Saracens have won four of the past five Premiership titlesPremiership champions Saracens have confirmed they will not be contesting their points deduction and fine for breaching the league’s salary cap.They have been docked 35 points and fined Â£5.36m after an inquiry into business partnerships between owner Nigel Wray and some of their players.Wray said the club “made mistakes” and accepted the penalties “with humility”.Mark McCall’s side have subsequently dropped from third to bottom of the Premiership with -22 points.”As a club, we will now pull together and meet the challenges that lie ahead,” added Wray, who had previously vowed to “appeal against all the findings”.”We confirm our commitment to the salary cap, and the underlying principle of a level playing field, and will continue to work transparently with Premiership Rugby in this regard.”Premiership Rugby’s chief executive Darren Childs welcomed Saracens’ decision.”This is the right outcome for English club rugby,” he said. “Bringing this process to a conclusion means that we can focus on working in partnership with all clubs to continue to build a competitive and successful league.”Jones wary England’s Saracens stars may focus on club relegation fightWhat was Saracens’ initial reaction?In a statement issued on the same day the sanctions were announced earlier this month, Sarries strongly refuted the charges brought by an independent disciplinary panel, with owner Wray saying it felt as though “the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet”.The club apologised for “administrative errors relating to the non-disclosure of some transactions” to Premiership Rugby Limited, but added it will “continue to vigorously defend this position especially as Premiership Rugby Limited precedent already exists whereby co-investments have not been deemed part of salary in the regulations”.Although, strictly speaking, they were unable to ‘appeal’ against the punishment, they did have until midnight on Monday to request a review into the findings.They could only request such a review on one of three grounds; error of law, whether the decision was irrational or if they could prove procedural unfairness.Saracens, who lost 30-10 at Racing 92 as they began their European Champions Cup defence on Sunday, brought in a major communications company to help manage the public fallout of the scandal last week.What’s the background?The charges related to a failure to disclose player payments in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.Saracens previously claimed they “readily comply” with salary cap rules and were able to spend above the Â£7m cap because of the high proportion – almost 60% – of home-grown players in their squad.The Allianz Park outfit have several of the game’s biggest stars on their books, including seven of the 31-man squad that represented England at the World Cup in Japan, such as captain Owen Farrell and forwards Maro Itoje and Billy and Mako Vunipola.One of the dominant forces in northern hemisphere club rugby, Sarries have won five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups since 2010-11 – with two of those domestic titles coming in the timeframe that Premiership Rugby have been investigating.Their three European successes have all come within the past four seasons.
Saracens owner Nigel Wray has been involved with the club for 25 years and says his support “remains as strong as ever”Will the penalties impact Saracens?In a statement on the club website, Wray said that a review or appeal against the panel’s ruling would be a “costly, time consuming and destabilising exercise”.He said the business arrangements between himself and players had been “made in good faith” but should have been brought to the attention of the league’s salary cap manager before being entered into.Wray added: “It is significant that following extensive investigations the independent panel stated that we have ‘not deliberately sought to circumvent the regulations’ albeit we recognise that some of our actions were considered to be ‘reckless’.”As chairman, I must take full responsibility for the arrangements that led to this outcome. It is important to stress that our excellent coaching staff were not involved in these issues in any way.”And, in an attempt to answer some of the questions surrounding the impact of the penalties on the club, Wray said:Saracens would not be stripped of any of their trophies.The club is in compliance with the salary cap for this season and will not have to sell players.Sarries will not be prevented from signing players in the future.A director will be appointed to the board to oversee a new governance regime, designed to prevent the club breaching salary cap rules again.Premiership survival at the cost of Europe?
Saracens are now 26 points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership after having 35 points deductedThe points deduction means Saracens are currently 26 points adrift at the bottom of the Premiership and 32 away from a European Champions Cup qualifying place with 18 matches left to play.Saracens director of rugby McCall has kept comments over the matter to a minimum – the only time has addressed the press as a whole over the penalties was after his side’s win at Gloucester earlier this month.There he said he was planning as if the points deduction was going to be enforced, despite the sanction being suspended at the time pending any appeal.”We’ve got to plan for the worst case scenario and that will affect our strategy around the Champions Cup,” said McCall, who picked a side that was without any England World Cup players apart from newly-signed hooker Jack Singleton for the defeat at Racing.’Saracens attempt to draw a line under affair’ – analysisBBC Sport rugby union reporter James BurridgeDespite insisting they would appeal last week, that was never an option available to Saracens. They could only request a review or clarification of the findings and only if there had been some basic unfairness or procedural error. This has been a nine-month investigation conducted by independent legal experts, who have already considered and dismissed Saracens’ defence.The club maintain the decision is unjust. By accepting the fine and the points deduction Saracens will attempt to draw a line under the whole affair. The details of the investigation aren’t likely to emerge either. But the questions won’t go away.
When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend
DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday. The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th…
DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday.
The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th minute to help the Japanese side consolidate their position at the top of their group with two wins from as many matches.
They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings and assured of a spot in the knockout phase after the group was reduced to three teams following Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim’s withdrawal from the tournament.
In another match on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors pipped Sydney FC 1-0 in Group H with Na Sung-eun scoring in the 44th minute.
It was the Australian side’s third defeat in four matches while Jeonbuk revived their hopes with their first victory.
Iniesta, who was declared MVP of the match, had been an influential presence for Vissel Kobe throughout the encounter with his quick thinking and crisp passing, and that reflected in their first goal in the 44th minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.
The Spanish veteran dashed his way up on the left flank to control a long diagonal pass and after advancing further turned around near the goalline to tap the ball onto the path of the advancing Kyogo Furuhashi who struck with a clean, low shot from close range.
Furuhashi’s personal joy at scoring lasted only 10 minutes as the forward first conceded a corner and then watched in horror as his attempted clearance from the resultant kick found his own net to give Guangzhou the equalizer.
Cannavaro made three substitutions in a desperate bid for victory after having drawn their opening game against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. But although the two-time champions enjoyed a couple of brief purple patches during which they had the Kobe defence under pressure, the goal they were looking for never materialized.
Vissel Kobe regained the lead in the 74th minute when Douglas, who had just come in five minutes prior, took advantage of a great back-heel from Daigo Nishi and blasted the ball home.
Brazil-born Elekson, now known as Ai Kesen, had a goal disallowed for off-side on eight minutes and when Iniesta struck two minutes later, it extended Cannavaro’s misery in Doha.
“The result is bad. We tried but I know that something in my team is not clear. I don’t know if they are afraid to play or they are not confident anymore,” the Italian complained after the match.
“I need to try and do my best to give them the confidence to play. This is my job. I know they are very good players, and we can do much, much, much better.”
Vissel Kobe had landed in Doha after a string of disappointing results back home, conceding a whopping 58 goals in 33 league matches and losing five games in a row.
But their coach Atsuhiro Miura was basking in joy on Wednesday, saying he was ready with a game plan against a side packed with several Brazilians.
“Guangzhou is a very strong side, they have several good Brazilian players but we analysed how they play and how to prevent them from playing to their strengths,” said Miura.
“We did everything well and everything went how we wanted it to. That’s why we got this result.”
Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league
RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament. The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize. The…
RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament.
The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize.
The Kingdom opened its stadiums to women football supporters in January, 2018, but this is the first time they will have been allowed to compete in a tournament.
The competition has been lauded as an important step for the Saudi sports world, with many in the game throwing their support behind the event.
Calling the competition a “positive step,” Abdullah Alyami, Saudi football coach and sports reporter, said he expects many more women to participate in future tournaments.
“This is a very happy day for all athletes, be they male or female. And based on what we’ve seen, and how beloved the sport of football is all over the Kingdom, I believe we will see many more of our sisters getting involved in professional sports,” he said.
عبدالله اليامي: انطلاق #الدوري_النسائي في #السعودية خطوة إيجابية.. وأتوقع إقبالا كبيرا على المشاركة في فرق كرة القدم النسائية#تواصل #قناة_الرسالة@m3sss3 pic.twitter.com/UxRa8pZSWo
— قناة الرسالة (@alresalahnet) November 17, 2020
Saudi sports reporter Riyan Al-Jidani tweeted his support.
“To all my dear sisters participating the Women’s Football League, your success in the tournament is a step in the right direction towards our dream of universality and representing our homeland to the outside world. Raising the flag on the field is a glory and pride,” he said.
The tournament was due to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.
But for some that just presented the opportunity to up their game.
“We started preparations early, and the delay due to the pandemic actually worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach at Dammam-based Eastern Flames FC.
Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, previously told Arab News that she had been playing the beautiful game since she was eight.
“There was a match every weekend. The boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” said Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate. She joined her first female football team, Challenge, in Riyadh in 2014.
She said: “It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time I felt as though it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league), I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything.”
The matches won’t be broadcast, but Saudi’s army of football fans remain excited by the tournament.
Wejdan Al-Shammary, who grew up playing sports in school, said she would have tried for a team “in a heartbeat” if she had been just a few years younger.
“I played both basketball and football on my high school teams. I was a complete sports nut, but it makes me happy to know that even if it’s too late for me to achieve those dreams, there’s a chance now for young Saudi girls that I never had,” she said.
Najla Ahmed, a 16-year-old from Riyadh who plays on her school’s football team, said she would try for a local team in 2021.
“I’ll be 17, and therefore eligible, and I would love to see anyone try and stop me,” she said.
Both women said they hoped this was just the start and that more sports would be opened up to women.
“Football is just the beginning. I would love to see more focus on other sports, as well. Basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming,” said Al-Shammary. “I’m sure we have so many potential Olympians among us who just need their talents nurtured.”
NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.