Bundesliga contenders. Around four months later Jose Mourinho arrived ati Emery rather than a seek a transfer.Ozil has been frozen out by Emery, but will wait to see whether the Arsenal boss lasts beyond the end of this season before deciding on his future.The midfielder is Arsenal’s highest-paid player on £350,000 a we Spurs and galvanised them, taking ney joined last year with the club bottom of the Eastern Conference. He then inspired them to the playoffs. This season they currently sit third in the table.

Three former Manchester United players are now in MLS’s top-five scorers this season. As well as Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Nani are also in the top fivates after skipping out on them this weekend.Against AC Milan, Ronaldo was hooked on 55 minutes for the eventual matchwinner Paulo Dybala on Sunday and is said to have left the ground before the final whistle.Gazzetta dello Sport says Ronaldo did note.

Antonio Brown loses grievance after reported threat to quit NFL over helmet

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receiver Antonio Brown has lost his grievance with the NFL over his use of an old helmet that is no longer certified as safe to use.

An arbitrator issued the ruling on Monday after a hearing with Brown, representatives from the league and the players’ union. Brown had reportedly told the Raiders last week that if he could not use his old helmet.

However, on Monday he said he was keen to return to the field. “While I disagree with the arbitrator’s dason.The Brazilian is now one of the senior members of the team, given the youth injection fris fast making a name for himself.D’Margio Wright-Phillips made the most of his amazing solo goal for Blackburn in the FA Youth Cup.The 18-year-old is currently on a youth loan from Manchester City and his goal helped set up a semi-final tie against om manager Frank Lampard this summer.And Willian is happy to pass on his knowledge to the youngsters. But he insists that he has a lot to offer on the pitch ecision, I’m working on getting back to full health and looking forward to rejoining my teammates on the field. I’m excited about this season appreciate all the concerns about my feet!,” he wrote in a post in Instagram.

Brown has not participated in a full practice for the Raiders after starting training camp on the non-football injury list with injuries to his feet suffered while getting cryotherapy treatment in France.

Furthermore, Network’s Mike Silver reported tentriker’s 94th minute spot-kick kept alive Norway’s hopes of qualifying for Euro2020.King told fotball.no: “It was lovely that it (the penalty) went in.”The crowd helped us. They gave us an extra push for the last 10 minutes.”We put up a good fight insion between Brown and the Raiders, who acquired the wide receiver via trade from the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason. According to Silver, Brown has been chronically late, uses Instagram during team meetings and does not communicate with team officials and coaches.

Brown, 31, has been one of the league’s most prolific players. He was an All-Pro four straight years from 2014-17 and is the first player with at least 100 catches and 1,200 yards receiving in six straight seasons. His 686 catches and 9,145 yards since 2013 are the most for any player in a six-year span. But despite that production, he wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh and in March for picks in the third and fifth round of the 2019 draft.

Daniel Dubois: ‘Boxing is my calling and so I have no fear of getting hurt’

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There is a statue of a dead boxer outside the Peacock Gym in Canning Town. In this gritty little corner of east London the gold inscription on black marble reads: “In loving memory of Bradley Stone – A brave young man who died in the pursuit of his dreams.” Stone was 23 , and a British title fight against Richie Wenton, in April 1994. He was a super-bantamweight who trained at this very gym.

Twenty-five years later the new Peacock prodigy is a young heavyweight who cuts a much more formidable figure. walks past this reminder of boxing’s dangers every day. Born three and a half years after Stone died, and dreaming of becoming a world heavyweight champion, Dubois is entitled to ignore these haunting echoes of the past.

“A lot of things can do damage,” he says, quietly. “I look at it differently. is my calling and so I have no fear of getting hurt.”

After knocking out eight of the men he has beaten in , is he ever concerned about causing lasting ange after a knee injury to Calum Chambers.The defender suffered the injury in Sunday’s loss to Chelsea at the Emirates.A prognosis has yet to be given but there are fears Chambers could face a lengthy spell on the sidelines.“We will discuss in thedamage to an opponent? “I never worry about that. I never take that into consideration. When I’m in a ring, I’m there to hurt you. That’s the objective in a fight. Your wellbeing is not my concern.”

Does he feel excited when he hurts his opponent? “Yeah,” he says with a soft exclamation which makes it unsurprising to learn is his favourite fighter. “Definitely. That embodies boxing. He took it to an extreme level but in this game people get hurt and their lives are are confident they can beat Tottenham Hotspur.The two Premier League clubs will clash in the Champions League final on June 1.After beating Spurs twice already this season, Matip believes the Reds can do it again.”It was a great season and we can fion the line. Tyson was my boxing hero. I took a shine to his ferociousness. I’m trying to use that to inspire me.”

Dubois is a much calmer presence than the Tyson I remember from past . But he harbours a similar relish for his dark and often chaotic calling. “I feel like, as boxers, we’re not like normal people. After a while doing this, you get that buzz. It can be wild and out of control. I have to try to control myself. That’s what boxing is about – control.”

Dubois is 21 but his reputation is growing. There have long been rumours he floored Anthony Joshua when they sparred a few years ago and that speculation flared again last week. Jarrell Miller, the talkative American who calls himself Big Baby, will be in New York on 1 June. In hyping a fight for which he will be the overwhelming underdog, Big Baby has done lots of yapping. and boasted about flying Dubois to New York to help him prepare for this world title fight: “I wanna say one name,” Miller stressed. “I heard the kid’s a badass – Daniel Dubois. I like the kid a lot. He’s thumped AJ a couple times in the gym.”

Unlike Miller or Tyson, Dubois is not a great talker. This could be down to his age but, I suspect, owes more to the fact he is a detached character. Dubois is less interested in Big Baby and New York than hearing that Tyson told me his hardest opponent was always himself. “Definitely. So much of boxing is to do with your mental state. Evander Holyfield talks about spirit. I definitely have that spirit and feel like I’ve got something special inside me. It’s about me bringing it out, controlling it and using it to become world champion.”

Will that spirit emerge fully only in adversity? “Probably. Sometimes you need to learn hard lessons. You have to look deep within yourself to bring out your best.”

What is the hardest facet of boxing? “Keeping control. Staying disciplined and in control is not easy.”

Even though Dubois starts smiling I sense the struggle to control himself when I ask about his infamous spar with Joshua. “I’m not going into that. We had a good spar and that launched my pro career. So I’ve got good memories from that sparring session when I was with the GB [amateur] squad. I caught him with some big shots. He was good work for me.”

Did he knock Joshua down? Dubois laughs, making faces to tell me his lips are sealed. He shrugs cheerfully when I say I’ll take his response as a yes. I’ve heard a big left wobbled Joshua and, apparently, put him down. “Yeah, it was a good shot.”

Was Joshua shocked by his power? “Every fighter I’ve fought has been shocked by my power.”

Did he feel Joshua’s power? “He’s a big man, throwing punches with bad intentions. You feel it. Every punch is hard. It was about avoiding them, being quick.”

Does he like being called a “badass” by Big Baby? “No. It’s irrelevant. I’m going to New York to get a wider glimpse of the world and boxing. Big Baby carries a lot of weight but he’s obviously done enough to earn a title shot. But, right now, the top heavyweights in the world are in England. America’s had its time at the top. It’s not like in Tyson’s day.”

Who does he think is the best of the three unbeaten heavyweights at the peak of his division – Joshua, Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder? “I’d go with the guy who’s got most of the belts. Joshua. He’s just ahead of Fury and Wilder but they’re all good. They need to fight each other. Then we’ll see who is the last man standing.”

How is Joshua after all the knockdown talk? “He’s fine. He understands it’s not personal. We don’t want to hurt each other outside but, in the ring, that’s our mentality. I also like Tyson Fury. We sparred once and he was very tricky. He’s got it all upstairs but I did OK and he did an interview straight after and called me an up-and-coming world champion.”

When will he be ready to challenge Fury and Joshua? “Probably in two years. I’m building towards those huge fights.”

Some boxing insiders believe Dubois turned pro too soon and he would have benefited from learning more at the highest level of amateur boxing. He fights for the 10th time as a professional on Friday at the Royal Albert Hall against .

“On paper he’s my most experienced opponent. He’s pretty tall, mobile, capable, but he’s not a hard puncher. I’m going out there to destroy him.”

It’s hard to know how good Dubois might be until he gets hit hard himself. He might crumble or he might prove to be as impressive as the hype suggests. Unlike his gifted sister Caroline, however, Dubois is not unbeaten. “I lost six times from when I was 11 to 18. I tried to bring out the emotion but I never cried. I thought: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ But I lost doing my best.”

Caroline won the Olympic youth lightweight title last year, aged 17. Her dazzling skills prompted the BBC’s venerable commentator Mike Costello to say: “I am tempted to .” Unbeaten in almost 40 amateur fights, Caroline also stuns her big brother with her talent and commitment.

“She’s so disciplined. Caroline puts me to shame sometimes. The way she’s so hard-working amazes me. We are close and [among a family of 11 children] seven of us still live together in Greenwich. Me, Caroline and our brother Prince are boxers. Prince is only six so this is a bit premature but he will be a world champion.”

It might be hard to believe but Dubois claims that, in his late teens, he would do press-ups on his knuckles for three hours without stopping. He shows me his deeply scarred knuckles. “I would do thousands of press-ups in three hours. I now only do 30 minutes in a row.”

How could he withstand the pain for a barely credible three hours? “I’m single-minded. When you get past it, pain is nothing.”

He takes off his shirt for the photo and shows off his imposing physique. I ask Dubois about Miller’s allegations that Joshua might have used performance-enhancing drugs – which the Briton . But Dubois’s friendly trainer Martin Bowers leans in: “We don’t talk about that.”

Surely there are concerns about doping and boxing? “We get tested a lot in this country,” Dubois says. “I was tested two weeks ago.”

There are other demons in boxing. Any man closing in on the world heavyweight title is bound to be stalked by admirers and hangers-on – few with good intentions. “I see them comimes has already gone through ankle surgery after his injury against Tottenham.Gomes seriously hurt his ankle after a Heung-Min Son tackle led him to awkwardly collide with Serge Aurier.But the club says he has gone through a procedure and is now recong over the hill,” Dubois says, wryly. “But they’re not here yet.”

Does he have a girlfriend? “I was seeing a girl recently but boxing’s so demanding I can’t afford to waste much time. You need a tailor‑made woman but it’s hard to find anyone who would understand this dedication. I need to be controlled – no messing around before a fight.”

The ring is darkened while Dubois shadowboxes. It’s raining outside, making the green ivy and red bricks around Stone’s statue glisten. The fallen fighter’s gloved hands are raised while, on the inscription, he is hailed as a “Little Gem” who is “Forever as proud as a Peacock”.

The same raw and compelling dreams of big fights and world titles roll on in this small corner of Canning Town.

Jets raise eyebrows by appointing Gase after 23-26 record with rivals Miami

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The New York Jets stayed in the AFC East to find their new head coach. The former coach Adam Gase agreed on Wednesday night to take the Jets job, according to multiple reports.

The hiring ends a 10-day, wide-open search for New York, which met with seven other coaches about their vacancy, including Mike McCarthy, Kris Richard, Jim Caldwell, Eric Bieniemy, Todd Monken, Matt Rhule and Kliff Kingsbury, who took the Arizona Cardinals job.

Gase was 23-26 in three years with Miami, including a playoff game in the 2016 season, before being fired last week. He’ll remain in the AFC East, and face the Dolphins twice every regular season as a rival head coach. Gase replaces Todd Bowles, who was fired after he went 24-40 in four seasons and no playoff appearances. Gase is the Jets’ first hire with previous full-time hs sports director Fabio Paratici is convinced he can bring Paul Pogba to Turin – and for an affordable price.The Manchester United midfielder continues to be linked with Real Madrid, with agent Mino Raiola confirming they attempted to engineer a moveead coaching experience since Bill Parcells’ three-year tenure from 1997-99. The 40-year-old is also the first offensive-focused coach since Rich Kotite in 1996.

Gase will be tasked with furthering the development of quarterback Sam Darnold and helping New York snap an eight-year postseason drought. While he had control over personnel in Miami, Gase will work cloPortuguese duo Pedro Gonclaves and Joao Dias have left Wolves.Both players have joined newly-promoted Portuguese top flight club Famalicao on permanent deals.Gonclaves made his first-team debut last season and impressed mightily for the club’s U23 side.Dias struggled to make a similar impact after joining the club last summer.sely in New York with general manager Mike Maccagnan, who was retained by team chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson, to put together a competitive roster around Darnold. The Jets are expected to have around $100m in salary cap space this offseason, and will be very active in free agency.

Those factors combined, Johnson insisted leading into the team’s search, made the Jets an attractive spot for a head coach to land. “If you can make it here, you’re a freakin’ legend,” Johnson said. “That counts for something.”

Gase was fired after this season as part of an organizational shake-up after the Dolphins finished 7-9 anr United need to sign a midfielder leader like Bryan Robson.The 46-year-old has struggled to make a huge impact in the transfer market, although Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have been welcome additions.And Solskjaer admits he needs to find anotd missed the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 years. There were also questions about whether Gase had lost the support of some players. Miami ranked 31st in the NFL in offense, a franchise worst, and 29th in defense, allowing a franchise-record 6,257 yards this season.

Gase’s Dolphins were particularly good in one-score games, going 7-1 in those situations this season and 20-6 in three years. Their record in games decided by more than one score was 3-20, including 0-8 this season. Miami also lost their last seven games on the road.

The hiring was met with some trepidation from frustrated Jets fans, many of whom were pulling for McCarthy, Monken or Rhule to be hired to turn the franchise around and end a Super Bowl drought that’s 50 years and counting.

Saracens front an American gold rush still seeking the nugget of success

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The American gold rush is showing no signs of slowing down. Last week the Champions Cup organisers were the latest to announce plans to plant a flag on American soil, the Pro14 is casting a covetous eye Stateside, the Six Nations and the British & Irish Lions too. Ireland return to Chicago this autumn, having largely based their bid to host the 2023 World Cup on a promise to break America.

The list goes on: in June, the Sevens World Cup took place in San Francisco in July and in the immediate aftermath, World Rugby encouraged the USA to bid for the 2027 World Cup. Premiership Rugby solidified its relationship at the start of this season when Gallagherce James says he grew up a Blues supporter.The 20-year-old has excelled since returning to west London after a spell on loan with Wigan Athletic.Discussing growing up with siblings Josh and Lauren, he told Chelsea magazine: “We all used to play every took over as its title sponsor. The American market, it seems, is considered an endless source of riches.

Look a little closer and the pitfalls of rugby’s search for Sutter’s Mill are all too evident. Wales’s victory over the Springboks was a washout. The Sevens World Cup generated huge revenues but considerable losses for USA Rugby, which has undergone an overhaul amid the financial plight of its commercial arm, Rugby International Marketing, in which the Rugby Football Union and were investors. There is always a danger of killing the golden goose.

All of which Sport says an offer worth £8.9million has been lodged to commence the bidding on Benrahma.Brentford are braced for a number of clubs showing an interest in the 23-year-old Algerian.In his first year at Griffin Park, Benrahma smashed 11 goals and 17 brings us to the Stoop. Harlequins play Saracens at 7.30 on Saturday night as the first Premiership match to be screened live on NBC’s main channel. There will no matcA coach. The club announced the decision midday Monday. Franc Artiga, from Juvenil B, takes over the role.Valdes’s dismissal was a widely known ‘secret’ since Friday. The coach had an argument with Patrick Kluivert, the head of youth football and thah staged in the US this season, despite a four-year deal agreed last May – the next is likely to be in 2020 – so this is Rugby’s day in the sun. A chance to cement its place in the American landscape.

Ordinarily Premiership Rugby is shown on NBC Sports or Gold service but Saturday’s match is the first club fixture on free-to-air TV in the US. It will be shown at 2.30pm ET and the hope is that – with NBC demonstrating a commitment to broadcasting rugby, having acquired Six Nations and World Cup rights – viewing figures back up the optimism that abounds. “It’s a massive opportunity for us to cast a wider net,” says the New York-born former England international since 2016. “We’ve had a good two-year base, growing our ex-pat, traditional audience but now we have the opportunity to showcase the Premiership brand to a wide audience and pull in new fans – that’s our big emphasis here.”

This is a big deal for Premiership Rugby because of the huge reach NBC possesses – 116 million homes according to the former Bath, Leicester and USA No 8 Dan Lyle, who broadcasts alongside Corbisiero. On both a domestic and international level, administrators have talked plenty recently about unlocking commercial opportunities and unquestionably, this is a shop window for Premiership Rugby. “It’s about organic growth but we’re hoping it will accelerate our curve a little bit and the proof will be in the coming weeks,” says Lyle, the director of the promoter AEG Rugby. “Hopefully, if we get good numbers we can have more windows in the future.”

Rugby may have been identified as the fast-growing team sport in the US but it must be said that short-termism, and with it attempts to make a quick buck, have hindered progress. As Corbisiero says: “If you look in the past, there are some examples where people have been guilty of that but when you’re starting in a market from scratch, there is no best practice or the right way to do it. Sometimes we’ve had to make some mistakes and experience growing pains to get where we are now.”

Premiership Rugby says it is in for the long haul. If its success is to measured by attendances at matches hosted in New York (2016) and Philadelphia (2017) it has been a failure but Dom Hayes, the Premiership Rugby commercial director, argues otherwise. “We’ve tried to be the opposite of the flash in the pan scenario,” he says. “In Philly, everyone focuses on the crowd size but in the week leading up to that we had coaching programmes up and down the eastern seaboard and referee groups coming in to share expertise and best practice. We’re at the very beginning of the journey.”

The quality of the product will determine how well it sells and another try-fest on Saturday, in keeping with the start to the season, should help. “People recognise who are as the defending champions,” Corbisiero says. “There’s almost a Patriots-esque vibe to them. It’s a great story to tell.” There are few better placed to tell it, provided the audience is listening.

Big Game review: Trump, Kaepernick and the NFL as political football

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The National Football League bills itself as a non-taxable trade association that promotes the “”. These days, it may need to add the title of America’s favorite tackling dummy. From the president to to worried parents, the NFL is under a never-ceasing, bone-crushing blitz. Nike’s swoosh hits harder than any middle linebacker.

The game pits Donald Trump, his supporters, predominately white owners and fans, against a labor pool that is 70% black. In the words of the late Tex Schramm, the Dallas Cowboys’ first president and general manager, to the late Gene Upshaw, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman and executive director of the players’ association: “You guys are cattle and we’re the ranchers … And ranchers can always get more cattle.”

Into this morass dives the New York Times reporter . His book is an entertainingly informative bird’s-eye take on the country’s still-favorite sport in the age of uncertainty and never-ending culture wars. As Leibovich observes, professional football has become “a proxy for our national divisions”, adding that “no one buys tickets to watch a morality play”. Apparently, the choice is binary.

A Patriots fan, Leibovich chronicles the five-time champions from the beginning of their 2014 season through their defeat in Super Bowl LII last February. He treats the reader to Tom Brady’s training regimen, football’s concussion problem, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ affinity for Johnnie Walker Blue in 24oz stadium cups, and steaming dollops of Trump. Make no mistake, smooth scotch goes down easier than a teetotaling president.

, NFL headquarters. Quoting fellow author Jeff Pearlman, Leibovich writes that Rozelle saw Trump as “this scumbag huckster” and a “New York fast-talking kind of con man”. Even Tony Soprano got more respect from Johnny Sack’s crew.

Roger Goodell – the current NFL commissioner, a Rozelle protege and the son of an anti-Vietnam Republican senator from New York – is more circumspect in describing Trump. Still, drizzles of disdain are in the air.

When asked about Trump, Goodell volunteered that we live in “interesting times” and smirked when asked if he maintained a back channel to the president. For good measure, Goodell added: “Our focus is on what we do … Our focus is on the game itself.” Yes, we’ve heard that line before. For his woes, Goodell is comforted by $40m annually even without holding any actual equity interest in the game.

On top of the president wishing Ivanka Trump had paired off with Brady instead of Jared the Middle East negotiator, Big Game spells out that Trump always coveted an NFL franchise but was never viewed as financially worthy. ; in 2014, his gambit for the Buffalo Bills went nowhere.

In particular, Trump lacked the requisite liquidity and transparencm their 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.City trailed to an early James Ward-Prowse goal and did not equalise until Sergio Aguero scored with their first shot on target on 70 minutes, with Kyle Walker hitting their late winner.Vestergaard said, “It’s a y to shoulder a team. “Football owners,” Leibovich writes, “… get a much closer look at a candidate’s finances than electorates do.” Indeed, in a with the Securities and Exchange Commission, , Trump’s liquid assets clocked in at $250m, nothing to sneeze at but also not the kind of cash needed to roam the halls alongside the NFL’s titans, who include Paul Allen, a Microsoft founder and owner of the Seattle Seahawks.

For the statistically inclined, Forbes pegs Allen as on its rich list while , the Pats owner, is 281 and the a mere 321. , dropping 200 in a year. Indeed, in the midst of the 2016 presidential race, that his father-in-law was cash-strapped.

Executive time, the Robert Mueller investigation and Stormy Daniels have come with a hefty price. To paraphrase the president, vice and emoluments are expensive.

Actually because of its nuggets, yucks and giggles, Big Game is a dead serious work. Leibovich agonizingly depicts the toll the sport exacts on the life expectancy, mental capacity and health of those brave and talented enough to make it to the pros. The book records the reactions of NFL Hall of Famers whose short-term memories are addled and a front office whose relationship to brain injuries and the truth is all too reminiscent on loan for the rest of the season by the Hornets.However, multiple outlets – via the Watford Observer – in the UK are reporting the move is not sitting well with the Clarets.They do not want to lose Gibson unless they can secure a replacement.He on of Big Tobacco’s approach to cigarettes and cancer.

Ultimately, Leibovich is focused on the question of how long “peak football” can stay on top of its game. He offers no simple answer.

He notes that last season the NFL suffered its lowest Super Bowl viewership in almost a decade and its highest number of concussions in six years. Thursday night’s opener between the champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons saw the air during the second half. Michael Bennett, an Eagles defensive end, .

Even as the league’s revenues , interest in pro football has . In 2014, nearly three in five registered voters closely followed it. Now the figure is barely half. Like organized religion, the NFL is larco Silva after signing a three-year contract with the Toffees.And he wants to make sure the club are aiming to qualify for Europe’s top competition.”I am excited to be here at one of the greatest clubs in England, really excited, I enjoy the place,osing its luster.

All this spells “another nonstop Christmas for the NFL doomsayers”. Yet as Leibovich notes, the “league just kept printing money to buy presents … They don’t make doomed sports leagues like they used to.” The fact that football legends Troy Aikman and Brett Favre have voiced concerns about their “hypothetical sons” following in their footsteps barely registers as a footnote on a balance sheet. Yet.

How does it all end? As the story fittingly concludes: “We await the replay.”

Canelo Álvarez edges Gennady Golovkin by majority decision in epic sequel

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The Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Álvarez scored the signature win of his career in Saturday night’s long-awaited rematch with , capturing the WBC and WBA middleweight titles by a majority decision in a classic encounter that all but guarantees a third installment in May.

Two of the finest pure fighters of their generation treated a sellout crowd of 21,965 at the T-Mobile Arena to a contest of extreme physical and psychological intensity that managed even to surpass their , which ended in a widely derided split draw. This one was just as close and not entirely beyond dispute, merely flecked by controversy rather than defined by it. Ringside judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored it 115-113 to Álvarez, while Glenn Feldman had it 114-114. (The Guardian 116-112 to Golovkin.)

Álvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs), the popular red-haired puncher from Guadalajara, now adds Golovkin’s belts at 160lbs to the lineal middleweight title he earned .

“I showed my victory with facts,” the 29-year-old Álvarez said afterward through an interpreter. “He was the one who was backing up. I feel satisfied because I gave a great fight. It was a clear victory.”

For Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs), the razor-thin verdict marked his first defeat in 40 professional fights, the first at any level since the 2005 amateur world championships, and ended his division-record streak of 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses on level terms with Bernard Hopkins, who incidentally is a minor stakeholder in Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Álvarez. Afterward the 36-year-old from Kazakhstan, the sport’s longest tenured active champion no more, walked solemnly to the dressing room without remaining in the ring for the customary in-ring interview.

Their first clash, 364 days ago in the same building, had seen Golovkin spend the night methodically cutting off the ring with deft footwork while Álvarez fought off the ropes with varying results. But from Saturday night’s first bell the action took on a radically different geometry, playing out almost exclusively in the center of the ring with neith Javier Zanetti says the board are excited by their prospects under new coach Antonio Conte.The Argentine says it’s the beginning of a new era.Zanetti said, “He is a coach who knows Italian football well and has a lot of experience. “He is a winning er fighter’s back touching the edge even once until the middle rounds. Golovkin didn’t wait long to establish the jab as his weapon of choice, doubling and tripling it up early while refraining from the heavy-handed combinations that have been his calling card in a career which, until Saturday, saw him finish 34 of 39 fights inside the distance.

A highly tactical opening, with neither man backing down and so little to separate them, began to heat up in the second and third as the fighters started to open up and trade harder shots. Golovkin continued to score at will with the jab, but Álvarez’s varied attack appeared to move the Kazakh backward and keep him off balance while the Mexican’s educated combination punching laid bare the difference in hand speed.

Álvarez’s dedicated body work, which would come to yield dividends in the later rounds, was effective in stemming Golovkin’s offensive, yet the longtime middleweight champion absorbed his opponent’s bestJuventus coach Maurizio Sarri says Andrea Barzagli is proving crucial in the progress of Matthijs de Ligt.Having retired last season, Barzagli was added to Sarri’s coaching staff this term.He revealed: “Clearly, Barzagli is a precious resource for shots with little apparent effect. Both men were countering exquisitely in a series of skirmishes that took on the feel of bullet chess: this was expert-level work from two top operators.

A thudding uppercut by Golovkin rocked Álvarez early in the fourth, prompting a roar from the crowd. He followed it with three straight jabs, then made his opponent pay with a compact left followed by a right square in the stomach. Yet right when it seemed Golovkin was taking over, his work rate began to slow and Álvarez was right there to take advantage.

By the sixth and seventh Canelo was commanding the pace and geography of the two-way action even as Golovkin’s jab continued to score, negotiating inside with hooks to the body and combinations upstairs. They traded hellfire in the eighth, showing incredible punch resistance. But it was Golovkin who betrayed signs of fatigue near the end of the frame, breathing with his mouth open and stepping away from the exchanges with atypical consent. Álvarez moving backward landed a left hook flush on Golovkin’s jaw, followed by three more shots that whipped the partisan Mexican Independence Day audience into a frenzy. When the bell rang to signal the end of the eighth, Canelo appeared in command.

By then a cut opened had above Álvarez’s eye and he appeared to flag early in the ninth, but Golovkin soldiered through his exhaustion. Back and forth it went into the 10th, when Golovkin moved Canelo backward with a four-punch combination then briefly stunned his opponent with a right hand. Golovkin was landing the cleaner punches and by the 11th was on the clear attack, evoking the seek-and-destroy modus operundi that had become his signature, but Álvarez held his ground and refused to back down, never allowing the older champion to land without proper recompense.

Both fighters entered the final round with the belief the outcome was in doubt – correctly, as Canelo led by a slight 105-104 margin on all three cards – but it was Golovkin who demonstrated the stronger finishing kick, striking with a left hook and an uppercut to open the frame and pouring on the punishment as the crowd roared chants of “Tri-ple G! Tri-ple G!”, for the first time on the niea’s transfer ban was overturned on appeal on Friday.And the Chelsea-transfer-news-Man-Utd-Liverpool-Jadon-Sancho-January-Borussia-Dortmund”>Daily Express says Chelsea have put Sancho at the top of their January shopping list after their transfer banght not shouted down by the Canelo faithful. When the bell sounded the fighters embraced, then returned to their corners to await the official scores.

(If there was a controversy, it’s that Moretti and Weisfeld found a way to award the outcome-swinging 12th, as clear as Golovkin round as there was, to Álvarez.)

“I’m not going to say who won tonight, because the victory belongs to Canelo according to the judges,” Golovkin said after receiving eight stitches for a 5cm cut along his right eye. “I thought it was a very good fight for the fans, and very exciting. I thought I fought better than he did.”

Golovkin threw and landed with greater frequency on the night, connecting with 234 of 879 punches (26.6%), compared to 202 of 622 for Álvarez (32.5%). But the resolve and adaptability of the younger, primer Álvarez was enough to carry the day, if only by the slimmest of margins.

“I can’t complain, that’s what we have the judges for,” Abel Sanchez, Golovkin’s trainer, said. “We had a great fight, the one we expected the first time around. I had it close going into the 12th round. We had good judges who saw it from different angles. I can’t complain about the decision, but it’s close enough to warrant a third fight. Canelo fought a great fight.”

When asked if he would consider a third meeting, Golovkin, now twice denied what could or should have been the defining moment of a prolific career spent largely outside of the mainstream spotlight, was to the point.

“Under the right conditions, yes,” he said.

Álvarez didn’t back down from a third fight, where he would almost surely enter the favorite after playing the underdog role in the first two.

“That was a great fight, but in the end, it was a victory for Mexico,” Alvarez said. “And again, it was an opportunity, and I want to shout out to my opponent, the best in the sport of boxing. I am a great fighter, and I showed it tonight.

“If the people want another round, I’ll do it again.”

Phil Mickelson dropped by Jim Furyk for all Saturday’s Ryder Cup play

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, chosen by Jim Furyk asld be Mohamed Salah, according to former Reds midfielder Don Hutchinson.Speculation continues to build on whether Europe’s biggest clubs will attempt to sign Jurgen Klopp’s dominant side.Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked with Salah and Sadio one of his four captain’s picks, has been omitted from all the Ryder Cup pairings on Saturday and his participation in the event is now restricted to a heavy defeat on Friday afternoon plus Sunday’s singles.

The left-hander was also benched for the whole of Saturday at Gleneagles four years ago, which led to his , the then US captain.

The 48-year-old Mickelson lost 5&4 with his fellow wildcard Bryson DeChambeau on Friday and even that represented something of a recovery, as Sergio García and Alex Norén had been six up after 12.

DeChambeau was paired with another car 5-0 win at Europa League opponents LASK last night.The first leg of the Europa League last 16 tie in Linz wasagreed a fee of £8.2m, according to Goal.Mignolet has been desperate to leave Anfield in order to play regular first-team football.The Belgian will return to his homeland after playing 204 times for the Reds following his £9m switch from Sunderland played behind closed doors, due to fears about the spread of coronavirus. “We missed the fans tonight but played strong as a team to give ptain’s pick for Saturday afternoon’s action, Tiger Woods, to play Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood.

Dustin Johnson and were up against Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson faced Sergio García and Alex Norén, while Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were opposed by Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy.

This meant Europe kept the same lineup that allowed Thomas Bjørn’s side to sweep the foursomes session on Friday.

NFL seeks $2m from Cowboys owner Jones after clashes over Elliott and Goodell

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The NFL is exploring options to get more than $2m in reimbursement for legal fees from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension, as well as court costs for running back , said a person with knowledge of the situation.

Many owners were consulted on seeking restitution, including members of the finance committee, according to AP’s source. Some of the finance committee members are on the compensation committee that was at the center of what became a legal back-and-forth over Goodell’s deal.

The attempt at restitution is rooted in a 1997 resolution that states owners can seek repayment for legal fees if a fellow owner is responsible for getting them involved in legal action.

The Cowboys declined to comment on the owners’ actions.

Jones’ attempt to derail Goodell’s extension, which came after Elliott was suspended over domestic violence allegations, led to a volley of threatening letters from lawyers for both sides. After eventually relenting, Jones said after the owners meetings in December that he got what he wanted with an agreement to consider changes to the power of the commissioner’s role taptain Vincent Kompany said goodbye to the club’s fans in style.City players and fans were celebrating their domestic treble success with a parade in Manchester.It allowed Kompany, who is leaving to join Anderlecht as player-manager, a chance to bid hrough the league’s constitution. Jones denied that his attempt to scuttle the contract was tied to Elliott’s suspension, but made repeated references to Goodell’s power to punish players.

With Jones and Goodell in the same room for a news conference after the December meetings, the commissioner said he didn’t take Jones’ objections to the extension ach Antonio Conte.Named new Inter coach last week, Conte is eager to see his newly inheritetest with Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final on Wednesday.The Reds beat Spurs twice in the Premier League this season, with a 2-1 scoreline in both games.And Klopp is expecting another cagey affair at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid.”Id squad strengthened.RSI Sport says Inter have approached Arsenal for Xhaka and talks have already kicked off over a fee for the midfielder.The Switzerland intpersonally. Goodell also denied assuring Jones that Elliott wouldn’t be suspended before announcing the punishment in August.Jones and the Cowboys were supportive of Elliott’s lawsuit, which was led by the players’ union and resulted in federal court hearings in three states over a span of two months. The suit eventually failed and Elliott served the suspension.

Serena Williams beats Kristyna Pliskova in triumphant return to French Open

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It is not often a player ranked 70 in the world gets to play on Court Philippe Chatrier – against someone ranked 381 points adrift of her.

Nevertheless, there was no more fitting stage to welcome back the game’s most regal presence, , on a day that began under cloud and ended in uplifting sunshine as the American survived a searching examination of her credentials and resolve. She said later she fantasises about being “a warrior princess” and she was exactly that again, as she has been so many times.

It made a nonsense, though, of the tournament’s decision to deny a former champion with such a distinguished pedigree a seeding, yet cash in on her celebrity by putting her and Kristyna Pliskova on the show court, packed on day three, with television ratings no doubt soaring by the point.

Wallowing for now at 451 in the rankings after her long absence but leading Pliskova by 71 career titles and, after an hour and 45 minutes on a sultry afternoon, a winning score of 7-6 (4), 6-4, she showed she is back, at 36, a mother and an athlete ready to resume her day job.

For how long and with what potency she will be a force in the game she has dominated for two decades we will not know until she scores a more emphatic win against a better opponent than Pliskova, or goes deep in a major – and maybe even adds to the 23 she has already accumulated, most recently last year in Melbourne when seven weeks pregnant.

John McEnroe was not alone in thinking that a miracle will not occur in Paris this fortnight but observed: “If she’s hungry enough, she will win again.” She cannot play at anything less than full throttle but she was -adamant her priority is her young daughter, born last September.

“I want to get home and see -Olympia, because I have been here all day. If I’m not practising, we’re hanging out. I’m concerned how that’s going to work out for me, because normally in grand slams, I do spend a lot of time at the site. She’s so young, I don’t really bring her. This is definitely going to be interesting.”

There were more than a few eyes agog at her outfit on a warm afternoon, a skintight, Wakanda-style, black -catsuit, designed by Nike to capture the moment, but intended also to help her faltering blood circulation after a difficult childbirth.

“The new version, 2.0, it’s cool. It’s really fun. We designed it way before the movie [Black Panther]. I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess. I had a lot of problems with my blood clots. God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So there is definitely a little functionality to it. I have been wearing pants a lot when I play so I want Paul Pogba sold.Pogba is set to start for Manchester United in their season opener against Chelsea despite going public with his desire to leave the club. But Souness told The Times: “If I’m sitting in United’s dressing room, I’m glad Lukaku hacan keep the blood circulation going.”

After Olympia and before Paris, there was Windsor and the royal wedding – and Williams was among the most prominent African-American guests there to celebrate with Meghan Markle and Harry.

“It was exciting to see so much African-American culture impacted in the wedding,” she said. “I was really happy Meghan wanted to incorporate thatn Newcastle United.The 27-year-old forward was linked to a move to Tyneside following the Magpies’ promotion to the Premier League under Rafa Benitez in 2017.Jose told Marca: “For me the best team is Real Madrid and then Barcelona. I could be in the into it. I think it was just a whole cultural shift and change. It was seeing how far African-Americans have come. I thought it was an incredibly inspiring and beautiful and really motivating thing.”

As for the tennis, Williams played a little Fed Cup towards the end of last year, has won two of four Tour matches this season and withdrew from Madrid and Rome to ensure she was ready for a grand slam. So this was her proper comeback match, in a city where she always has felt comfortable with the language, the culture and the tennis.

In an engrossing first set, Pliskova needed an ace – her 10th of 15 – to stay in the first set and was relieved when Williams hit long to take them to a tie-break but the Czech could not sustain her charge.

The second set followed the pattern of the first until the 10th game. Serving for the match, Williams slipped and fell near the net at 30-all, got up smiling to grab match point, made a mess of a drop shoith Bayern Munich actively looking to bring the winger back to Germany.However, Julian Draxler is unsure of what the future may hold for his former Schalke teammate according to Goal.”I don’t feel like he is forcing a transfer, but in football, anytht and had to save three break points before putting a seal on her glorious day when Pliskova dumped a forehand.

Next up is the multisport -Australian phenomenon, Ashleigh Barty, who beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva 6-3, 6-1. Asked what she thought about playing Williams four years after losing to her in two quick sets at the -Australian Open, she said: “I’m in a very different place. I think Serena is also in a very different place. But what an opportunity. She’s a genuine champion. What she’s done to be able to get back – along with Vika [Azarenka] and a lot of the other girls who are coming back after pregnancy – is a pretty amazing thing.”

Why are foreign soccer stars buying up lower league teams in the US?

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For years, the foreign soccer star was a fleeting sight on American soil: they came, they partied, they played a few games and then … they left. Now though, they’re not just passing through on an or seeing out their careers in MLS. A new wave of stars are putting down roots by investing in America’s professional game.

But it’s not the top league – MLS – that they’re interested in. They’re throwing themselves into second-tier competitions such as the and . They’re either joining fledgling, ambitious outfits, as , or creating new clubs altogether: , while Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow recently co-founded a San Diego club .

Many American fans, to the extent that they think about the lower rungs of professional soccer at all, imagine ropey matches played in front of sparse crowds at small-college stadiums. The reality is that the experience varies widely: FC Cincinnati, for example, regularly pull in more than 20,000 fans. Still: for stars used to playing in massive stadiums to a worldwide audience, why start so small (Drogba’s Phoenix Rising play in a stadium with a capacity of 6,200)? The answer lies not only in the game’s potential in America, but also the idiosyncrasies of Stateside soccer.

For starters, MLS is a single-entity structure. It’s centrally owned and shares revenue among its teams. This business model, created from lessons learned in the aftermath of the supernova-like collapse of the Pelé and Johan Cruyff-era , has ensured the long-term health of the league. Its critics, however, say that “owning” an MLS team really means owning the rights to a team: owners essentially buy membership into the league, and agree to its terms. Likewise, every MLS player technically has a contract with the league, not with his club. For European-based players who’ve spent their lives in the system used by the rest of the world, where branding, commercialization and player transfers are the revenue-generating engines of clubs, this can all seem especially – yes – foreign.

And then there’s the cost: the franchise fee to join MLS is $150m. In addition to that, the league demands that expansion teams play in a soccer-specific stadium. In other words, to simply get a meeting with Major League Soccer requires proof you have over $100m at your disposal; the ability to build or renovate a stadium; and the full cooperation of a city government. And that’s before you put together a team of players technically owned by someone else.

Now compare that with the second-tier. For less than $10m and an agreement to rent a stadium, you’re in business. The most vivid real-world juxtaposition between MLS and the lower leagues is David Beckham’s , while across town, Italian billionaire Riccardo Silva and Paolo Maldini launched Miami FC in the NASL within one year. The club plays at Florida International University’s stadium, employs Alessandro Nesta as its coach, and recently won the league’s first-half championship in only its second season.

But it is in player acquisition and development that the differences are starkest. In transfers involving an MLS player to an outside league, the league office has a seat at the bargaining table — and it’s hard to imagine it wants its best players to leave. (this proportion rises in favor of the club if the player is “homegrown”). But of the club’s takeaway, anything beyond $650,000 must go toward team operations.

In nearly every other league around the world, player movement is one of the main drivers of revenue, since players are contracted to their team current predicament.United find themselves two points off the bottom three places in the league after a 1-0 loss away to Newcastle United.While many believe boss Ole Gunnar S Frenkie de Jong at Barcelona.The teenage defender joined Barca last summer from MVV Maastricht and has regularly been invited to train with De Jong, Lionel Messi and the rest of the first team squad.”He took me aside a little bit that (first) day anolskjaer is out of his depth at United, Neville believes the Glazers and Eds. And in America’s lower leagues, the reality is if a club sells two or three players they’ve developed, they can pay their bills for two years. And it just so happens that places like San Diego, Phoenix and Miami are not only great cities to retire for a moneyed professional athlete – Drogba is said to love life in Arizona, and has brought his family out to live with him – they’re also among the most fertile soccer regions in the country.

“You’ve got Demba Ba and looking at this and going, OK, where’s the most talent in America?” says Eric Wynalda, the TV analyst and former US international. “Well, it might be the Hispanic kids living right next to the border. OK, let’s move there.”

In fact, Ba’s San Diego team arose from an initial attempt to create a youth academy in southern California. In 2013, Alexis Gallice, the son of former France international Jean Gallice, started the French Soccer Institute in San Clemente. According to his associate, Pascal Soares, finding the money was a challenge — as was convincing local youth clubs that they wanted to work with their coaches and players, not steal them.Right call. Right tone. Right time. Kia Joorabchian had to act. The chatter was getting out of hand. It’s been humiliating. Malicious. And all designed to belittle his client, Philippe Coutinho…Someone. Maybe more than one? But there is a heavy inf Eventually the group realized that, for developing talent, a professional team was the way to go. For that, they needed stars with name recognition and money to invest.

They contacted an acquaintance, Alex Gontran, Demba Ba’s adviser. Ba in turn recruited his friends Hazard, Cabaye, Sow and Vagno Chandara, a French futsal player. , intricate network of youth clubs, and a huge hole in the city’s professional sports scene – the NFL’s Chargers recently relocated to LA – made the choice simple. Soares put Ba’s group in touch with local entrepreneur Bob Watkins, who has been involved with developing rugby in the US but was unfamiliar with soccer. He quickly saw an opportunity.

“The day I met Demba, I took them out to a soccer complex [nearby] in Del Mar,” Watkins said. “We pulled up to the field unannounced, and as we walked across the fields there were about 1,000 children playing soccer in ages from 10 to 15. As we walked closer, they all stopped playing soccer and they said, ‘That’s Demba Ba!’ They ran over and basically smothered him, while the coaches were saying, ‘Hey, you gotta go back and play!’ and the referees were blowing their whistles, and parents were saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ I said to myself, ‘There’s something magical about this.’”

After learning about the entrepreneurial limitations of MLS, Watkins said his group agreed that NASL was a better fit for their ambitions. That league, though, . Several clubs left, the league parted ways with the troubled Traffic Sports and reorganized as an owner-run operation. It currently has eight teams, with at least two (San Diego, Orange County, and possibly more to come) scheduled to start next year. The league needs to get back up to 12 teams, and be in three time zones, to have waivers removed by US Soccer that officially recognize NASL as the nation’s second-tier league. From this perspective, it’s hardly a safe investment. Ronaldo certainly couldn’t save the troubled Fort Lauderdale Strikers .

“It was an entrepreneurial risk,” Watkins said of his San Diego project. “And Demba is a very entrepreneurial fellow.” He says Ba and his group saw an untapped market: Americans are good athletes for the most part, and soccer in the US is becoming more organized. What could they accomplish if they applied the French approach to player development to the US?

While Drogba’s and Maldini’s shares of their clubs aren’t public, sources speculate that their ownership stakes are more symbolic than material – the value they bring is in their technical expertise and marketability. But according to Watkins, Ba is actually the lead investor in the San Diego team. He owns the mandated 35% minimum for a lead owner, and Ba and together, the players are majority owners of the team.

But of all the ways for an athlete to spend their wealth, why put it into soccer? Peter Wilt is a longtime soccer executive who’s currently managing director of Club 9 Sports, an investment bank and advisory organization who assisted Ba’s group with its application. He says that investing in second-tier soccer is a long-term strategy.

“There’s opportunity, whether it’s as a business or a challenge,” Wilt says. “They recognize that pro soccer in the US is not a mature industry yet, and there’s an opportunity to invest in it at a relatively low level and build it. To a certain extent, MLS is becoming a mature property, but when you look at lower division soccer in America, there’s tremendous room for growth. And I think these guys recognize that.”

So will any of these player-owned, lower-tier clubs make the leap to MLS, as many of the league’s clubs, such as Minnesota, Orlando, Portland and Vancouver did? That’s exactly what Drogba’s Phoenix side are aiming to do. MLS has visited with the team, and Phoenix is now a fixture on the shortlist of rumored expansion teams. Silva has said elsewhere that he’d consider MLS for his Miami club if the league would change some of its rules.

At the very heart of it though, owning your own soccer team is for enjoyment. Be honest: every fan has dreamed about it at some point. “To these players, the idea of owning a football club just sounds fun,” Wynalda says. “We all chip in a little bit, and we have our own team. We play games. We find talent. We create a culture. And it’s ours. It’s our club. You can’t really say that if you go the MLS route. It’s a franchise that’s part of a bigger plan, but it’s not yours, really.

“Even if you’re not part of the big show, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a show.”

Teenagers arrested after Indy 500 pole winner Scott Dixon held up at Taco Bell

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Police say Indianapolis 500 pole-winner Scott Dixon and fellow former race winner Dario Franchitti were robbed at gunpoint while in aTacoBell drive-thru lane.

A police report that the robbery happened shortly before 10pm on Sunday at the fast-food restaurant less than a mile from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Dixon had hours earlier won the top starting position for next Sunday’s Indy 500.

The police report says two mrts from Turkey linking him with a shock return to St James’ Park, says the Evening Chronicle.Now 34, Cisse is plying his trade in Turkey with Alanyaspor and while he is still passionate about his time spent on Tyneside – with the former number 9 netales ran away after the robbery and that Dixon’s wife, Emma, was also in the vehicle. Officers later arrested two boys, ages 15 and 14.

IndyCar driver Tony Kanaanon Monday that Dixon was making a food run for a group of drivers. “While they were ordering with their windows down two guys approached at gun point,” Kannan said. “They held a gun at Dixon’s head and asked him for his wallet and his phone. You don’t expect that to happen, especially here … Obviously, I’m glad they’re OK. Now obviously I can make fun of them big time.”

Dixon, who is from New Zealand, is the 2008 Indy 500 winner and a longtime Chip Ganassi Racingster United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has refused to comment on interest in Red Bull Salzburg striker Erling Haaland.Solskjaer knows his Norwegian compatriot Haaland, 19, very well from their time together at Molde before the former United favourite team-mate of Franchitti, a Scot who retired in 2013 with Indy 500 wins in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

“Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are completely fine after being held up last night by two men Manchester United veteran Nemanja Matic is pricing himself out of a move to MLS.The Daily Mail says Chicago Fire have pulled out of a proposed deal for Matic.The MLS club were considering a move for the Serbian but deemed him too expensive.Matic’s contract at Old Trafford is set to expire in the summer, however the Red Devils reportedly have the option to extend his deal by a further year.at a fast-food restaurant,” the team said in a statement. “We will allow the Speedway/Indianapolis police departments to handle the situation and while they conduct their investigation we will refrain from making any further comments to allow Scott to focus on the upcoming Indianapolis 500.”

Phillies prospect Matt Imhof quits baseball at 23 after losing right eye

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Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof has announced his retirement from baseball at the age of 23, just seven months after losing his right eye in a freak training accident.

, Imhof confirmed he was walking away from the game young, but insisted that it wasn’t because of his injury. “My injury is not whcelotti can bring the glory days back to Goodison Park.Sharp’s goals helped the Toffees to two titles, an FA Cup triumph and success in the European Cup Winners’ Cup in a ­decade in which Merseyside led the way, Liverpool winning the First Division at’s stopping me,” Imhof wrote. “The truth is I need a change of pace after 20 years of doing the same thing.”

In June last year, Imhof was taking part in a resistance-training exercise in Florida, where he was playing for the Clearwater Thrashers, when a metal hook broke away from the wall and slammed into his face. He fractured his nose, broke two orbital bones and severely injured his right eye. “Everything went numb as I hit the ground screaming. I could feel the warmth of the blood running down my face and taste it in my mouth,” he wro Marc-Andre Ter Stegen insists there’s no problem between the players and the board.Gerard Pique has accused board members of planting stories in the local press blaming the players for their poor start to the season.But after victory in the Championte.

Doctors in Miami did their best to repair the damage to his e Arsenal legend has just taken charge of Roots Hall.He told the Mirror, “I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as a firefighter. I had a couple of interviews in the summer, at clubs whose natural habitat was mid-table, but this job was like a ­boomeraneye, but after learning of the seriousness of the injury, Imhof chose to have it removed. He now wears a prosthetic eye.

published on 30 June, five days after the accident, Imhof revealed the extent of the damage.

“Doctors informed me that the damage to my eye was extreme, and essentially that my eye had been crushed like a grape,” he wrote. “The doctors told me they were going to do everything possible, but in all likelihood I would never regain the sight in my right eye. After discussions with my family, it was decided that the best chance I had to live a normal life was to have my right eye removed and a prosthetic eye put it.”

In his ESPN essay, Imhof said it had been a difficult few months, and recounted the tears and the anger and confusion – but said he was determined not to let the injury define him.

“I had two options,” he wrote. “I could let this injury define me. I could be angry – no one would blame me for that. I could be depressed, feel sorry for myself and live in the past. I could let the rest of my life be defined by the worst day of my life. Or, I could pick myself up, dust myself off and move on.”

Imhof was taken 47th in the 2014 draft. He played two-and-a-half minor league seasons with four different teams, and posted a 13-10 record with a 3.69 ERA.

“I am blessed that I was able to play this game for 18 years and will never forget the lessons it taught me along the way,” he said. “Although I am stepping away from playing the game, baseball will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Toronto Raptors stand arm-in-arm for anthems: ‘We’re all human beings’

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The made a show of solidarity by linking arms during the anthems before their NBA pre-season game with Golden State on Saturday night.

Raptors players and staff stood arm-in-arm for the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, where the game was played. Some bowed their heads. Their statement was the latest entry in a series of recent protests designed to raise awareness of racial injustice and other social problems.

“We wanted to show solidarity,” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry. “We’re a team, we’re all together, we’re all one race, we’re all human beings. We all understand that things in the United States and the things in the world [aren’t] the best right now.”

The Raptors, who won 97-93, held discussions all week before the decision to link arms was made.

“I told our players, understand why you’re doing it,” said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey. “It’s not against the military, it’s not against the flag, it’s not against the country. It’s their feelings on social injustice.”

Casey said their statement was intended to start a conversation. “Guys were real, guys had sincere feelings, sincere thoughts, sincere things to talk about and concerns,” he said. “That’s what all this should be about – to induce conversation.”

Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem in August, America has grappled with questions of patriotism, free speech and the American flag, and many sports stars have opted to show their support. Several NFL players have sat, knelt or raised fists, and many high school and college players have also picked up the cause.

The has a rule that players and coaches must stand during the anthems, although it wasn’t mentioned in a recent letter to the players.

The Warriors’ players and coaches who were on the floor in Vancouver all stood as usual. In Bossier City, Louisiana, so did the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans, some with their hands over their hearts.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said he hoped the team’s unique perspective as a Canadian team with many international players could

“We have guys who are not from America,” he said. “They go through their own problems in their own country, or whatever the case may be. If we can help inop four hopes tomorrow night.The Gunners travel to Stamford Bridge in 10th place, looking to reduce a 10-point gap on the Blues in fourth.Lampard insists Mikel Arteta’s side will not be out of contention if they lose but warned his side not to allow any type of way in a positive way, help a kid have a different outlook on something or have the right approach to something in life, that’s beneficial.”

DeRozan said it didn’t take long for the team to come to a consensus. “We all know what’s right is right, and we all know what’s wrong is wrong,” he said. “That’s just common sense of us all being genuine people. Once we put that in perspective it was easy.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors’ latest star element, took the first shot of the pre-season, a step-back jumper from the right side that was well short. The former Oklahoma City star’s first basket with the Warriors was a dunk with about a minute left in the opening quarter, one that drew a loud reaction from the sellout crowd of 19,000.

“Felt good to play and play against someone else,” Durant said. “We can start building for the season and what we want to be. So it’s a good first step.”

Durant heard some boos during the game, though said afterward he felt there were more cheers.

“Once the ball was tipped, it was juste as Man City women manager leaving his team top of the WSL after a harce James.The Sun says Newcastle and Leeds are expected to tussle it out for James in January.Steve Bruce has a strong interest in the right-back, who has broken into Frank Lampard’s first-team squad this season.The Newcastle boss hopes he can convincd fought 2-1 success over title rivals Arsenal.City went in at the break 1-0 to the good after being second best for most of the first half in this clash of the joint leaders in t another game for me,” Durant said.