Tag Archives: clampdown

Raheem Sterling signs Liverpool contract as Brendan Rodgers fires warning

Players' greed may scupper new deals, warns Rodgers as Sterling pens new Liverpool contract

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 21 December 2012

Raheem Sterling finally signed a new five-year Liverpool deal on Friday after months of negotiations.

The 17-year-old England winger admitted it was a ‘relief’ that talks had reached a successful end. ‘It was so frustrating that everyone thought I was not going to sign when you know deep down that you are going to sign sooner or later,’ he said.

And boss Brendan Rodgers has warned potential signings they will talk themselves out of a move if their sole focus is money.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Raheem Sterling agreeing his new contract with Brendan Rodgers

Signed, sealed, delivered: Raheem Sterling agreeing his new contract with Brendan Rodgers

Shake on it: Sterling with Liverpool boss Rodgers

Shake on it: Sterling with Liverpool boss Rodgers

A 12million deal for Daniel
Sturridge stalled this week after it emerged Liverpool will not pay his
agents’ demands for a percentage of any sell-on fee. It comes as part of
a clampdown on the amount of fees the club are paying to middle men.

Rodgers, though, is determined to be
just as careful in terms of the money that goes to new arrivals. He
pulled out of a move for Gylfi Sigurdsson in the summer because of the
terms being demanded and will not be afraid to do the same again.

‘You have to get hungry players in who want to work and want to fight to be successful – that is the biggest thing for me,’ said Rodgers, whose side face Fulham this evening for the first time since Liverpool’s very public pursuit of Clint Dempsey.

‘They will get a good contract coming here but if they want to argue over money, and other things that go around it, I don't want them here. In my experience those players will eventually let you down anyway.

‘So, for us, it is about getting players in who are hungry to succeed and to pull on the shirt. That's the simple message for any player coming here – you can't take the money and run. You have to earn the right to play for this club and to help us succeed.’

Raheem Sterling finally put pen-to-paper on a five-year deal yesterday after months of negotiations and the England winger admitted it was a “relief” that talks had reached a successful conclusion.

‘It was so frustrating that everyone (though I was) not going to sign when you know deep down that you are going to sign sooner or later,’ said Sterling, who has missed some training sessions this week through illness. ‘So it was just really good to get it over and done with. I'm happy with that.’

Maroune Fellaini headbutts Ryan Shawcross: Referees launch clampdown on holding in the penalty box

EXCLUSIVE: Referees launch clampdown on holding in the penalty box after Stoke's tactics against Everton causes storm
PLUS Former World Cup referee Graham Poll on the difficulty detecting the pushers, holders and blockers

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UPDATED:

12:49 GMT, 17 December 2012

Referees are to clamp down on holding in the penalty area in a move which will see Stoke City's defensive tactics come under the spotlight.

Stoke have acquired a reputation for rough-house tactics with Maroune Fellaini taking particular issue with Ryan Shawcross's physical approach on Saturday.

Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini

Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini

Hold on a sec: Ryan Shawcross holds Maroune Fellaini (left and right)
during the 1-1 draw at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. Sportsmail
understands referees are set to clamp down on such foul play

VIDEO: Match highlights from the Britannia – Stoke 1-1 Everton…

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REMEMBER THE LAST CLAMPDOWN

Mike Dean was the centre of attention at Bramall Lane in September 2006, when he awarded three penalties in the last 20 minutes of a Barclays Premier League match between Sheffield United and Blackburn.

First, on 70 minutes, Blackburn's Benni McCarthy went down theatrically under pressure from David Unsworth, but Paddy Kenny kept out Lucas Neill's spot-kick.

Seven minutes later, United's Rob Hulse had his shirt tugged in the box by Zurab Khizanishvili, with a penalty contentiously awarded by Dean. Hulse saw the kick saved by Brad Friedel.

A handball decision against Neill, spotted by Dean's assistant Mike Cairns, four minutes from time gave Hulse a chance to atone – but he was again denied by Friedel and the game ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

ADAM SHERGOLD

Now, Sportsmail understands that elite
group of Barclays Premier League referees have decided enough is enough
and plan to penalise players for holding, pushing and shirt-grabbing at
set-plays. If the ball is in play, a penalty will be awarded.

The Potters are not alone, with many strikers becoming frustrated that top-flight defenders have been able to get away with impeding them in this way for so long.

Everton midfielder Fellaini reacted with a shocking display of physical violence when he headbutted Ryan Shawcross at the Britannia Stadium, but it is not the first time that Shawcross and Stoke have been criticised for their approach.

Two years ago, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger accused the Potters of playing 'rugby' instead of football. That provoked Stoke to lodge a complaint with the FA.

In 2010, Wenger said: 'You cannot say it is football any more. It is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football. When you see the way Shawcross kicked Heurelho Gomes, how Robert Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.'

The evidence was clear on numerous highlights programmes over the weekend as foul play in the Stoke penalty area was broadcast.

Daily
Mail chief sports writer, Martin Samuel today called for officials to
take action on this issue and it seems the the festive fixtures will
provide the test ground for new focus at set-plays.

Samuel
wrote in his regular Monday column: 'It was still illegal to hold on to
another player to prevent his movement. Meaning the first foul that was
committed in the Stoke City penalty area in the 59th minute on Saturday
was by defender Ryan Shawcross.

'That
does not justify Marouane Fellaini’s reaction, and is only the tiniest
mitigation for an incident that will almost certainly end with a
three-match ban for the Everton player, but it is nevertheless an
important fact.

Not just Stoke: Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa grapples with Stoke's Kenwyne Jones earlier this month at Villa Park

Not just Stoke: Ciaran Clark of Aston Villa grapples with Stoke's Kenwyne Jones earlier this month at Villa Park

Hold tight: Wigan's Adrian Lopez grabs a handful of Jonny Howson's shirt during Norwich's 2-1 win on Saturday

[caption

'For it makes plain that what happened on Saturday, a clash that could have ended in serious injury, a fractured cheekbone or broken nose, was a direct result of football’s decision to allow wrestling matches in the penalty area.

'Fellaini assaults Shawcross primarily because he is being prevented from playing, illegally, and Mark Halsey, the referee, appears happy to let this continue. Football has never had more policemen and yet such little interest in implementing the rules.'

GRAHAM POLL'S OFFICIAL LINE: HOLDING IS EASY TO DETECT, IT'S BLOCKING THAT IS HARD TO PENALISE

GRAHAM POLL

Ryan Shawcross clearly did not deserve to be butted on Saturday but he should have had a penalty awarded against him for holding Marouane Fellaini.

While PGMOL chiefs are very happy with officiating so far this season, cautions are down, particularly those for dissent, the one issue that stands out is holding and blocking at set pieces.

A compilation of examples will be put together and shown to referees to get commitment from them to punish this offence more often and in a consistent way.

Stoke City are bound to feature in that DVD, not exclusively of course, but the way Shawcross clearly held Fellaini is one example of many.

Holding and blocking at set pieces has been raised as an issue many times before and is seen as difficult to clamp down on due to the consequences and likely reaction.

Firstly the offence starts to occur before the ball is in play and so cannot be punished by a free kick until the ball is played. If the referee stops play before the ball is played then he could caution the offender for unsporting behaviour but play would still restart with the corner or free kick that was delayed.

That is why you often see the referee stop the kick being taken and warn the players to stop holding. This has stopped being an effective deterrent as so few follow up on the warning.

The second issue is that once the ball is played some defenders stop holding the opponent and so there is no offence to punish. However, that is happening less frequently as defenders are realising that referees are ignoring the offence which is not hard to detect.

Go back to Shawcross at the weekend and Fellaini. You could clearly see Shawcross’ arms wrapped around Fellaini, preventing him from jumping for the ball. Referees are trained to watch the ‘drop zone’ at set pieces rather than the ball in the air as nothing happens to the ball.

Blocking offences are more difficult to detect but one which always stands out is Kevin Nolan on the opposing goalkeeper. Whichever team he plays for Nolan has always stood on the ‘keepers toes, sometimes literally. It started when he was at Bolton and they faced Arsenal knowing that Jens Lehman was always put off by such actions.

I used to ask him to step away which he refused and so I awarded a free kick as soon as the corner was taken and told him that I would do so at every corner. Two free kicks and he would move away, so it can be cured.

Rough stuff: Shawcross catches Man City's Mario Balotelli with his arm last season

Rough stuff: Shawcross catches Man City's Mario Balotelli with his arm last season

London Olympics 2012: Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee warned about dead-heat

Brownlee brothers warned: We'll throw you out if you try to stage a dead-heat

PUBLISHED:

21:30 GMT, 4 August 2012

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 4 August 2012

Britain's star triathletes – brothers
Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee – have been warned by their world
governing body that they will be instantly disqualified from the biggest
race of their lives if they attempt to cross the line together.

Olympics 2012

This draconian message, aimed to
prevent what many observers might see as a heart-warming moment of
fraternal solidarity, is being delivered to prevent a second 'fixing'
scandal at the London Games after they made headlines for all the wrong
reasons last week when eight badminton players were sent home in
disgrace for deliberately trying to lose.

World No 1 Alistair, 24, and world No
2 Jonathan, 22, are hot favourites to dominate the London 2012 men's
triathlon in Hyde Park on Tuesday.

Scroll down for more

On the right track: Brothers Jonathan (right) and Alistair Brownlee are favourites for the triathlon

On the right track: Brothers Jonathan (right) and Alistair Brownlee are favourites for the triathlon

Alistair is the reigning world
champion and has been the dominant force in his sport for several years
while Jonathan sealed world silver behind his older brother last
September in Beijing.

More than once in the past, the
Yorkshire siblings have finished a gruelling triathlon, which involves a
1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run, and then crossed the line at
the same time.

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Most recently, they crossed the line together at the Blenheim triathlon in June as they celebrated Alistair's first competitive race following a three-month break due to an achilles tendon injury.

And Jonathan has spoken of a dream scenario where they might both hit their peak at the Olympics to dominate the event for Britain.

'To win a joint gold medal with my brother, that's the dream,' he has said. 'To cross the line together.'

But the International Triathlon Union, which rules the sport, says the Brownlees must not try to share victory and if they do, they will both forfeit their races.

Paula Kim, spokeswoman for the ITU, said: 'Intentionally trying or agreeing to cross the line together, under ITU rules, brings a mandatory penalty of automatic disqualification.'

Kim says those rules apply to all events within the auspices of the ITU.

The Blenheim event is not an ITU event, although another event where they almost crossed the line together – in Madrid last year – is.

'On that occasion Alistair was ahead and waited for Jonathan at the line, but Alistair did cross the line first, albeit not by very much at all,' said Kim. 'Given what has happened in the badminton at the Olympics, we need to be clear about the rules, that there is no room for suggestion that the race has been manipulated in any way at all.'

The badminton scandal involved four pairs in the women's doubles, two from South Korea, one from Indonesia and one from China.

They each tried to lose in order to manipulate the draw after the group stage, and were kicked out for 'not using one's best efforts to win a match' and 'conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport'.

If the Brownlees are genuinely flat out against each at the line – as Nicola Spirig and Lisa Norden were in a thrilling finish to the women's race yesterday – there will be no problem.

But any sentimental waiting will be punished.

Taylor connection goes down well in India

The exploits of Stuart Pearce's men's football team have been followed with closer interest than might be expected in India – because one of his GB players, Swansea right-back Neil Taylor, is half-Indian.

The Wales international, whose mother, Shibani, is from Mumbai, tells me he has already been interviewed by the Times of India and that interest from the sub-continent in his career is growing.

Big hit: Neil Taylor in action against Senegal

Big hit: Neil Taylor in action against Senegal

Taylor has also been impressed with his Games experience.

'Being at the opening ceremony was amazing,' he said.

'I saw LeBron James and Novak Djokovic during our three-day stay in the village, and mixing with other athletes, from massive weightlifters to tiny Chinese gymnasts, has been brilliant. And considering what a short time we've been together as a team, we've gelled amazingly.'

Greece is the word on Merseyside

If Spyros Gianniotis wins the gold medal in the men's 10km open water swimming for Greece on Friday, as he is favourite to do, look out for a party of Scousers – with an 82-year-old cheerleader called Olive – who will be going absolutely bananas in celebration.

Gianniotis was born in Liverpool, spent the first few years of his life there, and his grandmother, Olive Sweeney, who lives a stone's throw from Anfield at the edge of Stanley Park, is anticipating one of the most emotional occasions of her life, despite having to battle to be there.

'I'm 82 and had a hip replacement a couple of months ago, but a whole group of us are coming down by minibus even though we don't have grandstand tickets,' she told me. 'I'll probably collapse if he wins, I'll be that excited.

Mersey man: Greece's Spyros Gianniotis has roots in Liverpool

Mersey man: Greece's Spyros Gianniotis has roots in Liverpool

'He's loved swimming forever. When he was three, he'd jump off a pedalo while on holiday, disappear under the water then pop up with an octopus he'd caught!'

His mother, Brenda, is Olive's daughter.

'Spyros looks a lot more like his mum than his dad, who is Greek,' said Olive. 'So I'm claiming him for Britain.'

Euro 2012: Fears over violent clashes between Russia and Poland fans

Warsaw alert over invasion of Russians ahead of Poland clash

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UPDATED:

22:22 GMT, 11 June 2012

The Russian Football Association and Warsaw security authorities have both issued pleas for calm from supporters prior to the potentially explosive game between Poland and Russia in the Polish capital.

Ten thousand Russia fans have tickets for a game that falls on 'Russia Day', the date marking the end of the Soviet Union in 1990.

But there are expected to be twice as many Russians in Warsaw and some 5,000 have planned a march to mark their national day. To many Poles, whose rivalry with Russia extends well beyond football, this is a provocative demonstration.

Red alert: Authorities are preparing for any potential violence

Red alert: Authorities are preparing for any potential violence

Euro 2012 email button

The imagery in the Polish press in the build-up to the Group A match, which could take Poland to the brink of elimination should they lose, has been nationalistic and militaristic.

A famous Polish Army victory over the Russian Bolsheviks in 1920 in Warsaw has been invoked, with Poland manager Franciszek Smuda mocked up in a uniform of the time.

The headline translates as 'Faith, Hope, Smuda,' – a play on an old army motto: 'Faith, Home, Motherland'.

Tabloid Super Express chided Russian complacency that they will win tonight – 'In 1920 they also thought that and… they got a spanking.'

It is not an occasion that requires such hype and, with some Russian fans involved in unpleasant scenes inside and outside the Wroclaw Stadium after the Friday's game against the Czech Republic, there is a fear of further and more serious incidents.

Ewa Gawor, head of Warsaw security, said she had spoken to the Russian march organisers.

Clampdown: There have been a number of violent outbreaks despite the huge police presence in both host countries

Clampdown: There have been a number of violent outbreaks despite the huge police presence in both host countries

Clampdown: There have been a number of violent outbreaks despite the huge police presence in both host countries

'I've asked them for peaceful
behaviour, not to provoke anyone in the streets,' said Gawor. 'We want
this festival to be peaceful. We have had such assurances, nevertheless
we will be watchful.'

Sergey Fursenko, head of the Russian FA, had already addressed some of the scenes in Wroclaw.

'We consider some of the country's fans who attended Russia's opening Euro 2012 match conducted themselves discreditably and acted dishonourably,' he said.

'We appeal to all our fans who are currently in Poland. Please remember that you represent your country. Please respect yourself, your motherland and your team.'

Inflammatory: Local press have made references to Poland's victorious 1920 battle against the Bolshevik Army, known as the Miracle on the Vistula

Inflammatory: Local press have made references to Poland's victorious 1920 battle against the Bolshevik Army, known as the Miracle on the Vistula

Fursenko and manager Dick Advocaat led a
Russia delegation to the memorial in Warsaw for former Polish President
Lech Kaczynski, who was killed two years ago in a plane crash in
Russia.

Many Poles regard his death as suspicious, their anger compounded by the fact that he was travelling to Russia to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, when thousands of Polish soldiers were murdered by Soviet troops during the Second World War.

On the pitch Poland will also be concerned. They failed to beat Greece on Friday, then Russia put four past the Czech Republic.

EURO 2012: Roy Hodgson tells England players to cancel sponsor appearances

Not on my watch! Hodgson tells England stars to scrap sponsor appearances

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UPDATED:

09:17 GMT, 5 June 2012

England manager Roy Hodgson ordered five of his Euro 2012 squad to cancel sponsor appearances on Monday as he looks to keep his players fresh ahead of their trip to Poland this week.

James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Joleon Lescott, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all scheduled to make an appearance in Shoreditch, east London, on behalf of Nike.

Clampdown: Hodgson (left) asked five of his squad to cancel sponsor appearances

Clampdown: Hodgson (left) asked five of his squad to cancel sponsor appearances

But Hodgson told the quintet after Saturday's 1-0 win over Belgium at Wembley that they should tell their boot sponsors they would not make the event.

The former West Brom boss was eager that his 23-man squad have sufficient time for rest and recuperation before reconvening at the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire on Tuesday lunchtime.

Hodgson was concerned that the players' time off after the win over Norway the week before was used to fulfil sponsor pledges rather than to rest, and he was keen to see that the same did not happen again.

Busy schedule: England fly out to Krakow this week

Busy schedule: England fly out to Krakow this week

There was also concern within the FA that Henderson would be pressured into discussing the issue of his selection ahead of the likes of Michael Carrick.

Hodgson's squad will attend an event laid on by the mayor of Krakow upon arrival in the Polish city on Thursday, before several players, FA staff and officials visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau sites.

Nick Harris: Fit and proper test delays Reading"s 25m takeover

Fit and proper test delays Reading's 25m takeover

PUBLISHED:

21:07 GMT, 7 April 2012

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 7 April 2012

Reading may be all but assured of
returning to the Premier League after Friday's 2-0 victory over Leeds
United, but the club's 25.4million takeover by Russian businessman
Anton Zingarevich has been delayed by Football League checks into
whether he is a fit and proper person to buy the club.

The deal was meant to have been
completed by March 31. Zingarevich's business partner, Chris Samuelson,
tells me it remains incomplete 'only because the League have yet to give
FPP clearance'.

Deal: Anton Zingarevich at Friday's game with current Reading owner Sir John Madejski

Deal: Anton Zingarevich at Friday's game with current Reading owner Sir John Madejski

Samuelson, an offshore company
specialist who helped 30-year-old Zingarevich form the Gibraltar-based
Thames Sports Investment (TSI) firm that will buy Reading, added: 'It's
the only thing preventing us finalising the transaction. I don't have a
specific time frame. It could be a week or two.'

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TSI plan to buy 51 per cent of
Reading imminently for 12.7m, and will be obliged to buy the other 49
per cent for a further 12.3m by September 30, 2013.

They have also negotiated to purchase Reading's training ground and associated land in a separate 400,000 deal.

The overall package will represent a bargain if they are promoted. Going up would guarantee 60m in income – a lot of which could become pure profit – next season alone.

Samuelson denies that he and Zingarevich, whose billionaire father, Boris, made an abortive attempt to buy Everton in 2004, are waiting for Reading to secure promotion before completing the deal.

'Not at all,' he said. 'We're just waiting on the League.'

A League spokesman declined to comment, citing confidentiality, but said the FPP test is a 'self-certification test', where a potential owner declares whether there are reasons (such as company director bans) that should prevent deals.

Industry sources suggest that rather than FPP clearance, the League may be checking whether Zingarevich can guarantee future funding.

Samuelson insists: 'There's no problem with the money. It will be a cash deal, not loans and not leveraged finance.'

As well as Zingarevich becoming a more regular visitor to the club, fans are likely to see more of his supermodel wife, Katsia.

Samuelson confides that Anton first met Katsia after seeing her in a magazine and requesting a date via a mutual friend.

Support crew: Mike Tindall meets Air Ambulance staff

Support crew: Mike Tindall meets Air Ambulance staff

Tindall to the rescue

Former England rugby captain Mike Tindall has dealt with his share of sporting emergencies but has now become an ambassador for an organisation that deals in real life-and-death situations: The Air Ambulance Service (TAAS).

The 33-year-old Gloucester centre, who has maintained a low profile since last year's World Cup, has thrown his considerable muscle behind TAAS because of its close connection to rugby and its track record of rapid assistance for players with head, neck and spinal injuries.

Mum and Dad to strike gold, too

British Olympic 800m hopeful Jemma Simpson will land her parents, Ted and June, a 53,600 jackpot if she collects the gold medal at this summer's London Games.

Bet of all right: Jemma Simpson

Bet of all right: Jemma Simpson

The 28-year-old from Cornwall, who was backed to win by her parents several years ago, is not allowed to bet on any Olympic event under the International Olympic Committee's code of conduct, which is supported by the British Olympic Association.

But there is nothing to stop relatives of competitors having a flutter and Simpson's parents, believed to have backed her at 250-1, are not alone in placing bets.

Bookmakers William Hill have, perhaps not surprisingly, described the blanket ban on Olympic betting by competitors, coaches and officials as 'unenforceable' and 'demeaning'.

Hills spokesman Graeme Sharp tells me: 'That ban is completely unenforceable. How on earth is a betting shop worker meant to recognise a synchronised swimmer, for example, and prevent her having a recreational flutter on, say, Rebecca Adlington or Mo Farah And frankly, why should they be prevented if it's legal, which it is

'I think it's demeaning for sports people to be told they can't have such a bet, undermining their integrity.'

Women protest: Just don't do it!

Large-scale protests that could disrupt the Olympics are being planned by activists from campaign group UK Feminista as they seek to highlight Nike's alleged use of sweatshop labour, particularly poor women, in Bangladesh, as detailed in a report by anti-poverty charity War On Want.

Ticked off: Paula Radcliffe will not be targeted by feminist lobby

Ticked off: Paula Radcliffe will not be targeted by feminist lobby

Fiona Radford, UK Feminista's 'grassroots activism manager', tells me that a meeting of 500 feminists in London in July will fine-tune their points of attack against the clothing giant, although they are ruling out any action against individual Nike-sponsored athletes such as Paula Radcliffe or Mark Cavendish.

'We'll be targeting brands, not people,' she said.

Nike say they are studying the War On Want report.

Nick Harris: Why Manchester United title would be worth 2m to Blackburn

Why United title would be worth 2m to Blackburn Rovers

PUBLISHED:

21:15 GMT, 31 March 2012

If Manchester United are crowned
Premier League champions at the end of the season, Blackburn Rovers, who
host Sir Alex Ferguson's team on Monday, will cash in to the tune of
2million.

That is the sum United would have to
pay Rovers as part of the 'add-ons' involved in defender Phil Jones's
move from Ewood Park to Old Trafford last summer.

Cash machine: Phil Jones is still making money for former club Blackburn Rovers

Cash machine: Phil Jones is still making
money for former club Blackburn Rovers

United agreed to pay a basic 16.5m for
20-year-old Jones, with 12.375m of that paid on the date he was
officially registered as a United player – July 1 last year – and the
balance of 4.125m on July 1 this year.

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On top of that, Blackburn will get a
2m payment on the first occasion United win either the Premier League
or the Champions League with Jones at the club, as long as he has
started half or more of the games in the relevant competition.

Jones is already guaranteed that in the league this season, so if United win the title, they will pay Rovers that 2m.

Obviously, nobody at Blackburn wants anything but a win for Rovers on Monday, but the add-ons highlight the potential for conflicts of interest in such situations, as well as how lucrative post-transfer landmarks can be.

Further add-ons for England competitive appearances could net Blackburn up to another 2m, Rovers being due 500,000 for each five starts Jones makes in competitive internationals, up to a total of 20.

Jones has just one under his belt so far, against Montenegro last November – his three other England appearances being in friendlies – but could theoretically hit five before the end of Euro 2012.

And Blackburn will also pocket 20 per cent of any future sale profit if Jones moves on.

Maybe that is why director Vineeth Rao, who is Venky's senior representative at the club on a day-to-day basis, appears to have a soft spot for United.

Recently he even shared with friends a photograph of himself holding United's Premier League trophy and smiling while visiting United for a match.

'Then again, that's the closest he'll get to the title,' quipped an Ewood insider.

The most expensive half in town!

The eye-popping 46 entry fee to the Nike-sponsored 'Run to the Beat' half-marathon in London in October, for which registration opened last week, has already alienated many would-be participants.

Not only is the cost 14 more than the full London Marathon – one of the world's best-organised mass participation events – it also works out at 3.51 per mile, or more than a London taxi would charge to cover the route.

Running up a bill: The finish at The Mall during the London Marathon

Running up a bill: The finish at The Mall during the London Marathon

As one runner wrote on the Runners' Forum message board: '46 for a half *** that!'

Other runners point out that the fee includes encouragement from actor-DJ Reggie Yates, who will appear at the start line, and a T-shirt… advertising Nike.

The London event in October still has some way to go to reach the record world entry fee for a run: the New York Marathon will charge entrants between 160 (US citizens) and 217 (others) in 2012.

Olympic double-header for Boro

Britain's two Olympic football teams will play only one warm-up match each before the London Games start this summer.

Home help: Steve Gibson

Home help: Steve Gibson

The FA are finalising plans for those games to be a double-header in mid-July, probably at Middlesborough's Riverside Stadium.

Opponents have yet to be booked to face Stuart Pearce's men – almost certain to include David Beckham – and Hope Powell's women.

But sources insist the FA will get the 'best available' sides, to provide a decent footballing test as well as 'box office' appeal.

Middlesbrough is favoured as a location for three reasons: All the stadiums to be used in the Olympics will be unavailable, 'locked down' in the run-up to the Games, and the Riverside is not one of those; playing in the North-East will highlight a British Games, not a London or southern Games; and Boro's owner, Steve Gibson, a Middlesbrough man to his marrow, is keen to help out and let the GB sides use Boro's training base.

The games are likely to be live on TV, probably on the BBC, although broadcast contracts are among many loose ends to be tied up.

Cypriot fans show dedication

Apoel Nicosia face what seems an impossible task to progress past Real Madrid in the Champions League, having lost their quarter-final first leg at home 3-0, but Cypriot football can still celebrate some of the most dedicated fans in global football.

In a nation of just 1.1million people, more than 44,000 fans go to watch league games regularly, Inside Sport has calculated, which is 4.03 per cent of the population.

This is bettered only in the tiny Faroe Islands, where a staggering 10.22 per cent of the 49,000 population attend games, and in Iceland (4.22 per cent).

Scotland in fourth place (3.68 per cent) beat England (2.79 per cent, but the highest absolute number of 1.4m people) in fifth.

Ian Gough banned for three weeks

Ospreys star Gough slapped with three-week ban for dangerous tackle

Ospreys lock Ian Gough has been suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle on Schalk Brits of Saracens during their Heineken Cup tie last Friday.

Judicial officer Jeremy Summers ruled that the offence was at the low end of the range, but added an extra week to the recommended three-week ban for aggravating factors and in light of the IRB clampdown on such tackles.

Centre of attention: Gough (centre) has been banned for three weeks

Centre of attention: Gough (centre) has been banned for three weeks

Summers then reduced the tariff by a week based on Gough”s “excellent record and exemplary conduct during the hearing”.

Meanwhile, Gavin Henson makes his debut for Cardiff Blues tonight, playing at full back against the Dragons at Cardiff City Stadium.

The 29- year-old has been out of action since breaking his wrist in a World Cup warm-up game.