UFC legend Anderson Silva admits to feeling ‘sad’ ahead of ‘last fight’ against Hall — RT Sport News



Anderson Silva, the UFC’s record longest title-holder, has admitted that his fight against Uriah Hall in Las Vegas on October 31 will “probably” be his farewell contest as he eyes retirement more than 23 years after his MMA debut.

Former middleweight champion Silva, 45, appeared to all-but confirm his retirement after he faces Hall at the UFC Apex in his final UFC outing.

The legendary Brazilian had two fights left on his UFC contract before he appeared to be encouraged to make only one further appearance following more than a year out of the sport.

Pinpointing training as the element he would most miss, Silva explained to MMA Junkie: “Preparing my mind, preparing my body…is most important and I feel sad because I don’t have this anymore.

“This is the last one. This is the last fight. For sure, this is the last fight. Probably.

“I love the sport. I’ve prepared my mind for this. I’ve prepared for fights my entire life but yes, this is my last fight in UFC.”

Silva has won just one of his eight fights in more than eight years since two knockout defeats to Chris Weidman, ending his record middleweight title reign of almost 2,500 days.

He defended his crown ten times but has not fought since a first-round defeat to Jared Cannonier in Rio de Janeiro in May 2019.

Fans were split on the prospect of one of the greatest fighters of all time finally bowing out, with some arguing that the faded veteran should have retired closer to his peak.

“Last fight in UFC or in MMA all together?” asked one. “Not the same thing.”

Another pointed out: “Dana [White, UFC president] kept saying it was his last fight while Silva did not.

“Now Silva is saying, ‘what Dana says’. Sounds to me like this is not really his decision, especially when he throws in ‘last fight in UFC’.”

‘The Spider’ said he was looking forward to a match-up with former Ultimate Fighter runner-up Hall.

“I can’t say, ‘oh, this fight goes to the ground, this fight is done in the standup,’” he observed.

“It’s two good strikers. Uriah’s a very, very athletic guy and has a good technique in the striking. I try to do my best. I try to do the best show for my fans.”




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‘I’m ready, Conor’s ready’: UFC legend Silva says he’s ALREADY cutting weight for McGregor superfight







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HUUB launches crowdfunding campaign amidst endurance sport boom


Derby based HUUB, leaders in the £60 million UK triathlon apparel and accessories market, today announced the launch of their Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign as they look to raise a minimum of £250,000 to accelerate growth into new territories, and through category expansion and extension.

Olympic medallist triathletes and long-term HUUB athletes, brothers Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, have kickstarted the raise which will enable HUUB to continue to scale it’s direct-to consumer offering, expand the product range in its fast growing cycling category, cater for the increasing number of women taking up endurance sports, and grow its presence in international markets, most notably the US and Germany.

Originating in the innovation-led swimwear and triathlon categories, but now embracing all endurance sports, HUUB’s product range is focused on performance and innovation, incorporating scientific research, continuous athlete feedback and cutting-edge technologies. In 2019, HUUB turned over £4.8m and from 2015 to 2019 has achieved average sales growth of 32% year-on-year.

Despite the triathlon competition schedule being wiped out during 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, HUUB’s 2020 turnover is on a par with last year’s as endurance sport take-up has soared during lockdown. The business has experienced a huge increase of 681% in cycling apparel sales, as well as a significant diversification in audience demographic for their products across the board. Specifically, women’s wetsuit sales are up 68% and there has also been a shift in the average customer age.

HUUB founder, Dean Jackson, who started the business in 2011 by designing a wetsuit on his kitchen table, says; “We are at a really exciting stage of our growth, with new categories performing incredibly strongly and our product range across the board continuing to appeal to professional and amateur athletes alike. Our average order value is up significantly – up 63% in the last six months – and our direct to consumer business is growing rapidly too.”

He adds; “Our Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign is designed to help accelerate the growth we are experiencing on so many fronts and, I believe, offers a really exciting opportunity for those in the endurance sport community and beyond to invest in a brand that is on a steep upwards trajectory. And with both the Brownlee brothers already onboard, investors know they will be in the good company of two of Britain’s most successful Olympic athletes. Alistair also happens to have a master’s degree in Financial Economics, so he knows his way around a P&L statement and a good investment opportunity when he sees one!”

As well as the partnership with the Brownlee brothers, HUUB also have relationships with the likes of current female world triathlon champion Georgia Taylor-Brown, world triathlon series medallist Jess Learmonth and cycling world cup winner Dan Bigham, the latter of which is HUUB’s in house aerodynamicist.

Dean founded the business after losing his job in sport sales back in 2011. At the time he was himself an amateur athlete and, having worked with other sportswear companies that made claims that were not backed by any in-depth research, he wanted better. He therefore set about creating his own wetsuit which fitted his criteria of a performance enhancing suit that was backed up by research. When a fellow competitor heard Dean’s story, he put him in touch with a group of 12 private investors which lead to him being given an initial investment of £25,000. The key to unlocking further investment, however, was to secure £200,000 of orders and find an Olympian to wear his suit.





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UFC’s Colby Covington wears ‘F*ck LeBron’ shirt as he mocks NBA ace over ratings (VIDEO) — RT Sport News



Controversial UFC star and ardent Donald Trump supporter Colby Covington has again turned his fury on Los Angeles Lakers talisman LeBron James’ political views, telling the NBA champ that his “woke bullsh*t” has drawn low ratings.

Middleweight number one Covington has repeated the attack he launched on James last month, wearing a t-shirt bearing the slogan “F*ck LeBron” while standing on a beach between two grinning women in bikinis.

Speaking in the aftermath of James and the Lakers beating Miami Heat to win the NBA title, Covington blamed the Most Valuable Player in the finals for figures that showed audience numbers had been more than 50% down on last year’s deciding series.

“Congratulations are in order for my good buddy, LeBron James,” sneered Covington, in between promoting a gambling partnership.




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UFC’s Covington blasts ‘slime in Hollywood & woke sports’ for ‘wishing harm on a 74-year-old grandfather’ as Trump battles Covid



“Congrats, LeBron, on setting the record for the least-watched NBA finals in history.

“You wish you could blame it on the pandemic but everybody’s just sick of your woke bullsh*t.

“And while the NBA’s ratings are going down, the UFC’s are going up. Just like our bank accounts.”

Covington has posed with the republican candidate for photo opportunities at one of his presidential rallies, met the head of state at the White House and repeatedly worn clothing wearing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

James, by contrast, was named as a “hater” by the president this week, who said he would not watch the finals and would pick former great Michael Jordan over the Lakers legend because of James’s outspoken criticism of the presiding government and support for movements including Black Lives Matter.

The forward hit back by telling Trump that his gaze would not be missed during the finals, which the Lakers won 4-2.

After a bad-tempered, politically-stoked build-up to his resounding victory over Tyron Woodley, which the president had pledged to watch, Covington used his post-fight interview to savage James and other sportspeople who oppose his fiercely-held outlook.

“I want to dedicate this fight to all the first responders, all the military out there,” he announced.

“This world would not be safe without you guys. You keep us safe – not these ‘woke’ athletes.

“I’m sick of these ‘woke’ athletes and these spineless cowards, like LeBron James.”




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‘He’s a woke little b*tch’: Colby Covington shreds beaten foe Tyron Woodley, launches tirade at ‘spineless’ LeBron James and BLM





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Baseball’s First Commissioner Led a Conspiracy of Silence to Keep the Sport Segregated


The Baseball Writers’ Association of America recently announced that it would remove former Major League Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ name from the plaques awarded to the American and National League MVPs.

The decision came after a number of former MVPs, including Black award winners Barry Larkin and Terry Pendleton, voiced their displeasure with their plaques being named for Landis, who kept the game segregated during the 24 years he served as commissioner from 1920 until his death in 1944. The Brooklyn Dodgers ended the color line when they signed Jackie Robinson to a contract in October 1945, less than a year after Landis’ death.

Landis has had his defenders over the years. In the past, essayist David Kaiser, baseball historian Norman Macht, Landis biographer David Pietrusza and the commissioner’s nephew, Lincoln Landis, have claimed that there is no evidence that Landis said or did anything racist.

But in my view, it’s what he didn’t say and didn’t do that made him a racist.

In my book “Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball,” I argue that baseball’s color line existed as long as it did because the nation’s white mainstream sportswriters remained silent about it, even as Black and progressive activists campaigned for integration.

However those who ran the league possessed far more power than sportswriters. Landis, along with the owners, knew that there were Black players good enough to play in the big leagues. If he wanted to integrate Major League Baseball, he could have.

Instead, he did all he could to prevent the rest of America from knowing just how talented Black baseball players were.

Petitions go ignored

By the time Landis became commissioner in 1920, baseball had been segregated ever since a so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” took place among team owners in the 1880s.

However, it was common practice in the 1920s for Major League teams to earn extra money in the off-season by playing Black teams in exhibition games. Landis put a halt to these games because he wanted to end the embarrassment of the Black teams’ winning so often.

It is worth noting that Black athletes competed with white ones in other sports in the 1920s and 1930s, including boxing, college tennis, college football and, for several years, the National Football League. Black athletes also represented the United States in the Olympics.

During the 1930s, Black sportswriters like Wendell Smith and Sam Lacy, along with white sportswriters for the Communist newspaper The Daily Worker, intensely campaigned for the integration of baseball.

In their editorials and articles, Worker sportswriters chronicled the accomplishments of Negro League stars and told readers that struggling Major League teams could improve their chances by signing Black players. Meanwhile, Communist activists organized protests and circulated petition drives outside the ballparks of New York’s three Major League teams – the Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers – demanding that teams sign Black players.

The petitions, which had, according to one estimate, a million signatures, were then sent off to the commissioner’s office. They were ignored. The Daily Worker regularly focused on Landis as the person responsible for the color line, while the Black press derisively called him “the Great White Father.”

Don’t ask, don’t tell

Landis’ defenders say that he could not possibly have been a bigot because he suspended Yankees outfielder Jake Powell for making a racist comment during a 1938 radio interview.

Landis suspended Powell not because the ballplayer used a slur, but because it was heard by fans, and Black activists pressured the commissioner to do something. While Landis ended up punishing a racist player, he did nothing to end racial discrimination against Black players.

Furthermore, Landis refused to allow players and managers to speak on the issue. When Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher was quoted in a 1942 Daily Worker article saying he would sign Black players if he were allowed to, Landis ordered Durocher to deny that he made the statement.

The following year, Landis again subverted the campaign to end segregation in the sport.

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Sam Lacy, who was then working for the Chicago Defender, repeatedly asked Landis for a meeting to talk about the color line. When Landis finally agreed, Lacy asked the commissioner if he could make the case for integration at baseball’s annual meeting.

Landis, without telling Lacy, invited the Negro Newspaper Publishers Association. Also invited to speak was Paul Robeson, the onetime college football star who had become an actor, singer, writer – and avowed Communist. Lacy was incensed that Robeson would be asked to address the conservative white owners about the sensitive issue of integration.

To Lacy, the presence of Robeson meant that Landis could plant seeds of suspicion with white owners and sportswriters that the campaign to integrate baseball was a Communist front.

Lacy wrote in a column that Landis reminded him of a cartoon he had seen of a man extending his right hand in a gesture of friendship while clenching a long knife that was hidden in his left hand.

Landis died in December 1944, and Lacy finally got a chance to address team executives in March of the following year. Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey ended up signing Jackie Robinson to a contract several months later, thus ending segregation in baseball.

Lee Lowenfish, Rickey’s biographer, was convinced that Landis would have tried to stop the Brooklyn executive from signing Robinson.

I believe it is no coincidence that baseball remained segregated during Landis’ reign as commissioner – or that it became integrated only after he died.

Chris Lamb, Professor of Journalism, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Wikimedia



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Daniel Andrews eases Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions on travel, outdoor gatherings, sport, hairdressers and auctions



Melbourne’s 5 kilometre radius rule will be extended to 25 kilometres from midnight, under an easing of Victoria’s coronavirus restrictions.

The change is among several restrictions that are being relaxed in the city, which has been under lockdown for more than 100 days.

The Premier has also outlined further Melbourne restrictions that will be eased from November 2.

From that date, people in Melbourne will be allowed to leave their homes for any reason.

Retail will be allowed to reopen, and beauty and personal services can return.

For the first time in months, hospitality businesses will be allowed to seat patrons, with a maximum of 20 people indoors and 50 outside.

There’s been plenty said about how challenging 2020 has been.

And it’s true. This year has asked more of us — taken more from us — than any year, ever.

But 2020 has also proven, without doubt, the incredible courage of Victorians.

We have found it in ourselves to stay the course. And as a state — millions strong — we are defeating this virus.

Other places around the world have not been so successful.

Back in August and at our peak, we reported 725 daily cases. At the same time, the UK recorded 891.

Today, as Victoria records two new cases, the UK hit 16,171. And as we continue easing our restrictions — they are being forced to increase theirs.

We are seeing states and cities, not so different from our own, overwhelmed by their second wave.

Doctors and nurses being asked to decide which of their patients are most worthy of their care.

And communities — entire countries — confronting the reality that this will be “normal” until there is a vaccine.

We have escaped that awful eventuality. With modest acts of greatness and kindness, we have endured this — together.

Today, and on the strength of that success, we’ve been able to progress a number of changes.

I know these changes can’t be absolutely everything everyone wants. But they are the steps we can safely take that will make life a little bit easier.

From 11:59pm tonight, the five-kilometre limit for exercise and shopping will be extended to 25 kilometres. The two-hour time limit for exercise and socialising will also fall away.

Outdoor sports settings like tennis courts, golf courses and skateparks will be able to reopen.

All allied health professionals currently operating will be able to resume routine face-to-face care.

Outdoor real estate auctions will be able to take place with up to 10 people, plus the required staff.

And in good news for those sizing up the scissors or cautiously contemplating a buzzcut — hairdressers will be able to open, with strict safety protocols in place.

From tonight, groups of up to ten people from two households will also be able to gather in outdoor public places.

That could be for exercise — or a picnic in the park.

I know some people will reasonably ask why it’s limited to two households — and not five or ten. But by limiting the number of households, we’re limiting any potential spread of the virus.

We’re also able to get thousands more Victorians back to work — particularly those who work outside. That includes tradies undertaking outdoor maintenance and repair work, mobile pet groomers and photographers.

These are the changes we can safely make from tonight.

We need to wait just a bit longer — until 11:59pm on 1 November — to take the rest of the Third Step that will see retail, hospitality and personal care services open again.

This is a timeline that is based on the current advice of our public health team.

But if we continue to track well on the most important indicators — case averages, mystery cases, test numbers and the number of days people wait before they get tested — we may be in a position to move sooner.

These indicators help tell us the story that sits behind a case — and understand how we can safely make our next moves.

My commitment to Melburnians: we’ll review this data each and every day this week and when we get to next weekend, if we can move any earlier and do it safely, we will.

When we do reach the Third Step it will also mean we move from “stay home” to “stay safe” — with no restrictions on the reasons to leave home.

Under this step, all remaining retail will open. Restaurants, cafes and pubs will open. And personal and beauty services will be able to offer treatments to clients — as long as a face mask can be worn.

These businesses will be able to have staff onsite for a ‘dark opening’ from 28 October, giving them time to prepare to open their doors to the public.

We’ll also be able to go a bit further on home visits too — allowing households to have two people and their dependents visit their home once per day.

The other aspects of our roadmap — from accommodation to outdoor sport — will also be introduced.

I know there’ll be plenty of people who want to know when they can head to regional Victoria.

And unfortunately, for now, that’s off the cards. As we’ve seen this week, this virus is wildly infectious — and we all need to help protect the hard-won gains of our regional communities.

Because we are doing so well in regional Victoria, we’re able to make a few changes there too.

From tonight, regional libraries and toy libraries will be able to open to a maximum of 20 people indoors.

People will be able to hold outdoor religious gatherings with up to 20 people — and 50 from 1 November.

And in good news for our regional hospitality businesses, they’ll be able to host up to 40 customers indoors and up to 70 outdoors from 11:59pm tonight.

Staying safe is more important than ever. So please, keep wearing a mask, keep maintaining your distance — and if you feel sick, get tested and stay home.

I understand that for some these changes won’t be enough. They’ll want more — and they’ll want it sooner.

But the whole way through this, we have been guided by our public health experts and their advice.

None of us ever want to do this again.

We have come too far — sacrificed too much — to give up now. We are so close.

These are the safe, steady steps that will see us out of this — and see us through to the other side.

We can do this.



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Sport supplement shake-up to follow federal government intervention


One affected substance, the synthetic caffeine derivative Dynamine made by US firm Compound Solutions, is found in “countless pre-workouts and fat-burners”, said Will Warren-Davey, the director of Australian sports nutrition company Primabolics.

“I’ll have to pull off my flagship pre-workout and reformulate it and repackage it. It’s very sudden and quite a severe set of implications,” he said.

“Anything that implies or says directly that it helps with performance or recovery or influencing hormonal balance – which is pretty much most of the buzzwords in our industry – is going to come under the scrutiny of being considered a medicine.”

Mr Warren-Davey was concerned about the impact of the ruling on the industry, though others said they wouldn’t be severely affected.Credit:Darren Pateman

Mr Warren-Davey said consumers should expect some of their usual products to disappear from shelves. “That will be the case in the very least for the short-term,” he said. “There’s going to be a supply shortage.”

The ruling does not affect protein powders, nutritional bars or energy drinks. But it will affect all sports supplements in the form of a pill, capsule or tablet, regardless of whether they have a high-risk ingredient, which will be reclassified as therapeutic goods by November 2023.

The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age spoke to other supplement manufacturers and retailers who said a significant proportion of their product range would be hit by the ruling and were concerned, but did not want to draw the attention of the Therapeutic Goods Administration by speaking publicly.

The TGA cites studies showing up to 19 per cent of supplement products sold in Australia have contain substances banned in sport. One study found 16 per cent of sampled products contained
substances banned under the World Anti-Doping Code that were not declared on the label.

“There have been serious adverse events reported both domestically and internationally associated with the use of certain sports supplements, including deaths and liver transplants,” a TGA spokesman said.

Not all supplement manufacturers believe the decision will damage the industry. Nick Jones, the founder of Sydney-based Gen-Tec Nutrition, said he had only one product containing Dynamine which he will need to reformulate with green coffee bean extract.

“All of my other products [already] comply,” he said. “It’s not a big deal for me, to be honest.”

More than 14,000 people joined an industry campaign called Save Aussie Supplements to oppose the new rules, but the TGA said the campaign wrongly believed the scope of the changes was wider than intended.

In a Regulation Impact Statement, the TGA also played down industry concerns that consumers would simply bypass Australian suppliers and order their preferred supplements online from overseas.

Authorities have already cracked down severely on some dangerous weight loss substances. In 2017, the “fat shredder” compound 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) was added to schedule 10 of the Poisons Standard, banning it from all forms of use including clinical trials – stricter than the controls on cocaine or heroin.

Analysis by Noetic Group for the federal Department of Health found about 630 distinct sports supplements were on the market in Australia across the three categories of pre-workout, fat-burner and post-workout or recovery products, with 42 per cent manufactured locally.

The sports supplements industry in Australia is worth close to $1.5 billion a year.

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How Australian sport has handled coronavirus compared to sports around the world


Winter is closing in the northern hemisphere, and in most countries, the incidence of COVID-19 is rising again. The tally of those infected includes the US President, the British Prime Minister, a dozen or more soccer stars and a grand tour cycling winner.

On Tuesday, outbreaks of the virus forced two teams to pull out of the Giro d’Italia, seriously weakening the event. Also on Tuesday, across the Atlantic, it got to the world’s No.1 golfer, Dustin Johnson.

AFL was played behind closed doors after a months-long shutdown due to COVID-19, as was NRL.Credit:Getty Images

As best can be judged from here, there was disappointment, but not alarm. Their attitude seems to be that because anyone can get it, it is not so surprising that these eminences have, precautions and protections notwithstanding.

Here, the attitude is that if they can get it, anyone can, and the vigilance redoubles. So far, no Australian luminary of sport nor politics has been stricken.

European sport was disrupted by coronavirus – most acutely by the cancellation of Wimbledon – but pressed on. Random cases at the Tour de France and the French Open were regarded as the minimum expected collateral damage. American sport proceeds, some in bubbles, but they are not airtight. In golf, for instance, 11 PGA players have gone down.

In Germany, there are spectators again at the soccer. Now the English Premier League is agitating for their return. This had looked likely until a surge of the virus in the UK prompted a tightening in the rules a couple of weeks ago.

Some fans have returned to the stands in Germany.

Some fans have returned to the stands in Germany.Credit:Getty Images

The Premier League protested to the government, saying a sanitary soccer stadium would be a safer place than a shop, pub or restaurant.

“We are confident that Premier League clubs, using innovative ways to get supporters safely back into grounds, will enable revenues to return to all levels of the game,” their statement said, “as well as maintain solidarity arrangements, current tax contributions and financial support for local and national economies.”

Yes, somehow, they twisted monumental extravagance into an essential service.

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Here, there, everywhere, it always comes back to the health v economy scales. Last season, the EPL lost £700 million. Every home match, Manchester United loses £5 million. EPL clubs also spent more than £1 billion on transfers, so it’s hard to work up sympathy. Nonetheless, it can be seen that this is a very harmful virus to treasurers.

Here, it’s the same plughole, opposite direction swirl. Early animus between the AFL and the NRL about prudent/pusillanimous approaches to the virus receded. Generally, sports have bided their time, taken their licks and moved on.

Administrators have bitten their tongues about government restrictions, recognising a bigger picture. One coronavirus case would be one too many; one in the AFL prompted the cancellation of a game. After some early belligerence, even Peter V’landys shut up.

Leagues, clubs and players have acted co-operatively to deal with the new normal, cutting their cloth as needed. Broadcasters have improvised. Fans have remained remarkably staunch (as citizens have in the face of the virus). Somehow, Super Netball and the A-League completed their seasons and the AFL and NRL are about to complete theirs.

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Generally, sports around the world have reflected governments about acceptable risk. Australia has run a tighter ship than most. Cautious or timid? Protective or precious? Insulated or insular? You don’t need a sports columnist to reiterate the contrast in infections and death rates between here, the US and Europe.

What is clear is that against the logistical odds, and in the face of great scepticism – including from this column – the AFL has staged a passably successful season. Clubs and players adapted, fans accepted it on terms once the weirdness wore off. No one is crowing yet, for fear of jinxing their own work. But they set themselves to walk a tightrope, and they’ve done it.

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How coronavirus killed the golden goose of sport and how each code is placed to pick up the pieces


The coronavirus pandemic has shaken Australian professional sport to the core.

In the space of a few months as lockdowns forced changes, hundreds of people lost their jobs and as much as a billion dollars was wiped from the Australian elite sporting landscape.

The big three codes — AFL, NRL and cricket — basked for decades in lucrative television rights that allowed expansion, high salaries, and other bells and whistles, but the pandemic has shown it was all built on shifting sands.

No sport proved immune.

So, as we approach the business end of the football season, we do a stocktake of the major Australian sports and how they’ve fared in season COVID.

The Australian Football League

The AFL is the behemoth of Australian sport.

Port Adelaide finished top of the AFL ladder after a much-changed season.(AAP: Dave Hunt)

In 2015, it signed a six-year TV rights deal worth $2.5 billion dollars — a package that continued a trend of increasing rights deals that began in the early ’70s.

But those days appear over.

The AFLW competition was the first casualty, with the competition abandoned just prior to the finals.

Soon afterwards, the AFL slashed costs, ordering all 18 clubs to stand down 80 per cent of their workforce.

Players were forced to take a 50 per cent pay cut, leaving some individuals hundreds of thousands out of pocket, while many assistant coaches left clubs never to return.

The AFL arranged a $600 million line of credit secured by the Docklands stadium, which allowed the season to continue while the 18 teams retreated first from Victoria, then New South Wales, to hubs in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

The AFL has spent $60 million on relocating and accommodating the teams, coaches and their families in the Queensland.

The AFL expects its revenue this year to fall by up to $400 million — around a third of its projected revenue — while 20 per cent of its staff have been cut.

In June, the AFL announced a two-year extension of its six-year deal with broadcast partners Seven West Media, taking it until 2024, but with a cost reduction of $87 million.

Gillon McLachlan speaks at a press conferences
Gillon McLachlan said the AFL needed to change its business model.(ABC News)

The AFL also negotiated a new deal with Foxtel, but without the extension until 2024.

And finally, it lost hundreds of millions in gate takings thanks to socially reduced crowds and fewer games in this COVID season.

The financial pain is expected to continue next year.

“We need to significantly change our business model for not only the AFL but the wider football community,” said the AFL’s chief executive, Gillon McLachlan.

Meanwhile, the clubs are expecting they will have to reduce their spending on coaches and other support staff by about 36 per cent and reduce player list sizes.

The full extent of club losses will become clear when they release their annual financial statements later this year.

The AFLW is set to go ahead next year with its 14-team competition, although the full details of the competition are yet to be released.

But clubs have already sacked coaches and are cutting hard around support staff.

Of all the Australian sports, the AFL is best placed to ride out the storm, thanks to its ownership of Docklands stadium, the TV deal, albeit on reduced terms, and the enormous supporter based and passion for the game — the clubs merely lost a combined 67,000 members this year despite none of the Melbourne-based supporters being able to attend a single game.

But with so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, there is no indication what next year’s season will look like and a myriad of questions yet to be answered

The AFL intends to pay off the debts of 2020 as quickly as possible, but will have to spend millions to prop up many clubs that have suffered huge losses this season.

The National Rugby League

NRL Chairman Peter V’Landys stunned the Australian sporting world with his bullish attitude to restarting the competition in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

He had good reason.

The Australian Rugby League chairman speaks at an NRL media conference.
Peter V’landys was forceful in ensuring the NRL season got back underway.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

The lack of TV money flowing into the NRL coffers meant the game was in real danger of going under as it haemorrhaged money at a rate of almost half a million dollars a day to run the competition.

A spiteful row with free-to-air broadcaster Channel Nine, which accused the NRL of mismanagement, didn’t help.

The NRL did eventually agree to a new deal with Nine that cost the league upwards of $80 million over the course of this season and the remaining two years of the contract.

The NRL’s other broadcast partner, Fox Sports, also cut a new deal without releasing figures, but it’s safe to assume the savings were considerable given it has a greater portion of rugby league’s broadcast rights.

Todd Greenberg paid the price, replaced as NRL chief executive by Andrew Abdo.

The loss of TV money as well as sponsorships, gate takings and emergency payments to clubs add up to as much as $150 million, with players agreeing to a 20 per cent pay cut to play out the season.

Meanwhile, the four-team NRLW season will go ahead in October.

Looking ahead, the NRL recently announced it was reducing staff numbers by 25 per cent and aiming to cut spending by $50 million per year.

“Our business, like so many others, has been hit by a hurricane called COVID, which caused substantial damage,” said Abdo.

To counter that, the NRL is reportedly toying with bringing in silent investment partners.

But as ABC columnist Richard Hinds wrote this week, the devil of what those private partners might require for their money will be in the detail.

Cricket

Of all the sporting organisations that stood to lose from COVID, Cricket Australia should have been best placed.

Steve Smith stands with his arms outstretched with David Warner and Tim Paine as Joe Root lies on his back
Cricket should have been in a good place pre-COVID, but has been hit hard by the pandemic.(AP: Rui Vieira)

The Australian women’s cricket team ended the home season with a glorious win in front of a packed MCG in March just as the first COVID-19 cases began to appear in Australia.

But with months until the next games were due, CA blinked.

In April, CA announced it was standing down 200 staff (around 80 per cent of the workforce), cut funding to states amounting to around 150 job losses, and brought on a bitter pay dispute with players.

In June, CA said it expected revenue to be cut by half, resulting in losses of $320 over the next two seasons.

Chief executive Kevin Roberts, who announced the cuts and the board’s rational, was subsequently forced from his job.

Since then, interim CEO Nick Hockley has announced that 40 jobs had to go, and the organisation had cut $40 million from its annual budget.

In the meantime, CA’s free-to-air broadcast partner Seven West Media launched a blistering attack on the organisation, labelling it incompetent as it sought to either cut or exit its existing contract, worth $450 million.

Seven has accused CA of breaching its contract over the lack of certainty around this summer’s schedule and the lack of big names for the Big Bash tournament.

CA and the broadcaster, along with Pay-TV partner Foxtel, have been renegotiating a new contract for weeks without a breakthrough and some interim instalments have been held back.

In the meantime, doubts remain over the summer schedule, featuring the Big Bash and all-important four-test series against India — it will take place, but where and when is yet to be nailed down.

Late on Friday, Cricket Australia announced that a one-off Test against Afghanistan and a series of one-day internationals against New Zealand have been postponed until next season.

But a series of women’s T20 and one-day matches between Australia and New Zealand is starting today, and CA announced the WBBL will go ahead with all teams staying and playing games at Sydney’s Olympic Park precinct.

Cricket Australia’s reputation has taken a hammering this year and while the elite level of the game will survive, the damage to the grass-roots game has been enormous.

Rugby Union

Rugby Australia has suffered two years of terrible publicity, and it only got worse when the pandemic hit.

Embattled CEO Raelene Castle resigned in April after being told she no longer had the support of the board and was eventually replaced by interim CEO Rob Clarke.

That was after Castle rejected a new five-year TV rights offer from long-term partner Fox Sports, understood to be far less than the existing $57 million annual deal.

Instead, the sport went out to tender and is still yet to pick up a broadcast partner for beyond this season.

A Wallabies player holds in his head in his hands as he reflects on the loss to England at the Rugby World Cup.
Rugby Australia has endured two difficult years, only for COVID to make things even worse.(AP: Christophe Ena)

The pandemic effectively dismantled the struggling Super Rugby competition, which eventually resumed as separate competitions in Australia and New Zealand, while South Africa abandoned competition altogether.

With the future of Super Rugby still a matter of conjecture, broadcasters are wondering what they are bidding for.

While the Rugby Championship will go ahead later this year, Foxtel boss Patrick Delany indicated earlier this month’s that the broadcaster wouldn’t be losing sleep if it missed out on Rugby Union.

He nailed the problem with the ruthless Australian sporting market when he said: “to be frank, there are too many sports in Australia with too big an expectation and too small a population.”

To make matters worse for rugby, this week it lost its most loyal sponsor, Qantas, and with it $5 million annually.

Earlier in the year, the players agreed to an average 60 per cent pay cut, while RA slashed 47 of its 142 full time and also cut another 30 contractors and casuals.

Football

A footballer with her back to camera celebrates a goal with teammates in Olympic football qualifier.
Football did have one win this year, being awarded the women’s World Cup hosting rights.(AAP: Darren Pateman)

The W-League managed to squeak in the grand final just before the COVID shutdown, but not so the A-League.

The season was put on hold between March and July and like all other sports, cuts followed.

Football Federation Australia stood down 70 per cent of its staff, although half have since resumed work.

With TV ratings already plummeting, Foxtel negotiated a fresh TV deal, worth just over half what it had previously been paying and only for one more season.

Meanwhile, the male and female players have been embroiled in a bitter pay fight with the clubs over a new collective bargain agreement.

Melbourne City’s Rostyn Griffiths this week said the A-League would face “mass desertions” if the club owners didn’t agree to the new CBA.

There was some good news for soccer with Australia and New Zealand winning a joint bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.



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National Coming Out Day: People from across sport share stories


In sport, as in life, the decision of when to come out is a deeply personal one.

People may choose to be out to some, but not to others – or, for any number of reasons, not come out at all.

It’s a decision that takes courage and strength, which causes reactions you can’t always predict, and there’s nothing wrong in deciding you’re not ready or able to do it.

As part of National Coming Out Day, people from across the world of sport have shared their stories with BBC Sport.

And there’s no doubt the guests we’ve spoken to over the past two years on the LGBT Sport Podcast feel happier, stronger and more confident as a result of being open and honest about who they are.

‘I wasn’t going to hide who I am any more’

Liz Carmouche made UFC history in 2013 when she took on Ronda Rousey in the first women’s fight.

She was also the first out lesbian to compete for the organisation, and wore a rainbow mouthpiece to the octagon for her bout with Rousey at UFC 157.

But reaching a point where she felt comfortable doing that was a journey in itself.

Before her mixed martial arts career, Carmouche served in the US Marine Corps at a time LGBT people would be discharged for talking openly about their sexuality, under a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

“I was 22 when I came out, and by ‘came out’ I mean come to the realisation of what my sexuality was,” says Carmouche.

“That was while I was in the Marine Corps, so I had to hide it for four years. I was worried that I was going to be outed and kicked out, so I was constantly looking over my back.

“I wasn’t going to hide who I am any more.”

Carmouche admits concealing her sexuality took a toll on her mental health, and she was scared she might face violence from some of the people she served with if they found out she was gay.

“That was such a difficult, trying and depressing time – and that wasn’t going to be something that I was going to go through again when I left the Marine Corps,” she says.

“I certainly don’t want to throw it anyone’s face, but I’m not going to hide away in the dark and deny who I am.

“Wearing my rainbow mouthpiece was a reminder of what I’d overcome to be where I was at, and a reminder that I could do anything.”

‘He was sorry I’d had to go through it on my own’

On 8 October, Keegan Hirst announced he was retiring from rugby league

Like Carmouche, rugby league player Keegan Hirst took a long time to accept his sexuality.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I probably realised I was gay when I was 14 or 15,” he says.

“But the only gay people I knew were George Michael and Elton John, and I wasn’t like them so I figured I couldn’t be gay – or that’s what I told myself.”

Hirst, by his own admission, became very good at hiding it.

He got married and had children and it was only when the stress of maintaining his double life became too much that he decided to open up to his then wife about his sexuality.

“I think it became unbearable for her to live with me,” says Hirst.

After telling her and the rest of his family, Hirst had to come out to his team-mates at Batley Bulldogs.

“I was dreading telling the lads, but after telling my family, that was the easiest bit,” he says.

“A couple of my closest team-mates had come round to my house after one game and we’d had a couple of beers.

“I’d been venturing into Leeds and gone to a couple of gay bars, so there must have been some rumours flying round.

“And one of the lads said: ‘What about these rumours? Are you gay? Is it true?'”

Hirst says he can still remember that moment, and the split-second calculation he made as he tried to decide whether this was the right time to tell them.

“It seemed to last for ages in my head, and I said: ‘Yeah, it’s true.’

“And when I said that, one of the lads said that he’d always known – and, to be fair, he’d always made jokes about it, so maybe he had.

“One of the lads cried and he was a big tough guy. He was crying because he was sorry I’d had to go through it on my own and he couldn’t be there to help me.

“And they asked me what they should do if any of the lads asked them? And I said it wasn’t a secret any more, so tell them.”

‘I told him I felt like I needed a hug’

One of the reasons Hirst struggled with his sexuality in the way he did was the fact that, for a long time, LGBTQ+ people seemed to be either unwelcome or largely invisible in the sporting world.

Initiatives such as Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign have helped bring about change and ice hockey’s first Pride weekend in the UK this year inspired one player to tell his story.

“I’d known for nine or 10 years, but I wasn’t willing to accept it to myself,” says Zach Sullivan of Manchester Storm.

“But in November, I’d had a really bad game and I messaged my best friend in Glasgow and said: ‘I need to tell you something. I like men and women.’

“And he was like: ‘Yeah, I know.’ And I was like: ‘Oh, OK!'”

Sullivan admits he was scared that opening up about his sexuality could cost him some of the relationships he had built over the years.

But the positive reaction from his friends and family persuaded him to share his story more widely, through a social media post timed to coincide with the start of the Pride weekend.

“I just remember coming to my room-mate after I put the message out,” Sullivan recalls.

“He asked me how I felt, and I told him I felt like I needed a hug.

“I don’t like the spotlight and I didn’t know the reaction would be as positive as it has been.

“It’s the first time in my life that I’m carrying a message [about inclusion] that I’m passionate about – so if I have to come out of my comfort zone to do that, I’m happy to.”

‘Eddie Howe asked what he could do to make things easier for me’

Sophie Cook, the former club photographer at AFC Bournemouth, with then-manager Eddie Howe
Sophie Cook says the staff and players at Bournemouth helped make coming out far easier

Coming out stories tend to focus on the lesbian, gay and bisexual community – but if you’re coming out as transgender, there’s an added layer of complexity.

“When you’re lesbian, gay or bisexual, you’re basically just telling people who you’re attracted to,” says Sophie Cook, the former club photographer at AFC Bournemouth.

“But when you’re trans, you feel that you’ve finally got to the place where you need to be, and you tell people who can then end up struggling with it and almost mourning for the person they knew and loved before.”

It’s never a simple process – but in Cook’s case, coming out was made easier by the reaction of the people around her.

“My last game as Steve was the match where we got promoted as champions,” she remembers.

“That summer I knew that I was trans, so I told the commercial manager and we all ended up meeting in the owner’s box overlooking the pitch.

“It’s me, the chairman and then manager Eddie Howe – who asks me what he could do to make things easier for me. And when you come out, not everyone understands right away, so if your boss can say something like that, it’s really all you can hope for.”

Once she’d come out to the management team, Sophie had to tell the players.

“I needed to meet them before a matchday, because the first time I met them as Sophie couldn’t be as they were running down the tunnel,” she recalls.

“So they called the players together and the assistant manager said: ‘I suppose you’ve noticed our photographer has changed a bit since last season. I’d like you to meet Sophie.’

“Our captain, Tommy Elphick, started clapping and the rest of the players joined in. And then Tommy said: ‘Right, let’s go and train.’ I was like: ‘Is that it?!'”

‘It just makes being LGBT feel everyday’

Perhaps no-one sums up the importance of coming out better than BBC Sport presenter Clare Balding.

“I realise the value of just being really comfortable and proud and happy,” she says.

“You don’t have to make grandiose statements; you don’t have to kiss in public.

“You just get on with it and that’s massively helpful to people because it just makes being LGBT feel everyday.”

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