Chelsea Suffer Fresh COVID-19 Pain As Liverpool Criticise ‘Absurd’ Fixture List

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge in London on December 16, 2021. JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

 

Thomas Tuchel said Tuesday that Chelsea must “start from scratch” in selecting a squad for their League Cup quarter-final after reporting yet another Covid-19 case as Liverpool’s assistant manager criticised the “absurd” festive schedule.

Chelsea were only able to name four outfield players on their bench for Sunday’s goalless draw against Wolves due to a wave of coronavirus infections and injuries.

Midfielder Lewis Baker was in line to feature at Brentford in Wednesday’s League Cup quarter-final after a number of academy stars trained with the first team but has now tested positive himself.

READ ALSO: Why Is FIFA Proposing A Biennial World Cup? 

“We can now start from scratch, and this is what we do right now,” said Tuchel. “We’ve delayed training until late afternoon. Right now we will prepare for the match to be played.

“But even to plan training is pretty exciting because until the very last hour you don’t know how many players will arrive.”

A frustrated Tuchel lamented having to rest N’Golo Kante due to his recent knee issue but Jorginho will return, having tested negative for Covid after inconclusive previous results.

Chelsea had their request to postpone their match at Wolves rejected and the following day the Premier League opted not to pause the schedule even though six of the 10 weekend games were called off.

That decision came on the same day that the English top flight reported 90 new coronavirus cases among players and staff last week — a big leap from 42 in the previous week.

Tuchel said he was not surprised by the decision to carry on, even though he felt the club had a strong case.

“I shared my thoughts with everybody,” he said. “We accept the situation and the challenge. We had 14 (outfield) players (in the squad) and with a lot of them we took a huge risk. We did not feel fully safe. Apart from that, we will accept the next challenge and it will not get easier because these guys are out.”

 Liverpool Crisis

File photo: Liverpool’s Portuguese striker Diogo Jota (2R) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League group B football match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 3, 2021. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Liverpool’s assistant manager Pep Lijnders issued a stark warning over the punishing demands on the remaining fit players.

Jurgen Klopp’s men are one of eight clubs playing in this week’s League Cup quarter-finals in addition to a packed schedule of league matches over the Christmas and New Year period.

Liverpool currently have Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho, Thiago Alcantara and Curtis Jones isolating due to Covid and are expected to rotate heavily against Leicester on Wednesday.

They face two Premier League games in three days next week, against Leeds and Leicester again.

“We think it is absurd we have to play within 48 hours because it is a much higher risk of injury and the quality of the game will not be as good,” said Lijnders.

“The quality of the game goes down the more fatigue there is,” he added. “We have to respect the fact that a Premier League (team) needs 72 hours to recover if we want more quality.”

AFP

Debbie Hewitt Set To Be First Woman Chair Of English FA

File: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

English football’s governing body, the Football Association (FA), on Tuesday said former RAC chief executive Debbie Hewitt would become its first chairwoman, replacing Greg Clarke, who stepped down after his comments on diversity in the sport.

Hewitt was selected by a seven-member panel largely due to her successful career in business including at the RAC, a British automotive services company where she led all commercial activities, including roadside and recovery business.

More recently the 57-year-old has been non-executive vice-chairman of companies such as Visa Europe.

The Times reported in March there had been 100 applicants for Clarke’s job, with six people making the short list.

Should she have her nomination confirmed by the FA Council on July 22, she will be a permanent successor to Clarke, as the governing body — founded in 1863 — strives to make football more inclusive.

He resigned last November after apologising for using “unacceptable words” while discussing diversity in football at a parliamentary committee.

“The panel were in full agreement that she has the outstanding chair and governance expertise, across an extensive range of business sectors, as well as the proven leadership qualities and character required for the role,” said an FA statement.

Hewitt has received an honour from Queen Elizabeth II for her service to business and said she was looking forward to being part of moulding a positive future for the sport.

“As the events in recent months have shown, this is a significant moment in time for English football, with a clear purpose for all stakeholders to secure the long-term health of the game at all levels,” she said in a statement.

“I’ve been passionate about football from a very young age and I’m excited by the opportunity to play my part in shaping the future of something that means so much to so many.”

Peter McCormick will remain as interim chair until Hewitt officially starts next year.

Women in Football, a network of professionals working in and around the game, expressed its support for Hewitt.

“Congratulations to new @FA Chair Debbie Hewitt MBE. We wish you every success in your new role,” said a statement on Twitter.

AFP

Coronavirus: Premier League ‘May Not Finish’, Says FA Chief

 

Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has reportedly told the Premier League he does not believe the domestic football season will be completed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Premier League suspended all fixtures at an emergency meeting on Friday. Matches in the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship are also on hold.

“It was unanimously decided to suspend the Premier League with the intention of returning on 4 April, subject to medical advice and conditions at the time,” the Premier League said in a statement.

Clarke said at the meeting that he did not think it was feasible for the season to be completed, according to a report in the Times.

The virus is not expected to peak in Britain for many weeks, raising doubts over an early April re-start for the Premier League.

The Times said it is understood that Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber also questioned the brevity of the suspension.

Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, is reported to have said it would at least allow time to consider the potential consequences and debate the possible solutions.

The decision was taken after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19.

Arteta welcomed the move to put the season on hold.

“Feeling better already,” he tweeted. “We’re all facing a huge & unprecedented challenge.Everyone’s health is all that matters right now.”

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League with nine games remaining, chasing their first English top-flight title for 30 years.

If results had gone their way this weekend they could have wrapped up the title at Everton on Monday but manager Jurgen Klopp said he supported the move to suspend football.

He said in a club statement: “If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.”

Financial hit 

Football clubs at all levels face enormous losses if the season is not completed.

One senior figure in broadcasting told the Times: “The commercial reality for the Premier League and (European governing body) UEFA is that if they don’t complete their seasons then they are in breach of their broadcasting contracts.

“You would have broadcasters from all around the world saying, ‘In that case we are not paying for the season.’ For the Premier League you are talking around £3 billion ($3.7 billion) income a year from overseas and domestic TV rights. There would also be financial implications if the competitions were squeezed so fewer matches were played.”

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire told the BBC that clubs, especially in the lower divisions, would be hit hard by the disruption.

“I think many clubs are going to struggle significantly,” he said. “Many clubs are surviving on a match-to-match basis and are reliant on the loyal few thousand turning up.

“We have to consider the staff at clubs, they are reliant on the income they get from football clubs to pay their own bills as well.”

The Premier League clubs are reportedly due to meet again next Thursday.

There are matches taking place on Saturday in the National League — the fifth tier of English football — but a number of games have been postponed, including the Yeovil v Barnet fixture.

“We currently have four staff that are showing symptoms of COVID-19 who are following government advice and self-isolating,” Barnet said in a statement.

“As a consequence, we have taken measures to put all first-team staff into self-isolation.”

AFP

Casillas Joins Spanish FA Presidential Race

 

Spain’s World Cup-winning captain Iker Casillas will run for the presidency of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), he confirmed on Monday.

The date of the election has not yet been decided but Casillas said he has informed his current club, Porto of his decision, with the 38-year-old now expected to retire from playing the game.

“Yes, I will run for the presidency of the RFEF when the elections are called,” Casillas wrote in a statement.

“Together we will put our federation at the top of the best football in the world, the football of Spain.

“I have informed the president of my club, FC Porto, to whom I can only express the deepest gratitude.”

Casillas is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation and led Spain to their first World Cup triumph in South Africa in 2010.

He played 167 times for Spain, also winning two Euros in 2008 and 2012, and made more than 700 appearances for Real Madrid, with whom he won five La Liga titles and the Champions League three times, before joining Porto in 2015.

Casillas was named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI five years in a row between 2008 and 2012.

But last April, he suffered a heart attack during training and has not played another competitive match since.

Casillas had been linked with the RFEF presidency for several months and is now expected to go up against current incumbent Luis Rubiales for the post.

“We are working with the utmost respect and determination in our candidacy,” added Casillas. “More than 23,000 voters are waiting for us in fair and transparent elections. The 139 assembly members will decide.”

Rubiales has been in perpetual conflict with Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, and the pair have clashed over numerous issues, including fixtures on Monday and Friday nights, matches abroad and the postponement of the Clasico in October.

According to the rules, the elections should be held in the second half of this year after the Tokyo Olympics but Rubiales has requested they be brought forward, before Euro 2020, which will run from 12 June to 12 July.

AFP

FA Charges Manchester United With Players Misconduct

Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrives back on the pitch for the second half of the English League Cup semi-final first leg football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on January 7, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester United have been charged by the Football Association (FA) over the misconduct of their players in the 2-0 defeat by runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.

United’s players surrounded referee Craig Pawson midway through the first half on Sunday after Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk challenged goalkeeper David De Gea.

Roberto Firmino subsequently scored, but his goal was ruled out following a VAR review of van Dijk’s clash with the Spanish goalkeeper.

De Gea dropped the ball which the defence failed to clear allowing Firmino to take advantage and score.

“Manchester United FC has been charged with a breach of FA Rule E20(a),” read the FA statement.

“It is alleged that the club failed to ensure its players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion during the 26th minute of the Premier League fixture against Liverpool FC on Sunday (19/01/20).”

A furious De Gea led United protests, rushing over to Pawson to vent his frustration. The Spaniard, who was booked for his actions, was joined by a number of his team-mates in surrounding Pawson.

Van Dijk had already opened the scoring for Liverpool prior to the incident and Mohamed Salah added a second in time added on to extend Liverpool’s lead over Manchester City to 16 points — United trail by 30 points.

United have until Thursday to respond to the charge.

AFP

Mourinho Charged For Comments Made After United’s Victory Over Newcastle

Mourinho

 

 

Jose Mourinho was charged by the Football Association on Tuesday over comments he made after Manchester United’s victory against Newcastle and faces a potential touchline ban if found guilty.

The United manager spoke into a camera after his side came from behind to triumph 3-2 at Old Trafford, easing the immediate pressure on him after a string of poor results.

“Jose Mourinho has been charged following Manchester United’s game against Newcastle United on October 6, 2018,” said an FA spokesman.

“It is alleged that his language at the end of the fixture, as captured by the broadcast footage, was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper. He has until 6:00 pm on October 19, 2018, to respond to the charge.”

The match was played in a tense atmosphere, United having denied a report earlier in the day that Mourinho would be sacked that weekend regardless of the result.

United recovered from 2-0 down to complete a dramatic comeback with a last-gasp goal from Alexis Sanchez. The victory ended a run of four games without a win.

Footage shows Mourinho saying something, apparently in Portuguese, while at one point looking into a camera, as he headed towards the tunnel after the final whistle.

He also made a gesture with his right hand while speaking, pointing with his little finger.

The 55-year-old, who said after the match that he was the subject of a media “manhunt”, said when asked about the gesture: “It is a finger. Smaller than the others, but it is a finger.”

AFP

FA Apologise Over Kane’s Tweet That Back-Fired

Kane Strikes But Spurs Held By Brighton
FILE COPY Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane celebrates scoring a goal. Credit: Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

The English Football Association apologised on Monday over a mischievous tweet about Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane during the weekend FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

The 24-year-old failed to fire in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to United which was largely down to a fine performance by central defender Chris Smalling in keeping Kane quiet.

That prompted a tweet on the official FA account: “What’s in your pocket, Chris” and a video of United defender Chris Smalling saying “Harry Kane”.

The tweet was shared thousands of times before it was deleted.

“We have written to both clubs to apologise for any offence caused,” a FA spokesman said.

Kane is likely to start up front for England at the World Cup finals.

He could end up captaining the national side at the finals in Russia in June and what made the tweet even more ironic is Smalling was dropped by England manager Gareth Southgate last November because he didn’t rate his ball passing skills.

AFP

FA Charges Chelsea’s Alonso With Violent Conduct

FILE COPY Chelsea’s Spanish defender Marcos Alonso (L) and teammates react to their defeat on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and Chelsea at Selhurst Park in south London. Photo Credit: Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has been charged with violent conduct by the Football Association after an incident during the Premier League match against relegation-threatened Southampton.

The left wing-back appeared to stand on the back of Southampton striker Shane Long’s leg during Saturday’s game but the incident went unpunished by referee Mike Dean.

However, the FA has since reviewed footage and sanctioned the Spaniard, who has until 1700 GMT on Wednesday to respond.

Alonso is facing a three-match ban if he accepts the charge, which would rule him out of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, also against Southampton, and Premier League games against Burnley, on Thursday, and Swansea.

“Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso has been charged with violent conduct following an incident with Southampton’s Shane Long,” an FA statement said.

“It happened in the 43rd minute of Saturday’s game… and was not seen by the match officials but caught on video.”

Off-the-ball incidents not seen at the time are referred by the FA to a panel of three former elite match officials. For retrospective action to be taken, and an FA charge to follow, the decision of the panel must be unanimous.

Southampton boss Mark Hughes condemned the tackle at the time, saying it should have resulted in a red card.

AFP

FA Charges Pep Guardiola Over Catalonia Political Symbol

Manchester City's Guardiola Regrets Redmond Rage
Manchester City’s manager Pep Guardiola  Photo: Lindsey PARNABY / AFP

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was Friday charged by the Football Association over his wearing of a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan independence leaders.

The FA said in a statement that the symbol worn by the former Barcelona boss on his jacket was in breach of its kit and advertising regulations.

Guardiola, whose side face Arsenal in the League Cup final on Sunday, has until March 5 to respond to the charge.

“Pep Guardiola has been charged for wearing a political message, specifically a yellow ribbon, in breach of the FA’s kit and advertising regulations,” the FA statement said.

“He has until 6:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Monday 5 March 2018 to respond to the charge.”

Following events last year surrounding Catalonia’s bid to break away from Spain, which included a referendum and a proclamation of independence, both deemed illegal, authorities jailed several leaders of the movement.

The City manager, who was born in Catalonia, has previously explained his reasons for wearing the ribbon.

Referring to the first two independence leaders to be jailed, he said in December: “I do that because in Spain two specific people who defend something like the vote, something the people in command do not agree (with), are in prison. It’s unfair.

“To make a rebellion on something like that, you have to be something tough to be in prison. And they are still there. So, while they are not out, always here (points to ribbon) will be shared with me.

“Because, OK, they can suspend me for doing that, but the other people are in jail. If they want to suspend me — UEFA, Premier League, FIFA — it’s OK.”

The City boss explained his stance in response to comments from Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, who questioned whether the ribbon was within the rules and claimed he would not be allowed to do a similar thing.

AFP

Mourinho Escapes FA Sanctions For Pre-Derby Comments

mourinho

The English Football Association said Thursday that Jose Mourinho will face no sanctions following an investigation of comments he made before the recent Manchester derby.

The FA said it has decided to take “no formal action” after reviewing evidence provided by Mourinho’s club Manchester United, understood to be relating to suggestions that Manchester City players make “tactical fouls” to break up opponents’ attacks.

However it “reminded Jose Mourinho any further public comments about match officials may result in disciplinary action”.

Mourinho’s escape from disciplinary action comes after the FA announced that no formal action would be taken against United or City following ugly scenes that overshadowed the derby at Old Trafford earlier this month.

City beat United 2-1 to consolidate their position at the top of the Premier League on December 10.

The visitors’ celebrations after the match are alleged to have sparked a row involving several players and staff from both teams in the corridor outside the dressing rooms.

During the altercation, it is understood that milk and water were thrown at Mourinho from within the City dressing room. Reports said City assistant coach Mikel Arteta was left with a cut below his eye after being hit by a plastic bottle.

The FA asked the clubs to explain the post-match fracas.

But in a statement on Thursday, the FA said: “Following a review of the evidence provided by the clubs and independent eyewitnesses, the FA will be taking no formal action.”

Following the incident, Mourinho dismissed claims his Manchester United players were in the wrong.

City manager Pep Guardiola also defended his players, although he offered an apology to United.

AFP

FA Should Turn To Aluko – UK Sports Minister

In a still image take from footage broadcast by the UK Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) England Women’s football player Eniola Aluko gives evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee of MPs at the Houses of Parliament in London.  AFP

Sports minister Tracey Crouch believes the Football Association should hire England women’s striker Eni Aluko to improve the governing body’s relationships with their players following the Mark Sampson controversy.

“In my view, they should take Eni Aluko up on her offer to help the FA with those reforms. I think she would be a great asset in terms of helping drive cultural change,” she said.

Crouch was speaking to a British parliamentary committee a month after Aluko appeared before the same panel to discuss why she made a bullying and discrimination allegation against former England women’s manager Sampson.

Sampson was twice cleared following investigations into Aluko’s allegations, only to be forced to step down following fresh allegations of an inappropriate relationship with female players during his time at Bristol Academy.

Crouch was asked by the panel if she believes the FA “is fit for purpose” and whether chairman Greg Clarke and chief executive Martin Glenn are the right people to lead the organisation after they came in for criticism over their handling of the incident.

She said the FA must now show it takes its duty of care to athletes seriously, has a robust grievance procedure in place and fixes its “culture, from the top down”.

Having been asked several times if Clarke and Glenn should still be in their jobs, Crouch said: “It’s not for the minister of state to say whether or not a chair or chief executive of a governing body should or should not be in place…because if I can fire them, I can hire them.

“We criticise countries like China and Russia for the closeness their governments have with their sports organisations and it’s not my job to say a chair or chief executive should or should not be fired.”

AFP

‘We’ve Lost Public’s Trust’, FA Chairman Admits

Greg Clarke, the embattled chairman of English football’s governing body, saw his problems deepen on October 26, 2017 as Andy Woodward, the whistleblower in the sex abuse scandal accused him of humiliating him. PAUL ELLIS / AFP

Under-pressure Football Association chairman Greg Clarke admitted Thursday the English game’s governing body had “lost the trust of the public” after being widely criticised for its handling of racism allegations involving the former manager of the women’s national team.

A report released during a British parliamentary committee hearing last week found then manager Mark Sampson had made racist remarks to England women’s players Eniola Aluko and Drew Spence.

A flawed FA internal review and an earlier inquiry by lawyer Katharine Newton had cleared Sampson over allegations of bullying and discrimination by Chelsea Ladies striker Aluko.

Clarke, FA chief executive Martin Glenn, technical director Dan Ashworth and human resources director Rachel Brace appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

After lawmakers pulled apart the FA’s handling of the allegations that pre-empted Sampson’s dismissal in September during a two-hour hearing, committee chairman Damian Collins said all four FA officials should consider their positions.

“It was a bruising personal experience – and the culmination of a very damaging episode for the organisation,” Clarke said in a speech during the FA’s autumn council meeting at Wembley on Thursday.

Clarke’s speech also saw him promise a “top to bottom” cultural review of the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park in Burton, central England.

Reflecting on the FA’s handling of the complaints, Clarke, who reiterated his apologies to the players involved, said: “We failed.”

He continued: “We have lost the trust of the public and I think this lack of trust is underpinned by three characteristics.”

– ‘White hierarchy’ –

Clarke said the points held against the FA were the perception it lacked the competence to cover a huge remit, insufficient diversity and an inability to make the best use of senior players and managers’ experience.

All these factors were brought home to Clarke during a meeting last week with several county FAs in Sheffield, northern England, where he said there was only one woman and no one from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background.

“As I reflected on the meeting, and on the lessons of the Aluko case, it was clear to me that our good intentions alone are no longer enough,” Clarke said.

“We had a number of black players within our senior England women’s team who did not trust us enough to share their experiences of discriminatory behaviour.

“All they could see was a white hierarchy who had no experience of what it feels like to be a black person on the receiving end of inappropriate comments.”

Clarke told councillors the FA “needs to be an organisation of this time” and “must simplify its mandate in order to be competent”.

Sampson was eventually sacked in September, not for his comments towards the England trio but for what the FA said was inappropriate behaviour in his previous job at Bristol Academy.

The CMS hearing grilled the FA quartet regarding what checks were made on Sampson before he became England manager and why the governing body was withholding half of an £80,000 ($105,000) settlement owed to whistleblower Aluko.

Glenn denied a claim by Aluko that she was told she would receive the second half of the payment if she released a statement saying the FA was not institutionally racist.

Aluko said the request was “bordering on blackmail”.

AFP