Common-ownership: UEFA reach decision on participation by RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg in UEFA Champions League 2017/2018

Businessman with a soccer ballOn 8 June 2017, Sports Shorts considered the issue of whether RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg would both be permitted to participate in the UEFA Champions League 2017/2018 season.  Both clubs qualified from their respective leagues on merit but, given that both clubs are in one way or another funded by Red Bull, questions had arisen as to whether UEFA’s rule against common-ownership would mean that both clubs would be prevented from competing in the UEFA Champions League at the same time.

It has now been reported that, following a month-long investigation by UEFA and changes made by both clubs, UEFA is satisfied that both clubs can compete in next year’s competition. Continue Reading

British & Irish Lions 2017 – Gatland on the Defensive but the Lions on the up.

Another win this morning in Hamilton and the British and Irish Lions are starting to build momentum ahead of this Saturday’s first test at Eden Park in Auckland; a ground at which the formidable All Blacks have achieved a 37 game winning streak spanning some 23 years.

The win, against one of the leading New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, will give further ammunition to coach Warren Gatland in his defence against the tidal wave of criticism he has faced at the hands of the New Zealand media after they lost 2 out of the opening 4 matches.

Inclement weather has allowed the Lions to rely upon their dominance up front and in the set piece and this is starting to reap benefits as the team gels and banks more crucial minutes playing in each other’s company.

The New Zealand media, always quick to pick up on the shortcomings of other teams (slower when it comes to their own), have questioned Gatland and his favoured style of play and proclivity for the power game dubbed “Warrenball” but are they right to criticise a style of play suited to the conditions, players and a desire to move forward over the gain line?

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Football is still a game of two halves but of what duration? IFAB’s proposals on increasing effective playing time

Fans in DespairOn Thursday 15 June 2017, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) launched the ‘Play Fair’ initiative which aims to, in partnership with FIFA, ‘expand the football debate with a ‘Play Fair!’ strategy which complements and enhances FIFA’s ‘fair play’ programme so that ideas to develop the game through its Laws reflect “what football wants”’.  IFAB, made up of the four British football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and FIFA (representing the other 207 national associations), has a mission to ‘serve the world of football as the independent guardian of the Laws of the Game’ and, importantly, is the ‘only body authorised to decide and agree changes to the Laws of the Game’.

Since the release of Play Fair!, a number of media reports have suggested that IFAB are considering a radical overhaul of the footballing product including reducing the length of a match from 90 minutes to 60 minutes (see here, here and here).  So what exactly have IFAB proposed?  And is this really the end of 45 minute halves? Continue Reading

General Election 2017: “Now let’s get to work”

Tug-of-warOn the day after the general election that ended in a hung Parliament, Theresa May gave a statement in Downing Street following her meeting with HM the Queen. May promised “…a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country”.

Despite the minority Conservative government, it is imperative that sport remains on the agenda even with the uncertain political backdrop because sport has far-reaching implications. How will the UK’s sporting industry and economy be maintained during this “critical time”?

In addition to our summary outlining the leading parties’ manifestos, it will be helpful to now include the view on sport expressed in the manifesto of the Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) as the two parties will now “work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom”. Continue Reading

The NBA Super Team Phenomenon

Basketball arenaOn Tuesday 13 June 2017, the Golden State Warriors won their second NBA Playoff final in three years, with Kevin Durant winning the first of his career. Despite the Warriors being way ahead on games, the super star line-ups meant that dull moments were going to be hard to come by. No matter where your allegiance lies, it is hard to begrudge Kevin Durant his first and incredibly well-deserved championship, taking the mantle of series MVP and being the first player with five 30 point games in a row in NBA finals since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

Tuesday’s game comes amidst lots of talk in the NBA about ‘super teams’. Not least because Kevin Durant joined Golden State at the beginning of this season on a free agency, breaking Thunder hearts and creating a championship winning super team. That move thrust the idea of player loyalty back into the press, but KD was keen to explain at the time that his decision was made with a heavy heart. Nike capitalised on this criticism, releasing a short one minute advert playing on KD’s critics from the start of his career, the draft, to winning his first championship. Continue Reading

England U20 World Cup Success – the dawn of a(nother) “Golden Generation” for English football?

The weekend just passed saw a number of notable sporting successes.

Rafael Nadal won a 10th French Open title, the first male tennis player to win 10 series of the same Grand Slam; the English cricket team beat Australia; the English, Scottish and Irish rugby teams beat their opposition on tour; the British and Irish Lions even managed a victory… and in football, England’s Young Lions successfully defended their Toulon Tournament title.

However, the greatest success came from the England U20 football team which won the FIFA U20 World Cup handing them perhaps the most significant international football title since Bobby Moore led England to the 1966 World Cup over 50 years ago.

Together with winning the bi-annual tournament Newcastle United’s Freddie Woodman was awarded the Golden Gloves for being the best goalkeeper in the tournament (no doubt cemented by an excellent penalty save in the final) whilst the Golden Ball for player of the tournament, a prize previously won by such luminaries as Diego Maradona, Sergio Aguero, Paul Pogba and Lionel Messi, went to soon to be Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke.

Success in Korea has inevitably led some to suggest that the triumph will herald the start for a new “Golden Generation” of English football. This phrase was first coined by then FA Chief Executive Adam Crozier when referring to the senior England team ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, a team that included the likes of David Beckham,  Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand to name but a few.

Ultimately this group of players failed to deliver on the ultimate stage of major championships but will this fate follow the latest crop of new talent?

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Red Bull Leipzig v Red Bull Salzburg: a Champions League reality?

FootballThe summer can prove a fallow time for football fans.  With the exception of the FIFA Confederations Cup, which commences on 17 June 2017, fans have little to keep themselves entertained on the football front this summer.  Many will delve deep into the gossip pages of their favourite websites. Which players will be bought? Which players will be sold?  What will the clubs’ new kits look like?  Which players are not behaving on their summer holidays?

Other fans will simply count the days until the opening matches of the coming season.  That will particularly be the case for fans whose clubs performed well in the previous season.  The thought of competing for European trophies, as well as for the domestic league and cups, will be exciting for many supporters, especially for those whose clubs do not normally have the privilege of playing in European competitions.

So spare a thought for the fans of RB Leipzig and FC Red Bull Salzburg, who will be in purgatory this summer. Continue Reading

General Election 2017: what does your vote mean for your sport?

Fighting the EUOn Thursday 8 June 2017 the British people will go to the polls to determine who will lead their country for the next four years and who will (almost definitely) oversee the nation’s exit from the European Union.  It’s been almost a year since Britain voted for Brexit (to be precise, on Thursday, it will have been 350 days) and in that time much has been written about the possible, probable or preposterous effects of Brexit on the UK’s sporting industry and economy and its various stakeholders.

Legitimate questions have been asked and are still (for the most part) unanswered. For example, will The FA or the Premier League be successful in lobbying the new government that footballers should be exempt from post-Brexit immigration controls (this author would unequivocally argue ‘yes’) and, further, can The FA and the Premier League agree on the scope and extent of those exemptions?  Or, will the UK’s position as the self-proclaimed ‘Sporting Capital of Europe’ be at risk?

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, what are the proposed sporting policies of the main political parties vying for our vote on Thursday in respect of sport in the UK and how have they sought to qualm the industry’s fears? Interestingly, the party’s manifestos are vastly different both in breadth and in depth in this respect: Continue Reading

Conor McGregor, Matt Skelton and…Freddie Flintoff: In Search of a Boxing Licence

Boxing TrainingLast week Conor McGregor, the reigning UFC Lightweight Champion, and former UFC Featherweight Champion, claimed that he has agreed a deal to fight retired boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr – a ‘super fight’ that has been in the making for over a year now.

Many are divided as to the implications of the fight for boxing, with legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya calling it embarrassing for the sport. Although McGregor learned to fight as a youth in the Crumlin Boxing Club in Ireland, the general consensus is that this is a mismatch of the largest proportions – McGregor doesn’t stand a chance in a boxing ring against the likes of Mayweather, but equally Mayweather wouldn’t last long in the octagon. Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has been making his voice heard in the press, claiming that he has “young stars who would beat [McGregor].

The concept of a cross discipline super fight seems to be symbolic of the zeitgeist – a Batman vs Superman style blockbuster or a Rocky Balboa vs Hulk Hogan moment. It is noteworthy that these two fighters would not be the first in history to do this. The best example is certainly when Muhammad Ali travelled to Tokyo on 26 June 1976 to fight professional wrestler Antonio Inoki for a fight that had its own special rules and is considered to have laid the foundations for modern MMA.

Much like Ali and Inoki in 1976, the quantities of money involved seem to be driving this deal to completion.

This has prompted Sports Shorts to consider a crucial procedural element necessary for the fight to go ahead – the granting of a boxing licence, something that McGregor has sought in the state of NevadaContinue Reading

Snow angels, spikes, and The Worm: putting the fun back in football

Touchdown CelebrationThe NFL has announced that it is “putting the fun back in football” by relaxing the rules governing touchdown celebrations, to allow players “more room to have fun after they make big plays”.  The letter to fans from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell promised (with the help of some illustrative GIFs) the return of snow angels, group demonstrations, use of the ball as a prop, and other “spontaneous displays of emotion”.

Article 1, Section 3, Rule 12 (Player Conduct) of the NFL Rulebook, which governs “unsportsmanlike conduct”, includes the following restrictions:

“There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct.  This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.  Such acts specifically include, among others:


  1. Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player. Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground.  A celebration or demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate or demonstrate after a warning from an official.
  2. Two or more players engaging in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations or demonstrations.
  3. Possession or use of foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform during the game on the field or the sideline, or using the ball as a prop…”

Various penalties apply on a breach of these rules, including the loss of 15 yards from the succeeding spot (or whatever spot the Referee deems equitable) and players may also be individually fined.

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