Tag Archives: scrutiny

Paolo Di Canio denies having fascist beliefs

I'm no fascist: Sunderland boss Di Canio bows to pressure and denies having right-wing sympathies

PUBLISHED:

15:15 GMT, 3 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 3 April 2013

Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has released a statement denouncing racism and fascism and vowed that he 'respects everyone'.

The Italian's political beliefs and background have come under close scrutiny in the days after his appointment as boss at the Stadium of Light on Sunday night.

The former West Ham, Celtic and Lazio striker had declined to answer questions over whether he was a fascist, but has now moved to draw a line under the matter.

Controversial: Do Canio's appointment has caused uproar among fans and those opposed to fascism

Controversial: Do Canio's appointment has caused uproar among fans and those opposed to fascism

Di Canio said in a statement: 'I have
clearly stated that I do not wish to speak about matters other than
football, however, I have been deeply hurt by the attacks on the
football club.

'This is an historic, proud and
ethical club and to read and hear some of the vicious and personal
accusations is painful. I am an honest man, my values and principles
come from my family and my upbringing.

'I feel that I should not have to
continually justify myself to people who do not understand this, however
I will say one thing only – I am not the man that some people like to
portray.

'I am not political, I do not
affiliate myself to any organisation, I am not a racist and I do not
support the ideology of fascism. I respect everyone.

'I am a football man and this and my family are my focus. Now I will speak only of football.'

Earlier today the Dean of Durham
wrote an open letter to Di Canio calling on the Italian to publicly
renounce fascism or risk being associated with 'toxic far-right
tendencies'.

Denounce fascism: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

Denounce fascism: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

Plea: The Dean of Durham has called on Di Canio to distance himself from toxic far-right tendencies

The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove,
the son of a Jewish war refugee and a Sunderland supporter, said he was
struggling to stay loyal to the club and that he found Di Canio's
'self-confessed fascism deeply troubling'.

In his open letter to Di Canio, the Dean of Durham wrote: 'Your appointment raises very difficult questions. You see, I am the child of a Jewish war refugee who got out of Germany and came to Britain just in time. Some of her family and friends perished in the Nazi death camps. So I find your self-confessed fascism deeply troubling.

'Fascism was nearly the undoing of the world. It cost millions of innocent lives. Mussolini, who you say has been deeply misunderstood, openly colluded with it. You are said to wear a tattoo DUX which speaks for itself. This all adds up to what I find baffling.

'You say that you are not a racist, but it needs great sophistication to understand how fascism and racism are ultimately different. I can promise you that this distinction will be lost on the people of the North East where the British National Party is finding fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its pernicious and poisonous doctrine.'

Di Canio refused to confirm or deny whether he was a fascist at a news conference yesterday but has previously stated he is 'a fascist but not a racist'.

He has also been pictured giving a fascist salute to Lazio 'ultras' and photographed attending the funeral of a leading Italian fascist.

Di Canio, the former Swindon
manager, has the word 'Dux', the Latin equivalent of 'Duce', tattooed on
his arm – a reference to Il Duce, Benito Mussolini.

Down to work: Di Canio has taken charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

Down to work: Di Canio has taken charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

Down to work: Di Canio took charge of his first training session at Sunderland today

WHAT EXACTLY IS FASCISM

As the last few days have shown, ‘fascism’ is a word that comes with great political baggage but no simple definition.

In general terms, it evokes right-wing and nationalistic values – standing against the liberal ideals of socialism and democracy and promoting instead authoritarian figures who control the state.

Fascism is ingrained in the political make-up of Italy but is muddied by its links to Nazism, and particularly anti-Semitism.

While racism was a central ideology to Nazism, some historians argue Italian fascism is far more ambiguous – it focuses on conflicts of nation and race within any culture rather than defining status by class.

The first ‘fascist’ movement to gain real power was Mussolini’s Blackshirts in Italy in 1922 – before Adolf Hitler took over the term in the build-up to the Second World War.

Where this leaves Di Canio’s politics is anyone’s guess.

He told Italian news agency Ansa in 2005: 'I am a fascist, not a racist.

'I
give the straight arm salute because it is a salute from a “camerata”
to “camerati”,' he said, using the Italian words for members of
Mussolini's fascist movement.

'The salute is aimed at my people. With the straight arm I don't want to incite violence and certainly not racial hatred.'

At a news conference yesterday, Di Canio blasted the furore over his appointment as Sunderland manager as 'ridiculous and pathetic' and warned that he may not speak to media who continue to question him on the subject.

He said: 'My life speaks for me so there is no need to speak any more about this situation because it's ridiculous and pathetic.

'We are in a football club and not in the House of Parliament. I'm not a political person, I will talk about only football.'

His
appointment led to the resignation of the club's vice-chairman David
Miliband, Labour MP for South Shields and former foreign secretary, and
the Durham Miners' Association has asked the club to return a symbolic
banner which is kept at the Stadium of Light if Di Canio remains in his
post.

SO, HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS

Di Canio is yet to explain why he was at the funeral of fascist Paolo Signorelli in 2010, where mourners made the right-arm salute as the body was carried out of the church.

The Sunderland boss was a frequent visitor to Signorelli's home in the final years of his life.

Signorelli, who died aged 76, had been a senior member of the Italian Socialist movement which grew out of the collapse of Benito Mussolini's Fascist party after the Second World War.

Paolo Di Canio

He spent eight years in jail on remand after a bomb was set off killing 85 people at Bologna railway station in 1980.

Although he was initially convicted he
was cleared on appeal because of insufficient evidence. But he was
still found guilty of being part of an 'armed band' and a 'subversion
against democracy'.

Di Canio is understood to have been a frequent visitor to the far-right politician's home in the final years of his life.

Terrorist bombing in Bologna Railway station

'I will not talk about Fascist issue anymore' – Di Canio

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Six Nations 2013: Brian O"Driscoll cited for stamp on Simone Favaro

O'Driscoll cited for stamp on Italy openside Favaro during Ireland's Six Nations defeat

By
Duncan Bech, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

18:15 GMT, 18 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:18 GMT, 18 March 2013

Brian O'Driscoll has been cited for stamping on Simone Favaro in Ireland's 22-15 RBS 6 Nations defeat by Italy on Saturday.

A brief statement issued by tournament
organisers confirmed that independent citing commissioner Aurwel Morgan
has decided the incident warranted further scrutiny.

The date and location for O'Driscoll's hearing has yet to be announced.

Ouch: Brian O'Driscoll was sin-binned for this stamp during Ireland's final Six Nations clash

Ouch: Brian O'Driscoll was sin-binned for this stamp during Ireland's final Six Nations clash

Cooling off: O'Driscoll spent ten minutes watching the match

Cooling off: O'Driscoll spent ten minutes watching the match

O'Driscoll was sent to the sin-bin for only the second time in his 14-year professional career in the first half of the match at the Stadio Olimpico.

The 34-year-old lifted his right leg and brought it down on to the chest of Favaro, the Italy openside, who yelled out in pain and writhed around on the turf.

The act was out of character for O'Driscoll, who has a fine disciplinary record, and was evidence of his frustration as Ireland slumped to a first Six Nations defeat by Italy.

However, he was lucky to have escaped a red card for an incident that clouded what is thought to have been his 125th and final Test in a green shirt.

Sendoff O'Driscoll could have appeared for the final time in the Six Nations

Sendoff O'Driscoll could have appeared for the final time in the Six Nations

The recommended suspension for a low
end stamping offence is two weeks, the mid range five weeks and top end
nine weeks, up to a maximum of one year.

While the offence was serious, O'Driscoll's lack of previous disciplinary issues will count in his favour.

It will be hoped by his province
Leinster that he is available for the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final
against Wasps on April 5 and for as much of their RaboDirect Pro 12
title push as possible.

A statement issued by the Six Nations
read: 'Brian O'Driscoll, the Ireland centre, has been cited by the
independent citing commissioner for an alleged stamping or trampling on
an opponent, contrary to Law 10.4 (b), in the RBS 6 Nations match
between Italy and Ireland on Saturday 16th March 2013. Details of the
Hearing will be announced later.'

Meanwhile, Ireland wing Luke Fitzgerald has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after he ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Italy.

FIFA fine Roy Hodgson"s agent after breaching regulations when bringing Heurelho Gomes to Spurs

Hodgson's agent fined by FIFA after breach of rules to bring Gomes to Spurs

By
Martin Ziegler, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

15:33 GMT, 8 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:10 GMT, 8 February 2013

Roy Hodgson's agent has been fined and warned by FIFA for breaking regulations over the transfer of goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to Tottenham.

Leon Angel, who is based in London, was found guilty of two breaches of the regulations and fined 4,800.

Hodgson negotiated his England contract with the Football Association but Angel has carried out accountancy work with him previously.

The deal to take Heurelho Gomes from PSV was under scrutiny

Wrongdoing: The deal to take Heurelho Gomes from PSV was under scrutiny

The violations related to Gomes' move from PSV Eindhoven in July 2008 and was referred by the FA to FIFA in June 2011.

FIFA said in a statement: 'FIFA also informed Mr Angel that a further breach of the players' agents regulations will result in more severe sanctions to be determined by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, which can lead to a suspension or even a withdrawal of the players' agent licence.'

The first regulation breached refers to having a 'relevant written representation contract with that player or club', and the second requires that 'every players' agent shall ensure that his name, signature and the name of his client appear in any contracts resulting from transactions in which he is involved'.

Angel insists however that it was an administrative oversight by a Brazilian agent, and that he was not responsible for the paperwork.

He told Press Association Sport: 'It is a technical breach on an administrative matter and we are appealing against it to CAS.

'It's actually nothing to do with us – the transfer was performed by a Brazilian agent who did not fill in a form.'

Gomes has faced many highs and lows in his time at Tottenham

Happy Gomes has faced many highs and lows in his time at Tottenham

Rafael Benitez says he can win Chelsea the Premier League

Benitez: Give me a full season at Chelsea and we can be Premier League champions

By
Rob Draper

PUBLISHED:

21:52 GMT, 26 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:00 GMT, 27 January 2013

Rafa Benitez has admitted he would love to stay at Chelsea and that he would have a better chance of winning the league if the club give him a full season to impose his ideas.

Chelsea take on Brentford on Sunday in the FA Cup fourth round, the last domestic trophy they can realistically win, and Benitez says the negative reaction by fans to his reign so far would not stop him from taking the job next season if he were offered it and that he would relish a proper chance to challenge for the title.

Having lost the World Club Cup and been knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Swansea, Benitez would need to win the FA Cup or Europa League to convince owner Roman Abramovich to give him the job.

Stick with me: Rafa Benitez has urged Roman Abramovich to keep him in the job at Chelsea for a full season

Stick with me: Rafa Benitez has urged Roman Abramovich to keep him in the job at Chelsea for a full season

But Benitez believes his side are making progress and the key figures at the club – Abramovich, his assistant, Marina Granovskaia, and technical director Michael Emenalo – are said to be impressed with his approach to training and tactics.

Despite the Capital One Cup defeat and disappointments at home against QPR, Swansea and Southampton, Benitez is optimistic for next season.

'I'd like to be in a top side,' he said. 'And Chelsea are a top side with great potential. So it's a great opportunity. I came in the middle of the season, so I couldn't change too many things and I had to work with the squad I had.

'This team have enough quality and they're a good squad but the circumstances of this year have been difficult. This is a top side and if they continue doing things in the right way they will always be challenging for trophies.'

Benitez believes his record will stand up to scrutiny at the end of the season, given that the club have switched to a new playing style, are attempting to overhaul the key players and that he only started mid-season.

He said: 'If you go outside and it's snowing and you fall down, they say, “Ah, he fell down”. But the reality is, it's snowing, which makes it slippery and makes you fall down.

'So if you analyse all the managers [at Chelsea], how many had a pre-season here Not me. How many managers have spent massive money here Not me. How many managers have played in Japan in the middle of the season and have some players injured and some at the African Nations Only me.'

Shame: Eden Hazard was sent off in Chelsea's last outing for kicking out at a ball boy

Shame: Eden Hazard was sent off in Chelsea's last outing for kicking out at a ball boy

Back in action: Hazard was in training this week at Chelsea's Cobham base

Back in action: Hazard was in training this week at Chelsea's Cobham base

Benitez wants to sign a holding midfielder, having concluded the team do not distribute the ball quickly enough from defence to attack.

But Emenalo and the board are reluctant to commit to a major signing in January given that the identity of the future manager is unclear.

With Oriol Romeu injured and John Mikel Obi at the African Cup of Nations, Benitez has been forced to play Ramires and Frank Lampard in holding midfield almost every game when his inclination would be to rotate the older players.

Benitez said: 'We have enough quality in the squad. The question is do we have enough bodies'

Next up: Uwe Rosler will be hoping that Brentford can topple Chelsea on Sunday

Next up: Uwe Rosler will be hoping that Brentford can topple Chelsea on Sunday

Mark Clattenburg returns for Liverpool v Fulham – Graham Poll on Premier League referee appointments

Clattenburg returns to the middle… and he'll be under extra scrutiny

|

UPDATED:

07:30 GMT, 21 December 2012

Referees perform under massive pressure and very close scrutiny every weekend. I cannot think of another job where every single piece of work is analysed and rated with a mark.

There are two people who are in the stadium to assess and rate the team of match officials performance.

One acts as a referee observer and is usually a former top level referee who has the task of ensuring that the referee applies laws of the game as well as give feedback on the technical aspects of the four officials' performances.

The second is in attendance as a Professional Game Match Officials Match Delegate and they are former players, managers or administrators who are asked to look at the game from the ‘users’ perspective.

Back in action: Mark Clattenburg returns this weekend and takes charge at Anfield

Back in action: Mark Clattenburg returns this weekend and takes charge at Anfield

This weekend Simon Barker, Kenny Hibbitt and Iffy Onuora are among the former players and former manager Peter Shreeves are on duty.

They are supposed to give the referee a balanced approach; too lenient and the former referee will pull him up, too slavish to law and the former player will question the impact on the game.

It is an interesting system which I think applies too much pressure on an already beleaguered referee, who really just needs a friendly ‘coach’ who he can open and honest with.

They need to be able to develop their skill and overcome difficulties rather than two people there to award a mark, who will highlight deficiencies and will affect their grading and possible future appointments.

Ones to watch this weekend…

Tottenham Hotspur v Stoke City (Saturday, 3pm)
Referee: Lee Mason Games: 10, Yellow Cards: 29, Red Cards: 0.

WHO'S IN CHARGE…

Saturday
Man City v Reading – Mike Dean G11, YC39 RC1
Newcastle v QPR – Kevin Friend G9, YC33, RC1
Southampton v Sunderland – Howard Webb G12, YC45, RC2
West Brom v Norwich – Martin Atkinson G14, YC57 RC0
West Ham v Everton – Anthony Taylor G11 YC20 RC3
Wigan v Arsenal – Jon Moss G8 YC23 RC1

Sunday
Chelsea v Aston Villa – Phil Dowd G11, YC34, RC2

This weekend, the main focus will surely be on the holding and blocking ‘dark arts’ after the Marouane Fellaini head butt so where better to start than White Hart Lane.

Mason will be expected to do a better job at detecting and punishing holding at set pieces with Stoke City than Mark Halsey did last weekend.

Ryan Shawcross’ arms could be clearly seen across Fellaini’s waist as the Stoke defender held him from behind.

Making a point: Referee Lee Mason will have to keep on top of the 'dark arts' at White Hart Lane

Making a point: Referee Lee Mason will have to keep on top of the 'dark arts' at White Hart Lane

Halsey's ‘reward’ is to be fourth official at Wigan on Saturday and then drive to Carlisle United on Boxing Day!

I expect Mason to adopt the policy of delaying the taking of the kick from being taken while he warns players not to hold but that is proving ineffective.

Also, given that Stoke are the away team, it will be easier for Mason to award a penalty against them than if they were playing at The Britannia. I trust I don’t have to explain why…

Liverpool v Fulham (Saturday, 5.15pm)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg G8, YC31, RC4

Clattenburg steps back after two weekends as fourth official in which he failed to avoid controversy by reporting Gareth Barry for offensive language after the Manchester derby.

He comes back with a live game and will undoubtedly be under pressure to award Liverpool their first penalty of the season and will have to be on his best form to keep Luis Suarez out of his notebook.

The good news for Clattenburg is that however this game goes, he is appointed to another top flight game just four days later between Aston Villa and Tottenham… and that is another televised game!

Swansea City v Manchester United (Sunday, 4pm)
Referee: Michael Oliver G10, YC20, RC1

There will be plenty of interest in young Oliver's handling of Manchester United as he has unfairly been highlighted as one who favours them.

Although they lost at Wolves the first time he refereed the league leaders, he has refereed them three times since and they have won them all.

Nothing unusual there but with Oliver refusing to give a clear Fulham penalty in the 1-0 United win late last season at Old Trafford eyebrows were raised.

United stand: The spotlight will be on young referee Michael Oliver at the Liberty Stadum

United stand: The spotlight will be on young referee Michael Oliver at the Liberty Stadum

Then this season, Oliver gave United a penalty after a clear dive by Danny Welbeck in the home win against Wigan and rumours persisted.

It is really tough establishing yourself as a young official at this level and Oliver (who is an excellent referee) would like to lose this reputation, so he could do with an incident free game at The Liberty Stadium.

Jack Butland says he"s ready for Premier League as Liverpool lead chase for Birmingham keeper

Bring on the Premier League! Butland says he's ready for step up in class as Liverpool lead chase for keeper

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UPDATED:

08:44 GMT, 20 December 2012

Jack Butland insists he is ready to play at the highest level thanks to his summer spent at the Olympics and Euro 2012.

Liverpool, Everton, Southampton and West Ham are all interested in Birmingham's teenage star, who made his England debut against Italy in August.

The 19-year-old keeper is valued around 6million and Blues boss Lee Clark may have no choice but to sell up due to the club's financial struggles.

Jack the lad: Butland made his England debut in August at the age of 19

Jack the lad: Butland made his England debut in August at the age of 19

And Butland reckons he will have no problem in stepping up from the Championship when the time comes, having already performed under intense scrutiny for Team GB during the London 2012 Olympics.

He was also part of Roy Hodgson's squad in Poland and Ukraine last summer but did not make it onto the pitch.

'I have got confidence in my ability, I would always back myself,' Butland told the Mirror.

Team GB: Butland lining up alongside Neil Taylor (left) and Ryan Giggs (right)

Team GB: Butland lining up alongside Neil Taylor (left) and Ryan Giggs (right)

'I have been fortunate to play in quite a few big stadiums and I’d like to think I have handled myself very well.

'I don’t think the occasion would be a problem. I’d back myself and my ability. I want to be playing at the top level for as long as I can in my career.'

How Sir Alex Ferguson"s bedtime habits set standards at Manchester United

How Fergie's bedtime habits set standards at Old Trafford

By
Patrick Collins

PUBLISHED:

22:23 GMT, 15 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

00:26 GMT, 16 December 2012

In more than a quarter-century of intense public scrutiny, Sir Alex Ferguson has successfully resisted every intrusion into his private life. Yesterday, in the month of his 71st birthday, he offered a glimpse of his domestic habits.

In the wake of last Sunday’s remarkable Manchester derby, he went to bed with his head spinning. ‘I just couldn’t sleep,’ he said, ‘and at about four o’clock in the morning I gave up trying, got up and watched a video of the whole of our game against Manchester City all over again.’

The tale is worth recording because it is the nearest thing to a bedroom revelation that Ferguson will ever provide. It also tells us something about the nature of a hopelessly driven man.

Driven: Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Driven: Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Carried away by the excitement of
United’s victory, it seems he found it difficult to ascertain where his
team had fallen short of his standards.

He was, therefore, left with no
alternative but to watch the entire match through the small hours of a
December night. And was it worth it Indeed it was. As he explains:
‘With the help of the video my suspicions were confirmed. In the second
half we were giving the ball away too easily.’

Try to think of another major football
manager, past or present, who might regard that as perfectly rational
behaviour and only Bill Shankly springs to mind. It was Shankly, of
course, who took his wife to watch Huddersfield Reserves on their
wedding anniversary. Truly, the west of Scotland breeds single-minded
football men.

Happy days: Ferguson celebrates victory over Man City with Patrice Evra

Happy days: Ferguson celebrates victory over Man City with Patrice Evra

I doubt that Sir Alex lost any sleep
last night, since Sunderland were dispatched with the minimum of fuss.
But he seemed perceptibly irritated by United’s lack of ruthlessness,
their failure to bury outclassed opponents in dramatic fashion after
scoring twice within the first 20 minutes.

They may be six points clear at the top but such laxity could cost them dearly on more difficult days.

He did not criticise, of course, since
that is not his way. But he did mention that Wayne Rooney ‘might have
scored four’, and his failure to do so may provoke some pertinent
questions.

That ferocious work ethic, that
refusal to be satisfied, underpins everything Ferguson has achieved in
the game. After all these years, he has achieved the status of an
institution, to the extent that a match day at Old Trafford without his
looming presence seems almost unthinkable.

His name infiltrates every
conversation along Sir Matt Busby Way. From the shop called Legends of
Fast Food, featuring portraits of Cantona, Giggs, Rooney; all men whose
names are synonymous with sausage and chips. To the stalls selling
United car stickers, baby bibs, woolly hats. To the man pleading with
the passing public to buy red and white wrist bands for 1: ‘Listen,
I’m nearly giving ’em away!’

The old North Stand is now the Sir
Alex Ferguson Stand. There is a statue which bears a passing resemblance
to somebody who looks a bit like Ferguson. At times, the whole place
takes on the appearance of a shrine to the great man.

The temptation to coast, to relax, to
bask in past glories could be considerable but it is scornfully
rejected. For the focus is always on the future, of cups and titles
still to come.

Sweet dreams: United are six points clear of City at Christmas

Sweet dreams: United are six points clear of City at Christmas

His current work is as impressive as
any he has done. The team are not remotely the equal of Ferguson’s best
United sides but they are proceeding like a runaway train. He used to
speak of the importance of being ‘in touch at Christmas’. Instead, they
are six points clear.

Mention the fact to Ferguson and his
mind flickers back some 15 years, to the season when they were
overhauled by Arsenal. Never relax, he preached. Bad things can happen.

And yet, he had seemed in high good
humour when he appeared yesterday, hurrying along with that urgent,
short-stepping stride, pausing to greet some disabled fans, signing
programmes, glad-handing all round.

By contrast, Martin O’Neill, once touted as a possible successor, slipped in almost anonymously.

For the entire 90 minutes, Ferguson
never once left his seat to storm the touchline. Goals were greeted with
an excited little clap or a satisfied grunt. Chomping relentlessly on
his gum, he concentrated intently; smiling when his side passed with
bright urgency, glowering when goals were squandered or runs went
untracked.

When it was over, he rose from his
seat, shook the hand of O’Neill and walked briskly back along the
touchline, offering the crowd six brief claps of his hands, and a
further detonation on reaching the mouth of the tunnel.

He was not satisfied, not even
particularly pleased, but that was another match over. On to the next
one, and the one after, and the one after that.

At 70, Alex Ferguson is still looking restlessly forward. Even at four o’clock on a winter’s morning.

Leeds and a Tory party activist, a disappearing website and a 52m takeover: Nick Harris

The Tory party activist, a disappearing website and the 52m takeover of Leeds United

By
Nick Harris

PUBLISHED:

00:00 GMT, 2 December 2012

|

UPDATED:

10:16 GMT, 2 December 2012

Mystery surrounding the proposed
takeover of Leeds United by Dubai-based GFH Capital deepened last week —
and that will cause alarm among fans of the famous old club.

First, the front man for the bid, a
Conservative party activist called David Haigh, declined to answer a
series of questions from Inside Sport about both the deal and his own
background.

Then Haigh’s personal website, which
included an outline of his career and business activities since his
first job as a reporter on The Cornishman newspaper ‘at the age of 13’,
was taken offline and the website’s registration details were withdrawn
from public scrutiny.

Haigh is deputy chief executive and
chief operating officer of GFH Capital but his involvement in the Leeds
takeover has baffled some observers, and while sections of the club’s
huge following have welcomed the apparent prospect of Gulf money being
poured into Neil Warnock’s side, others have questioned the degree of
transparency surrounding GFH Capital’s purchase of current owner Ken
Bates’s 49 per cent shareholding.

Front-man: David Haigh, the Tory activist involved the a Leeds buy-out

Front-man: David Haigh, the Tory
activist involved the a Leeds buy-out

Leeds, a club renowned for their glory
days under Don Revie and a period under David O’Leary when they reached
the 2001 Champions League semi-finals, dropped to the third tier of
domestic football for the first time in their history in 2007 before
rising back to the Championship three years later.

Supporters desperate for a return to
the Premier League say they are fed up with a perceived lack of clarity
over the takeover by GFH Capital, who expect to take full ownership of
Leeds on December 21. ‘This has been going on for seven months and there
are many more questions than answers,’ said Gary Cooper, chairman of
the 8,500-strong Leeds United Supporters Trust. ‘We have concerns that
are not being addressed.’

Haigh, 35 and a lawyer who grew up in
Cornwall, has claimed to be a lifelong Leeds fan (his parents are from
the city) but had never tweeted about the club before July. At least one
tweet from last year, celebrating success by Leeds’ bitter rivals,
Manchester United, was later deleted from his Twitter account.

The replacement last week of his
personal website, davidhaigh.co.uk, by a ‘holding page’ came after
Inside Sport asked for clarification over claims made on the site.

One article posted there and dated May
21 reported that Haigh had been nominated for a ‘General Counsel of the
Year’ award for a ‘successful’ $75m bid for a Turkish bank. The same
article failed to say that another lawyer had already won the award and
that Haigh’s bid for the bank had actually failed.

Until last week, a simple online
check revealed that Haigh’s website was registered to him as an
individual, via an address in Camden, north London, where a company
called Prime Secretarial act as a postbox for personal and business
mail.

Before: David Haigh

Now you see it… Haigh's website, before Inside Sport's questions (above) and as
it looks now (below)

And after: David Haigh

And after: David Haigh

But as Inside Sport sought more
information about Haigh and GFH Capital, details of where the website is
registered were removed from public view. A spokesman for Haigh said
the disappearance of his personal website was ‘entirely coincidental’
and was a result of it undergoing renovation.

The website for GFH Capital — owned by
a Bahrain parent company, Gulf Finance House, who boast of billions of
dollars of deals since 1999 — is also registered to Haigh as an
individual and with the same address in Camden as his personal website.

More from Nick Harris…

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Haigh has close ties to the Conservative Party as vice-chairman of ‘Gulf Tories’, an association of expatriate Conservatives. He once stood in local elections for the Conservatives in London, polling 4.7 per cent of the vote to come ninth out of 13 candidates in Oval ward in 2006. He then emigrated to Dubai, from where he is spearheading GFH Capital’s buy-out of Leeds United.

When the deal is completed in 19 days’ time, full ownership will switch to a Cayman Islands-based firm owned by GFH Capital, who have agreed to buy Bates’s 49 per cent shareholding, plus the 18 per cent held by minor shareholders. That will add to the 33 per cent holding GFH Capital have already acquired.

A spokesman for Haigh said he did not want to comment on how much GFH Capital have agreed to pay for Leeds, although it has been reported to be 52million. The deal does not involve buying either Leeds’ famous Elland Road stadium or their Thorp Arch training ground, both of which are owned by a company called Teak Trading, who are based in the British Virgin Islands. Haigh’s spokesman said GFH Capital plan to buy Elland Road ‘at some stage’ but he could not say when.

GFH Capital’s original plan was, according to reports, to buy Leeds and sever ties with Bates but Bates will now remain as chairman until the end of the season and then become honorary life president.

No tin the deal: Elland Road is not included as part of the 52m takeover

No tin the deal: Elland Road is not included as part of the 52m takeover

Asked how GFH Capital intend to run a football club with no prior experience in the sector, Haigh’s spokesman said Leeds’s chief executive, Shaun Harvey, is experienced and is expected to stay, and that Bates ‘has a lot of experience running football clubs’.

Supporters Trust chairman Cooper said: ‘It is resoundingly clear that our members don’t want Leeds to continue our association with Ken Bates, under whose ownership the club fell to our lowest league position ever [bottom of League One for a period during 2007-08]. GFH Capital need to understand that, and that people are staying away because of it, and that our attendances are dwindling to the point where you wonder about potential cash-flow problems. We just want some answers.’

GFH Capital have a Twitter account on which they boasted on November 11: ‘GFH Capital team have led a number of large scale transactions in the sports sector (and) see sport as a key focus of GFH Capital going forward.’

Asked to cite examples of these ‘large scale transactions’, Haigh’s spokesman said the firm had sponsored Bahraini GP2 racing driver Hamad Al Fardan and the building of the Um Al Hassam stadium in Bahrain.

There is no record of Al Fardan competing since 2009 and the Um Al Hassam ‘stadium’ is, according to local sources, a municipal leisure complex.

Cricket stars in image rights probe by taxman

Tax officials are investigating some of England’s leading county cricket clubs over their alleged use of image rights payments to help players pay less tax.

By labelling payments as image rights rather than salaries, cash can be paid to companies owned by players and often based offshore. Such payments are then subject to corporation tax at 24 per cent rather than higher-rate income tax of 45 per cent.

HMRC are investigating whether such payments are appropriate in all cases, and the players’ union, the Professional Cricketers’ Association, admit that there may be problems ahead.

Ian Smith, the PCA’s legal director, said: ‘There are lots of genuine image rights contracts in the game. Surrey, Yorkshire, Essex and Middlesex are among counties that use image rights. However, it has become clear that the use of image rights is far more widespread than was originally thought and issues have arisen. There are a number of HMRC investigations going on with counties that are looking into players’ contracts.’

Surrey have image rights contracts with three current players and 15 have enjoyed such contracts over the last five years. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing at the county and officials say HMRC have not approached The Oval-based club.

Brendan Rodgers says Gareth Bale would be criticised for diving if he was Uruguayan

Rodgers claims Bale would be slammed for diving if he was Uruguayan… like his star man Suarez

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UPDATED:

11:05 GMT, 30 November 2012

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes that if Gareth Bale was Uruguayan – like his star striker Luis Suarez – he too would be widely criticised for diving.

The Tottenham winger was booked for supposed simulation during his side’s 2-1 win over Liverpool on Wednesday evening.

But Rodgers believes it is an example of double standards that Bale, who scored a stunning free-kick before putting the goal past his own goalkeeper, has not been given similar treatment to Suarez, who has been widely criticised after picking up a number of yellow cards at Liverpool for diving.

Diver Gareth Bale was booked for supposed simulation against Liverpool

Diver Gareth Bale was booked for supposed simulation against Liverpool

Rodgers said: ‘It’s not surprising. We’ve seen it highlighted and it seems to have quietened off a little bit now because there have been a lot of other incidents.

‘I’ve not seen the headlines, but if he was Uruguayan it would be different. There is no doubt about that. Luis has taken a lot of stick and I’m sure that will continue.

‘All I can do is focus on the team and getting results, and let other people write the headlines.’

Reputation: Swansea defender Ashley Williams described Luis Suarez (left) as a 'serial diver'

Reputation: Swansea defender Ashley Williams described Luis Suarez (left) as a 'serial diver'

Bullet: Bale scored a stunning free-kick to put Tottenham two goals up

Bullet: Bale scored a stunning free-kick to put Tottenham two goals up

Suarez has come under intense scrutiny since his arrival at Liverpool, and gained a reputation in some circles for going down too easily.

Swansea centre back Ashley Williams was forced to apologise to Suarez after saying he wanted ‘to knock him out’ and labelling him a ‘serial diver’.

Everton manager David Moyes stoked the fire before this season's Merseyside derby as he appeared to direct comments towards the 25-year-old, claiming that repeated diving would eventually drive fans away from football.

Moyes said: 'I would (be concerned about Suarez) because I think he has got history.

'But I am not the referee, I am not the one that (makes decisions). But I tell you what – it will turn the supporters away from football if they think players are conning their way to results.'

Ouch! Aaron Lennon smashed the ball in Bale's face, which ricocheted into the Spurs net

Ouch! Aaron Lennon smashed the ball in Bale's face, which ricocheted into the Spurs net

Unlucky: Bale was floored by the powerful strike

Unlucky: Bale was floored by the powerful strike

When Moyes was asked if his comments were directed at Suarez in particular, he replied: 'It is generally. I think it is a discussion to be had. I don't think supporters like the idea of players going down easily.'

A grinning Suarez taunted Moyes after he scored the opening goal at Goodison Park by running over to the manager's technical area and performing an exaggerated swallow dive in front of the Scot.

Bale has picked up six bookings for Tottenham in all competitions this season, whereas Suarez has been yellow-carded five times.

Chris Robshaw may lose Lions place, says Warren Gatland

Tough ruck for Robshaw: Lions skipper He's struggling to make the squad, says Gatland

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UPDATED:

01:02 GMT, 29 November 2012

As if Chris Robshaw hasn't suffered enough already this week, the England captain was dealt another hammer blow on Wednesday: to his Lions hopes.

The 26-year-old Harlequins flanker has had to endure criticism and scrutiny after England's defeat by South Africa last Saturday.

His decision to go for goal from a late penalty was questioned on the field and has been widely debated ever since.

Tough ruck: Chris Robshaw could lose his Lions place in the Lions squad

Tough ruck: Chris Robshaw could lose his Lions place in the Lions squad

For Robshaw, it has been an uncomfortable peek into the downside of captaincy but now his playing credentials have been called into question – by a man he would be hoping to impress.

Warren Gatland named Robshaw as a Lions captaincy contender when he became head coach in September but the Kiwi suggested that, far from being a potential skipper for the Australia tour, Robshaw may lack the specialist skills to be selected at all.

After England's defeat by the Wallabies on November 17, when visiting No 7 Michael Hooper put in a man-of-the-match display, there was fresh talk about England's lack of an out-and-out openside.

Gatland continued that theme: 'Sometimes they struggle for a genuine No 7. I know Chris (Robshaw) has been doing that role and people speak really strongly of his leadership qualities.

Hard week: Robshaw has endured a great deal of criticism this week

Hard week: Robshaw has endured a great deal of criticism this week

'The hard thing about the English game now is the way it's being very dominantly refereed towards the attacking side, which often makes it difficult for a genuine No 7 to get himself in the game.

'So you can go in there with sixand- a halves or sixes. We saw that with Leicester playing (Thomas) Waldrom at seven as well and being able to get away with it. Just watch how quickly referees are calling “ruck, hands off, leave it alone”.

'I think if they get that balance and allow the sevens to be more aggressive and compete legitimately, that's going to help develop more No 7s.

'You need genuine sevens going to Australia. You need sevens who are competing hard on the ball and being effective. It's not just about Pocock – it's Hooper and Gill as well (Wallaby opensides). They are all three quality No 7s.'

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Wrong call: Robshaw had a tough decision to make during England's defeat against South Africa

Another factor working against Robshaw is that Wales skipper Sam Warburton, the early frontrunner for the Lions captaincy, is a No 7 with a poacher's instinct.

While the Cardiff player has been striving for form in a difficult summer tour Down Under and on into this season, Gatland yesterday offered him words of encouragement after an improved showing against New Zealand.

'I was pleased last week with Sam,' he said. 'He had been under a bit of criticism and I thought he was outstanding against the All Blacks. I thought he carried strongly in the second half.

'I spoke to Sam after the game and told him, “I thought you did a really good job on McCaw”.

'He said, “I didn't feel McCaw was a real threat at the breakdown. He was just a real nuisance in terms of slowing down the game, how quickly he gets back to his feet”.

'He said (David) Pocock is a different animal – he floats around the back, sees an opportunity and competes really hard on the ball. That was a pleasing conversation – Sam identified the difference in sevens he was playing against.'

Gatland has to appoint his assistant coaches, to be unveiled on December 12 in Edinburgh. Then comes a reconnaissance trip to Australia, to assess training venues and other logistics.

'The captaincy issue is the tough one at the moment,' he said at the launch of the adidas Lions shirt.

Bouncing back England are hoping to recover from defeat against the Springboks

Bouncing back England are hoping to recover from defeat against the Springboks

'Ideally, you are saying it is someone guaranteed selection for the Test side, but you are looking at the strength in certain positions; there is no guarantee in that.

'Someone like Jamie Heaslip has captained Ireland in the last couple of games – that puts him in the frame as well. There are a lot of potential options. It's a really interesting debating point but I don't think it's something we should get too hung up about.'

One issue Gatland is avoiding is the home nations' poor results against the southern hemisphere.

'We might not be as strong as we can be,' he said, 'but we'll be ready when we need to be.'

Meanwhile, England's reserve fly-half Owen Farrell is a shock nomination for the International Rugby Board player of the year award, with France No 10 Frederic Michalak and New Zealand's McCaw and Dan Carter.