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South Africa complete Test clean sweep of Pakistan

ABU DHABI: Japan captain Maya Yoshida has warned the Blue Samurai they will need to find an extra gear to challenge co-favorites Iran and South Korea for the Asian Cup title.The Southampton defender admitted Japan had benefited from two controversial penalty decisions after a 1-0 victory over Oman in Abu Dhabi at the weekend sent…

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South Africa complete Test clean sweep of Pakistan

ABU DHABI: Japan captain Maya Yoshida has warned the Blue Samurai they will need to find an extra gear to challenge co-favorites Iran and South Korea for the Asian Cup title.The Southampton defender admitted Japan had benefited from two controversial penalty decisions after a 1-0 victory over Oman in Abu Dhabi at the weekend sent the Blue Samurai into the last 16.“We have to be more clinical,” Yoshida said.“We should have scored two or three more. Our performances are still not good enough clearly.”Genki Haraguchi converted from the spot after 28 minutes after tumbling theatrically under little or no contact.Oman then had a legitimate penalty shout waved off after Yuto Nagatomo appeared to use his hand to block a shot just before half-time.“We were a little bit lucky with the penalty we had — and the one not given as well,” shrugged Yoshida.“But the most important point for us was to get through the group.”Nagatomo likened his lucky escape to Diego Maradona’s infamous intervention against England at the 1986 World Cup, expressing relief that the VAR (video assistant referee) system is not used during the Asian Cup group stages.“It hit my hand,” he admitted. “It’s lucky there was no VAR because it probably would have been given. Happily the ‘Hand of God’ was with us today.”A new-look Japan were similarly unimpressive in beating Turkmenistan 3-2 in their opening fixture, but were missing two-goal hero Yuya Osako for the Oman clash due to a thigh injury.
IRAN WARNING
The Werder Bremen striker was sorely missed against the Gulf side, with Takumi Minamino squandering a hatful of chances.“It was tougher than we thought it would be,” conceded Yoshida.“If we had taken our chances we wouldn’t have struggled so much late on. But I’m confident we will find our form.”Japan, who reached the knockout stage at last year’s World Cup, have won a record four Asian Cups but appear to lack the quality of Iran and South Korea at this year’s tournament.“We can’t expect to dominate every game,” said Japan coach Hajjime Moriyasu, who is unbeaten in seven matches since taking over after the World Cup.“It was important to get through the group and we have done that. The key will be to grow into the tournament game by game.”But Yoshida insisted Iran, who are purring, and a South Korea side boosted by the arrival of Tottenham forward Son Heung-min will be the teams to beat — along with holders Australia.“I saw Iran at the World Cup, where they played really well,” said the 30-year-old.“I was really impressed. And of course Australia, South Korea — they’re always the most difficult opponents.“We have to make sure we’re ready for them, we have to improve.”

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Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues. The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman. England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to…

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Riyadh Season kicks off with a bang as WWE Crown Jewel returns to Saudi Arabia

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues.

The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman.

England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to be condemned by parts of the press as unimaginative, not good enough and likely to be trounced, a view shared gloatingly down-under.

Unimaginative was also the verdict passed on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s decision to restore its domestic four-day County Championship to a two divisional structure, comprising teams in the positions in which they ended the 2019 season.

Taken together, these outcomes provide the impression that normality has been restored to the world of cricket. However, dig a little deeper and some shifting plates may be discerned under the landscape. The most obvious one is the influence of the T20 format.

Whilst the IPL is its glittering epitome, the delayed return of the scheduled 2020 World Cup, hard on the heels of the IPL, will extend T20’s exposure for longer than normal. It will also supply a benchmark for its progress since the 2016 World Cup in terms of skills and tactics. Prior to the pandemic, nine countries/regions held International Cricket Council recognized T20 competitions, and three more are planned to start in 2022. Since 2016, both the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash in Australia have grown in quality and appeal. 

Apart from the format, these tournaments share two common features — the ability to attract money and, partly because of this, the ability to attract players from a wide range of countries, based upon a bidding system that values each player according to perceived ability. The rewards are now staggering.

The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. There will be $1.6 million for the winning team and $0.8 million for the runners-up. The losing semi-finalists will receive $0.4 million each, with the balance of $2.4 million being shared between group stage winners and those who are knocked out along the way.

In the 2021 IPL, the winners received around $2.65 million, the runners-up $1.69 million, and the third and fourth placed teams $1.16 million. On top of this, the players receive salaries with the top five being in a range of $2-2.4 million in 2021. The stark conclusion is that the top players in the IPL earn more than the winning team in the T20 World Cup, and that the financial reward for winning the IPL is greater than for winning the T20 World Cup. Taken together, the rewards on offer are a bonanza.

Contrast these riches, for example, to the financial state of English cricket. The ECB’s income is generated via broadcast rights deals, sponsorship from commercial partners, ICC distributions, ticket sales and sundry income. In the year ending Jan. 31, 2021, it reported an income of $290 million and a pandemic-induced loss of $22.6 million, which dramatically reversed the previous year’s profit of $9.1 million, causing a sharp fall in its cash reserves to $3.1 million.

As a non-profit-making organization, the ECB distributes its income in pursuit of its mission to manage and develop every form of cricket for men and women, boys and girls, from the playground to the Test arena. Almost 44 percent of the income goes directly to cricket organizations, including the 18 first-class counties. Fourteen percent is spent in supporting each of four areas — the running and growth of cricket from the grassroots up; running the England Men’s, Women’s and Disability teams; central activities, such as marketing and, in the current cycle, its new competition, The Hundred, which has been explored in previous columns. 

Professional cricket is organized through the County Championship structure. The counties have the responsibility for developing talent, ultimately producing cricketers who can perform at the highest level across the various formats.

A review of the finances of the 18 counties would show that, for most, there is a heavy dependency on the ECB distribution for survival. There is also a clear divergence between the financial health of those counties who host international matches and those who do not. The structure of county cricket and its dependence on central funds to maintain its current state has attracted much criticism, particularly in terms of the way in which the counties use the money to develop both the game and alternative income sources within their boundaries.

How enviously must English cricket cast its eyes at the wealthy, independent Board of Control of Cricket in India. Although it, too, has suffered a loss of income because of the pandemic, the completion of the IPL will ensure a recovery to previous levels and beyond. In 2019–2020, the BCCI’s annual income is thought to have been some $535 million. Almost two-thirds of this comes from the IPL, a quarter from bilateral cricket with other nations and 10 percent from its annual share of ICC revenues, which are derived from the ICC’s own media and sponsorship income streams. In 2022, two more franchises will be added to make a 10 team IPL tournament, creating further wealth.

The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed and look set to become even more so. This is largely because of the phenomenal success of T20 in cricket-mad India that has generated previously unseen revenue. This has allowed India’s cricketing ambitions to become more expansionary and has encouraged copycat tournaments to emerge.

In turn, the lure of high rewards and the attraction of the format in emerging countries that have a dearth of either facilities, resources or time, such as Papua New Guinea, is leading T20 to assume an increasingly prominent position in cricket’s landscape. This powerful position, coupled with the financial clout of India, can only lead, surely, to further changes in the way that the game is structured and financed.

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Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues. The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman. England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to…

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Why Steve Bruce built narrative that left Newcastle United fans exasperated with his club management

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues.

The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman.

England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to be condemned by parts of the press as unimaginative, not good enough and likely to be trounced, a view shared gloatingly down-under.

Unimaginative was also the verdict passed on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s decision to restore its domestic four-day County Championship to a two divisional structure, comprising teams in the positions in which they ended the 2019 season.

Taken together, these outcomes provide the impression that normality has been restored to the world of cricket. However, dig a little deeper and some shifting plates may be discerned under the landscape. The most obvious one is the influence of the T20 format.

Whilst the IPL is its glittering epitome, the delayed return of the scheduled 2020 World Cup, hard on the heels of the IPL, will extend T20’s exposure for longer than normal. It will also supply a benchmark for its progress since the 2016 World Cup in terms of skills and tactics. Prior to the pandemic, nine countries/regions held International Cricket Council recognized T20 competitions, and three more are planned to start in 2022. Since 2016, both the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash in Australia have grown in quality and appeal. 

Apart from the format, these tournaments share two common features — the ability to attract money and, partly because of this, the ability to attract players from a wide range of countries, based upon a bidding system that values each player according to perceived ability. The rewards are now staggering.

The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. There will be $1.6 million for the winning team and $0.8 million for the runners-up. The losing semi-finalists will receive $0.4 million each, with the balance of $2.4 million being shared between group stage winners and those who are knocked out along the way.

In the 2021 IPL, the winners received around $2.65 million, the runners-up $1.69 million, and the third and fourth placed teams $1.16 million. On top of this, the players receive salaries with the top five being in a range of $2-2.4 million in 2021. The stark conclusion is that the top players in the IPL earn more than the winning team in the T20 World Cup, and that the financial reward for winning the IPL is greater than for winning the T20 World Cup. Taken together, the rewards on offer are a bonanza.

Contrast these riches, for example, to the financial state of English cricket. The ECB’s income is generated via broadcast rights deals, sponsorship from commercial partners, ICC distributions, ticket sales and sundry income. In the year ending Jan. 31, 2021, it reported an income of $290 million and a pandemic-induced loss of $22.6 million, which dramatically reversed the previous year’s profit of $9.1 million, causing a sharp fall in its cash reserves to $3.1 million.

As a non-profit-making organization, the ECB distributes its income in pursuit of its mission to manage and develop every form of cricket for men and women, boys and girls, from the playground to the Test arena. Almost 44 percent of the income goes directly to cricket organizations, including the 18 first-class counties. Fourteen percent is spent in supporting each of four areas — the running and growth of cricket from the grassroots up; running the England Men’s, Women’s and Disability teams; central activities, such as marketing and, in the current cycle, its new competition, The Hundred, which has been explored in previous columns. 

Professional cricket is organized through the County Championship structure. The counties have the responsibility for developing talent, ultimately producing cricketers who can perform at the highest level across the various formats.

A review of the finances of the 18 counties would show that, for most, there is a heavy dependency on the ECB distribution for survival. There is also a clear divergence between the financial health of those counties who host international matches and those who do not. The structure of county cricket and its dependence on central funds to maintain its current state has attracted much criticism, particularly in terms of the way in which the counties use the money to develop both the game and alternative income sources within their boundaries.

How enviously must English cricket cast its eyes at the wealthy, independent Board of Control of Cricket in India. Although it, too, has suffered a loss of income because of the pandemic, the completion of the IPL will ensure a recovery to previous levels and beyond. In 2019–2020, the BCCI’s annual income is thought to have been some $535 million. Almost two-thirds of this comes from the IPL, a quarter from bilateral cricket with other nations and 10 percent from its annual share of ICC revenues, which are derived from the ICC’s own media and sponsorship income streams. In 2022, two more franchises will be added to make a 10 team IPL tournament, creating further wealth.

The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed and look set to become even more so. This is largely because of the phenomenal success of T20 in cricket-mad India that has generated previously unseen revenue. This has allowed India’s cricketing ambitions to become more expansionary and has encouraged copycat tournaments to emerge.

In turn, the lure of high rewards and the attraction of the format in emerging countries that have a dearth of either facilities, resources or time, such as Papua New Guinea, is leading T20 to assume an increasingly prominent position in cricket’s landscape. This powerful position, coupled with the financial clout of India, can only lead, surely, to further changes in the way that the game is structured and financed.

Continue Reading

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Barca edge past Dynamo to revive Champions League hopes at half-empty Camp Nou

VERSAILLES, France: The trial of French soccer player Karim Benzema and four others began Wednesday outside Paris, without the Real Madrid forward in attendance.Benzema, who played in Kyiv on Tuesday against Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, is accused of being involved in an attempt in 2015 to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena…

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Barca edge past Dynamo to revive Champions League hopes at half-empty Camp Nou

VERSAILLES, France: The trial of French soccer player Karim Benzema and four others began Wednesday outside Paris, without the Real Madrid forward in attendance.Benzema, who played in Kyiv on Tuesday against Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, is accused of being involved in an attempt in 2015 to blackmail France teammate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape.Benzema’s legal team told the court in Versailles that his obligations as a player made it “impossible” for him to attend the first day of the trial, which is scheduled to last through Friday.Valbuena was in court on Wednesday. He testified that Benzema spoke to him about the sex tape, telling him “there’s a video, it’s hot,” when they were together at France’s Clairefontaine training camp in October 2015. Benzema also said that he had a good friend who could help and “can solve your problem,” Valbuena testified.Although Benzema “never spoke to me about money,” Valbuena said he understood that he would have to pay for the friend’s assistance.“It wasn’t for football tickets. That’s never done for free,” Valbuena testified. He said the conversation left him “really frightened.”In a subsequent phone call wiretapped by police, Benzema then talked about the conversation with his friend Karim Zenati. The two men had known each other since childhood. When Zenati was released from prison in 2013, following robbery and drug convictions, Benzema hired him as an assistant.In the wiretapped call, which was played in court, the pair chuckled about Benzema’s talk with Valbuena. Benzema said that he had told Valbuena that “if you want the video to be destroyed,” he should contact Zenati, without involving police, lawyers or others.“I gave my word that there are no copies,” Benzema said in the call.Benzema is accused of complicity in attempted blackmail, a charge punishable by up to five years in prison. He has denied wrongdoing.Zenati and three other defendants are charged with attempted blackmail, also punishable with five years imprisonment. Unlike Benzema, they were all in court.They included Axel Angot, who first got hold of the sex tape in 2014.In court, Angot described himself as an odd-job man for soccer players, assisting with their computers, communications and other needs. He said players paid him for help, and that he once got 3,500 euros ($4,000) from a player just for delivering a USB cable to him in Croatia.“They are soccer players. I have seen them spend 50,000 euros in a front of me in seconds,” Angot said.Angot said the idea of exploiting the sex tape came in 2015, to pay off a debt of 25,000 euros ($29,000) that he owed to another player for some luxury watches. He said his thinking had been that a thankful Valbuena would pay him “a recompense” if he helped make the video go away.“I am not Bill Gates but I know my way around computers,” Angot said. “The main goal of this affair was to erase this debt.”During his testimony, Angot at first denied that his intention had been to blackmail Valbuena but later acknowledged that the scheme was “indirectly the same thing.”He apologized to Valbuena.“I’m sorry. But that’s of no value,” he said.Other defendants denied intent to blackmail. On his way into the hearing, Mustapha Zouaoui told reporters that Angot had given him the video and “we laughed about it” and that he then shared it with others.“A lot of players from France’s team saw it,” Zouaoui said. “But there hasn’t been any blackmail. We didn’t ask for money. There was no request for money.”In court, Zouaoui said “the intention wasn’t to make him bleed” but rather to spare Valbuena the indignity of the tape being made public and then be rewarded for that help.Another of the alleged blackmailers, Younes Houass, testified that he spoke to Valbuena about the video in June 2015, when the player was at Clairefontaine.After that call, Valbuena filed a police complaint and detectives got to work, identifying defendants and wiretapping calls.Benzema and Zenati were both handed preliminary charges in November 2015, joining Angot, Zouaoui and Houass under formal investigation.Benzema was then dropped from France’s national team by coach Didier Deschamps, missing the 2016 European Championship and the 2018 World Cup, which was won by France.Deschamps recalled Benzema in May ahead of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and has fielded him 11 times in 2021.Valbuena, now 37, hasn’t played for France since Oct. 11, 2015, when he came on as a substitute in a friendly match against Denmark.He said the alleged blackmail attempt hurt him and his career.“Since this affair, I never set foot again in the France team.”

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