Sevilla players warned by Liga chief Javier Tebas after flouting coronavirus lockdown rules

La Liga chief Javier Tebas said on Sunday that footballers must remember to act responsibly to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus after four Sevilla players broke the Spanish government’s rules on social gatherings.

Argentine trio Ever Banega, Lucas Ocampos and Franco Vazquez as well as Dutch striker Luuk de Jong were pictured at a party alongside eight other people over the weekend.

Spain has eased one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe as its coronavirus infection rate has slowed and the death toll has declined, although gatherings of more than 10 people are still not permitted by the guidelines.

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The picture, which was posted on Instagram by Banega’s wife, also showed a shisha pipe.

“Players are an example to society and should be careful with their actions,” Tebas told television network Movistar.

“I call on all footballers to not act like this. We have to be very careful because a lot of people’s jobs are at stake.

“Safety is guaranteed at training grounds and matches but I’m worried about other places and parties like this. We should all be very cautious,” he added.

The players all issued statements to apologise for their behaviour, which Sevilla published on the club’s official Twitter account.

Sevilla did not state whether the players would face disciplinary action and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All organised soccer in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic although on Saturday the government said the top two divisions could resume from June 8.

Sevilla’s derby match with neighbours Real Betis is set to be the first La Liga game to be played when the season resumes next month, with Tebas saying he hopes the match will be played on June 11. Reuters

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Coronavirus: Government guidance gives green light for contract training when sports are ready

Professional sport has nudged a further step closer to a resumption after the government published ‘stage two’ of its guidance which enables competitive and close-contact training.

The guidance, published in conjunction with public health officials and sports medical officers, allows for organised, close-contact training, under carefully controlled medical conditions.

The advice is geared towards establishing the conditions for stage three of the process, which is expected to be achieved next month with a resumption of sports, including Premier League matches, behind closed doors.

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The guidance makes it clear that the close contact training for elite athletes can include close quarters coaching and tackling in team sports so that players can get match fit.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “This new guidance marks the latest phase of a carefully phased return to training process for elite athletes, designed to limit the risk of injury and protect the health and safety of all involved.

“We are absolutely clear that individual sports must review whether they have the appropriate carefully controlled medical conditions in place before they can proceed, and secure the confidence of athletes, coaches and support staff.

“Given the wide ranging input we have received from medical experts, we believe these pragmatic measures should provide further reassurance that a safe, competitive training environment can be delivered, as we work towards a restart of professional sport behind closed doors when it is safe to do so.”

Premier League football clubs resumed non-contact training last week while other sports, including sailing and taekwondo, have started the process of returning to action in socially-distanced environments.

However, there remains some reluctance, with a number of football players, including Watford captain Troy Deeney and Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, citing health concerns in their respective decisions not to return.

Some Olympic and Paralympic sports, notably those housed at multi-sports centres such as the English Institute of Sheffield, are yet to determine when they will be able to return to action.

The government published phase one of its guidance on May 13, outlining the conditions for an initial return to training subject to a series of strict social-distancing regulations.

It stressed that the decision to implement the latest guidelines will be the responsibility of the respective sports bodies and clubs, in consultation with athletes, coaches and support staff.

The current social-distancing rules will continue to apply during travel to training, equipment-sharing will be avoided where possible, and communal areas will mostly be expected to remain closed. PA

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La Liga to resume from June 8 as Spanish Prime Minister confirms restart date

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has given the go-ahead for La Liga to return as soon as 8 June.

There has been no football played in the country's top division since Eibar's game against Real Sociedad on 10 March, but there is now optimism it can follow the lead of the Bundesliga, with matches set to resume behind closed doors.

Spain has been on of the worst-hit countries in Europe from coronavirus, but with cases now dropping businesses are gradually re-opening, and football looks set for a comeback in the near future.

While Sanchez suggested June 8 as the possible restart date, it appears more likely that June 12 or June 19 will be chosen as the dates for a return.

La Liga president Javier Tebas is set to officially confirm the news in the coming days. 

In response to the news, a statement from La Liga read: "We are very pleased with the decision, it is the result of the great work of clubs, players, coaches, CSD, agents, etc.

"But we cannot lower our guard, it is important to follow health regulations and ensure the pandemic doesn't come back."

La Liga clubs have been back in training since earlier this month, and the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis looks set to be the first game back on the calendar.

Barcelona currently top the table with 58 points after 27 games, with Real Madrid just two points behind them.

Each team has 11 more matches to play, meaning the season could be concluded in theory by the end of July.

Earlier this week Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said he was confident his side could overtake Barcelona if La Liga is able to return.

Speaking to Real Madrid TV, he said: "We have to think positively.

"The players see that there are 11 games left (in LaLiga) and they want to finish strongly in order to win a trophy. It's in the DNA of the club.

"I'm happy to be back training with my players after 60 days. We're all happy to be back. We planned the physical preparation and they worked really well at home. They were in shape.

"This week has been very good for working, albeit in small groups. But we can work on a little more tactically. The team looks better this week."

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Coronavirus: European season will finish in August, says Uefa president

Uefa has a plan to finish the 2019-20 season by August, including the Champions League and Europa League campaigns, the European soccer governing body’s president Aleksander Ceferin has said.

The majority of European league seasons were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but a few leagues have announced plans for a restart in the coming weeks.

The French and Dutch top-flight campaigns have been cancelled but the German Bundesliga restarted on Saturday and Ceferin expects at least 80% of national leagues to finish their seasons.

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“We have an idea but we have to wait for the executive committee of Uefa to confirm the dates. I can say that the European season will be finished, if everything is as it is now, in August,” Ceferin told beIN Sports.

“As things look now, I’m sure… that we can finish the European season and this means Uefa competition. I think the majority of leagues will finish the season. The ones who will not, it’s their decision. But they will still have to play qualifiers if they want to participate in the European Uefa competition.”

Both the Champions League and Europa League are yet to complete their last-16 matches.

Paris Saint-Germain, who were declared Ligue 1 champions, are looking to play their Champions League games abroad after the French government said professional sports would not be allowed to return before September.

“PSG and Lyon… will have to organise (matches) in France,” Ceferin added. “If this is not possible, (they) will have to organise it at a neutral ground.

“If you cannot play in your country, then you have to organise it at a neutral ground… I don’t see the reason why French authorities would not allow them to organise a match without spectators, but let’s see. It’s out of my power.”

Euro 2020, scheduled to be hosted in 12 cities across Europe, has been postponed until next year.

“We’ve had conversations with nine cities and everything is set,” Ceferin said. “With three cities, we have some issues. So we will discuss further. In principle, we will do it in 12 cities but if not, we are ready to do it in 10, nine or eight.” Reuters

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Coronavirus hasn't stopped Green sitting on the Football Pools panel

Tony Green is a Blackpool legend who was forced into early retirement at 25 and became a maths teacher, but even coronavirus hasn’t stopped him from sitting on the Football Pools panel… and they predict Manchester United would be third ahead of final weekend!

  • Ex-Blackpool and Scotland midfielder Green is chairman of Football Pools panel
  • The panel has sat in judgment to predict the results for the rest of the season
  • Manchester Utd placed in third ahead of the scheduled final weekend of fixtures
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

For nearly half a century, the world has transformed around Tony Green.

Football, the game he loved and then lost at just 25? ‘Money has changed it completely.’

The education system, too, looked rather different after 30 years of teaching maths.

Manchester United have been placed in third ahead of the scheduled final weekend of fixtures

And Blackpool – the team which lured him south of the border – has seen its lights dimmed.

The talented midfielder, also of Newcastle and Scotland, is a nod to simpler times.

‘I can text now,’ says Green, now 73. ‘I don’t bother with the internet.’

In recent weeks, however, it has been his turn to march on while everything else stands still.

Liverpool continued their relentless march to the title according to the Football Pools panel

Since 1975, Green has sat on the Football Pools panel, creating winners around the land.

Not even Covid-19 has halted their progress – this week, Green, Ian Callaghan and David Sadler will decide the final Premier League table.

Usually the septuagenarians meet to make their picks, most of which never see the light of day. During shutdown, they play judge and jury. And do so in isolation.

‘About 20 years ago, we had a telephone link between (former panellists) Roger Hunt, Gordon Banks and me,’ Green remembers. ‘At the end of it, somebody else came in and joined us who wasn’t invited so we said: “That’s not a good idea!”

Thankfully, security is rather tighter now. ‘The wife has sorted it out!’

In her day job, wife Chris works in HR at Bloomfield Road, where Green’s journey began in earnest 53 years ago.

Former Blackpool, Newcastle and Scotland midfielder Tony Green is chairman of the panel

He had been on £7 a week for Albion Rovers when in 1967, manager Stan Mortensen headed north on a scouting mission.

Only four years later, on Green’s departure to Newcastle, did the truth come out.

‘I was told not to sign you,’ Mortensen told him. Blackpool’s verdict? Not big enough, not good enough.

‘He went back and said: ‘I’ve signed Tony Green’ and he said you’d have heard a pin drop. ‘And I’m putting him in the first team on Saturday’.’

On debut, Green received a standing ovation.

‘Coming from Glasgow to Blackpool was a lovely move for me socially,’ he says.

‘I still love Blackpool, I still love going along the front.’

There was some work involved, too. Pre-season featured runs up and down nearby sand dunes; every training session pitched Green against some of the country’s best.

‘Jimmy Armfield lived in a semi-detached house and when I came he (had been) captain of England,’ Green says. ‘You couldn’t imagine Paul Pogba living in a semi-detached house could you?’

The Football Pools panel has sat in judgment to predict the results for the rest of the season

He adds: ‘I remember the first time we were on Match Of The Day, we played Bristol… and Stan said: ‘We’ll stop the bus, have a meal and we can watch Match Of The Day’. All the other lads said: ‘Bugger that, we want a night out!’

‘I was gobsmacked’. ‘I thought: ‘God, we’re on telly!’

They had their way and old habits die hard.

‘My wife goes on the internet, every now and again she’ll say: ‘This is on’,’ Green says. But he’s not one for trips down memory lane, even if some performances are etched into folklore.

Shortly before his departure, Blackpool won the 1971 Anglo-Italian Cup. A few months earlier he downed Bobby Moore and Co, scoring twice in front of the BBC cameras in a famous FA Cup victory.

Heady days for Blackpool, who now languish in the third tier.

‘When we got promotion (to the Premier League) 10 years ago, I thought that was us for the next 20, 30 years,’ Green says.

‘(I’m) sad more than angry… we could have done exactly what Burnley have done and Bournemouth and Brighton.’

It was at Blackpool that Green’s injury problems started. He was out for a year after hurting his achilles. The suggested treatment? Go to a plough field and run.

At Newcastle, those issues reached a painful climax in 1972.

After a collision with Crystal Palace’s Mel Blyth, his right knee was in tatters.

This time, he spent a month running up and down the terraces of St James’ Park. Eventually, on the advice of rivals Sunderland, he had an operation but the damage was done.

‘I probably would have played in about six weeks if it happened now.’

Instead at just 25, his career was over.

Nevertheless in a few dozen appearances he captured Geordie hearts, thanks in part to the day he created two goals in victory at Old Trafford and put George Best on his backside.

Not too long ago, an elderly woman sunk to her hands and knees to bow at his feet; in 2018, some fans visited to his house and took him for a meal.

After the painful end to his career, adulation was his medicine.

‘I struggled initially,’ he admits. ‘I think the supporters kept me sensible.’

He had trouble sleeping without a drink and then one day, driving near his home in Dinnington, everything changed.

‘I must have been going about 70mph and I thought: ‘I could have killed somebody… I better get myself sorted out here.’

He moved into teaching, coaching football wherever he went. Soon he joined the Pools panel, too.

For the uninitiated: Each week a 49-match coupon is released. Players pick 10 they hope will end in a score draw. If any game is called off, the panel’s verdict counts.

Running since 1923, the Pools have paid out more than £3.2billion and at one point, more than 14million took part each week.

Over time, Green grew very close to Hunt and Banks and they would holiday together.

A Newcastle fan once ushered the two World Cup winners out of the way for a picture of Green. Another time, a pub landlord spent a Manchester derby telling the trio how good a player he had been. Unaware who his punters were, when they disagreed over a decision, he told them: ‘When you’ve played the game, you’ll know that was a free-kick’.

Another night, this time in Spain: ‘This one little Irishman was telling Gordon to come to the other end of the bar to meet ‘your man Paddy’,’ Green recalls.

‘Gordon said ‘Well if he wants to meet me he can come here’. And he just shouted: ‘Paddy, Banks is an ignoramus!’

All these years on, Green still lives just outside Blackpool. The brickwork, fence and patio have all been conquered during lockdown.

At Football Pools HQ, meanwhile, there was talk of bringing younger panellists on board in case illness struck.

So far chairman Green is going strong. Even as everything continues to change around him.

The Football Pools is the world’s oldest football gaming company and the only place you can have a bet on this weekend’s Premier League football right now. Predict 10 score draws at to be in with a chance of winning. 

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Coronavirus: Salary cap proposals to be sent to League One and League Two clubs by Monday

Salary cap proposals will be sent to clubs in League One and Two no later than Monday, it is understood.

Clubs in the English Football League are looking at a £200m financial hole by the end of September as a consequence of the suspension of the league due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the competition’s chairman Rick Parry.

Moves to implement cost controls have been led by a working group, and PA understands the group is about to distribute proposals to clubs over what the caps should be.

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Parry told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee last week that a salary cap and other cost control measures were “absolutely essential”.

“There is a lot of debate going on about that at the moment. We have an imbalance in the distribution, we have the parachute payments which cause immense stress within the Championship so yes I do think the distribution model is a problem. Any model where wages are 106 per cent of turnover is ridiculous,” he said.

Dale Vince, the chairman of League Two side Forest Green, is in favour of the introduction of a cap and mentioned fixed amounts of £3.6million for League One clubs and £2m for teams in League Two when speaking to PA last month.

He said: “We can all see the problems every year, there are a couple of clubs that just about make it to the end of the season – or don’t – and go into administration.

“A player wage cap would be a way to control that. The amount of money that gets spent by some clubs would then relieve the pressure on other clubs to match it – it becomes an arms race.

“You get the odd individual who just operates on the very edge of insolvency and legality. With a wage cap, people like that would be more constrained and less able to do real harm.”

Vince said at the time that he hoped a cap could be agreed to come into effect for the 2020-21 season.

“It’s something that can be agreed now. We’ve got this downtime to work on the details, and put it in place ready (for the new season).” PA

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Naomi Osaka using coronavirus lockdown to conquer her inner demons

Two-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is using the novel coronavirus shutdown as one of self reflection to try and overcome her crippling shyness.

The tennis season was suspended in early March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the hiatus will continue until at least mid-July with many countries in lockdown to contain the virus.

Japan’s Osaka, who trains in the United States, the country worst affected by the flu-like virus with over 1.4 million infections and more than 83,000 deaths, is taking advantage of the extended break to do some soul searching.

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“I think people know me as being really shy, I want to take the quarantine time to just think about everything, and for me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep,” Osaka told CNN Sport.

Petra Kvitova said last year Osaka would have to get used to having a target on her back after the Japanese said she struggled to deal with increased scrutiny in the wake of her rise to the top of the world rankings.

“Most of the regrets are because I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking. I feel like if I asserted myself, I would have gotten the opportunity to see what would have happened,” Osaka said.

Osaka, who became the first Japanese player to attain the world number one ranking following her 2019 Australian Open victory, believes tennis is not a top priority at the moment.

“I want to take this time to learn something new because I’m pretty sure I won’t have this much free time ever again. It’s not like I’ll forget how to play tennis,” the world number 10 added.

With no access to gyms and tennis courts, the 22-year-old found a training partner in former world number one Venus Williams, with the two sharing a workout session on social media.

“I don’t want to train five hours a day right now because I think that’s how you get burned out and you never know when tournaments will start again,” Osaka said.

“I did an Instagram live with Venus just now. It was kind of more intense than I thought it was going to be.

“For some reason I thought we were going to be stretching, but yeah, we were doing a bit of movement drills and then lunges and stuff.” Reuters

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Coronavirus: Empty venues will remind players how important fans are, says Jofra Archer

England speedster Jofra Archer says piping in music or crowd noise would help cricketers get used to playing in empty venues during the COVID-19 pandemic but the experience will show just how crucial fans are to the game.

The England and Wales Cricket Board is scrambling to salvage a coronavirus-wrecked summer as it prepares to host a three-test series against West Indies in July, possibly behind closed doors and at ‘bio-secure’ venues.

“It will be hard to play in a stadium without supporters but I understand it is necessary for things to start that way as we won’t be able to test every single fan wanting to come into the ground,” Archer, 25, wrote in his Daily Mail column.

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“… I think it will be one of those things you don’t realise how much you need until it’s gone. Take it away, and we will realise how much the supporters mean to us.”

India captain Virat Kohli said last week playing in empty stadiums would take the ‘magic’ away from the game and Archer said some adjustments would have to be made.

“Playing in complete silence will take some getting used to … so I think it might be useful to play some music, some simulations of a crowd, something to create an atmosphere,” said the Barbados-born quick.

“The best solution, if we do have to play behind closed doors, might be to have cheers and clapping when someone hits the ball for four or a wicket falls.

“These are the little things that will make it as normal as possible even though it won’t be a normal occasion.”

An elbow injury saw Archer ruled out of England’s tour of Sri Lanka and this year’s Indian Premier League, though both were eventually postponed due to the global health crisis.

“I’m not really sure how my elbow is as yet,” he said.

“I guess I’ll have to bowl seriously to really find out. It feels fine after a lengthy period of rest but I’ve not done anything of any kind of intensity as yet.” Reuters

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Sources: NBA deadline to scrap CBA extended

  • Host of The Woj Pod
  • Joined ESPN in 2017

The NBA has reached an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association to extend until September the 60-day window that preserves the league’s right to terminate the collective bargaining agreement in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, sources told ESPN.

Pushing back the deadline allows for the NBA and union to gather a clearer picture of the economic losses and bargain on a number of crucial financial issues.

The NBA had the ability to terminate the CBA under the force majeure event provision for the two months starting on the March 11, when the season was suspended.

There’s optimism that the NBA and union can work through these issues and agree on how the league’s financial landscape will be recalibrated on a number of issues, including the 2020-21 salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, sources said.

The NBA’s current CBA extends through the 2023-24 season, with a mutual opt-out available after the 2022-23 season.

This extension allows the league and union to continue trying to resume the 2019-20 season this summer, salvaging some regular-season games, carrying out the playoffs and recouping some lose revenue. Commissioner Adam Silver told the players on Friday that expenditures by fans — through gate receipts, concessions and other game-night receipts — constitute approximately 40 percent of the league’s revenue, according to audio of tape obtained by ESPN.

The league would restart this season without fans in venues, and Silver held out the possibility on the call that it could also be possible for the start of the 2020-21 season. The NBA and NBPA share revenue on a 51-49 split of Basketball Related Income (BRI).

During a conference call with members of the NBPA membership on Friday, Silver began to prepare the players for the harsh financial realities.

“This CBA was not built for an extended pandemic,” Silver said on the call, according to the audio tape. “There’s not a mechanism in it that works to properly accept a cap when you’ve got so much uncertainty; when we’d be going in next season saying, ‘Well, our revenue could be $10 billion or it could be $6 billion. Or maybe it could be less.'”

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