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Houston Astros cheating probe widens to almost 60 witnesses, 76,000 emails

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Major League Baseball has interviewed almost 60 people and obtained tens of thousands of electronic messages in its investigation into allegations the broke rules by using a television camera to steal signs.

Former Houston pitcher Mike Fiers sparked the investigation when he told the Athletic last month the Astros had used the camera to steal signs in 2017 during the team’s run to its first World Series title.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month MLB was investigating Houston’s conduct for the past three seasons, and he hoped to complete the inquiry before the start of next season.

“I think that this is probably the most thorough investigation that the commissioner’s office has ever undertaken,” he said Wednesday at the winter meetings. “I think we’ve interviewed already nearly 60 witnesses, 76,000 e-mails, a whole additional trove of instant messages.

“That review has caused us to conclude that we have to do some follow-up interviewing. It is my hope to conclude the investigation just as promptly as possible, but it’s really hard to predict how long something like that is going to take.”

Astros manager AJ Hinch and Boston manager Alex Cora, the Astros’ 2017 bench coach, said they had spoken with investigators, and Hinch said he had been involved in several sessions. New York Mets manager Carlos Beltrán, a Houston player in 2017, refused to say whether he had been interviewed.

“At this point in the investigatArsenal’s head of football Raul Sanllehi says the club have enough “ammunition” to secure transfer targets this summer.The Gunners will lose Aaron Ramsey, Danny Welbeck and Petr Cech after letting their contracts expire.But Sanllehi is confident thion it would be wholly inappropriate for me to speculate about what types of discipline might be in play,” Manfred said. “I’m going to get all the facts in front of me and make a decision as promptly as possible on discipline.”

MLB strengthened its rules against electronic sign stealing before the 2019 season, and Manfred said the rules are reviewed eacise on teammate Raheem Sterling.Sterling, insists Delph, now belongs at the top tier of today’s stars.“I joined City with Raheem, so for me to see Raheem’s ­development as debut in Major League Soccer.He was playing for FC Cincinnati for the first time since joining the club temporarily in the January transfer window.Locadia netted in the 71st minute, only seven minutes after he came off the bench for Cincinnati.His nd to push him, to be that voice in his ear, I still felt very much part of ih offseason to determine whether more alterations are warranted.

Brandon Brooks says he had to leave Eagles’ loss to Seahawks due to anxiety

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Brandon Brooks said he had to leave the Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday due to anxiety.

The guard, who joined the Eagles from the Houston Texans in 2016, has been open about his struggles with anxiety in the past, and said he was not ashamed of his decision to leave the game.

“I’d like to address what happened yesterday,” . “I woke up, and did my typical routine of morning vomiting. It didn’t go away like it eal Madrid.The 18 year-old Japan international will join Real after the Copa America from FC Tokyo.Kubo had been with Barca since he was eleven years of age before he was forced to return to Japan after a FIFA crackdown on the recruitment of junior pnoid have confirmed coach Zinedine Zidane’s brother has passed away.Zidane left Los Blancos’ training camp on Friday to fly back to Spain and be with his family.In Montreal, the players and coaching staff all observed a minute’s silence before startingrmally does, but I figured it would calm down once I got to the stadium. It did, but I felt exhausted. The nausea came back, and I tried to battle through it and went out for the first drive. The nausea and vomiting came back until I left the field, and tried everything I could to get back for my teammates but just wasn’t able to do it.

“Make no mistake, I’m NOT ashamed or embarrassed by this nor what I go through daily. I’ve had this under control for a couple of years, and had a set back yesterday. The only thing I’m upset about is that when my team needed me, I wasn’t able to be out there with and for them. Lastly, I appreciate the support of my coaches, teammates and fans. It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Brooks has missed five games during his career due to anxiety, and was given a formal diagnosis in 2016. Until Sunday, he had not missed time due to anxiety since the diagnosis. One of his fellow offensive lineman on the Eagles, Lane Johnson, also suffers from anxiety and the two have said they joke with each other about vomiting before games.

The Eagles’ head coach, Doug Perderson, said he fully supports Brooks. “This is not a football issue with Brandon; y came from behind to beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu in their Champions League last-16 first-leg clash.Isco had given the hosts the lead but Gabriel Jesus and a Kevin De Bruyne penalty, before Sergio Ramos’ late red card, ensured the Premier Lethis is a real-life issue that he has come out and publicly acknowledged and kind of shared his story a few years back,” Pederson told 94.1 WIP on Monday. “It’s something that he’s dealing with each and every day of his life. You never really know what triggers it. We’re here to support him. We love him. It is unfortunate that it happened, but it’s something that he deals with every single day. We’re just going to continue to support him.”

The 30-year-old is considered one of the best guards in football, and signed a four year, $56.5m contract extension in November. He won Super Bowl LII with the Eagles in February 2018.

Silver defends NBA employees’ right to free speech as China cancels broadcasts

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The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, said the league is not apologizing for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet showing support for anti-government protesters in , even after China’s state broadcaster canceled plans to show a pair of preseason games in that country later this week.

Silver, speaking on Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and the Toronto Raptors, went as far as to say that he and the league are “apologetic” that so many Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey’s tweet but insisted that the executive has the right to freedom of expression. The NBA has also received criticism from US politicians. Senator Ted Cruz said the league by initially saying it was “regrettable” that Morey’s tweet had caused offence in China.

“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right [to free speech] as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

Those consequences are already becoming clear. The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) said it would not show the games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, who will play former Liverpool midfielder was a free agent after his contract with Stoke City expired last month.He has signed a one-year deal with the Royals.Chief Executive Nigel Howe said: “A player with both Championship and Premier League experience, not to mon Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen. is wildly popular in China, with the Lakers drawing particularly strong support due to the presence of superstar LeBron James

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.” The broadcaster is also reviewing all its cooperation with the , according to the statement.

Chinese state media on Wednesday accused the NBA of endorsing violence with the Daily accusing Silver of “brazenly endorsing Morey’s secessionist-supporting tweet” and giving “a shot to the arms of the rioters of Hong Kong”.

The state-owned Global Times accused Silver of caving in to political pressure, saying the NBA was treating the Chinese market with disregard.

Silver will arrive in Shanghai on Wednesday and said he hoped to meet officials and some of the league’s business partners in an effort to find common ground. “I’m sympathetic to our interests [in China] and our partners that are upset,” Silver said. “I don’t think it’s inconsistent on one hand to be sympathetic to them and at the same time to signing another English player – 25-year-old winger Turgott,.The ex-West Ham youth scored 18 goals in 46 appearances for National League side Maidstone last season.Ostersunds have embarked on a policy of bringing young English talent to the far nostand by our principles.”

Silver said the NBA did not expect CCTV to cancel plans to show the Lakers-Nets games. “But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values,” Silver said.

The rift between China and the NBA started late last week when Morey tweeted a now-deleted image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” in reference to months of pro-democracy demonstrations in the Chinese territory that has been mired in violence between protesters and law enforcement.

Efforts were quickly made to defuse the impact. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and Morey returned to Twitter on Monday in an effort to clarify his original post. NBA streaming partner Tencent which has a $1.5bn contract with the league over the next five seasons said it would not show Rockets games and a sports website in China said it was no longer covering the team.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that China’s best-known basketball player is Hall of Famer Yao Ming, who spent his NBA career with the Rockets. Yao is now the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, which has said aj is ready to leave Napoli in January.”There had been discussions in the summer with Roma, then we stopped when the season began, but we still like them as a destination,” agent Mario Giuffredi told Radio Marte.“I think it is Napoli’s interests toit is suspending its relationship with the Rockets in response to Morey’s tweet. The CBA also canceled plans to have the G League affiliates from Houston and Dallas play preseason games in China later this month. “I’m hoping that together Yao Ming and I can find an accommodation,” Silver said. “But he is extremely hot at the moment, and I understand it.”

The NBA’s reaction to Chinese displeasure is jarring to some, given the fact that the league for encouraging its players to express their views on social issues they believe are important, such as police shootings of African Americans.

The Raptors had every advantage against the Warriors. It didn’t matter

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The Raptors could not have asked for a better shot at taking a commanding lead. During Game 2, the Warriors had to deal with various combinations of the following obstacles: no Kevin Durant; DeMarcus Cousins battling back from acould be on the move from Everton in January.The Liverpool Echo says with the January transfer window fast approaching, and with both youngsters coming to the end of their current contracts with the club in 2020, a potential to go out on loan for fir torn quad; Stephen Curry struggling with the flu; Andre Iguodala hobbled; Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney leaving the game with injuries; a raucous home crowd; a 12-point second-quarter deficit; Drake; shooters unable to buy a basket in the final five minutes.

. Golden State won Game 2, 109-104, to tie up the series at one game apiece as the team head to the West Coast. It would be unkind to say the Raptors blew it, but rarely are finals match-ups so weighted in one side’s favor. Only a vintage performance from the Splash Brothers, and added a further nine assists, could spur the Warriors to victory. Golden State ripped off an 18-0 run to open the third-quarter, putting them into a lead they retained for the rest of the game.

Talk of the Warriors’ lack of shooting depth – a source of discussion all season – grew after . Without Durant they were missing that third shooter, detractors claimed. It was hokum: having Curry on the court is like having three shooters. Having Klay is like having an extra two. No play better sums up the breadth of Curry’s range and the pressure that it puts on a defense than this:

There were 34 seconds remaining in the third-quarter with a dwindling shot clock. Draymond Green hit Curry in stride, the shooter some 30-feet from the basket. For most, it would be just a hair out of range. Not Curry. Norman Powell rushed out to defend, and with just a hint of daylight, Curry rose, drilling a three. And, just like that, the lead was 10. Some shots are worth more than mere points: they drain the energy out of the opposition.

No one has the ability to demoralize an opponent in the way Curry does. He is the Warriors’ offensive fulcrum, and helps democratize the offense. Other superstars crave the ball in their hands. Get out of the way and let me do work. And that’s fine because it works – just look at Kawhi Leonard for Toronto. But Curry’s selflessness gives the Warriors extra zest.

Meanwhile, once Green or Iguodala or any other initiator of the offense gets the ball in his hands, the Warriors slip into pass-happy Warriorsgasms. You know the kind: Curry and Thompson darting here then there. The ball whipping around the court at a break-neck pace. It sows confusion. The Warriors leverage that confusion into easy baskets.Newcastle United.The Irons lost 3-2, after conceding the first three goals of the game.He said, “It’s a bad result and it is a performance that isn’t West Ham like.”We need a reality check and need to know we need to start getting points on the board Defenses jump up, then sag off, then play catch up. At that pace, with that level of intellect, the Warriors almost always find a good shot. The Warriors shot 38% from three-point range in Game 2, the Raptors 28%. Golden State made two more threes. It was the difference.

None of this is rocket science. Curry is the best shooter who has ever lived, whether you go by the numbers or the eye test. Thompson is in the top-five. Reasonable minds can disagree on where he falls in the pecking order, but he’s closer to the second spot than he is the fifth.

Now the Warriors return home for two games. Hold serve, and they will be one win away from a third-straight championship, their fourth in five years. “It was a great win. We got to go home and protect our home floor.” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “We’ll see about all the injuries, but I’m very proud of our team and in particular all the guys off the bench.”

Health looks to be the only thing that can hold Golden State back. How severe is Thompson’s hamstring injury? Even if he plays – – will he be able to scoot around screens with the same kind of vigor we are accustomed to? What about Durant’s calf? And what about Looney’s chest?

Looney has into a fully-fledged starter through the course of the season. On a team slammed up against the salary cap, that added depth has been invaluable. The Warriorsester City are casting a wide net to find a long-term replacement for Fernandinho.City boss Pep Guardiola is driving the search.Rodri of Atletico Madrid, Tanguy Ndombele of Lyon and Real Madrid’s Marcos Llorente make up the list of three potential mi can win at the highest level without Durant, they have proven that. But they can’t pull any of the other pieces out of this carefully constructed symphony. Their season teeters on a game-health Jenga: pull Thompson or Looney or Iguodala out of the line-up for an extended period of time and the whole thing could collapse. Golden State can withstand losing Durant because Curry, Thompson and Green are just that special. But to win the title they cannot afford to lose any more pieces.

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.”

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.

London franchise moves closer as NFL confirms first game at Spurs stadium

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The NFL’s international development manager believes the league’s “11-year tease” with London will lead to a permanent franchise, potentially as soon as 2021.

Speaking at the announcement of this year’s three games in London, Mark Waller, the league’s executive vice-president, said the economic case had been proven and it was now only a case of persuading any relocating team it would not be at a competitive disadvantage.

Having staged 21 games in London since 2011, Waller told Press Association Sport there was “no decrease in the enthusiasm for London” among the league’s 32 team owners and “they all know the numbers stack up”. The next task is finding solutions to any concerns a London-based team’s players and staff might have about issues such as accommodation, travel, tax status and schools.

Waller pointed out that the current collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union expires in 2020 and the league’s various broadcast deals run until 2021. “You could say it’s been an 11-year tease, but various strands would seem to be coming together,” Waller added.

Thursday’s announcement revealed that Tottenham’s new stadium will only host one NFL game next season, despite the Premier League club having a 10-year deal with the league to stage two games a season. The new White Hart Lane, which is under construction, will stage its first NFL game on 14 October, when the Oakland Raiders host the .

Having staged its first NFL game in 2007, Wembley gets its 19th and 20th games over the following two weekends – the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Los Angeles Chargers versus the Tennessee Titans. The Jaguars have agreed to play one game in London until 2020.

Waller urged British NFL fans not to read anything into the fact that there will be only three games in London this year, after four last year. Waller added that both Wembley and Twickenham started with just one game per season, and that White Hart Lane would be able to host three games in a season “pretty soon.” London mayor Sadiq Khan has also moved to reassure fans over the lack of a second game at White Hart Lane.

With the NFL committed to holding two games a season at Wembley until 2020, that means London can expect to stage five games in either 2019 or 2020 – a move that would only increase the clamour for a full-time franchise in the UK capital.

Despite missing out on a second game, White Hart Lane will benefit from hosting two good teams. The Seahawks have reached the playoffs in six of the last seasons, and won the Super Bowl in 2014. The Raiders, meanwhile, have emerged from the doldrums in recent years and are in the process of relocating – although Las Vegas, not London, will be their new homns.The Brazilian midfielder has two offers on the table, reports Le 10 Sport, from Newcastle United and Genoa.Genoa have bid €7m for Maia plus 50 per cent of his sell-on fee.Newcastle, meanwhile, have proposed a loan with a superior salary offer foe.

“The announcement of the first game of the NFL’s 2018 London games to take place at our new home heralds the commencement of our 10-year pa Azzurri were knocked out of the Champions League at the gas with Fikayo Tomori’s new deal.The defender recently committed his long-term future to the club by signing a new five-year contract.”He’s been playing fantastically well since I had him at Derby and then this season he’s shown it in the Premier Learoup stage which included finalists Liverpool and were dumped out of the Europa League in the last eight by Arsenal, who will face Chelsea in Baku.Ancelotti said, “It is a small consolation rtnership,” said the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy. “This is one of the cornerstones of our vision for creating a world-class sports and leisure destination that will make Tottenham a hive of activity 365 days a year, and drive the regeneration of one of the most deprived areas of London.”

England didn’t beat Australia in the Four Nations. Will Great Britain do better?

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League fans envious of in a row when their national team hasn’t beaten the Kangaroos for a decade, have something to look forward to. Great Britain are coming back. Yes, I know, you’ve heard it all before. But this time it’s true – apparently. As union’s British and Irish Lions gear up to dominate the media next summer when they head to New Zealand, a relaunch of the League Lions is being planned, at last.

It’s nine years now since Richard Lewis brought the curtain down on the Great Britain story after 60 (at times) glorious years, 10 since GB played down under and 24 since an Ashes series was held in Australia. But I am reliably informed that plans are evolving for the return of Great Britain & Ireland and the Ashes, last competed for on these shores in 2003 when Great Britain contrived to turn three laighted with their 2-1 victory over Sampdoria on Wednesday night.Cristiano Ronaldo jumped 71cm off the ground to nod in Alex Sandro’s cross and win the game, after a Paulo Dybala volley had been cancelled out by Gianluca Caprari’s effort.“Dybala’s gte leads into three narrow defeats.

With World Cups down under next year and up here in 2021, an Ashes series in 2018 would most likely be in the UK. Alternatively, Great Britain could go back to Australia in 2020. With Australia’s players union still demanding a fallow year between World Cups, it will be one or the other, not both.

So what would a modern Ashes tour look like? The whole point of bringing it back would be to give players and fans a different experience to the Four Nations or World Cup. It would mean warm-up or midweek matches at provincial venues, and three Tests. While it would not go on any longer than the current four to five weeks, more could be packed in.

But how could Great Britain & Ireland look any different to England? Assuming they took the traditional rugby union Lions’ philosophy of having every home nation contributing, there would be management and players from all four camps, surely led by a British coach. If you were choosing it now, a Lions squad could include Scotland’s Matty Russell, Danny Brough and possibly eays the Armenian is the Gunners’ fourth best-paid player but has flattered to deceive at the Emirates since his 2018 swap deal with Alexis Sanchez, who moved to Manchester United in Mkhitaryan’s place.The 30-year-old, who earns £180,000-a-week, is cven Adam Walker, the Welsh flavour could come from Lloyd White, Ben Flower or Rhys Evans, and from Ireland, possibly Ben Currie and the Kings brothers from Warrington. None of these players would be guaranteed a spot in a GB XIII picked on merit alone, but the Lions should be more than that.

The main reason Great Britain was mothballed in 2007 was that it had become an all-English team anyway. Other than Tony Smith’s bizarre selection of Samoan Maurie Fa’asavalu in 2007, as far as I can fathom, Irishman Brian Carney is the only Great Britain player not born in England since Welshman Rowland Phillips played in Papua New Guinea in 1996, bringing to an end a century of union converts from the celtic nations.

Nowadays the celtic contribution to Great Britain – or rather the “British Isles XIII” as the crest on my cherished old GBRL shirt declares – will most likely be English-born. But they could certainly bring the spirit and grit missing from Wayne Bennett’s England side last month.

Goal-line drop-out

So that was the 2016 season. Farewell rugby league; see you again in February. Unless that is you live in or near Yorkshire, are into the women’s game or have Wednesday afternoons free. In which case, the season is just getting into its stride!

The 14-team Hull League remains in winter while the Pennine League may have shrunk a little since the RFL’s bizarre “summer season” campaign yet still has 54 teams up and running this year. That’s just one more than the number of university teams playing now, from Northumberland to Brighton. There are 41 sixth form and further education colleges playing, including newcomers Leyton Sixth Form and Sir George Monoux in Walthamstow, neighbours in east London.

I feel I need to find out more. Add 12 women’s teams (including Liverpool University), the Girls League and the Yorkshire Junior League and there’s rather a lot of competitive league being played in December and January after all.

Foreign quota

While our professionals are back in pre-season training, across the channel the action never stops – especially for Toulouse and Catalans. Both have their reserves in Elite 1 again, providing a testing ground for their best young talent which, in theory, will emerge into the sunlight in spring. Catalans’ reserves, coached by Jerome Guisset, have dispensed with the name Saint-Estève-XIII-Catalan, ending about 80 years of those two historic clubs, and want to be known as Catalans U23, a sorry and unnecessary Anglicisation. Les Baby Dracs pushed table-toppers Carcassonne all the way recently, coming from 26-6 down to lose just 28-20, with Belgium rugby sevens winger Marc Sowell Tchangue among their scorers. They will continue playing once the Elite 1 season ends in May, facing British reserve teams.

While Catalans’ second team are looking strong, Toulouse Broncos – AKA Toulouse Olympique’s reserves – are without a win in their opening seven games. Coach Sylvain Houles will no doubt fish out some exciting young talent as 2017 unfolds. Look out for a full-length interview with Houles here on the Guardian in the bleak mid-winter. Lezignan look strong again and have gone top, while Catalans play Toulouse in a friendly on 21 January.

Clubcall: Toronto Wolfpack

The Wolfpack are the club that keep on giving. Press launch, media release, new signing, breaking story; repeat. Who knows what will happen when they actually start playing. Since I was last with you they have signed a deal with cool Italian kit manufacturers Kappa; abandoned plans to share Bradford Bulls’ Tonge training base and instead decided to set up camp at Brighouse Rangers; announced pre-season fixtures at Hull FC and against Wigan; and signed a second American-born player, with 19-year-old Gold Coast Titans prop Jerome Veve joining Virginian flyer Ryan Borroughs in their ranks, alongside some chap called Fui Fui Moi Moi. The 18 trialists they are bringing over to Brighouse from the Americas include a 17-year-old from Vancouver Island and USA internationals Terrance Williams from Georgia and Casey Clark of Montana.

The Wolfpack might also cause a stir expected to replace Maurizio Sarri in the Stamford Bridge hotseat.”After the season he has had with Derby and with Chelsea’s transfer ban in place, there is no-one better equipped than Frank to succeed at Chelsea,” the 38-year-old was quoted in Chel in Manchester. They will play home Challenge Cup ties and any play-off games at Manchester Regional Arena, next to the Etihad. On 5 February, Wigan will provide the first visitors to the home of Manchester Rangers, the amateur club who the RFL apparently lined up to replace York City Knights in League 1 before former London Skolars GM Jon Flatman rescued York on Thursday night. Intriguing.

Fifth and last

The confirmation that USA and Canada have been granted hosting rights for the 2025 World Cup went down well. However, we will not have to wait that long to see major international action over the pond. Despite the Kangaroos supposedly bringing down the curtain on the Four Nations, there is discussion over there being one more – in 2019… in the US!

This would act as a first test of the Moore Sports International’s capabilities in hosting a major tournament and prove a leg-up for the professional league they hope to launch that year. Expect the fourth team to be a top Pacific nation or the US Hawks. The US are also in the running to host the first Intercontinental Cup, which looks like being delayed until 2022 to avoid Rugby Union World Cups in 2019 and 2023. That would be a practice run for the 2025 World Cup.

Ferguson’s Tyron Woodley finds activist voice as biggest fight of career looms

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UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is an African American athlete in the modern age of sports activism. He does not take this responsibility lightly. He grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, and that fact alone gives him a voice on racial matters for it was his town, his neighborhood, his very street where Michael Brown was shot and his body lay for hours baking in the summer sun. As a young black man in he was racially profiled, pulled over needlessly by police and once thrown in a paddy wagon with a group of friends because he says: “We looked like we were up to something.”

He wrestled at the University of Missouri where last 8 November the football team went on strike in support of a black students and forced the school’s president to resign. He is proud of what the football players did at his alma mater, but more importantly, he sees the power their protest gives men like himself – African Americans with fame, money and success – to speak about topics like inequality. He believes they need to use it regardless of consequences.

In September he listened to Donald Trump rambling on about Ferguson as if it was some flaming ghetto and not the racially mixed suburban St Louis town he knows. This angered him and so he said: His comments were dutifully reported by TMZ who ran a picture of him with a clenched fist and a headline that said he Trump. His words made headlines and a few days later, a crowd of mostly white fans booed him in Madison Square Garden’s theater during a press conference for Saturday’s UFC 205.

Woodley seemed startled by gestions that he would sign for Aston Villa in the Premier League.But it appears the 24-year-old is bound for Italy, as the club have come closest to meeting Cagliari’s asking price.Cagliari-immagini?page=2#imgal2″>Gianluca Di Marzio claims the playethe reaction. Was he being booed for saying he might put is fist through Trump’s teeth? Or because he’s a diligent wrestler and therefore less exciting than his kickboxing opponent Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson? Or because he takes months off between fights, drawing criticism that he didn’t deserve the 201 fight against Robbie Lawler that got him the title? It leads some, like fellow welterweight contender Belal Muhammad to say: “I don’t know why the hate.”

Woodley can’t help but wonder if it is something else. Something deeper. Something that still holds back black fighters in a sport that should be colorblind.

“I think that – this is my personal opinion – but sometimes African American athletes are considered overly cocky,” he says. “I have some (things to say) that are blatantly true about African American athletes in our sport. And if I mention those thing then all of a sudden I’m whining, I’m playing the victim, I’m race baiting or it’s somebody else.

“But I don’t think it matters,” he continues. “Because at the end of the day, I’m the champion of the world. I’m a successful individual and maneuvering in a culture where there are some racists. I still find a way to get to the top, whether I go around or weave through.”

The Wonderboy fight is the biggest of Woodley’s career; billed as the co-main event of UFC 205 just below Conor McGregor v Eddie Alvarez and it has his name glowing on the Garden marquee. He’s exactly the kind of fighter the UFC should want to promote: a Christian family man with four children, a burgeoning acting career and a series of broadcasting jobs. And yet he can’t shake a feeling that as important as he’s become he isn’t as free as the lighter faces surrounding him on the card’s promotional poster.

At the UFC 205 press conference Woodley watched McGregor with torrents of profane Ranieri stepped in for Eusebio di Francesco last month.Murillo said, “It’s great to play regularly in a League I have already played in, know well and like a lot.”I’ve played in practically all the games. Things aren’t going as we would’ve liked, butinsults screamed into the roar of an adoring crowd that sees such bombast as part of McGregor’s Irish charm. McGregor’s act amused Woodley even as he rolled his eyes through some of the rants. McGregor is a good businessman and he respects that. He has a saying: “More drama, more commas”. So if McGregor wants to heap clever putdowns while the money falls all around them, by all means let him holler. But Woodley knows he can’t be McGregor, throwing bottles and spewing swear words. Doing so would only make him the angry black man and the boos would only come louder then.

“Name me one African American mixed martial artist who’s been able to get away with the amount of talk Conor has,” he says. “Name me one. You can’t. Rampage Jackson came to the UFC with a brain. He came to the UFC with a huge following from being in Asia with Pride. He was a personality before he came to the UFC. You don’t see them putting marketing money behind him to blow him up. Have you seen Jon Jones taken in any (marketing) direction? Have you seen any African American athlete that appeals to the urban market actually bring that market to the ?”

For years Woodley never made Ferguson a part of his identity. He figured nobody had heard of his hometown and he found it easier just to say he was fighting out of St Louis. But then Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown and a neighborhood erupted. There were riots and looters and buildings on fire. In some ways he was conflicted. He knew what it was like to be a young black man in Ferguson – the way the police come down hard sometimes, where the greatest crime an African American kid might have was the color of his skin. “Those things are true, they are happening and Ferguson is notorious for it,” he says. And yet it was also the place where he was raised, the community he loved. He knew every bit of that town, having lived in some of the poorest sections as well as the best. It hurt him to sit it burn.

He knew exactly the rage that many of the protesters brought to the streets, but he also knew that many of those running before the cameras, throwing rocks at windows weren’t from Ferguson or even St Louis. The damage they did was more than just physical. It left an emotional scar. Suddenly little Ferguson was a national flashpoint and the TV commentators were getting the town wrong. They portrayed it as the inner city, a predominately African American ghetto where crime lingered on every corner. That was not his Ferguson. His Ferguson a mixture of white and black spread through blocks of subdivisions; a place where people had to accept each other’s differences and where also those backgrounds collided.

“You go to Ferguson and you look at January-Wabash Park and other areas (they’re) extremely nice and it’s not a war zone,” Woodley says. “They way it’s portrayed is why I have an issue. That’s not Ferguson. I think more so (it is) the way way the community and law enforcement have been at odds for years. They respect hasn’t been there for the law enforcement and definitely there is profiling on the citizens.”

After the riots he added Ferguson to his biography – not to capitalize on the unrest but to show people that the town where he grew up was not an awful place. He wanted the world to know that good things and good people came from a community whose very name sparks the tinders of ugly debate. He is sensitive about the impressions everyone gets of a place most have never seen. “I wanted to show that hey, Ferguson is a place where a lot of successful people have been born and raised and built so I wanted to show Ferguson in a positive way,” he says.

Not long after Brown’s death and before the riots, Woodley contacted the UFC hoping to use the organization’s enormous platform to talk about Ferguson, Brown’s death and police relations in general. There needed to be a productive dialogue, he thought, and he wanted to start it. He remembers sitting in an airport, explaining his idea to someone who handles social media for the UFC. “That’s my street, I grconcerned about losing Jurgen Klopp.The Reds manager is being tipped to replace Max Allegri at Juventus this summer.”We don’t really want to discuss his situation publicly, especially so close to the final,” Werner told the Liverpool Echo.”But I thinew up on that street!,” he implored, expecting the UFC to leap at a chance to promote a top fighter with direct ties to Ferguson. They did nothing, he says. The same thing happened a year later when the Missouri players went on strike, he says.

“It’s crazy,” he says, then pauses.

“Let me stop myself,” he says, “I was about to go off.”

He shakes his head. For a moment he says nothing.

“I just thought those were good opportunities to make a positive stance,” he continues, then his voice trails off.

In some ways, the Missouri protest surprised Woodley. African American students at the school have long complained of feeling isolated but he was an athlete in a wrestling bubble and that kept him from the experiencing things that happened to other black students. He had to call his brother-in-law, a doctor, who went to school there. “He told me some stories that I didn’t want to hear,” Woodley says. A few weeks ago, he went back to speak to the wrestling team and was surprised to see that even though he was the school’s first All-Big 12 wrestler and their first top five recruit, his picture was not on the wall with other distinguished wrestlers in the school’s history.

“All of a sudden (the coaches said): ‘Oooh, we got to get a picture of you on this wall,” Woodley says. “It was kind of…” He paused again for moment and sighed. “But it is what it is and it’s about the athletes and thats why I’m there but it was really weird that people couldn’t wrap their minds around the idea that these things can happen.”

He drove around the campus that day looking at all the giant new fraternity and sorority houses and couldn’t help that each mansion was only for predominantly white fraternities and sororities. “How many black homes are there?” he wondered. Where were all the big homes from the African American students? He glanced around and realized that even after what happened last fall and the racial awakening of his old college, Missouri still had a long way to go.

Sitting in an empty radio studio in late September, a few days after the Trump comments, about to promote the second biggest fight in the UFC’s biggest card ever, Woodley is probably at the apex of his career. Never will he have a larger voice in sports. Never may minority athletes have a more powerful voice than they do today. As a child of Ferguson he has the platform, he can be a kind of modern-day Ali. Boos be damned. If Donald Trump is going to fire off a shot at Ferguson well by God he’s going to talk about putting his fist through the man’s teeth. That’s not a right, its a responsibility.

“He needs to talk about (race),” Michael Johnson, another African American UFC fighter will later say, unaware of Woodley’s words about Trump. “He’s a champion and his voice needs to be heard. It’s very important to speak up with the things that are happening.”

In the studio Woodley laughs.

“I don’t read social media. Is (the Trump comment) getting buzz?” he asks, the idea Trump could actually be president probably the farthest thing from his mind.

Yes, he is told, his line about putting a fist in Trump’s mouth made plenty of headlines.

He chuckles.

“Well hopefully it made it to him,” he says.

No need to hold back now.

Philadelphia issues official apology to Jackie Robinson, 69 years on

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is officially apologizing to Jackie Robinson for the shameful way he was treated in the City of Brotherly Love.

The City Council pashead with plans to sign Brighton defender Ben White.The Eastbourne Herald s on the losing end of the final of the African Cup of Nations against Algeria, the Senegal winger is ready to leave Rennes for England.Sarr is eager to see the move happen and has made this clear to Rennes.Watford will now step up negotiations, says ays Liverpool are eyeing Brighton centre-back Ben White but don’t expect them to make a move next month.The Seagulls have reassured Leeds United that the 22-year-old will finised a resolution Thursday naming April 15 as a day to honor Robinson’s achievements and to apologize for the racism he faced while visiting Philadelphia in 1947.

April 15 is the day Robinson broke the color barrier by becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball, playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

In Philadelphia, Robinson was refused service by a local hotel and then taunted by manager Ben Chapman, who, along with players, hurled racial slurs at Robinson each time he came to bat. Chapman led the bench in abusing Robinson, telling him to “go back to the cotton field.”

42,the head of their youth scouting setup, Steve Morrow.The former Gunners defender, who helped them win the 1993 League Cup, was informed that his services are no longer needed.The Arsenal-AXE-head-youth-scouting-Steve-Morrow-Gunners-ditch-1993-League- the 2013 biopic starring Chadwick Boseman, highlights the hateful reception Robinson received in Philadelphia.

The apology will be presented to Robinson’s widow, Rachel.

USA Sevens brings world’s finest to Vegas – but can US rugby live with the best?

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“Imagine what it’s going to be like in 2020 if we’ve got some kids from the Bronx and Brooklyn, playing in the in Tokyo.”

In his spare office in New York City, on 9th and West 45th, trophies stacked with bags of rugby balls on the metal shelves behind him, Mark Griffin smiles and takes a sip of water. Griffin is the , an inneuito midfielder Jose Cifuentes admits he’s had an offer from Manchester City.The 20-year-old never made the move but he has revealed that City were interested but he wasn’t allowed to leave the club.“All contacts are closed, it was published by ther-city nonprofit which is now joint-operator of America’s first community Olympic development programme (CODP) for rugby union. The sport returns to the Games in Rio this summer but Griffin is looking four years ahead.

In Las Vegas, meanwhile, the best men’s teams in the world are looking only to the next three days, in which they will contest .

The big teams are attacking Olympic year in earnest: New Zealand will field , while is in South Africa’s squad.

The US Eagles do not have such superstars, though they do have , and , crossovers from football who have made themselves increasingly well known. In Vegas, they will be contenders for a knockout place, for a tournament win, for points on the HSBC World Series.

In this Olympic year, though, the Eagles’ job extends beyond the field of play. They must begin to win the attention of the American sporting public – both TV viewers and, perhaps more importantly, striving young athletes.

That is where Griffin and others come in. When it comes to the effect the Games can have on American youth rugby, most such operators agree with , a former Eagles prop turned entrepreneur who will on Friday stage an awareness-raising event at Sam Boyd Stadium in Vegas, under the title “”.

“Rugby is ,” James says, down the phone from San Francisco, citing a familiar statistic from the which says participation in US youth rugby grew by 81.6% from 2008 to 2013.

James then cites a familiar view in rugby, bolstered by the same survey finding that in the same period youth participation in tackle football fell by 21%: “We need to seize that Olympic s they need to find some arrogance to convert draws into wins.Maguire claims that United are missing the self-belief needed to control games.He said: “It’s another game where we’ve deserved to win. We’ve created the majority of the chances and we’vmoment with parents who maybe don’t want theo land Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish this summer.The Mirror says United are preparing to pay up to £70million to land Grealish this summer.The attacking ace has been in superb form for Villa this term after inspiring them to promotion last seasoir kids playing football.”

Rugby, it should be said, . But James continues: “Just the fact that rugby is included is a game-changer. The US public are very keen on the Olympics, it brings exposure, funding from the government and other bodies too. This is the very tip of the iceberg for what that’s going to mean.”

Griffin, after on the cracked asphalt of Queens and Manhattan now taking a big step through the CODP, puts the same point another way.

to provide a pathway from inner-city, school or rugby club to elite Olympic competition.

Rugby now has a foothold in America. Or, to stay with the dubious moutaineering analogies, potentially frightening exposure. The performance of the Eagles’ men’s and women’s teams in Rio will help determine how fast and safe the climb can be.

So will the many stakeholders of American rugby. In terms of developing the men and women who will play in Tokyo and beyond, governing body USA Rugby supervises, from Colorado, as a number of organisations seek out talent. There is also and , and more. The English are interested too: Premiership Rugby recently launched its programme, also in New York.

In Play Rugby USA’s case, though, four young women who discovered the game with the programme will this weekend represent in the , a huge club, high school and college event that runs alongside the international tournament. None of the New York girls had seen a rugby ball till relatively recently; one will go on to play for the in Vancouver next week.

“We’re at the forefront of girls’ rugby,” Griffin says, “and we equally promote it with the boys. It’s about equal opportunity, although our high-school program is now 51% girls.”

James adds: “Olympic inclusion is because with Title IX, colleges are looking for women’s sports. This is a massive opportunity for rugby.”

That sense of opportunity is not confined to the Olympics: in 2018 the men’s and women’s World Cup Sevens and in the full 15-a-side version of the game, , a five-team professional league, is due to kick off next month.

But most observers agree: come , if the American men and women are on the podium, the game at home will receive a tremendous boost. A gold medal may be, in Griffin’s words, “Miracle on Ice sort of stuff”. But if nothing else, his reference to shows the stakes for which American rugby is playing.

Jarryd Hayne little used as 49ers win final game of season

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Jarryd Hayne’s historic season with the San Francisco 49ers has endis departure.In China with his new squad, Bruce sent a message to angry Wednesday fans.”I can understand the disappointment,” he said. “I enjoyed the three or four, five months I worked there.”But I’d like to put it out there that a manager’s contraced with a fizzle.

Hayne remained on the sideline throughout most of the 49ers’ 19-16 overtime win against St Louis Rams at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday, with the team opting to play DuJuan Harris, Kendall Gaskins and Mike Davis at running back and Bruce Ellington as punt returner.

49ers coach Jim Tomsula, who was sacked after the game, did use Hayne on the special teams defensive unit where he made a tackle late in the fourth quarter.

Hayne failed to make it on the field in the first half of the game.

Tomsula was been sacked just hours after his team completed their disappointing season.

ty star Ilkay Gundogan admits that he has not spoken with anyone at Borussia Dortmund about a possible move.It is rumoured that Gundogan could be out of the door at City this summer. The player has become a peripheral figure in the first tea Firmino is backing Newcastle United’s Joelinton for success in England.Joelinton moved to the Magpies from Hoffenheim for a club record fee in the summer.“We have already talked about this (game), because we are linked to the same representatives m, only s

The coach who gave his first taste of NFL action during the season, was ousted after his rookie season at the helm of the 49ers.

The 49ers produced a five-win, 11-loss season record and were well out of playoffs contention weeks before the end of the regular season.

Earlier, Hayne was jubilant after his first season in the NFL had ended with a 19-16 victory over the Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

He was ecstatic he had completed a dream of joining the 49ers and against the odds playing in eight games.

“It is what it is,” Hayne replied when asked about his lack of time on the field against the Rams.

“Overall, the year I’ve had and to be here and part of the team has been incredible and more than what I could have imagined.”

Hayne had said he would like Tomsula to remain as coach.

Hayne flies back to Sydney on Monday (Tuesday AEDT).

Lamar Odom ‘overdosed on cocaine’ after being found in Nevada brothel

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Lamar Odom is believed to have overdosed on cocaine and other drugs before he was , according to search warrant records.

The court document includes testimony to a Nevada state judge from Michael Eisenloffel, a Nye County sheriff’s detective, on 13 October after the former player was found at the Love Ranch in Crystal.

“I believe that Mr Odom may be – or may have been – under the influence of a controlled substance,” Eisenloffel told the Fifth Judicial District judge Robert Lane.

On Wednesday, Odom and the reality TV star Khloe Kardashian filed a court petition dismissing a divorce filing from December 2013. A clerk granted the request in such a way that the divorce papers can be refiled at a later date.

Kardashian has been by Odom’s side since he was found in extremely critical condition at the brothel.

Odom has been transferred from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, where his family said he was undergoing therapy and showing improvement.

“He is beginning to gradually flourish both mentally and physically,” said a statement from Alvina Alston, publicist for Odom’s aunt JaNean Mercer. “His use of speech has increased, and he’s more cognitively responsive.” Alston called Odom’s therapy regimen “aggressive” but did not elaborate.

Brothel staff have said workers saw Odom drink alcohol and take supplements sold as herbal Viagra but no employees saw him take illegal drugs. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2013 against one brand of supplement they said he took, Reload, after it was found to contain sildenafil, the active ingredient in prescription Viagra.

A six-page transcript of the detective’s request for the search warrant said Odom was seen by witnesses and on security video taking an unidentified pill from an unmarked plastic bag in his pocket, and two prostitutes told police they had “vague knowledge” that Odom was using illicit narcotics.

The court document said the women told police they believed Odom snorted cocaine in a bathroom while they were in the adjacent bedroom.

The Love Ranch owner, Dennis Hof, has said Odom arrived on 10 October for a four-day stay and spent $75,000 (£49,000) on two women who accompanied him in a VIP suite.

The by AC Milan.Prandelli says the players were not up to Giampaolo’s demands.“Seeing the team from the outside, I did develop a theory as to why things went so wrong,” Prandelli told La Gazzetta dello Sport.“Giampaolo loves a reasoned-out style of Nevada judge issued a search warrant authorising police to obtain a blood sample from Odom after hed out.The Bln Rodgers among the highest paid managers in the world.The Sun says the 46-year-old is believed to have DOUBLED his previous salary at Leicester – taking from £5million-a-year to £10million.This means that only old foes Pep Guardiola and Jose Mouriues lost at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.”I watch Chelsea a lot and if you can get through the first 20 minutes against them, their confidence seems to go,” Merson told Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday.”They’ve got a lot of young players ae was taken to the Las Vegas hospital but test results are pending. The authorities have not ruled out the possibility of taking action against the brothel or Odom.

Odom spent most of his 14-year NBA career in Los Angeles with the Lakers and Clippers.

NWSL: Mark Parsons set for Portland job after leaving Washington Spirit

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The Washington Spirit announced on Wednesday the departure of head coach Mark Pak.The former Gunners midfielder made the return earlier this week.Edu told arsenal.com, “Yes, for me in the beginning, to start that role, it’s important to understand the club first. “Because if you don’t understand the club and you don’t understandrsons, and the Guardian understands he is in line to take over at the Portland Thorns.

The Thorns have not made the hire yet, but the front office has all but settled on Parsons withl assistant manager Pep Ljinders says Harvey Elliot is learning from the club’s seasoned midfielders.The 16-year-old was impressive on debut in the Carabao Cup third-round win over MK Dons.He is set to start against Arsenal tonight in the fourth-roun an announcement expected as early as next week, said a source, who declined to speak on the record because the announcement is pending.

“Mark has done a lot in DC, and Portland thinks he has a lot of upside,” the source said. “He’s young, tactically smart and the players respect him. There’s a much bigger spotlight in Portland, but he is very ambitious.”

A Thorns spokeswoman told the Guardian: “The club will not be providing any updates on its head coaching search at this time. The team expects to provide an update next week.”

After missing the playoffs for the first time, the Thorns opted not to renew coach Paul Riley’s contract earlier this month. Riley amassed a 16-17-11 record in two seasons at the helm in Portland and earned criticism for failing twice to land in the championship, despite the Thorns being perhaps the best-supported team in the league.

The Thorns, which are backed by the well-resourced Timbers organization, in former US women’s national team coach Pia Sundhage, but she has publicly announced her intention to stay with the Swedish national team until her contract ends in 2016. Tom Sermanni, also a former US national team coach who is now a consultant for Canada’s national team, was said to be interested in the Portland job, but the Thorns pursued Parsons.

Parsons, as season.Pep Guardiola’s side have accrued an incredible 198 points over the past two campaigns, winning two Premier League titles.But Belgium international thinks it will be a tighter competition this season.De Bruyne said: “We don’t need to beat thn Englishman who spent six years in various coaching positions with Chelsea Ladies before moving stateside, led the Spirit to back-to-back semi-finals in the past two National Women’s Soccer League seasons. He took over in 2013 when last-place Spirit fired then-coach Mike Jorden midseason.

“On behalf of the Spirit organization, we’d like to thank Mark for his tremendous efforts to build a championship team from the pros to the academy,” said Ashlee Comber, vice president of operations, in a statement. “It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside Mark. He is an amazing human being, and we wish him and his family all the best.”

The Thorns were looking for a coach with experience in working with NWSL players and a proven track record, according to a source. The Thorns roster was plagued with injuries this year, which exacerbated gaps caused by the Women’s World Cup, something their next coach will need to address with the Olympics looming ahead next season.

“There will probably be a fair amount of player activity in this offseason,” the source said. “The Thorns are a talented team, but there are some chemistry issues.”

After the Guardian broke news that Orlando City SC , rumors and speculation began immediately that star Thorns striker Alex Morgan could make a move to Orlando, where her husband, Servando Carrasco, plays. A source said that any trades will be up to Parsons once he’s in place, but Morgan is a highly valued player in Portland and the club is not currently looking at a transfer.

The source indicated the Thorns will wait until after the NWSL championship to make the new head coach announcement. Portland will host the NWSL final on Thursday between FC Kansas City and Seattle Reign, to be broadcast at 9.30pm ET on Fox Sports 1.

St Louis confronts blight with proposal for $1bn investment in football stadium

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Inside the sprawling Peabody opera house, a stream of St Louis Rams fans made their impassioned cases on Tuesday that it was worth a $1bn-plus investment to build a new publicly subsidized stadium and keep their team in town.

“The thought of not having our Rams in St Louis anymore goes beyond sadness,” said Dan Palen, an emotional father of three who drove 225 miles to the meeting from his hometown of Springfield, .

In January, Rams owner E Stanley Kroenke announced plans to build a nearly $2bn stadium close to downtown Los Angeles, and abandon St Louis, where he maintains a year-to-year-lease. For nearly two hours, fans in a room of 1,500 who support an open-air stadium proposal they hoped would convince Kroenke to stay in town came to the podium one by one.

But the fan enthusiasm was punctured by a counter movement, who argue that a new stadium is the last thing St Louis can afford to spend public funds on, in what has now become the murder capital of the US.

“The stadium deal has already cost taxpayers over $6m,” Basmin Nadra said.

Nadra said the north side of St Louis has continued to struggle with deteriorating conditions – a beleaguered school district, violent crime and what she perceives as a lack of racial justice in the community.

The proposal – backed by Missouri’s governor and the city’s mayor – comes at a precarious time for St Louis. The city has been struck by a recent believed to be arsons; the region continues to reel from the community upheaval after 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in nearby Ferguson; and St Louis recently overtook Detroit as the highest homicide total per capita in the nation.

While Rams fans clamor to keep St Louis a football town, critics of stadium subsidies will be watching, as another US city attempts to use sports as an economic tool for revitalization.

Nationally, proposals to infuse public cash into new stadiums have come under fire for delivering questionable benefits in return for a mammoth public expenditure.

As the big-ticket deals became more commonplace over the last quarter-century, municipalities have persistently appropriated more funds in the name of sports – drawing the ire of activists, economists and even Barack Obama. The Obama administration’s budget this year called for reining in the use of tax-exempt bonds issued for stadiums, : the “current structuring of government bonds to finance sports facilities has shifted more of the costs and risks from the private owners to local residents and taxpayers in general.”

That general risk is what concerns St Louis comptroller Darlene Green, who’s tasked as a watchdog over city taxes. Following the release of the new finance plan for the project in St Louis, Green said the city would be forced to spend more than it currently does on the Edward Jones Dome, where the Rams have playeility of being a national team manager.Wenger is still searching for his next role after leaving the Gunners more than a year ago.He has admitted that international football is an option and that he may be present as a coach at the 2022 World Cup in d since 1995.

‘Fund schools, not football’

Inside Tuesday night’s fan meeting, the room turned tense as Nadra, a critic of the stadium proposal, questioned why officials were committing public money to the project withd in Holland that a deal is closed for the end of the season, with Van de Beek having agreed personal terms with Real Madrid, which will pay €55m for his transfer.However, after victory over Sparta Rotterdam, Van de Beek denied the claims.He statedout funding “40 years of neglect on the north side”.

“This isn’t the stage for that,” one fan shouted. “What made you so important?” went another, as jeers rained down from across the room.

Nadra continued. “Is the NFL interested in doing anything to promote the racial justice that has been misaligned here?”

Whatever the answer from NFL senior vice-president of public policy Cynthia Hogan may have been, few likely heard it. A group in the back had begun to chant: “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” while unveiling a banner that read “Fund Schools, Not Football.”

In response, the team’s fans repeatedly roared back: “Let’s go Rams.”

Nadra and her cohorts were escorted out of the room and almost arrested. As the group was whisked away, Deborah Castillo, a member of the group Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, said a man in the audience told her of the brief protest: “If I had known you were going to do that, I would have fucked you up.”

“As long as we’re speaking the truth,” Castillo said, “they’ll try to shut us down.”

Following a tense exchange with officers in Peabody’s lobby, an officer released the group out the front door and onto Market Street in downtown.

Nay’Chelle Harris, a St Louis resident who was briefly held by an officer in the lobby before walking free, said too many voices have been left out of the debate on the stadium.

“It was important for us to be here because there are a lot of experiences and opinions that aren’t being represented in this deal and its negotiation,” Harris said.

“Specifically, people who are developing the stadium keep using [the line]: ‘We are helping the people of color of the minority community in St Louis or helping the people on the north side.’ And yet I have not heard anything about a meaningful engagement with people on the north side.”

Time may be running out for St Louis to make a final decision on the stadium, but with an imminent vote by the city’s aldermanic board on whether to approve the public financing for the project, many questions remain unanswered – the least of which, perhaps surprisingly, is if Kroenke even wants the subsidized facility.

“A lot of other cities have found that having an NFL stadium does not help local economies,” said Harris. “It drains the city’s resources. And St Louis, as the world has seen, has a lot better things to do with its money than, as mayor Slay said, have a football team.”

‘The sweetest deal in the league’

From the outset, there were protests over the stadium deal, continuing through the summer after a judge voided a 2002 city ordinance calling for a public vote over the use of taxes for sports facilities.

“If you want your public money spent that way, OK, that’s the reason we had set up a public vote, so those people who felt that way could have a chance to go to the polls and vote,” said Fred Lindecke, a member of the coalition against public funding for stadiums, which supported the effort behind the ordinance.

A new bill to require a public vote was recently , after several said they received outraged calls from constituents about spending tax dollars on sports without their approval.

“If anything like that ever goes to a vote in the city or county it’s going to go down,” Lindecke said.

The debate over contributing public funds to a wealthy team owner isn’t foreign to Missouri.

Two decades ago, state and local officials cobbled together a plan to construct an NFL stadium – even before the city secured a home team.

Officials gave the Rams what some have called the “sweetest deal in the league”, charging low rent and agreeing to renovate the facility on an as-needed basis to ensure it remains in the “first tier” of the NFL. It seemed like a fair deal; whatever St Louis contributed – $6m annually– would be recouped by event-day taxes, officials said.

After a new contract dispute was settled by an arbitrator, the agreement became a year-to-year lease, freeing the Rams’ owner to consider other options.

“In fairness, our folks didn’t think they’d leave,” said Ray Hartmann, co-owner of St Louis Magazine and founder of the local alt-weekly Riverfront Times. The problem? The definition of “first-tier” vastly expanded as the number of new NFL stadiums proliferated in the intervening years.

So, last November, concerned by the prospect of losing the team, Missouri governor Jay Nixon appointed a taskforce to produce a plan for a new NFL stadium. The taskforce and some local officials are convinced the long-term deal would be fruitful for the city.

“I think St Louis is [deserving] of an NFL team, one of the cities most deserving of an NFL team,” said Lewis Reed, aldermanic president.

Though Reed is intent on his commitment to keep the Rams in the city, the 53-year-old also has concerns about the structure of the finances behind the deal.

“I think that’s where we’re at that point where we’re trying to strike that balance between public/private,” Reed said. “What’s reasonable to ask of the taxpayers, right? And, what basis are we building that on?”

The yearlong process has been fraught with legal challenges, amid concerns from local aldermen who believe St Louis is simply in no position to help finance another sports stadium.

According to the current financing proposal, the city would commit to pay increasing annual amounts from $4.5m to $9m – a virtual extension of its current obligation to the debt for the Edward Jones dome, totalling roughly $234m. The city would receive an average of 34% of game-day revenues, but the NFL team would keep the rest.

Without a deal, the city’s obligation would otherwise expire in the coming years, allowing those funds to be used elsewhere.

Supporters and opponents have battled over whether projections of game-day revenue at the new stadium versus other costs yield a net benefit to the city.

“Even with their high projections, it would put the city in a hole,” said Tom Shepard, chief of staff for Reed. When the final bill was unveiled late Wednesday, mayoral staffers told the St Louis Post-Dispatch that city revenues wouldn’t cover expenses – officials said St Louis would pay $6m in the first year, but receive only about $2m in tax revenue on game days – but they believe the initial revenue generated by the construction of the stadium would offset any shortfall.

Compounding concerns is the well of evidence that sports stadiums fail to yield positive results for a local economy.

Roger Noll, an economics professor at Stanford University who has written about tax breaks for stadiums, said a $200m subsidy – currently about what the city is expected to pay – is better than “the norm” of $400m.

“On the other hand, that is a fairly large amount for a city of just over 300,000,” Noll said. “A city resident should ask whether having an NFL team is worth $2,000 per household.”

Rather than using money to fund a stadium that is traditionally perceived to boost a city’s economy, some economists have said it would be better used on public infrastructure or education, despite the civic pride that comes with a professional sports franchise. And studies have suggested cities wouldn’t be financially devastated by the loss of a professional sports team, as fans simply tend to spend their money elsewhere on entertainment in town.

In St Louis, alderman Antonio French took aim at the plan with other city needs in mind.

“The city currently pays $6m a year for the dome stadium,” French, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, tweeted last week. “That ends in 2021, freeing up that money. $6m would pay for 120 new cops.”

A promise of ‘revitalization’

Stadium backers see the financial obligation as a risk worth taking. The proposed site for the new stadium is situated along the Mississippi River, an area some officials view as blighted and wholly underused.

The location touches three wards, and “two of them are heavily African American”, said Maurice Green, the alderman board’s director of community affairs.

“With the unemployment rate of African American males in those areas, we have the opportunity to [create an] impact … where the people in that area have to have a job; you have to hire those people to develop the stadium,” Green said.

“There’s nothing in that area right now – and it would be a total revitalization.”

The premise that the Riverfront would be revitalized almost instantaneously thanks to a $1bn investment is “specious” at best, said Michael Allen, director of the St Louis-based Preservation Research Office.

“There is no other state-driven proposal to spend [$1bn] on an alternative plan for the riverfront,” Allen said. “So it’s not as if the city has even had the opportunity to weigh the merits of two or three different approaches to the site.”

He added: “The condition of the Riverfront as underpean is far down the pecking order at the Cherries, which is why he wants a move done before September 2.The European transfer window is still open, meaning Begovic could move to a club outside England for regular first team football. He has only playerforming, as undesirable, is rhetorical justification for the expenditure. And this happens with major development projects.”

One of the businesses in the project’s footprint is Shady Jack’s, an internationally known biker bar. Owner Jack Larrison said he supports the plan, as “St Louis needs something.”

“If Lewis and Clark came down the river, they’d know exactly where they landed last time because nothing’s changed,” Larrison said. Despite the praise, the grizzled, lanky native of St Louis believes a public investment should produce benefits for the entire city.

“Maybe it might be good for all of us,” he said, “but it’s definitely going to be good for a handful of people.”

On Friday, the board of aldermen will vote on whether to support the stadium proposal. If 15 of 28 members vote in support, the decision will move to the NFL, where Kroenke will need the support of 24 team owners to move the Rams elsewhere.

The NFL has several alternatives. A proposal to house the Rams at Kroenke’s stadium in Inglewood, California, may be considered by NFL owners, along with another privately funded stadium in Carson, California, where the owners of the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders want to share a location.

“You’ve got to remember, we’re probably not going to get a team anyway,” said Hartmann. “We’ve spent a tremendous amount of emotional energy on this, and it’s still a long shot.”