Tag Archives: franchise

Manchester City quash New York MLS franchise rumours

Man City quash rumours of 100m New York MLS franchise involving Beckham

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UPDATED:

11:09 GMT, 15 December 2012

Manchester City have rejected speculation they are in discussions to buy a new MLS franchise.

City, who yesterday reported annual losses of 97.9m and increased turnover of 231.1m, were said to be on the brink of being awarded a franchise that would be based in the Queens district of New York.

It had been suggested David Beckham had been approached to be part of the scheme, which was to be named New York City Football Club and cost Blues owner Sheikh Mansour 100m.

No truth: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour is not about to start a Major League Soccer franchise in New York, according to the club

No truth: Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour is not about to start a Major League Soccer franchise in New York, according to the club

However, Manchester City officials have today distanced themselves from the talk.

'Manchester City are not buying an MLS club,' said City in a short statement.

Sheikh Mansour has used his involvement with City, on which he has now lavished well in excess of 1bn, to raise the profile of Abu Dhabi.

Farewell: David Beckham waved goodbye to the MLS and LA Galaxy earlier this month, but was rumoured to be involved in the New York venture

Farewell: David Beckham waved goodbye to the MLS and LA Galaxy earlier this month, but was rumoured to be involved in the New York venture

It was suggested an involvement within the MLS would add to the work that has taken place turning City from a mid-ranking Premier League club into last season's champions.

A second MLS franchise in New York is set to be based in Queens, close to the site of Flushing Meadow, which currently hosts the US tennis open.

David Beckham lined-up to own Miami MLS franchise

Exclusive: Miami nice for Becks Former England captain lined up as MLS owner

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UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 4 December 2012

David Beckham has been earmarked as the prospective owner of an emerging Miami-based MLS franchise.

The former Manchester United midfielder has brought the curtain down on the playing chapter of his American career with LA Galaxy.

However, as part of his initial agreement to join the Galaxy in 2007, he has the option to become an owner of an MLS club.

Miami bound: David Beckham could own an MLS franchise in Miami

Miami bound: David Beckham could own an MLS franchise in Miami

Sportsmail understands plans are in place to establish new clubs in Miami, Florida, and in New York. And Beckham is the man wanted by both clubs to head their franchises.

Speaking last week, MLS commissioner Don Garber admitted a new side in Miami would ‘make sense’.

End of an era: Beckham ended his time with LA Galaxy by winning his second MLS Cup

End of an era: Beckham ended his time with LA Galaxy by winning his second MLS Cup

Given the area’s high Latin population, Miami is viewed as an ideal city to expand the MLS.

The city has already had a MLS outfit, the Miami Fusion, but the club was removed from the league in 2001.

It"s West Ham or a white elephant for the Olympic Stadium – Martin Samuel

Get real with the Olympic Stadium… it's West Ham or a white elephant

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UPDATED:

23:40 GMT, 27 November 2012

Something for nothing. That is what it is presumed West Ham United are getting out of the Olympic Stadium deal. A free ride. A gift from a grateful nation.

So consider the alternative. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, is supposed to make his final announcement about tenancy a week today. If he does not award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham, what are his options Not West Ham, basically. That is what is out there. West Ham or Not West Ham. West Ham or white elephant.

There is no coherent rival plan. The Formula One future envisages a grand prix that does not currently exist and ignores a long-term contract with Silverstone. Leyton Orient’s average league crowd this season is 3,785, which should play well in a 60,000 arena. The University College of Football Business in Burnley would get some nice classrooms out of the executive boxes.
There is only one serious bidder. There has been all along.

Let there be light: the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics  but are there dark days ahead

Let there be light: the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics but are there dark days ahead

The NFL franchise discussions came to nothing. Tottenham Hotspur just wanted the land. Only a madman would hold pop concerts in a stadium with no protective roof in Britain. While those who masterminded the Olympic process continue their orgy of self-congratulation, the in-built flaws of their mighty stadium are increasingly apparent. This is a structure that has no legacy in its present form. It is not fit for post-Olympic purpose. They can’t say they weren’t warned.

So far from getting something for nothing, West Ham would prevent something becoming nothing. Here’s the reality. A stadium was built for the Olympics. It was paid for because of the Olympics. The Olympics are over. Now what

Grand plans: David Sullivan (left) and David Gold (right) plan to relocate West Ham in the Stratford stadium

Grand plans: David Sullivan (left) and David Gold (right) plan to relocate West Ham in Stratford

Every Olympic stadium without the legacy of a core tenant from a major sport is in financial ruin. The iconic Bird’s Nest in Beijing is currently a Segway race track. You know, those upright motorised scooters You can race them at the Bird’s Nest for 12.50 a pop. Before that, there was a snow park with man-made ski hills. The annual maintenance cost is 6.8million. That’s a lot of Segway action to break even.

Manchester City were considered to have got something for nothing out of the Commonwealth Games stadium, too. Yet consider the venue without its football tenants. What would it be now
The Olympics were never coming to Manchester, the IOC made that clear. After another failed bid, Great Britain’s Olympic Committee were as good as told to come back with a proposal from London and there might be some interest.

So maybe Manchester would have got a World Athletics Championships, or the Europeans. A busy two weeks and then what A large arena in an unfashionable sector of a provincial northern city, gathering dust at huge cost to the public purse.

Manchester City didn’t get something for nothing. As a result of the potential in that facility, they attracted major foreign investment from Abu Dhabi and the new owners continued the development of the east Manchester area with a world-class sports complex.

An 80-acre swathe of industrial wasteland is to become a 100m campus with a 7,000-capacity stadium for youth and reserve football and a first-team training centre. City cleaned polluted land to assemble the plot required. Now that’s legacy. A legacy that is in danger of being lost in east London if the Olympic Stadium is allowed to stay dormant while men in suits squabble.

The problem with London’s stadium is that it was designed for a summer event and is unsuitable for use in an English winter. Money has to be spent. Any tenant with plans to use the venue throughout the year is going to have to extend the roof and any football tenant will require retractable seating over the athletics track.

We cannot keep pretending the future won’t cost. Without a roof, nobody is interested. Without a roof, the legacy is an 80,000-capacity athletics venue sitting empty for years on end incurring enormous maintenance.

Not what the designers had in mind: Beijing's Bird's Nest is now being used as a Segway race track

Not what the designers had in mind: Beijing's Bird's Nest is now being used as a Segway race track

There are some real geniuses out there, though. ‘If the 2012 Games have taught us anything it is that football doesn’t quite matter any more,’ sniffed a writer on the Huffington Post, who really thought handball fever was going to last for ever. So let’s get real. West Ham’s final offer was to pay 15m up front and a further 8m a year to cover the cost of redevelopment. The Government pays for much of this initially and then gets its money back over time.

Anyone who thinks this is unreasonable might wish to consider how many houses are sold without the buyer obtaining a mortgage. In addition, West Ham will pay 2.5m-a-year rent, and allow their landlords to keep the catering revenue and the naming rights, with benefits estimated at a further 6.5m annually.

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Now consider those naming rights. Providing West Ham remain in the Premier League the stadium has a global television audience in the region of nine billion, before the summer athletics programme is taken into consideration. One imagines the reach of the University College of Football Business in Burnley is somewhat smaller.

So when the naming rights come to be sold it rather figures that the Government, and therefore you, will be better off discussing potential exposure to nine billion around the globe, rather than six blokes called Tony who want to be football agents. The same goes for Leyton Orient. The recent deal struck between Arsenal and Emirates Airlines for Ashburton Grove amounted to 150m until 2019: 30m per year. Alternatively, sign the Olympic Stadium over for a one-off annual grand prix event that might never take place and see how far you get.

Some think West Ham and Leyton Orient could be made to share, but there is no tradition of successful joint occupancy in English football, certainly when there is such disparity in size between the partners.

The Olympic Stadium should not be a test case for future projects on Merseyside or in Bristol, and it would be hard to see the partners working harmoniously together when Orient chairman Barry Hearn has been an obstacle to West Ham’s tenancy for so long.

The disaster for the stadium would be if the final decision was overtaken by politics of the kind that booby-trapped the project from the start. Nasty old Premier League football. Why does it always have to be about them Here’s why. As a Premier League football ground, with summer use for athletics and other one-off events thrown in, the stadium will accommodate in the region of 1.2 million visitors per year.

Alternatively, the London International Segway Centre has a nice ring to it. Last one to leave, park up and turn out the lights.

I shall say zees only once

Joey Barton's French accent Wat waz ’e thinkin’ Ooh, mah achin’ sidez.

Ryan’s giant leap too far

Ryan Shawcross had another outstanding game for Stoke City against Fulham on Saturday. His team-mate Charlie Adam immediately used it to endorse his England selection, claiming this happened 18 months too late.

Yet Shawcross’s senior England debut was unimpressive. His brief time on the field came when Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were rampant. England led 2-1 when he arrived on 75 minutes and trailed 4-2 when the final whistle blew.

Some players are just short. Shawcross is a wonderful central defender for Stoke, but international football, like the Champions League, is a step up again and may be beyond him. Shawcross started out as a Manchester United player and if Sir Alex Ferguson felt him capable of competing with the likes of Ibrahimovic, no doubt he still would be.

Just short: Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross (right) looks a level below an international class defender

Just short: Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross (right) looks a level below an international class defender

DIY lesson for Scottish rugby

Following the resignation of Andy Robinson, the various speculative lists of contenders for the job of Scotland rugby manager did not include a native.

Nick Mallett and Jake White (South Africa), Sean Lineen and Todd Blackadder (New Zealand), Scott Johnson (Australia), Michael Bradley (Ireland), even those working north of the border were not nationals. And right there is the problem.

If the country is not producing the coaches it cannot produce the players, and if it isn’t producing the players, it gets beaten: by Tonga.

Contrast this with the vacant post at the top of Brazilian football. We all know who is free to succeed Mano Menezes as Brazil’s manager, because every elite team in the Premier League is after him.

What could be more perfect An architect of the beautiful game at the home of the beautiful game; the greatest manager with the greatest players, delivering the World Cup to Brazil, in Brazil. Yet Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian federation, ruled out a move for Pep Guardiola on simple grounds of nationality. ‘All five world titles won by Brazil came with Brazilian coaches,’ he said.

Too proud, you see. Do it yourself, or don’t do it at all.

Sexton's blasts could give Fergie a run for his money

Dave Sexton was a great football man. Thoughtful and innovative as a coach, yet never bogged down in mere theory. He was passionate about turning his ideas into wins, never more so than when managing the Under 21s. When England won an end-of-season tournament in Toulon under his stewardship, he could not have been happier. Excusing his young charges for the night, he said: ‘The bus for the airport leaves at 8.30 tomorrow morning. Make sure you’re on it.’ Before play, there had to be work.

Restless natives

Only news of the death of local hero Dave
Sexton placated the Chelsea crowd before Rafa’s first match on Sunday.

Chelsea are at home again tonight. Kerry Dixon and Ray Wilkins may wish
to lie low until this one blows over.

At the same tournament several years later, England’s goalkeeper was Peter Shilton’s doomed protege at Plymouth Argyle, Alan Nicholls. After the first game, there was a raucous gathering in one of the rooms, in which Nicholls demonstrated his party piece: he could smoke 20 cigarettes at once. He would clasp his lips around the top of the pack, pull the box away and then proceed to light, and smoke, the entire contents.

Midway through, there was an urgent knock, which Nicholls assumed to be a team-mate with more beers. A lager in each hand, and 20 lit cigarettes in his mouth, he opened the door to be confronted by an incandescent Sexton. Party over. Whispering Dave, he was called at Manchester United, but that was only one side of him. The public dressing-down by the swimming pool the following day made Fergie’s hair-dryer seem like a gentle breeze.

Forget outrage, let’s end the vile chants

Anything wrong that is not stopped is encouraged, so the outcry over the vile chants heard at White Hart Lane on Sunday, while understandable, is hardly pre-emptive. So, too, the Premier League demand that the Crown Prosecution Service take a stronger line.

‘We have created safe, welcoming, liberal environments where, frankly, people are allowed to behave badly,’ Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore admitted earlier this year, and therein lies the problem.

Credit to West Ham United for banning a supporter for life, following his police caution, but the idea that the club could face severe censure from the Football Association over the behaviour of their supporters at the weekend ignores the fact that equally abhorrent attitudes have been struck for years, as authority figures stood idle.

Action: West Ham have banned a supporter for life over anti-Semitic chants at Tottenham last Sunday

Action: West Ham have banned a supporter for life over anti-Semitic chants at Tottenham last Sunday

No group is innocent: supporters of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Leeds United, Millwall and the rest have all had their day.

The clubs do what they can — Norwich City banned a season ticket-holder for life during the last campaign, for racist abuse — but are powerless unless the officers on duty, the game and the CPS wish to act.

If a line in the sand is being drawn, that is a good thing, but it cannot be placed retrospectively. Those who impose order on football have been complicit in this deterioration for too long.

They cannot pretend what happened at the weekend was the worst outrage. It was merely the latest. The challenge from here is to make it the last.

Olympic Stadium latest: NFL bid thrown out

West Ham move into pole position for Olympic Stadium after NFL bid is thrown out

NFL bid for Olympic Stadium ruled out

West Ham now frontrunners for anchor tenancy

Mayor confirms stadium unlikely to be ready until 2016

UK Athletics chairman labels process a farce

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UPDATED:

13:10 GMT, 14 November 2012

West Ham have received a boost in their bid to move into the Olympic Stadium after the NFL's proposal to become anchor tenants was thrown out.

The American gridiron franchise were willing to share the stadium with other sports and events but were told that they could not have the exclusive access to the venue each year from September to January which they felt they required to prepare and host consecutive games.

In a further twist, Mayor Boris Johnson – the chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation who operate the stadium – confirmed rumours that the stadium will not be re-opened until 2016 to be true.

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

The Mayor said on Wednesday that it
was 'highly unlikely' that the stadium would be converted and ready for
use again before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio – meaning, incredibly,
that it will take longer to convert the stadium than it did to build it.

The delay in re-opening of the stadium has been branded 'a farce' by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner.

Warner said: 'My biggest concern is
that we have some major events planned for that stadium and we thought
they were going to be from the summer of 2014 onwards.

'All of the legacy use was scheduled
to start in two years' time and now it might be four years' time which
strikes me as ludicrous and to be a paralysis of decision-making which I
hope the mayor [Boris Johnson] is going to cut through.

map

Close call: Upton Park is in the same borough as the Olympic Stadium but the NFL franchises are more than a short hop away

'I wouldn't say this is a Whitehall farce but this is fast becoming a Stratford farce.

'We want to lock into the legacy of
the Games while people still remember the Mobot, Greg Rutherford, Jonnie
Peacock and David Weir.

'Let's have a bit of imagination here
and let's have a decision – we want one, West Ham want one and we all
want it open as soon as possible.'

Johnson had opened talks with the NFL last month when four of their teams were in London playing regular-season games at Wembley.

The Treasury's refusal to hand over the 337
million Olympic-contingency underspend to help install retractable
seating is hampering West Ham's bid.

The retractable seating is expected
to cost in the region of 200 million and the Mayor will be expecting
any anchor tenant to make a significant contribution.

Boris takes to the microphone with opera singer Katherine Jenkins at Wembley before meeting New England Patriots and St Louis Rams

Boris takes to the microphone with opera singer Katherine Jenkins at Wembley before meeting New England Patriots and St Louis Rams

Boris takes to the microphone with opera singer Katherine Jenkins at Wembley before meeting New England Patriots and St Louis Rams

It is understood West Ham are willing
to offer more than 8million a year in rent and related payments in
addition to a reported multimillion lump sum.

The club are unable to reveal the true nature of their financial package due to confidentiality issues.

West Ham also believe that as several
other events will be taking place at the Olympic Stadium throughout the
next few years – such as the 2017 World
Athletics Championships – they should not be the sole party asked to
foot the bill.

A decision on the future of the
stadium was expected to be announced by the end of October but
negotiations are ongoing. Other contenders for the stadium tenancy are
Leyton Orient, a football business college and a group wanting to host a
Formula One race at the Olympic Park.

West Ham move to Olympic Park will create 1,000 jobs, says vice-chairman Karen Brady

West Ham move to Olympic Park will create 1,000 jobs, says vice-chairman Brady

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UPDATED:

07:11 GMT, 7 November 2012

Vice-chairman Karren Brady is still
hopeful of West Ham moving to the new Olympic Stadium and says the club
can create 1,000 jobs if they do so.

The Premier League club are still waiting to hear if they can move into stadium two years after they were given the go-ahead.

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

Up in the air: The future of the Olympic Stadium remains unclear

A legal challenge from Premier League rivals Tottenham scuppered their bid to become 'anchor tenants'.

And now they face competition from
Formula One, an American football franchise, West Ham, Leyton Orient and
the East London University.

Martin Samuel writes..

Bidding process What bidding
process West Ham United must surely be regretting the decision to
compete for London’s Olympic Stadium in a respectful and structured way.

Their formality has cost in the region of 1m so far in lawyers, surveyors, architects and sundry fees.

Meanwhile,
Boris Johnson, London Mayor, seems to open talks with anybody he meets.
Latest to negotiate are executives from America’s NFL, flushed with
success from their annual visit to Wembley.

As West Ham stew, new bids arrive out of thin air. If we all have a whip-round, maybe we could have a go.

Click here to read his latest column

But Brady hopes their plan to provide
1,000 jobs with its plans for the stadium and hundreds more via the
redevelopment of its existing stadium, in nearby Upton Park, which would
become homes and shops could tip the balance.

She believes that the club could attract 1 million visitors a year to watch football.

The project would underpin her plan
to transform West Ham's image into a pillar of the community, together
with an aim to back a local Academy school.

'It would be nice to think we
changed the culture and created something very special about that
football club,' she told the Guardian.

'We know it's a big commitment to
convert the venue into a truly world class multi-use stadium. We have to
invest money that could probably build three brand new Olympic
stadiums.'

Brady suggests that Virgin's success
in persuading the government to repeal its decision on awarding the
west coast mainline contract to First Group after errors were made in
considering the bids, means other significant infrastructure deals,
including the stadium contract, are now being handled with even more
care.

'These decisions are very important
to the local community and to us and the processes have to be right
otherwise there's a challenge and it delays it even longer,' she says.

map

Close call: Upton Park is in the same borough as the Olympic Stadium but the NFL franchises are more than a short hop away

The Treasury's refusal to hand over the 337
million Olympic-contingency underspend to help install retractable
seating is hampering West Ham's bid.

The
retractable seating is expected to cost in the region of 200 million
and the Mayor will be expecting any anchor tenant to make a significant
contribution.

It is
understood West Ham are willing to offer more than 8million a year in
rent and related payments in addition to a reported multi-million lump
sum

A decision on the future of the stadium was expected to be announced by the end of October but negotiations are ongoing.

New England Patriots 45 St Louis Rams 7: Tom Brady leads another resounding Wembley win

New England Patriots 45 St Louis Rams 7: Brady leads another one-sided Wembley win

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UPDATED:

20:43 GMT, 28 October 2012

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been one of the more vocal supporters of the NFL's annual trip to London and now we know why.

Three years after their 35-7 demolition of Tampa Bay here, his team enjoyed another Wembley rout as they brushed aside the self-destructing St Louis Rams behind an outstanding display from star quarterback Tom Brady.

A class apart: Tom Brady threw five touchdowns

A class apart: Tom Brady threw five touchdowns as he racked up 304 yards in one-sided win at Wembley

Before the game, Kraft lent his
support to the notion of London one day becoming the permanent home to a
league franchise, but until that day comes perhaps he ought to schedule
in a few more trips to old England for his Patriots.

His opposite number – Rams and
Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke – will instead be happy his team backed out
of plans to come here again in 2013 and 2014.

Wide open: Brandon Lloyd caught a nine-yard pass from Brady for his second touchdown of the evening

Wide open: Brandon Lloyd caught a nine-yard pass from Brady for his second touchdown of the evening

Dominant display: Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (No 22) is the centre of attention after scoring the Patriots' fifth touchdown with a one-yard run

Dominant display: Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (No 22) is the centre of attention after scoring the Patriots' fifth touchdown with a one-yard run

Theoretically this was a 'home' game
for the Rams, who gave up a contest in St Louis to be here, but it was
played in front of a sell-out crowd dominated by Patriots jerseys and
they were treated to a vintage display from the on-fire Brady.

The 35-year-old completed his first eight passes and eventually piled up 304 yards and four touchdown passes.

Celebration time: Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a seven-yard touchdown, with the tight end performing his trademark 'Gronk Spike'

Celebration time: Brady connected with Rob Gronkowski for a seven-yard touchdown, with the tight end performing his trademark 'Gronk Spike'

On top: New England Patriots

On top: New England Patriots

The Rams, whose glory days in the
late 90s were effectively ended by Brady and Patriots in 2002's Super
Bowl XXXVI, arrived in London determined to show they were on the way
back under new coach Jeff Fisher.

But instead a young team contributed to their own downfall with a string of mistakes.

One-way traffic: Running back Shane Vereen ran over from one yard for the first of three Patriots touchdowns in the second quarter

One-way traffic: Running back Shane Vereen ran over from one yard for the first of three Patriots touchdowns in the second quarter

It all began so well with Sam
Bradford's 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens lighting up Wembley
only two minutes into the contest.

But then Givens left injured and everything began to unravel. St Louis would not score again.

Stellar start:Wide receiver Chris Givens catches a 50 yard pass from Sam Bradford to give the Rams an early lead

Stellar start:Wide receiver Chris Givens catches a 50 yard pass from Sam Bradford to give the Rams an early lead

Stellar start:Wide receiver Chris Givens catches a 50 yard pass from Sam Bradford to give the Rams an early lead

Stellar start:Wide receiver Chris Givens catches a 50 yard pass from Sam Bradford to give the Rams an early lead

Instead, Brady marched back down
field and found Brandon Lloyd for a touchdown that tied it up, and with
the first play of the second quarter, Shane Vereen punched in a second
with a one-yard run.

St Louis could not get going, and
they were their own worst enemies, fumbling a snap when going for a
field goal and then committing costly penalties that only made Brady's
job easier.

Braving the cold: Cheerleaders strut their stuff ahead of the Wembley clash

Braving the cold: Cheerleaders strut their stuff ahead of the Wembley clash

Strictly Come Dancing: The Rams' mascot dances with cheerleaders before the NFL clash

Wish you were here: The Rams' mascot dances with cheerleaders before the NFL clash

And easy was how it looked as he
threw another touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski – who treated the London
crowd to special 'changing of the guard' celebration in the end zone –
before Stevan Ridley scored one more on the ground to make it 28-7 at
half-time.

Any hopes of St Louis making a
contest of it in the second half were ended before many of the 84,004
crowd had re-taken their seats, Brady throwing to Lloyd in the end zone
again.

Taking to the stage: Boris Johnson addresses the crowd (below) before Katherine Jenkins sings the British National Anthem

Taking to the stage: Boris Johnson addresses the crowd (below) before Katherine Jenkins sings the British National Anthem

Boris Johnson

Brady threw his fourth touchdown pass
of the evening to Gronkowski early in the fourth quarter before taking
an early exit, job done.

The lop-sided nature of the game did
not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd, the second-largest in
the six-year history of the NFL's International Series at Wembley, and
an immediate return to sell-out status after last year's crowd of 77,000
– a number affected by the league's labour lockout that had threatened
the game going ahead at all.

Cheer we go: The NFL clash has attracted a full-house at the home of English football

Cheer we go: The NFL clash has attracted a full-house at the home of English football

Cheer we go: The NFL clash has attracted a full-house at the home of English football

That will come as welcome news to NFL
UK as they prepare for 2013, when Wembley will host two games in the
space of a month – a more serious test of the fan base loyalty this side
of the Atlantic.

If they can pass that test, the idea
of a London franchise will come closer to reality. Perhaps Kraft will be
the first to make an offer.

St Louis Rams England Patriots Wembley: Bill Belichick comes late to London"s NFL party

Gruff Belichick comes late to NFL party as Brady and the Patriots chase Rams victory

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UPDATED:

13:00 GMT, 27 October 2012

For the second time in franchise history, Bill Belichick is bringing the New England Patriots to London. But – in stark contrast to the St Louis Rams – the controversial head coach is in no mood to spread the transatlantic NFL love-in.

While the Rams have been in England since Tuesday, spreading the gospel of Roger Goodell, enjoying Arsenal's training facilities and hosting events at Nike Town, the Patriots have joined the party late.

Hours after landing, a jet-lagged Belicheck addressed reporters on Friday sounding distinctly underwhelmed to be here.

'It’s good to be in London… Excited to be here. We’re looking forward to the game and facing the Rams — and London. It’s always nice to be in London,' he said.

Stony faced: Bill Belichick faces the media after the Patriots' late arrival in London

Stony faced: Bill Belichick faces the media after the Patriots' late arrival in London

One could argue excitement would
prompt an earlier arrival, but Belicheck continued his terse mood,
swatting away questions about the potential of an NFL franchise in
London.

'I’m not really sure. I haven’t
really thought about it. I’m just trying to coach the team I’m on, and I
don’t know about all the rest of it,' he replied with typical vim and
vigour.

After all, he has a game to focus on. The Patriots are one of three AFC teams with a winning record and after stumbling to 4-3, they top a surprisingly competitive AFC East. The Rams, meanwhile, are 3-4 and prop up the fierce NFC West.

Both teams know a win could kick-start their season, and the Wembley crowd could be in for a treat.

After all, there is some history between the two franchises.

Cast your mind back to a decade ago when the unheralded Patriots beat the mighty St Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI to herald the beginning of a dynasty.

Belichick was in his second season as Patriots head coach, one year removed from a 5-11 record.

His
quarterback was a young Tom Brady, an unheralded sixth-round draft
pick, thrust into the team when Drew Bledsoe burst a blood vessel in the
second week of the season as the team were sinking to 0-2.

Wild scenes: Patriots players grab the Vince Lombardi trophy to win the first Super Bowl - two more would follow in 2003 and 2004 - in franchise history

Wild scenes: Patriots players grab the Vince Lombardi trophy to win the first Super Bowl – two more would follow in 2003 and 2004 – in franchise history

To reach the Super Bowl was unlikely enough. Nobody was giving them a chance against a Rams team dubbed 'The Greatest Show on Turf'.

But a new age dawned as the Patriots won 20-17. Power shifted, and the last decade has passed very differently in St Louis and New England.

The Patriots won two more Super Bowls as Belichick and Brady built a perpetual contender that has reached the playoffs in eight of the past 10 seasons.

The Rams snuck into the play-offs twice more before everything unravelled, but never again has their team carried the same aura.

The two teams meet at Wembley for the third time since that famous night in New Orleans, as evenly matched as they have been since 2002.

This season, the Patriots have stumbled to a 4-3 record while the Rams see cause for hope in their 3-4 mark.

It is exactly the kind of match-up the Wembley series needs in its sixth year.

The novelty value is gone, and fans need something more to keep them engaged.

At ease: Tom Brady addresses the media in London

At ease: Tom Brady addresses the media in London

From next year, they will have annual visits from the Jacksonville Jaguars to look forward to – not the most stylish of teams, but at least a common element for fans to hang their hat on and watch develop.

That role was supposed to belong to the Rams, owned by Arsenal chairman Stan Kroenke, but they withdrew from the deal to focus on stadium redevelopment.

One visit will have to do, but it is well-timed as they begin their re-birth.

'This is an opportunity for us to spread the word,' said coach Jeff Fisher. 'As I like to say, the Rams are back.'

The Patriots do not need a revival. They are just trying to see how long they can keep this going.

At 35, Brady's best days might be behind him, but he remains as driven as ever.

'He continues to improve,' Belichick said. 'As a player each week is a different challenge for him. There are always new things to get a read on. He's very diligent, always looking for the little things that may prove an edge.'

The Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years starting in New Orleans, but have lost twice in the big game since – including last season – something that keeps Brady hungry.

Strong arm: Brady and back-up QB Ryan Mallett are in jovial mood in Foxborough earlier this week

Strong arm: Brady and back-up QB Ryan Mallett are in jovial mood in Foxborough earlier this week

'Sometimes you have to experience difficulties and challenges in order to move forward and be better at what you're doing,' he said.

'I don't think you ever get over really important losses. They stick in your mind, but at the same time you don't let them affect what you're doing.'

For Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, 11 years Brady's junior, Brady remains a role model.

'He's one of if not the best quarterback in the league,' Bradford said. 'He's been playing at a high level for a long time and any time you turn on the tape and watch him, it's very evident he's in total control.'

If Brady's work ethic is admirable, it pales in comparison to that of his coach.

Belichick borders on the obsessive, even though he has occasionally crossed the line – 2007's 'Spygate' scandal involving Patriots assistants illegally taping practice sessions of other teams will remain a stain on his legacy.

Coaching keeps him young and he shows no sign of slowing now he is in his 60s.

'I enjoy what I'm doing, I love the game of football,' he said. 'I love every aspect of coaching.'

Getting acclimatised: The Rams' Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis and Sam Bradford get used to the English elements

Getting acclimatised: The Rams' Kellen Clemens, Austin Davis and Sam Bradford get used to the English elements

Belichick's total commitment rubs off on his players.

'He's the only coach I've ever played for and the only coach I ever want to play for,' Brady said.

'Nobody works harder at this job than coach Belichick and what he brings in terms of preparation every single week, his commitment to the team, is exceptional.'

The rewards have been an exceptional record of success and a surefire place in the Hall of Fame one day. But nothing lasts forever, certainly not in the NFL.

The Rams have not beaten the Patriots since Super Bowl XXXVI.

If they can change that at Wembley, perhaps this will come to be seen as a game where power changed hands once more.

What is going wrong at Aston Villa?

As Lambert prepares for old club Norwich, Sportsmail asks what's gone wrong at Villa

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 25 October 2012

What is going on at Aston Villa Paul Lambert was appointed in the summer to take the club forward with a fresh, bold approach.

But two wins in 24 matches paint a depressing picture.

In the club's last 38 games, equivalent to a league season, Villa have won just 32 points, which would have seen them relegated in every year but one since the Premier League began.

As Lambert prepares to welcome his former club Norwich, what are the problems Villa face and, more importantly, what is the solution

Slump: Paul Lambert is hoping to pull his side out of a rut by beating former club Norwich on Saturday

Slump: Paul Lambert is hoping to pull his side out of a rut by beating former club Norwich on Saturday

Randy Lerner

He arrived with a five-year plan in 2006, aiming to catapult Villa into the Champions League.

After MBNA, the credit card company he inherited, was bought by Bank of America for $35billion (21.7bn), he had the cash to do it.

Under Martin O'Neill, results improved markedly, but so did the investment.

Ultimately, the gamble failed. The American billionaire suffered during the financial crash and the ambition has been scaled back.

Lerner 's interest has been questioned by supporters, as he is infrequently seen at Villa Park these days.

Committed Randy Lerner's dedication to the Aston Villa cause has been questioned by some supporters

Committed Randy Lerner's dedication to the Aston Villa cause has been questioned by some supporters

But he has to live in Cleveland, Ohio, to comply with criteria that allow his children to attend the colleges of their choice.

Suggestions that he is becoming bored appear flawed.

He sold the Cleveland Browns, the NFL franchise he inherited from his father, for $1bn (620million) this month.

American football was his father's passion. English football remains his passion, though following an investment of more than 200m and a significant decline in his personal fortune, he is attempting to make Aston Villa self-sufficient.

But after years of excess with regard to player contracts, that's easier said than done.

Darren Bent

When the England international was signed from Sunderland for 24m in January 2011, it was made clear by Gerard Houllier, Villa's manager at the time, that he had been bought to score from chances created by Ashley Young and Stewart Downing.

Both have since left. Is it any wonder that Bent's goals are drying up

He has always been a taker of chances, rather than a creator of them.

Drying up: Darren Bent (right) has been stripped of his captaincy and left on the sidelines by Lambert recently

Drying up: Darren Bent (right) has been stripped of his captaincy and left on the sidelines by Lambert recently

And his statistics demonstrate that. In the opening match of the season at West Ham, he touched the ball just 19 times.

It was a similar story last week at Fulham. Is that Bent's fault Is Paul Lambert using him to Villa's best advantage

After nine goals in 15 matches following Bent's arrival, Lerner nicknamed him The Mailman – because he always delivered.

The post has certainly been a little slower of late.

The sacrifice of quality

Former boss Alex McLeish highlighted an unpalatable truth in a Sportsmail interview last month.

Aston Villa cannot continue to sell players of the calibre of Gareth Barry, James Milner, Young and Downing without results deteriorating.

Other seasoned performers such as Brad Friedel, Carlos Cuellar and Olof Mellberg have simply walked away from the club for nothing.

Add to that the loss of club captain Stiliyan Petrov, happily now in remission from his battle against leukaemia, and here is the backbone of a team that could justifiably be asked to make an impression on the top six.

The kids aren't all right

Villa have one of the best records in the country for developing young talent.

Barry, Gabby Agbonlahor, Craig Gardner, Gary Cahill and Liam Ridgewell are established Premier League performers, nurtured by Bryan Jones and his academy team at Bodymoor Heath.

A lot is expected of the latest crop – perhaps too much – and they are being pushed to operate at a level that is beyond them.

Pastures new: The likes of James Milner (left) and Ashley Young have moved on from Aston Villa

Pastures new: The likes of James Milner (above) and Ashley Young (below) have moved on from Aston Villa

Pastures new: The likes of James Milner and Ashley Young (pictured) have moved on from Aston Villa

Pastures new: The likes of James Milner and Ashley Young (pictured) have moved on from Aston Villa

It is asking a lot for Barry Bannan, Eric Lichaj , Marc Albrighton, Andreas Weimann, Nathan Baker, Nathan Delfouneso and Ciaran Clark to step up all at the same time.

No other Premier League club have blooded as many youngsters at the same time.

And it's causing Villa pain to find out if they are up to it.

Paul Lambert

Taking over from McLeish, who earned 11 points with two wins in his first eight games in charge, Paul Lambert started from a position of strength.

But in his first eight matches, Lambert has won only one game and accrued five points. Apart from Bent, where are the stars

In the past Villa have had names such as Stan Collymore, Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Steve Staunton, Gareth Southgate, David James, Dwight Yorke and Mark Bosnich.

They had stars in abundance. Not any longer. New sigings Matt Lowton (from Sheffield United), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Christian Benteke (Genk), Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord), Joe Bennett (Middlesbrough), Ashley Westwood (Crewe) have all been given a platform.

Aston Villa have one of the youngest sides in the top flight.

The supporters recognise that the club had decent young players of an unknown quality. But Lambert has signed more of the same.

He says there is no directive from above to marginalise the high-earners, however his treatment of Bent does appear strange.

Struggle: Lambert (left) has yet to deliver results for Villa

Struggle: Lambert (left) has yet to deliver results for Villa

Comments made by the Villa boss during the summer were positive beyond belief.

Now Bent has been stripped of the captaincy and dropped. Since Lambert took over there does appear to be more hunger.

More desire. More energy. But it's absolutely worthless unless all that is transformed into points.

Conclusion

Unless there is a significant improvement in the next two months, Lambert and Lerner will have to revisit their claret-and-blueprint.

If Lambert's gamble on youth backfires, it will cost Lerner a huge amount of money replicating what he did two years ago when Houllier was in charge, finding the players who can keep Villa in the Premier League.

But if, on the other hand, nothing is done, Villa cannot say the situation hasn't been coming.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. In claret and blue letters 10 feet tall.

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner sells Cleveland Browns for 620million

Villa owner Lerner given green light for 620m sale of Cleveland Browns

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UPDATED:

21:49 GMT, 16 October 2012

Browned off: Lerner has a deal in place to sell his NFL franchise

Browned off: Lerner has a deal in place to sell his NFL franchise

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner’s sale of the Cleveland Browns NFL
franchise for a reported figure of $1billion (620million) has been formally
approved.

The sale of the team by Lerner to Jimmy Haslam, agreed back in August,
was voted through at a meeting of NFL team owners in Chicago.

'Jimmy Haslam, who agreed to purchase a controlling interest in the
Cleveland Browns in August, was approved by a unanimous vote from the
other clubs at the NFL’s Fall Owners Meetings in Chicago, the NFL
announced Tuesday morning,' said a statement on the Cleveland Browns
website.

Lerner, who completed a takeover of Villa in 2006, inherited control of the Browns in 2002 from his father Al Lerner.

Four years earlier, Al Lerner paid 329m for the
franchise, which joined the league as an expansion team and returned
American football to Cleveland following the departure of the original
Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season.

Touchdown: Lerner has doubled the investment his father made in 2002

Touchdown: Lerner has doubled the investment his father made in 2002

Touchdown: Lerner has doubled the investment his father made in 2002

Touchdown: Lerner has doubled the investment his father made in 2002

The Lerner years were never greatly successful, however, with the team
enjoying only two winning seasons in 1999 and 2007, reaching the play-offs once, and combining to go 69-146 under the family’s control.

Since Lerner took over at Villa Park, Browns fans became increasingly
frustrated by what they perceived as the owner’s preference for the
Barclays Premier League team at the expense of the Browns.

All smiles: Haslam has purchased the franchise for 620m

All smiles: Haslam has purchased the franchise for 620m

Ryder Cup 2012: Chicago bearpit is America"s 13th man – Martin Samuel

Hope you packed earplugs! Chicago bearpit is America's 13th man

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 27 September 2012

A critical hole, Phil Mickelson called the 17th at course three, Medinah Country Club. He said its amphitheatre effect gave it a special significance. ‘You can really feel it as you play,’ he added.

And the United States will be hoping to feel it at Medinah this week, particularly on Sunday when the Ryder Cup hits its peak. They will be hoping to feel it from a breed known as the Chicago sports fans, much ballyhooed around these parts.

Just about every American player who has trooped through the media tent this week has fielded a question about the frenzy of the local support. Even Luke Donald, an Illinois resident for 15 years, was asked to characterise what makes a Chicago sports enthusiast special.

Patriot: An American golf fan watches play during Thursday's practice round ahead of the Ryder Cup

Patriot: An American golf fan watches play during Thursday's practice round ahead of the Ryder Cup

So notorious is this fervour that Saturday Night Live had a recurring sketch about it. Bill Swerski’s Superfans ran for two seasons, 1991 and 1992, and typically featured a group of blowhard Chicagoans gathered in the sports bar run by Mike Ditka, legendary coach of the Chicago Bears NFL franchise. They would gorge, smoke, drink and predict outlandishly huge victories for their favourite sports teams.

Skits had them discussing who would win out of Ditka and a hurricane (Ditka, unless the hurricane in question was Hurricane Ditka) or how many points Michael Jordan would score for the Chicago Bulls if he played the entire game alone, on a recliner (he might be kept to under 200).

The dialogue would invariably end in a heart attack caused by the over-consumption of Polish sausage — pronounced sassage — or a toast to ‘Da Bears’ or ‘Da Bulls’. All around the table wore dark sunglasses and thick moustaches, like Ditka.

On Sunday, the uniform is intended to be red, as the PGA of America implore those attending Medinah to show their support for the home team. Be our 13th man, is the instruction. Chicago sports fans will need every last drop of energy, however, if they are to drag this American Ryder Cup team over the line. For those sitting at the back of that critical 17th watching practice rounds on Wednesday, the home team were offering very little to paint the town red about.

Long before a hapless flunky had managed to roll the team buggy down a steep slope, there was disquiet in the bleachers. The 17th is a 193-yard par three across water, and, although no player got wet, not enough hit the green for the comfort of the home crowd, not even Tiger Woods. From the 12th hole, water is a feature at Medinah, with the 13th and 15th, in particular, offering the risk-reward combination that makes for thrilling matchplay.

Watery grave: The hazard by the seventeenth green could claim some high-profile victims this week

Watery grave: The hazard by the seventeenth green could claim some high-profile victims this week

‘The 13th will be vital momentum-wise as you’re heading down the stretch,’ said Mickelson. ‘My take on the 15th is that it is an easy birdie laying up, but while it is technically reachable from the tee, it is really not possible to drive. As disappointing as it will be for fans, we have to play what’s in front of us, and the lowest score will be the shot laying up.’

Desperate measures, however, may dictate otherwise. An impending defeat might inspire one last bid for glory. Here’s Bubba Watson on the same dilemma: ‘With my four-wood, depending on wind conditions, I can reach the 15th. There are a lot of factors that go on with that: wind, pin location, how I’m hitting that day, where we are in our match. They will all determine what goes on at that moment.’

Also by then, the boisterous mood may be pulling the participants in some strange directions, not least as cold canned beer was being sold even in the stands during practice rounds, just as it is in American sports arenas. Vendors walked with the supplies in cooler trays hung from the neck. ‘Beer man here!’

Lee Westwood says he was pursued by a supporter dressed as a ghost at Valhalla in 2008, the last time America won. ‘He kept jumping out and shouting “Boo!”,’ he recalled. Chicago’s sports fans are unlikely to be more refined, or even as subtle.

The players’ reaction to that could cut either way, of course. The eyes of Davis Love, America’s captain, filled with tears as he answered a mundane question concerning Mickelson two days ago, and Watson — known as Blubba after breaking down on winning this year’s Masters — admits he has already shed tears during practice rounds.

Inspired: Phil Mickelson (left) says he is relishing the atmosphere at Medinah Country Club

Inspired: Phil Mickelson (left) says he is relishing the atmosphere at Medinah Country Club

‘The first day going up on the first tee, I had a pretty big roar, and that was special to know that the crowd was behind us, behind me,’ he said. ‘It was an honour and I might have teared up a little bit, but nobody noticed, so it was good.

‘It’s just that trophy. It’s funny, it’s just that little trophy we want to win so bad. And it’s the United States flag. The military wears that flag everywhere they go; they give us the freedom to play golf, to play the Ryder Cup. People I’ve never met fight for our freedom, so I hope to hit some good shots for them.

‘I haven’t been in the military and unless there’s a draft I’m not going to be, so this is the one chance I get to represent our country and, I hope, represent it well. The passion comes from that. All the people that pull for me, even the ones who don’t like me in the US — now they cheer for me in this one event.’

Yet does America care as much as Bubba When the Chicago Tribune wrote last year of the city’s drive to attract more visitors, the prospect of hosting the Ryder Cup north-west of downtown did not rate a mention beside the G8 and NATO summits that took place in May. Nor is the city alive with Ryder Cup fervour. Sports talk here still centres on the NFL and the prospect of the Chicago White Sox reaching baseball’s post season.

Spooky: Lee Westwood (right) says he was pursued by a spectator dressed as a ghost at Valhalla in 2008

Spooky: Lee Westwood (right) says he was pursued by a spectator dressed as a ghost at Valhalla in 2008

So if the Ryder Cup has wider importance it is that it engages America in team competition against the rest of the world. The Olympics aside, that does not happen too often. FIFA are doing their best but the progress of US soccer players in the World Cup is hardly headline news back home. America still engages on its own terms: sending NFL teams to play a one-off fixture at Wembley rather than nurturing a global contest; calling a domestic baseball competition the World Series. The growth of the Ryder Cup, therefore, is uncharted territory.

‘It seems like each two years everything doubles,’ said captain Love. ‘The people watching, the number of cameras. Our country has caught on, thanks to Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer, really. It’s like the America’s Cup yacht races — I never heard too much about them, until we started losing. Then everybody got real interested. The PGA was having a tough time selling the Ryder Cup, but those guys made it something America is now passionate about.

‘There are golf fans who don’t know much but the Ryder Cup. We just went through an Olympics, and this is our Olympics. People realise our team is going up against an unbelievable team from Europe, and they want to see what happens.’

Bill Swerski’s Superfans would at this point predict a United States victory, 29-0, with Mike Ditka carding 52 while playing with a billiard cue, but realistically this should be another European win. It may, however, need steely resolve and a set of ear plugs.

‘Walking to the first tee on Tuesday, I knew we weren’t in Wales any more,’ said Matt Kuchar. ‘There was such an eruption of excitement when we got to there: it was an awesome feeling being on home turf.’

A Golf Channel poll, however, has 71 per cent of voters making America the underdogs. Whether Medinah can be another Valhalla for the men in red may well be out of the hands of Chicago’s sports fans.