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Archives for May 2011

Birmingham City set for the blues

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Matt Slater | 22:45 UK time, Monday, 23 May 2011

Given what happened to Avram Grant and Carlo Ancelotti, Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish was lucky to make it to White Hart Lane's car park on Sunday still in employment.

Relegation is a blow for any club but relegation from the Premier League comes with added recriminations and relegation from the Premier League for a club that was not expecting it can be catastrophic.

There is a firmly-held belief at PL HQ that nobody goes bust on their watch. Pompey were the exception that proved the rule, you see. And they had it coming. But this ignores what has happened to those who crashed into the Championship and kept going until League One and/or administration broke their fall. Some are still tumbling.

This is a bit like a landlord filling a sailor on shore leave full of grog but getting him out of the door just before the furniture starts to fly and of the three relegated clubs it is Birmingham City that stagger into the night in the greatest disarray.

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Homegrown Harlequins go native to get ahead

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Matt Slater | 18:52 UK time, Friday, 20 May 2011

A little more than five years ago, Middlesbrough FC did something truly extraordinary: they fielded a squad comprised entirely of players who could play for England. OK, one of them ended up being capped by Scotland, but that does not detract from just how unusual Boro's line-up was that day. The last all-English starting XI had been Aston Villa against Coventry in 1999.

Squeezed between the post-mortems from failed summer campaigns on one side and European Union employment law on the other, how best to encourage the development of domestic talent has been one of football's biggest headaches.

Overseas quotas, work permits, "six plus five" and now the homegrown player rule, football's authorities have tried to find a balance between club, country, market and player and the jury is still out on the most recent compromise.

But Friday's European Challenge Cup Final between Harlequins and Stade Francais could provide an opportunity to see how rugby union is tackling its own Wimbledon Effect (we provide the stage, "they" provide the stars).

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British sport's boom and bust culture

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Matt Slater | 19:59 UK time, Thursday, 12 May 2011

There were two major events in London's Battersea Park on Wednesday night: the first was the Sport Industry Awards and the second was Sky Sports News presenter Charlotte Jackson's dress.

Enjoyed by hundreds of party-goers and talked about in every news room, marketing office and sports HQ this morning, it was a success. The ceremony went well too.

For the first five years of the awards' lifetime they were relatively parochial affairs but that changed in 2007 when royalty visited in the shape of Posh n' Becks. What had been an event for the ad men, sales staff and other suits that make up the back office, was now somewhere to do deals, somewhere to gossip, somewhere to be seen.

There were moments during Wednesday's jamboree when it felt like the centre of the sports news universe, which is a bold claim for a little island but not a totally ridiculous one when you consider the reach of the Premier League and the magnitude of the coming Olympics. The wine was flowing too.

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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

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Matt Slater | 17:25 UK time, Monday, 9 May 2011

It was, even by his standards, a remarkable outburst.

When Ken Bates took to the airwaves at Yorkshire Radio last week, most Leeds United fans listening in would have been expecting an account of how and why Bates had just become the club's new owner.

What they got was a tirade about international enemies in the media, troublemakers in Parliament, stirrers in positions of authority in football and double-agents lurking within Elland Road.

There was some sugar in this bitter brew, though. Bates confirmed work had started on new toilets in the West Stand - "very significant for those who want them there". Well, even Radio Moscow used to finish on an upbeat note about tractor production.

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QPR in the dock as season-decider looms

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Matt Slater | 10:02 UK time, Tuesday, 3 May 2011

I have only ever owned one new car. Rattle-free motoring, flawless paintwork and it smelt, ah, the smell...it was factory fresh.

But then I had to give it back. You see I didn't really own it at all. The company that made it owned it and, once it was established I didn't have the money to properly buy it, they wanted it back to sell to somebody else.

It's an arrangement Instituto de Cordoba will recognise. Like me, the Argentine club hired something (in their case a midfielder called Alejandro Faurlin) for two years. They had an option to buy but that was always unlikely.

So Faurlin went back to his real owners and they repeated the transaction with the next wide-eyed punter eager to try a luxury item they couldn't quite afford.

So far, so what? Most South American clubs are skint. They might have decent players but they don't own them. Hiring in talent is the norm and there is nothing unusual about a midfielder being owned by a "third party", be they a group of agents, a bank or even a supermarket.

But what if the next punter in the chain was not South American but from South Africa Road? Could an English club "buy" a player but still allow a third party to "own" him? Aren't there rules against that kind of thing?

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