Sports Desk Round-Up

A round-up of  today’s developing Sports stories:

  1. A survey conducted by players’ union FIFPro into the working conditions of players found more than one third of footballers surveyed in Scotland say they received threats from the stands on a match day.
  2. The FA chairman, Greg Clarke, says he’s not ruling out a cover-up in the football child abuse scandal.
  3. Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson will reportedly hold talks with League One side MK Dons later this week.
  4. England’s cricketers have been beaten by eight wickets in the third Test with India.
  5. Gareth Southgate is expected to be confirmed as England’s permanent manager tomorrow.
  6. Forthcoming Scottish Football fixtures.

 

eSports – Game or sport?

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Reports are questioning whether eSports can be considered real sports. Source: publicdomain.ne

The trade body for the UK’s games and interactive entertainment, Ukie, has released an eSports whitepaper today calling for the education of policymakers about the opportunities eSports presents to the UK.

The report estimated global eSports revenue is around $493 million and by 2019 is predicted to become a billion-dollar industry. 

The report made Government recommendations, including suggesting they: “integrate eSports opportunities into the government’s trade and investment work […] and proactively encourage major eSports business and tournaments to be established.”

[Read more…]

The Murray Effect: Securing his legacy

Andy Murra. Source: Ian Dick

Men’s Tennis No.1 Andy Murray. Source: Ian Dick

It’s been little under a month since Andy Murray made history by securing his position as the world number one in men’s singles tennis.

Claiming the title from his rival Novak Djokovic, he became the first British player to reach the top-spot since computerised rankings began in 1973.

On November 6th he celebrated the achievement by winning the Paris Masters  for the first time in his career.

Murray has brought much attention to Scottish Tennis and has had a considerable effect on the uptake in the sport.

Tennis Scotland said:

“Since Andy broke into the top 10 of world rankings in 2007, the number of people playing tennis in venues and clubs across Scotland has risen from around 30,000 to almost 54,000.”

[Read more…]

Auld Reekie Roller Girls face Scottish Derby Battle

by Stephanie Abbot

Photograph taken by Sara Marsden

Photograph taken by Sara Marsden

When you flick, click or switch to the sport section of a newspaper or website, you don’t often see Roller Derby in the headlines.

However, here in Edinburgh, the Auld Reekie Roller girls are preparing for an all Scottish tournament coming up on Saturday 26th November . The local team, put together in 2008, was the first Scottish members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) and now has over 100 members.

Named after ‘Old Smoky’ , an affectionate Scottish term given to Edinburgh, The team prides itself on its inclusiveness, welcoming women of all backgrounds, this also means trans-women. The team require players be at least 18 or over. [Read more…]

Andy Murray Says “I’m Too Young for a Knighthood”

by Andy Grozier

 

It may be only a matter of time but as of right now Andy Murray has said he is still too young for a knighthood.

The 29 year old ensured that he ends 2016 as World Number One in the tennis rankings on Sunday after beating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. His win has had some calling for the man from Dunblane to be invited to Buckingham Palace for the highest honour in the land.

Following the match on Sunday, Murray was dismissive of the calls, saying he doesn’t focus much on these things;

“I don’t think much about that stuff really. When I win any award or am presented with anything it is nice because it is recognition for what you have given your life up to – up to now anyway.

“I am just trying to keep doing what I’m doing, working hard and achieving stuff.”

A number of celebrities have lined up in support of a Sir Andy with Alan Sugar and Chris Evans calling for the Knighthood. Even former World Number One Roger Federer made hints in his tweet congratulating Murray on reaching top spot:

Murray, who already has an OBE to his name, is also the bookies favourite to win the BBC’s sports personality of the year award. If the Scot does win he would become the first British athlete to win the award three times.

Andy though doesn’t expect to even make it to the ceremony on the 18th of December, with a busy month ahead;

“I’ve got my father’s stag do next weekend, then he is getting married the following weekend. So I will go up to Scotland on Saturday, come back down to London for four or five days then come back up to Scotland. Then I go to Miami the day after my dad’s wedding.”

Murray will have some stiff competition for the prize, with Olympic athletes Alistair Brownlee, Mo Farah and Laura Trott all in competition.

Hearts and Hamilton Share the Points in 6 Goal Thriller

by Andy Grozier

 

Photo credit: Hearts Press Office

Photo credit: Ron MacNeill

 

Hearts managed to rescue a point last night against Hamilton in a six goal thriller at New Douglas Park.

Jamie Walker had put the Edinburgh side ahead in the 8th minute with a brilliant half-volley only to see the Accies draw equal before powering ahead after half-time.

The home side’s come back started with a stunning free-kick from Ali Crawford. The 25 year old midfielder drifted the ball into the bottom corner of Jack Hamilton’s net from 20 yards. The strike was a touch of class in what was a mostly scrappy first half.

Rakish Bingham extended the Accies lead with a calm finish just moments into the second-half after a smooth passing move sent the striker through on goal. Bingham then got his brace in the 68th minute, beating the Hearts keeper with a shot fired into the bottom corner.

[Read more…]

In-form Spartans look forward to cup final

 

by Iain Jones

Edinburgh’s Spartans FC will take on fellow Scottish Lowland Football League side East Kilbride FC in the East of Scotland Qualifying Cup final this Sunday in West Lothian.

The winners will face SPFL League Two club Berwick Rangers in the East of Scotland Cup Final on Tuesday 12th April.

Spartans are unbeaten in all competitions since 2nd January this year and currently sit 2nd in the Lowland League table, 13 points behind fellow capital side Edinburgh City FC.

Spartans midfielder Jack Beesley said: “We’ve obviously had quite a lot of matches quite thick and fast so certainly our match fitness will be good. We’ve got training on Thursday and then the match on Sunday so, yeah, everything’s looking good.”

The Spartans have played the South Lanarkshire side twice in the league already this season, drawing one match and winning the other.

“Over the past few years they’ve probably been our toughest opponents,” said Beesley. “They’re probably as tough a final as you could have at our level so it will certainly be a tough game.”

The East of Scotland Qualifying Cup final kicks off on Sunday 20th March at 3.30pm at Albyn Park in Broxburn.

Former Rangers footballer shot dead

Peralta

Fans have expressed deep sadness on social media sites after the news broke. Photo/Twitter

By Ari Brynjolfsson

Former Rangers footballer Arnold Peralta has been shot dead in his Honduran hometown.

The 26-year-old defensive midfielder was killed in a drive-by shooting in the car park of the Uniplaza shopping mall in La Ceiba in the Central American nation while on holiday.

No arrests have been made and police have ruled out robbery as a motive as his belongings were not stolen. Honduran authorities refuse to reveal when the incident occurred.

Peralta played 24 games for Rangers across two seasons and left the club last January, he scored his only goal against Stranraer in April 2014. While with Rangers he won the Scottish League One title in the 2013/2014 season. His current team was FC Deportivo Olimpia.

Rangers Supporters Club said the news was terrible and that they still considered him family.

The Club said in a statement to the press: ‘We join all our fans in sending our condolences to the family of our former player.’

His death was confirmed by his father, Carlos Peralta at a news conference: ‘This is terribe. They killed my exemplary son. I can’t say more because of the pain I feel.’

Peralta was the Honduran Under-20 captain before playing 26 games for the national team, including the 2014 World Cup. He was due to play for his country next week in an international friendly against Cuba.

Honduras is plagued by gang violence and has the highest murder rates worldwide, topping United Nations crime reports since 2011 with more than 90 murders per 100,000 people.

Human Rights Watch organization said in their 2014 world report that perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes in Honduras were rarely brought to justice, the report said: ‘Honduras suffers from rampant crime and impunity for human rights abuses.’

The Honduran government however vows to bring Peralta’s killers to justice: ‘We won’t rest until those responsible for this act are identified and detained so that they can face justice.’

Hearts to stay at Tynecastle home

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Hearts are to stay at Tynecastle Stadium, after the club revealed plans to increase its’ capacity.

Ann Budge, the owner of the Scottish Premiership club, announced plans to redevelop the Main Stand, which should expand the stadium’s capacity to at least 20,000 seats.

Budge, who took over the club last year, admitted her initial preference was to move to a new stadium. “It was a preference driven by a desire from the majority of supporters to stay at Tynecastle”.

The plan is to rebuild the Main Stand on McLeod Street. Budge revealed that the club has the financial backing to commit to the project. The total budget will be over £7 million.

“Financially, we completely out performed our financial plan and our turnover has risen from £5,098m to £7,077m and a half million pounds improvement on the bottom line and this does not include the donations from the Foundation of Hearts”, Budge said.

The club is also planning to purchase land behind the Main Stand, which Budge sees as part of an overall regeneration of the Tynecastle area.

The plans are seen as reflective of the increased demand for tickets, amidst the club’s recent success on the pitch.

George Foulkes, former club chairman, said: “We have sold out at every recent home game and I think we have the potential to get match attendance up to 25,000 rather than 16-17,000 we have at the moment”.

Hearts midfielder Miguel Pallardo said plans for redevelopment were good news for the players: “Football players enjoy playing with more supporters. This work could be beneficial for Hearts”.

Tynecastle’s current capacity stands at 17,529 seats, which makes it the seventh largest football stadium in Scotland. The new stand will be close to that the 20,421 seats at Easter Road, the home of city rivals Hibernian.

The club celebrated the centenary of the Main Stand in 2014.

Support for injured cricket player Phil Hughes

By Greg Barrie

Cricket players past and present have sent messages of support to Phil Hughes following the Australian batsman’s serious head injury during a match in Sydney today.

Hughes is in a critical condition in hospital after being struck on the head by a fast-bowl at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a Sheffield Shield match.

The South-Australian batsman collapsed after a delivery from New South Wales bowler Sean Abbott missed his helmet and struck him on the head.

Hughes was stretchered off the field and taken to hospital, where he was put into an induced coma following surgery.

The world of cricket has offered its support to Phil Hughes throughout the day.

The sport’s governing body, the International Cricket Council, posted a message of support on Twitter, saying “Thoughts of the entire cricket community are with Philip Hughes now”.

Hughes’ fellow Australian batsman David Warner, who was fielding for New South Wales when the incident occurred , rode alongside Hughes when he was wheeled off the field.

He wrote on Twitter: “Thoughts are with my little mate Hughesy and his family. He is a fighter and a champion and he will get through this. Praying for you buddy.”

Avid England cricket fan Piers Morgan also took to Twitter to show support for the Australian. He wrote: “Awful news about Australian cricketer Phil Hughes – hit on the head by a bouncer today and very seriously ill. Praying for him.”

A number of England cricketers also wrote messages on social media, with James Anderson posting: “Awful news about Phil Hughes. Sickening to hear. Praying for him and his family.”

Cricket Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland offered his support to Hughes and all of the other players who took part in the match.

He said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with Phil Hughes. We are also thinking of his family, team-mates and friends in the Australian cricket family.

“His welfare is our highest priority. We’re also naturally concerned about all of those involved in today’s game and will be giving them our utmost support.”

Hughes, who has played 26 Test matches for his country, was in contention for a recall to the Test side following reports that captain Michael Clarke might be ruled out of the opening match against India on 4 December.

He was taken to Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital by an ambulance, accompanied by the doctor who treated him on the field.

Hughes is the first batsman to a suffer life threatening head injury since the introduction of the helmet to the sport in the 1970s.

There have however been a number of incidents in which both batsmen and wicket-keepers were injured despite wearing helmets.

In August this year, England’s Stuart Broad suffered a broken nose when he struck a fast-paced bowl into the gap between the peak of his helmet and the grille.

The last Test batsman to suffer life-threatening injuries was Nari Contractor, the Indian captain hit on the head by Charlie Griffith during the 1961-62 series in the West Indies.

He survived after emergency brain surgery, but never played Test cricket again.

Indian batsman Raman Lamba was killed after being hit on the head while playing in Bangladesh in 1998, but was not wearing a helmet at the time.

 

Police confident Scotland-England game will not bring disruption

By Greg Barrie

Police Scotland insist that they will be able to prevent trouble ahead of Scotland’s friendly match against England tonight whilst causing minimum disruption to the public in Glasgow’s city centre.

More than 200 fans were arrested the last time the two sides met in Glasgow in 1999 after clashes both at the stadium and in the city centre.

Fears of violence were fuelled yesterday when police confirmed known troublemakers from both sets of supporters were travelling to the match.

However, Chief Superintendent Andy Bates, event commander for tonight’s match, today insisted that policing will not be excessive. He said: “The approach we will take to the game will be proportionate and based on the threat presented at the time.

“The number of resources deployed is less than there were in 1999. We anticipate arrests, but not as many as in 1999. It’s a high-risk game with an increased risk. That’s what you would have with an Old Firm game.

“It is not about a massive oppressive police presence, it’s about preventing crime and keeping people safe; as well as minimising disruption to people in and around the city centre.”

Around 5,000 England supporters are officially due to attend the match at Celtic Park, although the actual figure could be significantly higher with reports of England supporters acquiring tickets for the home end.

Chief Superintendent Andy Bates yesterday revealed that Scottish and English police forces had identified groups of supporters that were possibly looking for trouble. Public concerns about potential trouble were heightened when he said the contest had been given the highest possible UEFA security risk rating.

He said: “There may well be some troublemakers travelling from England. We’ve been working very closely with the UK football policing unit and colleagues from across Police Scotland to monitor the activities of these groups that might want to cause trouble.

“We have intelligence about people from all over the UK travelling to this game, but we are on top of it. I have an intelligence-led operation that will engage with these people and prevent any disorder taking place.”

Security steps have been taken to prevent groups of troublemakers from causing violence in the city. Police officers from a number of forces, including the Met, have travelled to Glasgow to assist Police Scotland in identifying groups of hooligans.

England supporters have to collect their match tickets at a special venue in the city centre which will enable the police forces to identify known troublemakers and monitor their movement.

Chief Supt Bates insisted that with the additional support of English officers the police were confident of maintaining control before and after the match. He said: “We’ll be using officers from down south who have been policing England games for many years. They bring a lot of skills and experience with them.

“If we identify these risk groups of supporters, we will be having conversations with them, letting them know we know what they’re up to and will not be letting them out of our sights. We have been successful with this in the past.”

Tonight’s fixture follows the clash at Wembley between the two sides in August last year, which England won 3-2. The fixture passed without any significant crowd trouble or violence, despite close to 20,000 Scotland fans attending the match.

Police have urged supporters to make their travel plans in advance for getting to and from the stadium. They also reminded supporters that if they are consuming alcohol they should do so responsibly to ensure that they are granted access to the stadium.

Council denies sport centres closures

By Marion Guichaoua.

Edinburgh city council today denied sport centers are facing closure in the face of tough budget cuts across the city.

Reports yesterday quoted Edinburgh Leisure boss John Comisky as warning up to eight sports centres may have to close to balance budgets.

But the City Council said spending proposals were still at an early stage and insisted no decision had been taken yet over possible closures.

The council is facing tough decisions over cuts to services which could see Edinburgh Leisure budgets slashed.

Yesterday Mr Comiskey was quoted in the Edinburgh Evening News saying: “In the absence of an as yet unidentified silver bullet this will inevitably mean multiple venue closures.

“To absorb a 22 per cent reduction in funding will require a proportionate reduction in our level of services.”

The Council said yesterday it has launched a public consultation and is asking residents for their views on what spending priorities should be.

A spokesman for the Council said: “We expect Edinburgh Leisure to consider all of the different ways they could realistically adapt to such a change and if one of the options they identify as being efficient us the closure of some facilities this will be looked at.”

Residents can make their views known on the Council website.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Convener for Culture and Sport, said: “It is incredibly important that everyone takes the opportunity to feed back on the council’s budget proposals and as the city’s convener of sport I encourage Edinburgh Leisure users to make sure they have their say.”

Edinburgh Leisure is currently developing an options paper to be considered by the Council which will detail the impact of the proposed reduction in service payment upon special programmes, core services and facilities.

The cuts would firstly concern facilities for young children, people unemployed or people with disabilities.

New ways of working across other service areas should be found, including Health and Social Care, Children and Families, and Services for Communities.

Edinburgh Marathon promotes free workshops

By Carolina Morais

Organisers of the Edinburgh Marathon today launched a series of free workshops ahead of the event which is expected to attract thousands of people next May.

People in Edinburgh showed up at the Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Center for tips on training plans, nutrition, goal setting, physiotherapy and a guided run along the canal.

Annette Drummond, one of the organisers, said she is “proud” of all the work that has been done by her team.

“We have been around for 13 years now and the event has expanded and grown so much,” she said.

“It started off as just a marathon and now it is a marathon festival over two days, bringing 30,000 people together to raise millions for charity and boost the local economy, all whilst keeping fit and helping people achieve their dreams.”

The Edinburgh Marathon 2015, scheduled for the 30 and 31 May, will be raising funds for Diabetes Scotland and has already received a £2,376 donation from a team of investment managers from the Business Growth Fund.

The race was the first in Scotland to be recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

Ms Drummond said its popularity has been boosted not only for being “an IAAF rated event” but also “by the fact that Edinburgh is a beautiful city that people like to visit”.

“This is an international event”, the organiser said. “70 per cent of the marathon runners come from outwith Scotland.”

Free workshops in preparation for the main marathon will also be held in Glasgow on 30 October.

Health fears over Edinburgh exercise Levels

by Vanessa Kennedy

Less than a third of people in Edinburgh are doing the recommended half an hour of exercise a day, a new report has revealed.

An Edinburgh City Council report surveyed up to 4,000 people to ask how many days in the past week they had done 30 minutes of physical exercise which was enough to raise their breathing rate.

Less than a third of people met the recommended target of two-and-a half hours of moderate physical activity per week set by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The organisation estimated that 3.2 million deaths per year could be attributed to low levels of physical activity.

The health body advises that active people are less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Edinburgh University is set to start a pilot “Healthy University” project to address physical activity levels in inactive students who are doing less than the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity.

The head of the project, Helen Ryall, said the aim of the project is to “actively promote and deliver tangible health and wellbeing benefits for the University community through increasing the engagement of staff and students in health and wellbeing across the university”.

The programme will provide one-to-one support to students who are inactive, possibly suffering from mild to moderate depression or weight management issues.

Ms Ryall said: “We know that when students feel well they learn better, so this is a win-win for everybody.”

 

 

Wolves Launch Official Complaint About Racial Abuse

Credit: Wolverhampton Football Club

Credit: Wolverhampton Football Club

By Stuart Iversen

Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club have made an official complaint to the FA and Walsall Football Club over racist abuse directed at their players.

They assert that Carl Ikeme and George Elokobi were the subjects of racial abuse at Banks Stadiums during the teams match on Saturday.

A statement on the Wolves website stated: “The complaint relates to a small number of individuals in the crowd at Saturday’s game and will not sour the good relationship that exists between the two clubs.”

Ikeme and Elokobi had both reported incidents of racial abuse during the game to members of Wolves management.

Walsall have also released a statement saying: “We are taking this matter very seriously and will fully co-operate with West Midlands Police and Wolverhampton Wanderers throughout this investigation.”

Froch vs Groves Press Conference

By Stuart Iversen

Carl Froch and George Groves have come face to face for the first time since their fight last year.  The meeting took place at a press conference earlier today, to promote their rematch at Wembley Stadium on May 31st.

The first fight between the pair saw Froch retain his WBA and IBF super-middleweight titles with a controversial stoppage.  This time round Groves is determined to even up the score.

“It was a stone-wall robbery last time.  Everyone knows it.  It brings me great joy that this is happening because otherwise this is not a fight that was going to take place.”

Froch meanwhile, is feeling rejuvenated after a Christmas off and is ready to hit the gym.  “I’ve missed the gym, I’ve missed boxing, I’ve missed hitting the bag, I’ve missed listening to (trainer) Rob (McCracken), working hard on the road runs and that’s bad news for George Groves because I’m now excited and looking forward to getting back in the gym and getting in the ring on May 31 and doing the business.”

The fight is expected to break the attendance record for a post-War fight with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 people expected.  Shattering the previous total of 55,000, set by Ricky Hatton’s fight against Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Westhuizen to leave Edinburgh

Credit: Edinburgh Rugby

Credit: Edinburgh Rugby

By Stuart Iversen

Edinburgh Rugby has confirmed that lock Izak van der Westhuizen will return to South Africa at the end of the season.

The 28-year-old signed at the start of the 2012/13 campaign from Free State Cheetahs.  However, his debut season in the capital was hampered by an ankle injury.  Despite this he has since gone on to make 19 starts in 24 appearances for the club.

Westhuizen said: “Scotland will always have a special place for me and I’ll be able to look back on a lot of good times.”

While head coach Alan Solomons added: “Sakki has done a splendid job for us this year and will continue to do so until the end of the season.  An opportunity has presented itself back in his home country that suits him and his young family.  I’m sure he will make a valuable contribution to the Kings.”

Hibernian Ladies Coach Dies

By Stuart Iversen

Morgan Lynn, a coach at Hibernian Ladies football club, has died after falling from the roof of her fifth floor balcony hotel room in Spain.  The 25-year-old was on holiday in Benidorm with two female friends when the tragic accident occurred.

Local police and the foreign office have confirmed that Ms Lynn fell from the balcony at around 3am, after her and her companions returned to the Hotel Gala Placidia, where they were staying.

Her parents Kenny, 49, and Wenda, 48, were today too upset to talk about the tragedy.

The club is yet to comment.

Team Paralympics GB win first Winter Olympics gold.

Sochi 2014 Paralympic logo

Sochi 2014 Paralympic logo

By Stuart Iversen

Kelly Gallagher has won Britain’s very first gold in the Winter Paralympics.  She claimed victory in the impaired super-G in Sochi with the aid of her guide Charlotte Evans, in a time of one minute and 28.72 seconds.

The 28-year-old from Bangor in County Down had previously taken the silver medal at the World Championships in Spain last year, but went one better in Sochi taking home the gold.

It was a huge turnaround in fortunes for the pair, who on Saturday had finished last in the downhill event.

Gallagher said: “We came last so we really had to work to pick ourselves up.  It was really hard coming from downhill into Super-G because they are similar speed events.”

The gold medal was only the start of the good news for Team GB, as Jade Etherington and her guide Caroline Powell took bronze in the Super Giant Slalom, adding to the silver they had previously won on Saturday.

Scottish Hockey Look Abroad For International Success

Scottish Hockey Mens Senior Squad credit: Davis

Scottish Hockey Mens Senior Squad
Credit: Davis

By Jonathan Davis

Scottish Hockey National League One is not good enough to support international sport says Scotland Internationalist, Callum Duke.

19 capped Duke said: “The best Scottish players, don’t play in the Scottish league.”

20 of the 28 players listed in Scotland’s senior men’s squad currently play their club hockey outside of Scotland, leading to worries that the domestic game in Scotland is suffering.

Duke, previously of Hillhead HC and Edinburgh University currently plies his trade in Germany with Frankfurt 1880. Duke said: “In Germany, everything is so much more professional. Everyone in your team is much better and there is a lot more competition for places.

“Everything is better, the tempo, the ball speed, the speed of the game, the speed that things change – your thought process has to be much quicker.”

The trend of players moving abroad to play is something that has certainly increased over recent years. Duke said: “I think in the past two years, maybe three, the amount of players playing abroad has doubled.”

The strength of the domestic leagues in England, Germany and Holland is of such a higher standard that it is now the natural progression for any player aspiring for the top of the game. Duke said: “Purely on hockey terms, if you want to improve and push yourself to the highest level possible, I would 100% play abroad.”

On the matter, Scotland Senior Men’s National Team Manager, Eugene Connolly said: “This is the best thing thing for Scottish International Hockey.

“If I take the example of Ireland. Ireland adopted this policy several years ago and their best players were playing in Holland, Belgium, England and Germany. This meant that Ireland reached the dizzy heights of 5th in Europe in 2011, and 6th in 2013, but friends in Ireland say that sadly this has diminished the quality of Irish club and inter-provincial hockey.”

Connolly speaks of the ethical conflict whereby for smaller nations, what may be best for the national squad, may be harmful to the state of the domestic game.

For now at least, in the lead up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the vast majority of Scottish Internationals will have to fly back from their respective clubs abroad for full-time training in April.

Connolly said: “If you look at our national league this year, there has been a leveling down and the overall standard is lower.

“From a national point of view it is very good (to have Scottish players playing abroad), but from the club point of view it is less so. But the irony is that it has actually made for a more exciting and open league than we have had for many years.”

Froch And Groves Verbally Spar Over Rematch

george-groves-carl-froch_3040758

Froch (L) and Groves (R) do battle, Credit: Sky Sports

By Fraser Ryan

The controversy surrounding Saturday night’s WBA and IBF Super-middleweight title fight has refused to dissipate, after George Groves claimed Carl Froch would lose his ‘credibility’ by not accepting a rematch.

Froch retained his titles this past weekend after the pair’s fight in Manchester was marred by referee Howard Foster’s controversial decision to stop the fight in the ninth round. Groves had been dominating much of the action, but the fight was stopped after the first spell of sustained pressure by Froch appeared to have Groves on the ropes.

Groves expressed his frustration during an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. Groves said: “His [Froch’s] credibility will be shot to pieces if he decides to go a different route apart from fighting me. I feel for boxing’s sake this rematch needs to take place or Carl Froch will retire. I understand if he wants to retire. He took a hell of a lot of punches in that fight, maybe lasting punches. For his health, he needs to get a full check to make sure he is fit to box if that is what he decides to do.”

Froch then responded through an interview with Sky Sports in which he stated while he would give Groves a rematch, the decision was ultimately not up to him. Froch said: “I’m happy to honour the crowd, fans and George Groves with a rematch, if my trainer and promoter both agree. I don’t swerve or duck anybody. If George wants a rematch and it makes sense, then of course we’ll get it on. It’s not my decision.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn has said he is hopeful of booking the rematch next year, claiming it could be one of the biggest fights in UK history. Hearns said: “We have had a number of approaches from football clubs and outdoor stadiums… I think Froch v Groves II would be the biggest grossing outdoor boxing event of all time in this country.”

Celtic Humbled by Rampant Milan

Kaka celebrates his opening goal Creidt: Eurosport

Kaka celebrates his opening goal
Creidt: Eurosport

By Hamza Jabir

Defensive errors see team ‘contribute to their own downfall.’

Celtic’s Champions league campaign came to an abrupt end last night after a 3-0 home defeat to AC Milan. The comprehensive defeat cuts Neil Lennon’s side adrift at the bottom of group H with Ajax’ suprise 2-1 victory over Barcelona in Amsterdam meaning third place and the consolation of Europa League football after Christmas is an impossibility.

The Scottish champions went into the game with confidence due to apparent state of turmoil in their opponent’s camp. Milan did not have their troubles to seek after the club’s worst start to a domestic season in over three decades compounded by a supporters protest following Saturdays 1-1 home draw with lowly Chievo. However, Kaka and company rose to the occasion in emphatic style to boost their chances of qualification.

Neil Lennon was only stating the obvious when he attributed the defeat to a combination of school boy defending and profligacy in attack. First Kaka, then Christian Zapata took full advantage of Celtic’s disjointed zonal marking from corners to net with Mario Balloteli completing the rout late on. Virgil Van Dijk missed what can only be described as a sitter, hammering straight into Milan keeper, Christian Abbiati’s arms from six yards out. Beram Kayal, Charlie Mulgrew and Giorgios Samaras also squandered good opportunities.

Lennon said: “I do not think we were outplayed. Big moments in the game changed the course of the game and the psychology of the game. Milan took their chances when they came along. We had opportunities through Kayal, Mulgrew, Van Dijk and Forrest and snatched at them. That was the difference. I think tonight is symptomatic of our campaign – we missed good chances and I am really disappointed with the two goals we conceded from corners, I take a lot of pride in that and that’s the first time for a long time that someone has scored directly from a header against us.”

Despite his side’s European exit ,Lennon vowed to come back again next year for another crack at the Champions League group stage. He said this would preferably be done with a stronger squad.

Lennon said: “We had already lost some big players – Adam Matthews, Scott Brown, Nir Biton – and losing Kayal as well tonight, that’s three midfielders out of five. When your squad is not as big as some other squads it does tend to bite you. If we want to look to the future and continue to play in the Champions League then we have to improve the squad we have now and we have to improve our recruitment for next year. It’s never a forgone conclusion that you’re going to be in the Champions League. We do have some money and we want to spend it, preferably in the January window. We knew when the draw was made how difficult it was going to be. But we competed and we have competed again tonight. We will do everything we can to come back and compete again next year –that’s the target.”

Ronaldo to the Fore as Portugal Qualify

By Hamza Jabir

image source: Alex Morton/Action Images

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a devastating hattrick to ensure Portugal’s place at next years world Cup Finals in Brazil after a 3-2 win over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden.

The tie had been billed as the battle between the two superstars, and for once the subjects lived up to the hype. Ronaldo opened the scoring on 50 minutes after latching onto a Joao Moutinho through ball and finishing ruthlessly to double Portugal’s one goal advantage from the first leg, also scored by Ronaldo.

Sweden rallied round their talisman Ibrahimovic and the PSG striker looked to have set up an unlikely turn around, grabbing two goals in 4 mintues. A close range header and a thunderous freekick meant the Swedes needed just one more goal to qualify. However two more clinical strikes by the Real Madrid man secured the victory and sadly for the neutral ensured Ibrahimovic will not feature at what would almost certainly have been his last World Cup.

In the other three European play offs, France overturned a two goal deficit by defeating Ukraine 3-0 in Paris. Goals from  Sakho,  Benzema and a Gusev own goal ensuring a historic win for ‘les Bleus’. Ten man Croatia ended Iceland’s fairytale with a 2-0 victory in Zagreb following a 0-0 draw in the first leg and Greece progressed 4-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw with Romania in Bucharest.

In the African qualifiers, Ghana progressed despite a 2-1 defeat to Egypt in Cairo, with the game little more than a formality after the black Stars 6-1 first leg victory in October. They are joined by Algeria after a Majid Bougherra header was enough to ensure an away goals victory over Burkina Faso after a 3-2 reverse in the first leg. Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon make up the rest of the contingent from the continent.

An Oribe Peralta hatrick ensured Mexico completed their rout of New Zealand with a 4-2 win in Wellington following on from last weeks 5-1 success. The final place at the finals is to be decided tonight as Urugauy host Jordan in Montevideo, however the tie is little more than a formality after the hosts 5-0 victory in Amman.

There was a mixed bag of results for the home nations with England, Scotland and Ireland all in friendly action last night. Scotland continued their revival under Gordan Strachan with a smash and grab victory over Norway in Oslo. A second half Scott Brown strike prolonging his sides unbeaten run to four games.

There was no such luck for Roy Hogdson’s England as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat to rivals Germany. A Per Mertesaker header consigning England to back to back Wembley defeats for the first time since 1972. Finally, Martin O’neil continued his solid start as Ireland boss with a 0-0 draw against Poland.

Bravehearts Triumph

Danny Brough was born in England but represents Scotland

Danny Brough was born in England but represents Scotland

By Stuart Iversen

Scotland claimed a remarkable 26-24 victory over Tonga last night at the Rugby League World Cup.  Having initially surged into a 20-4 lead at the break the Scots looked like they had been pinned back as Tonga scored four consecutive tries after the restart to take a 24-20 lead.  However, a last ditch Matty Russell try clinched a famous victory for the Bravehearts.

After the match Scotland coach Steve McCormack stated: “In the last 10 we held firm. My heart was in my mouth and I was not sitting comfortably, but we found a way to win. I am very proud to be associated with that.”

The Scotland team had previously courted some controversy, as only two players are associated to Scotland by birth and the rest are eligible through bloodlines. That didn’t stop them giving a compelling performance in wet and windy conditions at Derwent Park, where the largest crowd since 1994 gathered to witness the Scots victory in dramatic fashion.

The make up of the international squad draws comparisons to recent comments by Jack Wilshere, involving the English football team and the potential inclusion of Adnan Januzaj.

Wilshere controversially stated that only players born in England should be able to play for the international team.  An opinion that drew criticism from South-African born, English international cricketer Kevin Pieterson.

Tonga’s coach Charlie Tonga described the shock defeat as “a bit of a wake up call.”  Before going on to say “we now have to regroup and ask the boys to go out and do their best for the rest of the tournament.”

Meanwhile Scotland must now focus on Sunday’s return to Derwent Park for a match again Italy where they will be hoping to mantain their early momentum.

Kenyan athletes falls under the WADA microscope

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Increase in suspensions for Kenyan athletes using banned drugs.

By Rachael Bell

17 Kenyan athletes have been suspended for using performance enhancers since January 2012. This is a significant increase from only 2  between 2010 and 2012.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said that it is ‘very frustrated’ with the Kenyan authorities. They are accused of failing to carry out a full inquiry of the alarming surge in athletes taking banned drugs. The issue will be brought up at the WADA world conference next month, which will be held in Johannesburg. The conference will focus on doping in sports. WADA have authority to rule if they are non-compliant with its code, but the organisation has no power to directly sanction the athletes. The International Olympic Committee are responsible for deciding if athletes are allowed to compete in future Olympic events.

Kenya’s government and national track Olympic organisations assured WADA’s president in October 2012 that they would appoint a task force to look into allegations of an emerging doping culture. WADA are still waiting for this action to be taken. The director of WADA’s African office, Rodney Swigelaar, has not been happy with the response, “We are very frustrated. It’s more than a year now since we went there and even longer since the rumours started.”  He also commented, “We have been extremely patient. Wherever these things happen, it’s our role to go in there and ask what is wrong and why people are not complying with the code.”

This week, the Head of Kenyan Athletics, Isaiah Kiplagat, stated “I can assure everyone that the government commission will start its work soon. We are hoping to start work before the WADA conference.” He added,  “Compared to other countries we do not have a serious problem.” Despite these remarks, WADA could decide to set up an independant audit of Kenya.

Increase in suspensions has lead to rumours of a widespread doping culture in Kenya. Last October a German TV investigation claimed that doctors in Kenya were suppling athletes with  banned drugs in return for a percentage of their winnings. Similar allegations were also made prior to the London 2012 Olympics. Moses Kiptanui, one of Kenyan’s greatest distance runners, spoke out in February to say he believed that the country had a major problem. Kiplagat gave a one week ultimatum for all foreign athletic coaches working in Kenya without permits to leave. He accuses them of being responsible for the latest drug use rumours.

The nearest WADA accredited blood testing laboratory is in South Africa. This has been a problem for Kenya. It makes collecting, transporting and analysing samples very difficult. The International Association of Athletics Federation carried out 725 tests on Kenyan athletes – 307 in competition and 418 out of competition. These numbers represent the increase in the scrutiny of  the countries top runners.

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