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Fifa promises to fulfil £800m investment in women’s football

Fifa has promised to fulfil its planned investment in women’s football despite the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Football at all levels has been hit by the Covid-19 crisis, leaving several clubs struggling to make ends meet.

However, world football’s governing body will not cut the investment announced for 2019 to 2022 in order to clear funds to support any relief effort.

Fifa’s proposed investment is valued at $1billion, over £800million.

Photo: Reuters

“We can confirm that this funding has already been committed by Fifaand will not be impacted by the current Covid-19 crisis,” a Fifa spokesperson told the Guardian. “This funding will be invested into a range of areas in the women’s game including competitions, capacity building, development programmes, governance and leadership, professionalisation and technical programmes.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that the women’s game would be part of any package to help the sport cope with losses incurred due to coronavirus.

“We can confirm that women’s football is being fully considered as part of this process in order to understand the various needs and impact on stakeholders within the women’s game,” the spokesperson added.

“Fifa is currently working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world, including women’s football. The exact format and details of this assistance are currently being discussed in consultation with Fifa’s member associations, the confederations and other stakeholders.

“As part of these discussions, Fifa is in close contact with key women’s football stakeholders via the Professional Women’s Football Task Force and the Fifa-Confederations sub-working group on the impacts of Covid-19.”



Government on impact of Liverpool vs Atletico on spread

The Government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, professor Dame Angela McLean, admits it is an “interesting hypothesis” that Liverpool’s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid may have spread coronavirus in the city.

Over 3,000 Atletico fans made the trip to Anfield in March despite Madrid already subject of a partial lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photo: Getty Images

McLean admits it will be interesting to look at the scientific evidence and the Champions League last-16 second leg tie at Anfield down the line, but insisted that, given the general policy at the time, going to a football match was not considered a “particularly large extra risk”.

“However, when you get to the situation of our strange lives as we live them now where we spend all our time basically at home, of course you wouldn’t add on an extra risk of lots and lots of people going off to the same place at the same time,” she continued.

“I think it will be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the virus that has circulated in Liverpool and the virus that has circulated in Spain. That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise there.”



Arsenal confirm player wage cuts

Arsenal first team players and coaching staff have agreed a deal to take a 12.5 per cent pay-cut to help the club manage the financial impacts of the coronavirus shutdown.

Photo: Reuters

The Gunners become the first Premier League club to formally agree a cut with players, with the reduction in earnings also applying to manager Mikel Arteta and his ‘core staff’, coming into effect this month.

As part of the deal, players will be repaid ‘agreed amounts’ if the team achieve certain targets on the field – reportedly including Champions League qualification – which would bolster the club’s income.



BBC hire Aguero to teach Spanish lessons 

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero will host Spanish lessons for children as part of the BBC’s new homeschooling service.

The coronavirus lockdown has forced the closure of schools throughout the country with parents having to devote their time to teaching their children from home.

The Argentinian, who has lived in the UK for nine years following his move from Atletico Madrid, will put his bilingual skills to use to help children in their distance learning for BBC’s Bitesize Daily programme.

Photo: Getty

The content will be available on TV and online starting from Monday, April 20 to mark what would have been children going back to school after the Easter holidays.

Aguero’s lessons, which will include counting numbers, will run for two weeks and the 31-year-old, a father of one, said he is “honoured” to do his bit.

“It’s a tough time for children at the moment, and also for parents trying to keep them focused on their education from home,” he said.

“The BBC are doing brilliant work to help and I’m honoured to be able to play a part.”

Aguero will be joined by other celebrities such as Eastenders star Danny Dyer (history), Professor Brian Cox (science) and Sir David Attenborough (wildlife) in being recruited to take on the role of stand-in teachers.

There will also be a maths and English lesson every day for different age groups, daily education podcasts and programmes on BBC Four on weekday evenings to support GCSE and A-level courses.



Laporte raises money for French healthcare workers with auction purchase

Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte has purchased kit worn by late French boxer Alexis Vastine auction to raise money for French healthcare workers.

The French defender paid around €5,000 (£4,358) at an auction for the sportswear, worn by Vastine at the 2012 Olympics in London, before deciding to donate it to his father.

The auction of sports memorabilia was set up by French handball player Cyril Dumoulin with the aim of raising funds for French healthcare workers battling against the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo: Getty

The European champion had revealed earlier this month he was bringing in €3,490 (£3,040) every day from his ‘#Sportaidons’ initiative and that amount is likely to be boosted by Laporte’s donation.

Dumoulin posted a message on Twitter confirming Laporte’s gesture: “When the facts speak more than words! Thank you @Laporte who won this auction with the wish to leave this outfit to his father! Your talent is great, your heart too!!!”

Laporte replied: “It’s a nice thank you especially to you for your action against the virus and these auctions that help those who need it most.”

Vastine won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the light welterweight division but was eliminated in the quarter-finals in London four years later.

He died in a helicopter crash in Argentina which killed nine other people in March 2015 while taking part in French reality TV show Dropped.
 



Farah: Olympics delay a blessing in disguise 

Sir Mo Farah says the delay to the Tokyo Olympics could prove a blessing for his historic 10,000m hat-trick bid as it gives him more time to transition back to the track.

Farah will be 38 by the time the Games come around, making him the oldest man ever to race in an Olympic 10,000m final, while some of his major rivals – the likes of Yomif Kejelcha (22) and Joshua Cheptegei (23) – are at the opposite end of the age scale. However, he is determined to use the delay to his advantage. 

Photo: Getty

“As an athlete, you can never take it for granted – you’ve got to look after yourself, stay injury free, stay focused,” he told Athletics Weekly. “Obviously, I’m not a spring chicken any more. You take what you can from it.

“It is probably, in my honest opinion, not a bad thing for me because it gives you a bit more time to train for it, to do more races, because I would have gone from the marathon and then the following year straight to the track.”

More on Farah HERE.



Townsend: Premier League must be completed to maintain integrity

Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend says the Premier League season must finish in order to maintain the integrity of the competition.

Premier League football has been absent for 42 days, suspended indefinitely during the coronavirus lockdown

Last week’s shareholders meeting saw the desire to finish the season reaffirmed, though bosses will be guided by the government guidelines and are cautious not to place unnecessary strain on emergency services.

Photo: Getty

While the return of football is not a priority given the circumstances, Townsend agrees it is important that authorities focus on how, when safe, sport can return.

“My view has always been that the league should finish and I’m sure it will finish,” said Townsend. “At the moment the Premier League and football is irrelevant, the only thing that is relevant at the minute is the NHS and saving lives and us all chipping in and trying to do what we can to help them along the way.

“When the time comes and they do eventually beat this virus and football becomes relevant again, we need to be ready and we need to give the people that follow football their football fix back and hopefully by doing that we need to complete the season.

“We need to keep the integrity of the Premier League and keep everything ticking over and hopefully we can do that as safely as possible when the time comes.

“At the moment people say, ‘who cares about football, football’s not at the top of anyone’s thinking’ and that’s right, but there will come a time when football is relevant again and we need to make sure it does have a sustainable future and I think the best way to do that is to keep everyone happy and finish the season. After this season has finished then you start thinking about the next season and start thinking the season after that.”



Arsenal players and staff take 12.5 per cent pay-cut

Arsenal’s first-team players and coaching staff have agreed a deal to take a 12.5 per cent pay-cut to help the club manage the financial impacts of the coronavirus shutdown. 

The Gunners become the first Premier League club to formally agree a cut with players, with the reduction in earnings also applying to manager Mikel Arteta and his “core staff”, coming into effect this month. 

As part of the deal, players will be repaid “agreed amounts” if the team achieve certain targets on the field – reportedly including Champions League qualification – which would bolster the club’s income. 

Photo: Getty

The statement said: “We are pleased to announce that we have reached a voluntary agreement with our first-team players, head coach and core coaching staff to help support the club at this critical time.

“The move follows positive and constructive discussions. In these conversations there has been a clear appreciation of the gravity of the current situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and a strong desire for players and staff to show their backing for the Arsenal family.

“Reductions of total annual earnings by 12.5 per cent will come into effect this month, with the contractual paperwork being completed in the coming days. If we meet specific targets in the seasons ahead, primarily linked to success on the pitch, the club will repay agreed amounts. 

“We will be able to make those repayments as hitting these targets, which the players can directly influence, will mean our financial position will be stronger. 

The agreement is based on the assumption we will finish the season 2019/20 and receive the full broadcasting revenues.

The resulting savings will help cover some of the financial risks we have this season in relation to our matchday and commercial income.”



Sturgeon: Scottish football fans may have to wait for a vaccine 

Nicola Sturgeon has warned Scottish football fans they should have no “false expectations” of attending matches in the near future, also stressing the dangers of behind-closed-doors events.

There have been no football matches played in Scotland since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the SPFL have ended the seasons from the Scottish Championship and below, and have the power to immediately conclude the Scottish Premiership should they believe a resumption is implausible.

Photo: Getty

On football’s return, Sturgeon – in her daily briefing – said: “People should not be under the expectation that large scale mass gatherings will be starting anytime soon.”

She added: “We have to consider if that completely takes away the risk. If a match is still on TV, the danger is people will congregate together to watch.

“What I will say is they will be very carefully considered and we’ll share as much of that as we can.”

Read the full article HERE.



Maguire praises United’s coronavirus response

Harry Maguire has praised the way Manchester United have responded to the coronavirus pandemic, believing his club have shown they are more than merely a football club. 

Speaking to United’s official website, Maguire said: “It’s [Manchester United] more than a club, more than a football club. You see the way they’ve acted during this crisis, how classy they’ve been throughout, it’s more than a football club. It works in the community and in Manchester, and you can see over the crisis the many things they’ve done.”

Photo: Getty

United have drawn plenty of praise for their response to the current crisis, most recently lighting Old Trafford blue, with only the letters N, H and S from ‘Manchester United’ lit up in red on the side of the stadium.

There have also been numerous donations from the Manchester United Foundation, alongside a fleet of 16 vehicles to assist with NHS courier operations.

United have also donated medical equipment to local hospitals and are encouraging staff with reduced workloads to volunteer for the NHS or in their local communities.

United’s captain has also offered his services during the pandemic, supplying food packages to elderly residents in his hometown of Mosborough. 



Reported symptoms of depression among footballers has doubled during lockdown 

The percentage of professional footballers reporting symptoms of depression has doubled since coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place across Europe, a study has found.

Fifpro, the worldwide body representing professionals, and Amsterdam University Medical Centers surveyed 1,602 players, across the men’s and women’s games, in countries with drastic lockdown measures between March 22 and April 14.

The study found that 22 per cent of the women surveyed and 13% of men reported symptoms consistent with depression, while 18% of women and 16% of men reported symptoms consistent with anxiety.

For both men and women, the figures in relation to depression are double that of those found in a similar study conducted across December and January, which found 11% of the women players and 6% of the men reported symptoms indicative of depression.

Photo: Getty

“These figures show there has been a sharp increase in players suffering from anxiety and depression symptoms since the coronavirus shut down professional football, and I fear that this is also the case for the whole of society facing an unprecedented emergency because of Covid-19,” Fifpro’s chief medical officer, Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge, said

“In football, suddenly young men and women athletes are having to cope with social isolation, a suspension of their working lives and doubts about their future. Some may not be well equipped to confront these changes and we encourage them to seek help from a person they trust or a mental health professional.”

England Women’s defender Lucy Bronze also urged those struggling to reach out for support during the lockdown.

“It’s a worrying time for everyone, and in terms of jobs security, many footballers are in a precarious position,” Bronze said.

“If you are having a tough time mentally about your health or your job, speak with a person you trust, or a mental health professional. It’s important not to keep your feelings bottled up. It really helps to share them with someone.”

Players were surveyed from countries across the globe, including England, Scotland and Ireland.



Ryder Cup could go ahead without fans in September

The PGA Tour have raised the possibility that this year’s Ryder Cup could be played without spectators for the first time in its history.

European captain Padraig Harrington had previously said that the biennial event at Whistling Straits “will not be played unless the fans are there”.

But PGA Tour chief executive Seth Waugh said talks had already been held with European Tour bosses about a behind closed doors policy for the event, which remains scheduled for late September.

He told WFAN Radio: “We have begun to talk about whether you could create some virtual fan experience. We are going to try to be as creative as we can.”

Last week, the PGA Tour announced its intention to resume play in June following the suspension caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

In terms of golf’s major events, the 2020 Masters has been rescheduled for November, with the US Open now set to take place in September.

The PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco will now be the first major of the year in August, but The Open will not take place at all in 2020 after the R&A took the decision to cancel the event outright.



Charlton boss Bowyer has doubts over completing season

Photo: Getty Images

Championship clubs are committed to finishing the season, taking their lead from the Premier League, but Charlton boss Lee Bowyer believes EFL plans to resume training in mid-May are unrealistic.

“I just think there are going to be too many hurdles,” Bowyer told talkSPORT. “Everyone wants the season to finish — morally it’s the right thing to do.

“I just think there’s too many barriers at the moment to say that, because we won’t be training in the middle of May, like they’re saying. It’s just not going to happen.”



Growing number of League One and Two clubs want season to end now

Photo: Getty Images

League One and League Two clubs are increasingly divided on how to finish the season, with a growing number wanting to end the campaign immediately, writes Dan Kilpatrick.

League Two clubs are due to meet via video link on Tuesday, with the option of an immediate end to the season expected to be raised by clubs who fear for their financial futures if the uncertainty continues.

The crunch call was arranged by the 24 clubs on Wednesday and the outcome could have major repercussions for the rest of the professional game.

National League clubs are already in the process of voting on how to end the season and League Two rebels could push for a similar scenario.

Leyton Orient, the only League Two club in the capital, are among those who remain committed to finishing the season when it is safe to do so.

League One clubs are also split, with the chairman of play-off-chasing Peterborough, Darragh MacAnthony, accusing “agenda merchants” of trying to use the coronavirus pandemic to end the season early.

Conversely, Andy Holt, the Accrington Stanley chairman, whose team are 17th in League One, has said it makes no financial sense to conclude the campaign early.

The EFL could face a £50million bill from broadcasters if the season goes unfinished, but a growing number of teams below the Championship fear the financial implications of extending the campaign and competing behind closed doors — as is increasingly certain — are potentially more ruinous.

Clubs are also preparing to argue that the integrity of competition would be compromised if the campaign is extended into July, with the Premier League also dealing with calls for clubs to set a cut-off point of June 30 for the season to end. Hundreds of League One and Two players are out of contract on June 30 and clubs fear chaos if the season runs beyond that point.

Fifa have agreed that deals expiring on June 30 can be automatically extended until whenever the season eventually ends, with new deals beginning before the 2020-21 season starts.

However, both players and clubs cannot be forced into extending deals, which raises the possibility that clubs could simply not have enough players to finish the season or be forced to conclude the campaign with a new-look squad, leaving the integrity of the competition in doubt.

Players’ union, the PFA, are pushing for a blanket deal on contract extensions, which would mean clubs cannot pick and choose which players to keep for the remaining matches.



Six Nations £300m investment deal with CVC ‘postponed’ due to Covid-19

Photo: Getty Images

The £300million investment by CVC into the Six Nations has been postponed, according to reports.

The private equity firm, which purchased a 27 per cent stake in Premiership Rugby in 2018, had been looking at buying a 14 per cent share in the Six Nations, as part of its widening rugby portfolio.

But the Financial Times reported on Monday that talks between the Six Nations and CVC had been halted.

This year’s championship remains unfinished due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the remaining games potentially scheduled for the autumn.

Ireland’s round four meeting with Italy in Dublin was the first match to be called off as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, while the full final round of fixtures – Italy vs England, Wales vs Scotland and France vs Ireland – was also postponed.

England sit top of the standings following three successive wins and after France’s Grand Slam dreams were halted by Scotland in Paris.

The Six Nations was previously concluded in the autumn in 2001 due to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and has not been left incomplete since 1972.

However, World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont recently warned that it is a “distinct possibility” that no more international rugby union fixtures take place in 2020.



Grainger interview: Mental wellbeing of athletes during lockdown a big concern

Photo: Getty Images

When velodromes, athletics tracks and swimming pools were shut, the immediate reaction among sporting governing bodies across the UK was to ensure their potential Olympians and Paralympians had the necessary equipment to train from home.

With those respective Games having been postponed for a year, the immediate pressure has eased marginally with regards to training sessions, replaced in part by issues concerning mental wellbeing.

UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger, a former rower with the experience of competing at fiveOlympic Games, warned that athletes would be “feeling alone in a different way to ever before”, while drumming home the message “you’re not battling on your own”.

The five-time Olympic medallist said: “The first reaction for a lot [of athletes] is uncertainty and then it becomes like a grieving process in a sense for some. Some thought this year’s Games was their end point and the systems are shutting down in the sense they can’t train in gyms, so there’s a lot of confusion. But the mental health advice has not shut down, it’s still very much in place.”



Premier League footballers raise £4m for NHS

The campaign set up by Premier League footballers, The Players Together initiative, has raised over £4million for the NHS.

Funds will go to ‘those fighting for us on the NHS frontline as well as other key areas of need’, a statement released earlier this month announced.



‘No football fans in stadiums for rest of 2020’​

Hopes are fading that the Premier League will be able to complete the season by June 30 after the campaign was halted in March, and former Liverpool and Tottenham director of football Damien Comolli believes it will be some time before football returns to normality.

Photo: PA

“There are millions of fans who cannot come into stadiums and will be happy to have something else – at night or during the day – to think about, away from the virus and all the issues they’ve got to think about.”.

“I think having football on TV would be a positive, personally. I wouldn’t be surprised if we can’t play without any fans until the end of 2020 – not just the end of this season. People say we shouldn’t be playing behind closed doors to finish this season, but what about next season.”

Read more from Comolli here.



NFL outlines dress-code for virtual draft

The NFL has set out a strict dress code for its virtual Draft later this week, warning players not to use the spectacle to make political statements.

Glitz and glamour usually go hand in hand with the NFL Draft, with college stars decked out in their finest attire as they walk the red carpet before making the step into professional football. 

Photo: Getty

However, the coronavirus outbreak has seen the planned Las Vegas event cancelled. Instead, all 32 franchises will make their selections remotely and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will announce them from his home in New York.  

Top prospects will also play a role in the coverage but the guidelines set out in a memo to players this weekend outlined what clothing they may and may not be seen wearing on screen.

The memo, obtained by Pro Football Talk, detailed that there should be no third-party logos, no explicit language, or racial, religious, or ethnic slurs.

Players cannot be seen wearing a brand logo that does not belong to one of the NFL’s official licensed partners.

Also not tolerated will be any clothing referencing alcohol, gambling, tobacco products (including e-cigarettes), obscene, pornographic (or escort services), violent (including firearms or other weapons), or sexual imagery.

Players will also have to make sure any backdrop is sanitized of products, brands or logos not approved by the NFL.



Danish club to host drive-in screenings for behind-closed-doors games

Photo: Twitter/ @fcmidtjylland

A Danish club have come up with a novel way to allow fans to watch games together when football returns behind closed doors – by setting up drive-in screenings. 

FC Midtjylland, sister club of Championship outfit Brentford, have drawn up the plans for when the Danish Superliga is allowed to resume after the coronavirus shutdown, with the restart currently scheduled for May 17.

It will see the club’s stadium car park turned into a massive outdoor fan zone, in the style of a 1960s American drive-in movie theatre, with space for up to 2,000 cars. 

It will allow the club’s supporters to congregate in one place, watching the action on giant screens and tuning into commentary on car radios, without breaching social distancing regulations or increasing the risk of spreading the disease. 

“We are working hard to create the best possible experience,” said Preben Rokkjaer, the club’s marketing director.

“We have a stated goal of creating the best stadium experience. Coronavirus does not change that, it just provides some other preconditions.”

Prizes will be given out to fans whose cars are best decked out in club colours, while there will even be an “away end” for visiting supporters to park up in.

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Arsenal confirm player wage cuts

Arsenal first team players and coaching staff have agreed a deal to take a 12.5 per cent pay-cut to help the club manage the financial impacts of the coronavirus shutdown.


The Gunners become the first Premier League club to formally agree a cut with players, with the reduction in earnings also applying to manager Mikel Arteta and his ‘core staff’, coming into effect this month.

As part of the deal, players will be repaid ‘agreed amounts’ if the team achieve certain targets on the field – reportedly including Champions League qualification – which would bolster the club’s income.

Government on impact of Liverpool vs Atletico on spread

The Government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, professor Dame Angela McLean, admits it is an “interesting hypothesis” that Liverpool‘s Champions League match against Atletico Madrid may have spread coronavirus in the city.

Over 3,000 Atletico fans made the trip to Anfield in March despite Madrid already subject of a partial lockdown amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

McLean admits it will be interesting to look at the scientific evidence and the Champions League last-16 second leg tie at Anfield down the line, but insisted that, given the general policy at the time, going to a football match was not considered a “particularly large extra risk”.

“However, when you get to the situation of our strange lives as we live them now where we spend all our time basically at home, of course you wouldn’t add on an extra risk of lots and lots of people going off to the same place at the same time,” she continued.

“I think it will be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the virus that has circulated in Liverpool and the virus that has circulated in Spain. That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise there.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association



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