Tag Archives: ground

Grand National 2013: Last year"s fatalities put jump racing under the microscope

Grand National faces biggest test with fatalities putting jump racing under the microscope

By
Marcus Townend

PUBLISHED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:04 GMT, 3 April 2013

Four Grade One races of rare quality grace today’s opening day of Aintree’s Grand National meeting while tomorrow the clash between steeplechase superstar Sprinter Sacre, Cue Card and Flemenstar is being billed as the race of the season.

But which horses pass the winning line first over the next three days won’t matter a jot if Saturday’s big race turns into another visceral examination of jump racing.

Twelve months ago, when two horses were killed for a second year running, including Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised, the joy was squeezed out of the victory of Neptune Collonges.

Scroll down for Peter Scudamore's inside track on Aintree's new fences

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

Preparations: Aintree ground staff were tending to the new safer fences ahead of the three-day meeting

The deaths of Synchronised and According To Pete raised questions as to whether the race could even survive in its present form.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant called the deaths ‘totally unacceptable’ while branding the famous Becher’s Brook, where According To Pete was brought down before being hit by another horse, a ‘killer fence’. A nervous calm precedes this year’s race but a major modification to the fences’ construction has been welcomed (see graphic above).

Spokesmen for the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare deny the race is on trial but another body blow would be serious given a sponsor is being sought with John Smiths leaving after Saturday’s race.

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

Finishing touch: The grass on the Grand National finish line was cut this week before the Aintree showpiece

WHW chief executive Roly Owers said: ‘There is still huge support for the race but there also are increasing voices within racing questioning whether the National is doing the sport any good. The warning bells have sounded and Aintree have recognised that.

‘Our biggest issue with the National is the number of fallers. It is five times higher than a normal steeplechase. The fewer fallers, the less chance of injury. The changes to the fence core are a real step forward and we also welcome the improvements in irrigation.

‘We recognise you can’t eliminate risk. The responsibility is to minimise it.’

WHW have repeated a call to reduce the number of starters.Owers said: ‘We believe there should be a trial reduction of three years. We recognise it has to be a great test but you can’t just accept the regular death of horses.’

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

Scrutiny: Last year's Grand National (above) saw the fatalities of According to Pete and Synchronised

RSPCA equine consultant David Muir added: ‘With 40 runners, you have 40 chances of things going wrong. I’d like to see them reduce it to 30 but we don’t run racing.’

Jockeys have been asked to moderate their speed to the first fence and the run-up to it has been shortened by 90 yards by moving the start further away from the unsettling cauldron of noise coming from of the grandstands.

Jamie Stier, BHA director of raceday operations, said: ‘The changes are all designed for horse welfare but at the same time we have maintained the shape, size and character of the fences.

Fences

‘People have to understand the position of the race within the fabric of society. Attendance figures last year were 155,000 at the meeting and more people watch the Grand National on TV than the FA Cup final — more than 11million — with a global audience of 600m in 140 countries.

‘We don’t feel it is on trial. It is down to the BHA and Aintree to find a way forward.’

Still, a lot of people will be holding their breath on Saturday.

Peter Scudamore looks at the major fences at this year's Grand…

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Rugby World Cup 2015: Football grounds make up three-quarters of the venues

The 2015 Rugby World Cup… coming soon to a football ground near you (but at least Twickenham gets the final)

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

10:58 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:12 GMT, 3 March 2013

The venues for England's Rugby World Cup in 2015 have been revealed and three-quarters of the selected stadiums are football grounds.

Wembley, Old Trafford and St James' Park will host fixtures while the likes of Leicester Tigers' Welford Road and Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop have been overlooked.

The only club rugby ground which has been selected is Gloucester's Kingsholm, while the Millenium Stadium and Twickenham, which will host the final, are the other recognised rugby stadiums on the list.

Unfamiliar surroundings: The All Blacks could be playing at Wembley, which hosts six fixtures

Unfamiliar surroundings: The All Blacks could be playing at Wembley, which hosts six fixtures

RWC2015 Venues

Twickenham (Hosting 8 games inc. final, capacity 82,000)

Millennium Stadium (8, 74,500)

Wembley (6, 90,000)

Kingsholm (4, 16,500)

King Power Stadium (4, 32,262)

Amex Stadium (3, 27,350)

Villa Park or Ricoh Arena (3, 42,788 or 32,609)

Ashton Gate (3, 21,497)

Stadium MK (3, 22,000 planned increase to 32,000)

St James' Park (2, 52,387)

Elland Road (2, 37,697)

Old Trafford (2, 75,765)

Unless the Olympic Stadium becomes available before the venues are officially announced later this month, these are the final selections according to the Sunday Times.

The only issue left to resolve is whether Villa Park or the Ricoh Arena will be used.

But a spokesman for the 2015 Rugby World Cup denied the list was valid.

'That list is not at all true. It is entirely speculation,' he said. 'It is not the final list.

'The long-list has been in the public domain for a long time. The use of football stadiums was a part of the bid which was well documented.'

Leicester Tigers are particularly angry that Welford Road (24,000) is being overlooked in favour of Leicester City's King Power Stadium (32,000).

Larger capacities – and therefore the potential for more tickets sold – are the reason football stadiums are being used.

The organisers need an average
attendance of 55,000 in order to reach the 80million guarantee they
have made to the International Rugby Board.

Tigers
chairman Peter Tom had expressed his shock and disappointment at the
decision on the club's official website. 'We are hugely disappointed to
learn that Welford Road will not play a part in England's hosting of the
Rugby World Cup in 2015,' he said.

'Welford
Road has hosted many, many major occasions over the years, including
visits from South Africa, Australia and Argentina national teams in
recent seasons. It is home to the best-supported and most successful
club in the history of the professional game in this country and, as
such, we believe is worthy of Rugby World Cup status.

Snub: Leicester Tigers' ground Welford Road is being overlooked

Snub: Leicester Tigers' ground Welford Road is being overlooked

Selected: Newcastle's St James' Park will be used

Selected: Newcastle's St James' Park will be used

'That the organisers of RWC2015 do not think this an appropriate venue for its fixtures is disappointing and confusing both for the professional club game in this country and for its supporters.'

An RFU statement suggested the larger capacities and better facilities on offer at modern football stadiums led to the controversial policy.

It read: 'The selection procedure for the long list of venues took into account a geographical spread across the country, sporting and facilities criteria, levels of support from candidate host cities and capacity requirements for the successful delivery of a Rugby World Cup.'

Steven Gerrard: My Liverpool and England team-mates are always ribbing me for my dress sense

Gerrard: My team-mates from London and abroad are always ribbing me for my dress sense

By
Vaz Sayed

PUBLISHED:

11:33 GMT, 22 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:05 GMT, 22 February 2013

It seems captaining club and country doesn't exclude Steven Gerrard from a bit of friendly ribbing from team-mates.

The Liverpool skipper has revealed he and old friend Jamie Carragher are often made fun of for their fashion sense.

Gerrard told players from London and abroad like to poke fun at the 'Scouse style', while Carragher conceded the two of them have been responsible for some 'rascal' gear.

Shell shock: Steven Gerrard (centre) has revealed his teammates make fun of his clothes

Shell shock: Steven Gerrard (centre) has revealed his teammates make fun of his clothes

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard shows his dejection during the UEFA Europa League match at Anfield, Liverpool.

Jamie Carragher during the Europa League round of 32 second leg match between Liverpool and Zenit St Petersburg

(Above) Stephen Gerrard (left) and Jamie Carragher (right) in action for Liverpool in the Europa League, it was Carragher's last European game for the club. The pair in training (below)

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher during a training session at Melwood Training Ground, Liverpool.

Suited and booted: (left to right) Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing and Steven Gerrard before the FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool which the Blues won 2-1

Suited and booted: (left to right) Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing and Steven Gerrard before the FA Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool which the Blues won 2-1

In a joint interview with Four Four Two magazine Carragher said: 'You've had some real rascal gear haven't you'

Gerrard said: 'I think we're both guilty of wearing some rascal gear over the past 14 or 15 years. We try to keep our feet on the ground and stick to what other Scousers are wearing. We don't want to change too much.

'The London lads and foreign lads don't appreciate the Scouse dress sense, so we've developed some thick skin from the stick we've taken!'

Scousers have had the mickey taken out of their fashion sense for years after they became notorious for wearing shell-suits and white trainers.

Trend setter: Liverpool legend John Alrridge in his Tranmere days

Trend setter: Liverpool legend John Alrridge in his Tranmere days

Infamous: Liverpool wore white suits to the 1996 FA Cup final, they lost 1-0 to Mancheter United

Infamous: Liverpool wore white suits to the 1996 FA Cup final, they lost 1-0 to Mancheter United

Outside influences: Liverpool's foreign players like Daniel Agger (right) often mock the local stars for their clothes

Outside influences: Liverpool's foreign players like Daniel Agger (right) often mock the local stars for their clothes

And their WAGs haven't escaped criticism either with their Scouse-brows, going out in public with hair curlers in and even led to the Liverpool Fashion Show from banning the 'Scouse look' last year.

A source said: 'It's fair to say both Steven and Jamie have had some fashion howlers over the years.

'When Steven was younger he tried to keep up with emerging fashions more but he ended up with some huge fashion disasters.

'Over the years he's taken a bit of stick so him and Jamie now stick to a more conventional dress which ties in with what a lot of the Scousers are wearing.

'But that has also led to a lot of mickey taking because their more stylish team mates tell them that they haven't got a clue about clothes. They'll never be able to pull off what the likes of David Beckham and Mario Balotelli can get away with.'

At your side: The pair have been loyal servants to the club and are adored by the Kop fans

At your side: The pair have been loyal servants to the club and are adored by the Kop fans

McFadden returns to Motherwell until the end of the season

McFadden returns to Motherwell until the end of the season

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

16:00 GMT, 17 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

21:26 GMT, 18 February 2013

Motherwell have confirmed the signing of Scottish winger James McFadden until the end of the season after his short term contract was not renewed by Sunderland.

The 29-year-old had scored 32 goals while he was a teenager at the club before his 1.25million move to Everton.

The announcement caused so much interest among Motherwell fans that their official club website crashed in the immediate aftermath of the news.

Genius: James McFadden scored 26 goals in 63 games for Motherwell

Genius: James McFadden scored 26 goals in 63 games for Motherwell

He had attracted interest from two other
SPL clubs, which meant Motherwell moved fast to tie down, and he may be
available to play as early as Tuesday against Dundee United.

Talks had
continued from last week as McFadden was keen to rejoin the side he
last played for in August 2003, in a 2-2 draw with Partick Thistle.

According to The Sun, last week manager Stuart McCall didn't want to talk about the McFadden situation directly, saying: 'He's a talented player but there's nothing more to report than that.

'We provide facilities for a few of our former players. Marc Fitzpatrick is in training with us and I think Paul Slane is coming in next week as well.

McFadden wanted to get a deal sorted out as soon as possible to move back to his former hunting ground and was at their 3-0 win against Inverness on Saturday.

Home sweet home: McFadden was at Fir Park on Saturday to watch Motherwell

Home sweet home: McFadden was at Fir Park on Saturday to watch Motherwell

The club are hoping that McFadden will not only boost morale in the team, but also attract more numbers to Fir Park.

The winger, who was originally known for the number of dribbles he made in games for the North-Lanarkshrie club, moved to Sunderland last October but only made three substitue appearances, totaling just 34 minutes.

Capped: An in-form McFadden would be fighting for a Scotland place again

Capped: An in-form McFadden would be fighting for a Scotland place again

Robbie Rogers, once of Leeds, comes out as gay and retires aged 25

Former Leeds winger Rogers comes out but announces his retirement aged just 25

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

17:42 GMT, 15 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:57 GMT, 15 February 2013

Former Leeds United winger Robbie Rogers has written a blog in which he comes out as openly gay and retires from the game.

The 25-year-old, who was released by Leeds in the summer and joined Stevenage on loan, becomes the first professional footballer in Britain to come out since Justin Fashanu in 1990.

He also played for America 18 times, including all three of their games at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Breaking new ground: Robbie Rogers, shown playing for Columbus Crew, has released a blog in which he comes out as openly gay, though confirms his retirement from football aged just 25

Breaking new ground: Robbie Rogers, shown playing for Columbus Crew, has released a blog in which he comes out as openly gay, though confirms his retirement from football aged just 25

Pedigree: Rogers has played for USA

Pedigree: Rogers has played for USA

In a blog entitled ‘The Next Chapter’,
Rogers writes: ‘Things are never what they seem. My whole life I have
felt different. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith
in your purpose.

‘For the past 25 year I have been
afraid to show who I really was because of fear that judgment and
rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that
my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret.

‘Life is only complete when your loved
ones know you. When they know your true feelings, when they know who
and how you love. Life is simple when your secret is gone. Gone is the
pain that lurks in the stomach at work, the pain from avoiding
questions, and at last the pain from hiding such a deep secret.

‘Secrets can cause so much internal
damage. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay.
Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose
for you even though you were taught differently.

‘I always thought I could hide this
secret. Football was my escape, my purpose, my identity. Football hid my
secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined… I will always
be thankful for my career.’

Rogers is from Southern California and
has more than 75,000 followers because of his profile playing for
Columbus Crew in America’s Major League Soccer.

He finishes his blog with: ‘I will
remember Beijing, The MLS Cup, and most of all my teammates. I will
never forget the friends I have made a long the way and the friends that
supported me once they knew my secret.

‘Now is my time to step away. It’s
time to discover myself away from football. It’s 1 A.M. in London as I
write this and I could not be happier with my decision.

'Life is so full of amazing things. I realized I could only truly enjoy my life once I was honest.

'Honesty is a bitch but makes life so
simple and clear. My secret is gone, I am a free man, I can move on and
live my life as my creator intended.’

Valentine"s Day 2013: Premier League clubs offer selection of gifts

Love is in the air but would you really treat your loved on to a Chelsea belly bar Top clubs play cupid with Valentine's Day gifts…

By
Liv Lee

PUBLISHED:

10:04 GMT, 14 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:14 GMT, 14 February 2013

There may not be much love between the clubs right now, with the Premier League title race end just coming into sight, but the same can’t be said for the fans.

And anyone hoping to combine their love of football with a bit of romance can be thrilled with the selection of gifts on offer from their club.

Manchester United fans can spoil their partner with a gold set of club earrings, sure to go well with any item of United clothing, for a not-so-bargain price of 59.99.

 Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Romantic Chelsea have a belly button bar on offer for the special day, while Liverpool are advertising personalised champagne

Elsewhere in Manchester the men should get more of a look-in, with Manchester City offering up a snappy pair of silver cufflinks, adorned with the City crest of course, for 45.00.

For those who want to decorate their body at a slightly lower price, Chelsea have a belly-button bar which is described as being ‘ideal for the Chelsea fanatic’ for less than 10.

West Ham fans can proudly display their team loyalty with a glittering wristwatch decorated with the team crest on the face for only 10, or for him there’s the option of a unique and original bubbles silk tie, sure to get anyone in the mood for a Valentines trip to the Boleyn Ground.

For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

Valentine's selection: For her West Ham fans have the option of a glitzy wristwatch, while for him there's a special bubble tie

Reading fans are privy to a special offer on February 14th, and will be given an extra 14 per cent off when they buy two replica shirts together, while those at Southampton have the opportunity to personalise one of the club’s special Valentine’s Day cards for only 4.

For those who are feeling decadent, Liverpool have in their Valentine’s Day selection a bottle of personalised Rose wine, or, for those who are feeling particularly flush, a bottle of LFC Champagne along with two flutes.

Sunderland, meanwhile, are offering two lucky fans the chance to win a four course meal, courtesy of the club, as well as padded seats at a game and a signed Martin O’Neill rugby shirt in a Valentine’s competition open to those making purchases from their store.

Aston Villa are another team with a package on offer. For 50, couples can relax in a private pitch-side box with champagne, wine and a four-course meal, along with a hostess service, sure to create an atmosphere of romance.

Manchester United stuck with dodgy pitch meaning Real Madrid will have to play on mudbath

Real Madrid will have to play on Old Trafford mudbath as Fergie admits title-chasing United left stuck with dodgy pitch

By
Ian Ladyman

PUBLISHED:

23:34 GMT, 30 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:51 GMT, 31 January 2013

Manchester United are stuck with their deteriorating Old Trafford pitch until the end of the season after the club decided not to rip it up before the summer.

United’s playing surface has been in a mess since the wet Manchester weather before Christmas and now represents something of a rutted sandpit after being dried out by a period of frost and cold weather.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was damning in his criticism of the pitch after his team struggled to beat Southampton 2-1 in the Barclays Premier League on Wednesday night but it is understood that the club’s ground staff have advised there is no way it can be replaced mid-season.

They've got their work cut out: Manchester United's pitch has been left a mess by the winter weather

They've got their work cut out: Manchester United's pitch has been left a mess by the winter weather

Ferguson said after the match: 'We found the pitch difficult to play on. Southampton won a lot of 50-50 balls as our players looked to take a touch.

'We watered the pitch before the game but once it dried out in the second half it became difficult.

'We couldn’t play our normal game on it and its really becoming a problem for us.'

Life's a pitch: United struggled on the surface during the win against Southampton, said Sir Alex Ferguson

Life's a pitch: United struggled on the surface during the win against Southampton, said Sir Alex Ferguson

Turf wars: The pitch can clearly be seen churning up during Wednesday's match at Old Trafford

Turf wars: The pitch can clearly be seen churning up during Wednesday's match at Old Trafford

With United looking to cement their position at the top of the Premier League in coming weeks and due to face Real Madrid at Old Trafford in the Champions League on March 5, Ferguson would certainly like his team to have a better surface to play on and it is not unknown for clubs to relay surfaces during a season.

It seems, however, that United will have to make the best of things until the summer.

Do I really have to play on that pitch Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid come to Old Trafford on March 5

Do I really have to play on that pitch Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid come to Old Trafford on March 5

Arsene Wenger: Arsenal ready to "spend big" in transfer window after paying off Emirates Stadium

Wenger delivers the news Arsenal fans have been waiting for… I'm ready to spend big now the stadium is paid off

By
Jim Van Wijk, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

16:59 GMT, 15 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

18:06 GMT, 15 January 2013

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the club are ready to 'spend big' again.

The Gunners slumped to a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester City on Sunday which saw them lose further ground on the top four of the Barclays Premier League.

Wenger insists Arsenal are in the market to bolster their squad during the January transfer window but will only do so if they can find the right quality.

Keeping watch: Arsene Wenger oversees training with assistant manager Steve Bould on Tuesday

Keeping watch: Arsene Wenger oversees training with assistant manager Steve Bould on Tuesday

The Gunners have been linked with a string of players across Europe, with Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame the latest rumoured to be on Wenger's radar.

But he is also keen to have a core of players who are already at the club – like Barcelona – with a new contract for Theo Walcott expected to be pushed through shortly.

With Arsenal set to see new commercial deals kick in following their 390million move to the Emirates Stadium and with plenty of cash in reserve – resources which were further boosted by last summer's 24m sale of captain Robin van Persie to Manchester United – Wenger insists he will be able to invest heavily in the playing staff.

Jack Wilshere

Santi Cazorla

In training: Jack Wilshere (left) and Santi Cazorla will feature for Arsenal in their Cup replay against Swansea

'My plan is to keep all of the players we have and then to add maybe, if possible, two new players to the squad. We will spend big (again) because we had restricted finances because we had built the stadium and had to pay that back,' Wenger said in an interview with Al Jazeera Sport recorded before the City defeat and broadcast on talkSPORT this morning.

'You look at any club who has done that, and they have gone down (in performance).

'We stayed at the top level, yes without winning the Premier League, but we were always at the top level.

'Now we have come out in a much stronger position financially again, so we can spend.

'But our way is a bit like Barcelona as well, to produce the core of the team from inside and add from outside the players who give really a plus.'

Wenger accepts Arsenal will always be an easy target for those who claim the board put the balance sheet ahead of success on the pitch.

'The biggest challenge so far is to convince people we have a good team, that we have good quality and that we lead the club in the right way, because many people doubt that,' the Frenchman continued.

'I am convinced this team has a
fantastic mentality, fantastic quality and with the right level of
confidence, if we can create the momentum, we can be a positive surprise
until the end of the season.'

Wenger may have transformed Arsenal's fortunes since taking
over at Highbury in September 1996, but he accepts his time
will soon 'be up' as the club must one day look for new leadership.

No deal: Theo Walcott is yet to sign a new contract with Arsenal

No deal: Theo Walcott is yet to sign a new contract with Arsenal

Arsenal v Swansea: Team News

Arsenal will be without suspended defender Laurent Koscielny and injured midfielder Mikel Arteta (calf) for tomorrow's FA Cup third-round replay against Swansea at Emirates Stadium.

Czech midfielder Tomas Rosicky (calf) is also sidelined. Forward Gervinho is away at the African Nations Cup with Ivory Coast.

Provisional Squad: Szczesny, Gibbs, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, Podolski, Cazorla, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere, Walcott, Mannone, Coquelin, Santos, Jenkinson, Diaby, Giroud, Arshavin.

'It is (time up), because I am 63 years old and will not work at 100. That, though, is not the most important, what is important is that when you are somewhere, you give your best,' said Wenger, whose side host Swansea in their FA Cup third-round replay tomorrow night, with Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla set to feature.

'How long will I stay I have a contract until 2014, and I always respected my contracts.

'It is important is that the club goes the right direction – we have a very young team who have fantastic qualities and (it is important) that I help them to get their qualities transformed into positive results.

'Let's not forget that last year we finished third (in the Premier League), as long as that is seen as a disaster, it is not too bad for the future of the club.'

A new start for racing as Clare Balding is the new face of Channel 4

Channel 4 count on Clare class to clear the first hurdle with racing coverage

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 31 December 2012

A New Year and a new era for Channel 4 racing begin on Tuesday with a whimper and without the two most recognisable names and faces in the sport.

Frankie Dettori, who as a Flat jockey would in any case be on holiday at this time of the year, is banned for six months for a drug offence while John McCririck has been swept away by a broom wielded with perhaps hasty gusto by the incoming production company.

Love him or loathe him, ‘Big Mac’ boasts a profile few in horse racing can match.

Channel hopping: Clare Balding will front the racing on Channel 4

Channel hopping: Clare Balding will front the racing on Channel 4

The whimper for the relaunch of the sole remaining terrestrial coverage was guaranteed when Cheltenham postponed their New Year’s Day meeting on Monday due to waterlogged ground. Poor Clare Balding, and there has been no other occasion to think that this annus mirabilis.

Denied a proper ‘goodbye’ from her BBC racing role by the weather last week, she will be restricted to a Channel 4 ‘hello’ from Nicky Henderson’s stables in Lambourn and not from a race meeting.

Perhaps not the greatest omen. This is more a case of going through the top of the first fence rather than hitting the ground running.

La Balding will be fine. Better than that. She will be her usual excellent self, as less prejudiced observers recognised long before her unmitigated triumph at the Olympic Games.

Large than life: John McCririck will no longer be part of the Channel 4 racing team

Large than life: John McCririck will no longer be part of the Channel 4 racing team

A real pro, she thrives on good old-fashioned hard work, journalistic rigour and unbridled enthusiasm.

A small quibble. A little less of the breathless whispering, please.

Hushed tones have never been McCririck’s style and there was never any chance of this largest of larger-than-life characters going quietly.

‘It is clearly a case of age discrimination,’ the 72-year-old told Sportsmail. ‘It is illegal what they (Channel 4) have done. But what can you do I never missed a day’s work and I don’t think I was ever late. My ability is unimpaired. I am very sad.’

McCririck remains particularly aggrieved about both the manner of his dismissal and what he regards as some implied criticism. ‘Thirty years, no consultation and I am rung 30 minutes before a press release is distributed.

Missing face: Frankie Dettori will not be on Channel 4 as he is serving a six month ban

Missing face: Frankie Dettori will not be on Channel 4 as he is serving a six month ban

‘And they talk about looking for a more journalistic approach to the context. I won two British Press Awards and I was a former Campaigning Journalist of the Year. This was a deliberate attempt to humiliate and demean me. It is very hurtful.’

McCririck may come across as something of a dinosaur but he has never been frightened to get dirty at the coal face, asking the difficult questions, confronting the controversial issues and holding to account those deserving of close scrutiny.

Part of the team: Emma Spencer will be part of the Channel 4 team

Part of the team: Emma Spencer will be part of the Channel 4 team

He formed an odd but expert betting partnership with Tanya Stevenson, who will continue in her role. The problem for new producers IMG Sports Media is that they are following a hard act in Highflyer, who in 28 years won several prestigious television awards while establishing a deserved reputation for excellence.

This was never more evident than in last Saturday’s final programme from the old regime when three times racing writer of the year Alastair Down, John Francome and McCririck, the three main casualties of change, demonstrated sheer class with the most dignified of farewells.

Down, in particular, was at his lyrical and poetic best in talking about jump racing being ‘the very stuff of life’, ‘nourishment for the soul’ and a ‘magnetic pull stronger than the very poles’ against a pictorial background of wonderful memories from a high-quality back catalogue.

‘If the devil could cast his nets (he would catch) some wonderful people involved in making these programmes behind the scenes,’ Down said.

Line up: Channel 4 have taken over all racing coverage from the BBC

Line up: Channel 4 have taken over all racing coverage from the BBC

‘Haway the lads,’ the Newcastle United-supporting McCririck concluded as Stevenson moved to embrace the whiskered one.

It is doubtful whether his encouragement was intended for the lads, and lasses, who from today represent the terrestrial custodians of the Sport of Kings.

The public will be watching and so will racing.

MATCHES OFF: Manchester United v West Brom survives late inspection

MATCHES OFF: Football League and Conference games fall foul of the weather

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UPDATED:

14:15 GMT, 29 December 2012

A number of Saturday's fixtures have been postponed due to waterlogged pitches but Manchester United's home clash with West Brom was given the go-ahead after a 1.15pm pitch inspection.

In the Championship, there was doubt over Alex McLeish's first game in charge at Nottingham Forest but the City Ground test against Crystal Palace was given the green light after a second inspection at lunchtime.

In League 1, Stevenage Borough's match with Notts County at Broadhall Way has been called off.

Colchester United's match with Swindon Town was postponed on Friday evening after match official Adam Crysell deemed the playing surface unfit.

Wet and wild: Ground staff get to work at Old Trafford on Saturday morning

Wet and wild: Ground staff get to work at Old Trafford on Saturday morning

WHAT'S OFF…

npower League 1
Stevenage v Notts County

npower League 2
Aldershot v Torquay – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date
Gillingham v Northampton – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date
Cheltenham v Bristol Rovers – Postponed due to waterlogged pitch – no new date

Blue Square Bet Premier
Hereford v Newport County
Braintree Town v Woking
Mansfield v Grimsby

Nuneaton v Alfreton

SPL
Ross County v Hearts

In League 2, three matches – Aldershot v Torquay, Gillingham v Northampton and Cheltenham v Bristol Rovers – have been cancelled.

Macclesfield's FA Cup second round replay with Barrow is going ahead after a pitch inspection.

North of the border, the SPL encounter at Dingwall between Ross County and Hearts has been postponed.

In the Conference, the matches at Hereford United, Nuneaton, Braintree Town and Mansfield Town have also fallen victim to heavy overnight rain.

Stockport's match with Telford is going ahead after a 1pm pitch inspection.

The programme in the Conference North and South has also been badly affected.

In the North, the matches at FC Halifax Town, Guiseley, Histon, Vauxhall Motors and Worcester are OFF.

In the South, the games at Bath City, Eastleigh, Hayes and Sutton United are OFF.