Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Sports Direct and House of Fraser, has served Coventry City with an eviction notice ordering the Championship football club to leave its home stadium.
Frasers Group, which is majority owned by Ashley and took over the stadium last month, on Monday said the Sky Blues had no continuing rights to use the ground after the club refused to sign a new tenancy agreement it claimed was “less favourable”.
The club said in a statement: “Following the Frasers Group acquisition of the stadium from administrators, Coventry City have been told that we must agree a new licence to play at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
“We were surprised to learn of this intention by Frasers Group, given that discussions with Coventry City prior to the completion of their purchase of the arena led us to understand the existing terms would continue unchanged with Frasers Group as the new owners of the arena.
“Coventry City football club (CCFC) has an existing long-term licence to play at the arena, which was agreed in March 2021 to run until 2031.”
News of the eviction notice came after Coventry announced on Friday its FA Youth Cup game against Southampton on Saturday had been switched to Leamington FC “due to unforeseen circumstances”.
The club said after Frasers Group’s purchase of the stadium – from the former owners Wasps rugby club, which collapsed into administration in October – the new owners had said they were “looking forward to working with Coventry City football club”.
The club added that it hoped Ashley’s company would “act on those words for the good of the arena, the football club, our fans and the city and community that they are now part of”.
Frasers Group said it wanted to work with the club to secure its future at the stadium. “Frasers has, throughout all its involvement with the stadium, been supportive of securing the long-term future of CCFC playing its games at the stadium. This position remains unchanged,” it said.
“Prior to acquiring the stadium, Frasers issued a new licence mirroring the terms CCFC had agreed with the previous owners. However, CCFC chose not to sign it at that time.
“A revised proposal, together with a new licence, has been issued to CCFC and will secure the immediate future of CCFC at the stadium.
“Signing the licence would allow for more detailed discussions to take place about CCFC’s long-term arrangements at the stadium, including to accommodate a number of requests which were raised by CCFC. Frasers looks forward to working with the club to host the upcoming games.”
The split is generational. Parents say they tend to support Senegal, the country of their birth, while their children opt to support the state they were raised in: England.
Among the former is British citizen Ndene Ndiaye who arrived in London in 2009 from the capital, Dakar, and is hopeful of a slender Senegalese victory.
The 54-year-old, who works at the acclaimed Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Deptford, south-east London, said: “Senegal represents home and I think they’ll win, but my children were born here and they’re English supporters all the way.”
Behind the fresh food counter at Tomi’s Kitchen, within the heart of Deptford’s sizeable west African population, Peter Odise also confirmed his family had segregated on similar lines.
A staunch Senegal fan – despite hailing from fellow west African state Nigeria – Odise explained that his 16-year-old son was an ardent Arsenal supporter and played for the club’s junior football team.
“Lots of the black community here support Senegal, but the young, including my son, support England.”
Among the west African community in this corner of the UK capital, one England player stands above all others: Bukayo Saka.
Odise, 57, said: “Saka has Nigerian parents, but is totally English. He’s inspirational for many. My son wants to be like him.”
Two minutes along Deptford High Street, Emeka, a self-employed exporter from east Nigeria, predicted a 2-1 win for Senegal. Again, it was a result that would not impress his two children, Londoners aged 11 and 14.
“For me that’d be good, I support Africa but they support England,” said the 45-year-old, picking up a portion of fried fish lunch at the Island Buka restaurant.
Among his peers, the footballing success of Senegal – the region’s other World Cup representatives, Ghana, were knocked out on Friday – has united west Africans.
The scenes certain to be witnessed on Sunday at Deptford’s Ivory Restaurant will bear testimony to that regional support.
Hundreds of supporters – many carrying drums and waving Senegalese flags – are expected to congregate in the venue. Herbert Ngassi, who has run the restaurant since 2018, expects it will be a raucous occasion.
Yet such an overt display of national pride is rare for London’s Senegalese diaspora. Ngassi, 44, said they preferred to socialise modestly at each other’s homes, rather than throw ostentatious parties.
“They are a French-speaking community, a hard-working community, a community who, more or less Muslim, does not like to drink and party.”
Ngassi, from Ivory Coast – a traditional powerhouse of west African football but which failed to qualify for the World Cup finals – said the inter-generational divide in the Senegalese community was not solely evidenced in the team they support on Sunday.
“The young have a new way of living but the older generation have maybe stuck to their roots. They have memories of back home, family – and the young have never experienced life there.”
With the temperature struggling to reach 7C on Friday afternoon, Ngassi predictably said that the weather was what he most missed about west Africa.
“Also the food, so full of vitamins, the warmth of the people,” said Ngassi.
And what if Senegal get knocked out? “That’s easy. We’ll all support England.”
They had come, wearing their bucket hats and bright red shirts, in hope rather than expectation.
As Wales’s first appearance at the football World Cup for 64 years was ended by England, the fans left Wrexham’s fan zones disappointed but unbowed, still proud of their team’s achievements.
Ceri Ellis, who watched the game with her son, Gareth, 12, smiled sadly. “It’s really great that Wales just got to Qatar – it put us on the map. It would have been nice if we could have played better, but it’s breathed life and awareness into our culture, our language. It’s brought everyone together.” Despite the result, Gareth, clutching his Welsh dragon flag, insisted: “I think Wales is the best team in the world.”
Wrexham is so keen on its football that it set up two fan zones.
On a bitterly cold Tuesday evening, thousands gathered outside a big screen on the high street in front of the Wynnstay Arms Hotel, where the Football Association of Wales (FAW) was founded, to watch the match with an English-language commentary. Wrexham is a border city, with many English people living and working here, but they stayed at home or at least did not wear their colours, leaving the streets a sea of red.
Hundreds also watched the game with Welsh-language commentary in the cosier surroundings of Tŷ Pawb (Everyone’s House), a market/arts space.
Mei Emrys, a musician who warmed up the Tŷ Pawb crowd before the game with some rousing Welsh tunes, admitted he was “slightly disappointed” Wales had not played as well as they could.
“But two generations haven’t even seen Wales get to a World Cup. You hope we’ll be back for the Euros in two years and the next World Cup. And it’s been more about the football team. You won’t get a better stage than this to promote Wales, our language, our culture.”
Geraint Jones, who helps run the Welsh shop, Siop Siwan, in Tŷ Pawb, has followed the city’s club, Wrexham AFC, and the national team since he was a boy.
The last time Wales beat England – at Wrexham’s Racecourse ground in 1984 – he came home from college in Bangor to watch it. “But I had man flu so stayed at home. I should have crawled there.”
Welsh – Cymraeg – is Jones’s first language, and he is glad it has received such prominence this World Cup. “The way the FAW has integrated the language has been great. They’ve had the Welsh speakers like Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies doing press conferences in Welsh – fantastic.”
Like cities, towns and villages across Wales, Wrexham (Wrecsam in Welsh) has relished this World Cup.
The museum has a wonderful exhibition of Welsh football shirts through the ages, including a top Mel Charles wore when he represented Wales in the 1958 World Cup. The city has organised football sticker swap points, flag screen-printing workshops and scarf-making clubs.
Councillor Nigel Williams, the lead member for economy and regeneration, said now, more than ever, football was at the heart of Wrexham: “It’s a huge part of our culture.”
Wrexham AFC has been in the headlines across the globe since the US actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the club. “We get tourists from all over the world now because of them,” said Williams. “They visit London, Windsor and then come to Wrexham.” The profile Wales has enjoyed at the World Cup will help that, he said.
After the final whistle, Yma o Hyd (Still Here), the defiant Welsh-language folk song that has been adopted by the squad and become a fan favourite, blared from the speakers at Tŷ Pawb and in venues across the city.
Wayne Jones, landlord of the pub next door to the Racecourse, the Turf, said: “This competition has meant everything for the people of Wales after a 64-year wait. The players will come home with their heads held high. We won’t ever forget what the likes of Gareth Bale, Ramsey and Davies have given us. We’re not disappointed; we’re proud.”
Nine hours before the kick-off of a match being played in a desert about 4,000 miles away, the staff at the Wigan Pier, in southern Tenerife, were leaving nothing to chance.
The Wales flags and bunting were up inside and out, the red shirts were on, the chairs were set facing the big screens and 45 barrels of beer were standing by to be drained on Tuesday by the hundreds of Wales supporters who have made the pub their unofficial fan zone for the duration of the World Cup.
To put things in context, the Wigan Pier normally sells 12 barrels of beer. A week. Also, there are typically far, far fewer red dragons.
The pub and its next-door sister establishment, La Flaca, have attracted hundreds of Wales fans since the side qualified for the World Cup in June and a woman called Bethany Evans used social media to half-jokingly float the idea of watching the tournament in Spain rather than the host nation to save money and hassle. Evans’s idea soon went viral and the venue was decided after Kelly Spiers, who owns the Wigan Pier and La Flaca, offered her bars.
“Bethany asked people if they were thinking of going somewhere apart from Qatar because of the expense and the beer costs and the human rights issues,” said Spiers.
“She decided to come here to Tenerife because of the year-round sun. She asked on Facebook if there were any bars that could accommodate 300 people. I’ve got two next to each other so I said yes.”
After that, said Spiers, things escalated somewhat.
“I don’t know where it’s come from. It’s just kept going and it’s been absolutely fantastic. I think people have just jumped on the bandwagon.”
She also said the violence that erupted between England and Wales fans on Friday night in a strip close to the Playa de las Américas has not been replicated at the Wigan Pier, where many families gather to watch the tournament.
“Everybody loves it and there’s been no trouble here,” she said. “We’ve had 600-plus fans in here and there’s been no trouble at all.”
Friday’s scenes, however, led local authorities to increase the police presence ahead of Wales v England on Tuesday.
Arona municipal council said it was working with police to avoid any repetition of last week’s clashes, adding that the authorities would be keeping a close eye on the match and had deployed a special unit in tourist areas.
“Given the events that took place this week, both the Policía Nacional and the local force have coordinated their efforts to prevent possible disturbances in tourist areas of Arona over the next few World Cup matches,” it said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Policía Nacional said that while he could not comment on how many officers were being deployed, the force was taking the matter very seriously.
“We’re going to be reinforcing the security patrols with officers from the UIP riot squad and there will also be reinforcements from the prevention and reaction unit who will be deployed in the hours leading up to the game and until it finishes,” he said. “They will be controlling the Américas zone and the surrounding areas.”
Asked what the message was to fans, he added: “It’s not up to us to tell fans how to behave – it’s a matter of common sense. People should enjoy the game but also show respect and behave nicely so everyone can enjoy it.”
Some of those gathered at the Wigan Pier were annoyed and frustrated by the violence but said it had involved only a small minority of fans.
Sharon Thomas, 49, from north Wales, had come to Tenerife with her husband, Steve, and six other family members, including their three-year-old grandson Henry, who lolled in his buggy, looking remarkably relaxed about the evening’s scoreline.
“My husband did think of going to Qatar, but then there’s the cost and the accommodation, so in the end we decided to pay for the family to come here,” said Sharon. “And it’s been wonderful. There have been no problems here.”
Steve, who has followed Wales for decades, said that while he would have loved to have been in Qatar, it wasn’t practical. And besides, he added, “the whole thing’s a bloody farce”.
For Gethin Vaughan, who had come to Tenerife with three friends from north Wales, the decision to head for the Canaries had been made by pockets rather than consciences.
The economics speak for themselves: in the brief period before it was removed from sale at the tournament grounds in Qatar, a beer cost £12. In Tenerife, a pint can be had for €2 (£1.75).
“Qatar was a bit too expensive,” said Thomas as the group walked along the beach towards the Wigan Pier. “And this has been really good. But it would be nice to find a way to stop England floating tonight.”
A night free of violence would also be good, one of his friends suggested: “They need to get a grip. It’s just a game of football.”
As he finished his pint at the Wigan Pier and got ready to take his grandson for a stroll, Steve Thomas mused that while Tenerife was a fine place to watch the football, Fifa could have avoided the whole issue by choosing a different host country.
“I think it’s a shame they placed it where they placed it,” he said. “Can you imagine how many Welsh people would have gone to Australia or the US?”
Professional footballers in Scotland will be banned from heading the ball the day before and the day after matches after studies showing how it can affect the brain.
Clubs are also being advised to limit heading balls in training to one session a week because of the links between repetitive heading of a football and brain damage.
The guidance by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) comes after a landmark study revealed former professional footballers were three and a half times more likely to suffer from dementia and other serious neurological diseases.
The guidance introduced on Monday will come into immediate effect, including the banning of exercises with repeated heading of the ball more than once a week, and a day before or after a match day, including crossing, finishing and set-piece practices.
“What we already know about heading and its effects on the brain suggests that there is measurable memory impairment lasting 24 to 48 hours following a series of headers and that brain-related proteins can be detected in blood samples for a short time after heading,” the SFA doctor John MacLean said.
“The goal is to reduce any potential cumulative effect of heading by reducing the overall exposure to heading in training,” he said.
Fifty men’s and women’s professional teams across Scotland were consulted before the release of the guidelines. To reduce the damage from the impact of heading, clubs are also being told to monitor activity in training.
The SFA said more than 70% of clubs surveyed in the Scottish Professional Football League and Scottish Women’s Premier League Cup supported the guidelines being introduced.
A report, co-funded by the FA and the Professional Footballers’ Association and conducted by the University of Glasgow in 2019, found that former professionals were three and a half times as likely as a member of the public to die from brain disease, five times more likely to die of Alzheimer’s and four times more likely to die of motor neurone disease.
“Our data show that mortality from neurodegenerative disease was higher and prescriptions of dementia-related medications were more common among former professional soccer players than among controls from the Scottish population,” the study concluded, after comparing the causes of death of 7,676 former male professional players who were born between 1900 and 1976 against those of more than 23,000 people from the general population.
However, it was unable to establish whether the cause of the higher levels of brain disease was due to repeated concussions, or some other factor.
In a groundbreaking ruling in 2002, a coroner found that the former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died in January that year from an “industrial disease”, caused by heading heavy leather footballs leading to his death at the age of 59.
His daughter Dawn Astle, who has long campaigned on the issue, called the SFA’s guidelines “another landmark ruling for the dementia in football campaign”.
As the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup continues with the group stage of the tournament and all teams have played at least one match, stories around the World Cup continue to emerge, but this time it involves the British Royal family, as many on the Internet think that a reporter has a huge resemblance to the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
Alex Scott’s alleged resemblance to Meghan Markle
Many fans following the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup have pionted out that BBC’s reporter, Alex Scott resembles Meghan Markle, not only for her looks but also for her constant fight for social causes, like wearing the “One Love” armband in one of her appearances on TV.
Who is Alex Scott?
Alex Scott is a British reporter and presenter for the BBC that’s currently working on site at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup in Doha.
The 38-year old reporter garnered worldwide attention when she appeared using the “One Love” armband prior to England’s World Cup debut against Iran.
Williams continued: “He’s been everywhere around the world to watch me play football from when I first started playing at Liverpool at six years old. He’d never tell me if I had a good game because he always said I have to get better and better each day and that’s why I am where I am now.
“So I dedicate this game all to him because I know he’s up there watching down on me very proudly. For everyone please cherish you have with loved ones because you never know when it can get taken away from you.”
On Twitter he added: “To go from crying all day to start in a World Cup game was extremely tough but I got through it from the support of my team mates and family.”
Like all his team mates Williams belted out the Welsh national anthem at the start of the game, a rousing moment that has won praise around the world.
After the game Williams, who now plays for Nottingham Forest, looked red-eyed. He pointed to the sky and said: “That was for you grandad.” He was comforted by several of his team mates.
Wales drew thanks to a Gareth Bale penalty, a result that was being celebrated across the country and gives Wales a good platform from which to progress to the knockout stage.
They wrote: “Everyone always talks about what an amazing footballer your grandad was and how he could have made it to the top if it wasn’t for breaking his ankle twice. He is so proud of you for living a dream that was taken from him.
“Do you remember he used to always tell you … to make sure you were practising on your left foot as well as your right?”
A young football fan with cerebral palsy said seeing Jack Grealish perform their special goal celebration was “a dream come true” – and urged the England star to do “the Finlay” each time he scores.
Grealish had promised Finlay Fisher he would perform the shoulder waggle celebration after the 12-year-old wrote to him upon learning that the player’s sister Holly also has cerebral palsy. True to his word, the Manchester City forward pulled out the dance after scoring the sixth goal in England’s 6-2 win against Iran at the World Cup in Qatar on Monday.
Speaking after the match, Grealish said: “For me, it’s just doing a celebration but for him that’ll mean the world to him, I’m sure. So Finlay – that one’s for you.”
Finlay said he was amazed to see his idol perform the move as he watched from his living room in Manchester. “It feels like a dream come true, I can’t say how happy I am. I’ve still not got over it yet,” he told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday.
He said speaking with Grealish the week before had been like “like meeting Superman”. “I couldn’t believe it, I was star-struck,” he said. “When you meet your idol, it’s like meeting Superman or Batman, you can’t imagine it. He wanted to come and see me in his spare time, so I really want to thank him for that.”
However, Finlay almost did not get to watch the match at all. He had spent two hours in hospital after hurting his leg in a fall in the morning. The game started just 10 minutes after he returned home. “I hurt my leg in the morning, and I had to sit in A&E for two hours, and I was like: ‘C’mon let me out, let me out,’” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
The avid Man City fan said “it really made me happy” when he met Grealish after writing to him earlier this year. Finlay said he had been inspired by the footballer speaking about his love for his younger sister, Hollie, who has cerebral palsy.
“I think he’s very inspirational,” Finlay told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Because he’s lived with people he knows what it’s like so he gets his message across. I think he supports me and makes me grow confidence so I hope he does that to other people as well.”
The schoolboy said he had named the celebration “the Finlay” and that he felt he was now “best friends” with the Premier League’s most expensive footballer.
And if Grealish thinks he can retire the dance, he may need to think again. Finlay urged him to do it each time he scores: “That must be his signature celebration!”
The Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood is set to face trial in November 2023 on charges including attempted rape and coercive behaviour.
Greenwood, 21, appeared before a judge at Manchester Minshull Street crown court on Monday. The footballer is accused of attempted rape on 22 October 2021, and of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in December 2021.
He is also charged with repeatedly engaging in coercive and controlling behaviour, which allegedly included monitoring the complainant’s social media accounts and “making threats and derogatory comments towards her, amounting to a serious effect upon her”.
On Monday the prosecution asked for Greenwood’s case to be adjourned until 10 February. Jason Pitter KC said he expected a trial to take place from 27 November next year.
Maurice Greene, the resident judge at Manchester Minshull Street crown court, agreed to the dates and rebailed Greenwood until his next court appearance in February. His bail conditions include not contacting witnesses.
Greenwood, wearing a dark suit and tie, spoke only to confirm his name and age. Members of his family watched from the public gallery.
Greenwood was suspended from playing or training with his club after he was charged in January. Born in Bradford, he joined Manchester United’s youth academy at the age of six and made his first-team debut at 17.
Once considered one of the most exciting and talented English forwards of his generation, Greenwood made four appearances for England under-21s and one for the senior England men’s team, lining up against Iceland in a Uefa Nations League game aged 18.
After his arrest, Nike ended its sponsorship deal with Greenwood and Electronic Arts removed him from active squads in its Fifa 22 game.
A statement from the club said: “Manchester United notes that criminal charges have been brought against Mason Greenwood by the Crown Prosecution Service. He remains suspended by the club, pending the outcome of the judicial process.”
From Monday, the World Cup in Qatar begins in earnest, and millions of Britons will be faced with the same problem: how to watch the football at workdiscreetly.
One poll found that nearly half of the country’s workforce would not be allowed to watch games during business hours, but a fifth of those surveyed said they would find a way nevertheless.
It helps that many matches are happening at lunchtime, including England’s opener against Iran, but here are some obvious dos and don’ts for supporters keen to watch the action without getting caught in the act.
Practice your poker face
An unexpected roar of glee from the sedentary position is an obvious giveaway. If your side have scored, maintaining an entirely neutral face is crucial to keeping up the appearance of work. Similarly, a sudden slump on to your desk, head in hands, accompanied by an involuntary groan, might suggest to fellow workers that you are not working on that all-important document for HR – instead, your side have just gone one down.
The carefully timed meeting
Given that most people can take a break at 1ish, you are entitled to watch some of the lunchtime games over a sandwich. That will probably only take you to the end of the first half, though, so the key period is just after lunch – the 45 minutes from 2pm. Scheduling meetings with like-minded supporters who have also practised their poker faces might be one way of seeing the game through to the end without arousing suspicions.
Cyclists can choose from an array of mini rear-view mirrors to help them avoid traffic coming up unexpectedly from behind. These small devices may also be handy for office workers keen not to be caught unawares by the sudden appearance of a colleague on their shoulder.
‘Command and M’ – or equivalent
For those unable to escape the office, this is absolutely vital – and requires practice. Watching on a desktop computer is fraught with danger, even for those who have bought rear-view mirrors. However, there are ways to make what you are watching disappear in a nanosecond. On Apple computers, hitting the command and M keys at the same time will quickly hide the front window whenever the boss is in sight. Ideally, have a daunting-looking spreadsheet open at the same time.
It may be optimistic for England and Wales fans to already be thinking about the knockout stages, but there is good news for any team getting that far: all the eliminator games are on evenings or weekends.
The World Cup final is on Sunday 18 December at 3pm GMT. Just don’t book the next day off work just yet.