Tag Archives: stadia

Six Nations 2013: venue guide

Six Nations venue guide: A look at the stadiums playing host to this year's Championship

Duncan Bech, Press Association


12:10 GMT, 28 January 2013



18:57 GMT, 1 February 2013

The Six Nations kicks off in February and ahead of the annual feast of rugby Sportsmail runs through the venues that will host this year's games.


A capacity of 82,000 identifies the home of England as the world's largest rugby-dedicated venue and the nation's second-largest stadium behind Wembley. When England are winning there are few more rousing places to be – witness the atmosphere against New Zealand last autumn for example – but long spells of quiet can often dampen the occasion. Travelling there can be hellish as the roads become gridlocked while the all-too-infrequent rail service can see trains become horribly overcrowded.

HQ: England's Twickenham Stadium in Surrey


Just pipped by Twickenham in capacity terms, the 81,338 seater Stade de France was built for the 1998 football World Cup and remains an impressive sight within the unwelcoming district of Saint-Denis, where it is inadvisable to linger after dark. Seasoned Les Bleus supporters still yearn for the more gladiatorial Parc des Princes, the previous home of French rugby, not least because of some poor results at the Stade de France.

General view of the Stade de France in St Denis,Paris.  Mandatory Credit: David Rogers /Allsport Z0111169


Ever since returning to their revamped home, Ireland have spoken of the need to turn Aviva Stadium into a fortress but it has proved an uncomfortable relationship so far after losing seven of their 13 games there. A superb, modern venue, the 51,700 ground is among the finest rugby stadia in the world and access is relatively painless partly thanks to the battalions of available taxis. The atmosphere can be eerily silent, however, and contrast markedly with the noise generated at Irish provincial games.

Aviva Stadium


Italian rugby has a new home while work continues on the Stadio Flaminio, with the 82,000 capacity Stadio Olimpico proving a superb addition to the list of Six Nations stadia. More traditionally known as the home of Lazio and Roma football clubs, it is one of Italy's most cherished sporting venues and was home to the 1960 Rome Olympics. A running track surrounds the pitch and this affects the atmosphere.

Stadio Olimpico


The declining fortunes of Scottish rugby are evident at Murrayfield, where a dwindling number of spectators turn out to watch a team that has suffered like no other amid the transition to professionalism. Located in the west of the Scottish capital, the superb 67,130 stadium is capable of generating some rousing atmospheres – if only those attending were given something to celebrate on a regular basis once again.



The finest rugby stadium in the world An argument could certainly be made for what many regard as the jewel in the Six Nations' crown. Brilliantly designed and situated in the heart of Cardiff, it is a spectacular centre-piece for Welsh rugby that can take noise levels to a new dimension. When Wales are firing, it becomes an inspiring venue. The only negative is the difficulty getting out of the city – by car or train – after a match.

Millennium Stadium

Premier League fans shouldn"t be treated like animals, says Vincent Kompany

Fans aren't animals! Kompany dismisses calls for netting at Premier League stadiums



11:00 GMT, 14 December 2012

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has urged the football authorities not to treat supporters like animals by erecting netting in front of them at stadia in the Barclays Premier League.

Kompany was at City’s Etihad Stadium as Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was struck with a coin at the end of last weekend’s derby game.

That incident prompted calls for nets to be erected in certain areas at grounds across the country to protect players from missiles.

Missiles: Manchester United players, including Rio Ferdinand, were pelted with missiles as they celebrated their late win in the derby at the Etihad Stadium

Missiles: Manchester United players, including Rio Ferdinand, were pelted with missiles as they celebrated their late win in the derby at the Etihad Stadium

No net gains: Vincent Kompany doesn't want to see fans fenced in at stadiums

No net gains: Vincent Kompany doesn't want to see fans fenced in at stadiums

But Belgian defender Kompany said: 'I hope actions will be taken but let’s not forget where football has come from and how far it has come.

'It is never a good thing to happen, not just for Manchester City or Manchester United, but for football.

'I would definitely say we need action on prevention but keep treating fans as human beings and not animals that have to be behind cages.

'I do think we should take action against these incidents and I have heard a lot of suggestions about putting up nets and everything.

'But the fact we are able to put people outside of cages is something that makes the English game so much more special.'

Kompany – who is fighting to recover from injury in time for Saturday's visit to Newcastle – was speaking to BBC’s Football Focus during City’s annual visit to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

German FA get tough on crowd trouble and BAN Dynamo Dresden from DFB-Pokal cup

German FA get tough on crowd trouble and BAN Dresden from cup (… and isn't it time the FA followed suit)



17:02 GMT, 11 December 2012

If the FA are searching for some guidance on the way to deal with the violence, racism and sickening chanting blighting English football grounds, then they need look no further than their German counterparts.

The German Football Association (DFB) have excluded second division club Dynamo Dresden from the German equivalent of the FA Cup for one season as a punishment for persistent crowd disturbances at matches.

Dynamo Dresden will not be permitted to compete in the DFB-Pokal next season after their supporters set off flares and caused damages in the second round clash against Hannover at the Nierdersachsenstadion in October.

Dead serious: Dynamo Dresden fans demonstrate against the DFB measures

Dead serious: Dynamo Dresden fans demonstrate against the DFB measures

'The punishment for Dresden boils down to the many previous incidents and the extent of the disturbances at the cup game in Hannover,' said the DFB's sports court judge Hans E. Lorenz.

'Such attacks on stadia are attacks on football in general which require consequential action.

'Last year, we warned them explicitly that they risked being excluded from the competition after incidents in Dortmund.'

At Dortmund last year, a 200-strong mob of Dresden fans invaded the pitch after their team lost a penalty shootout, while a series of clashes took place between the rival fans outside of the stadium.

And the Germans have had enough. So they have acted to prevent any repeat.

FA must follow German lead and stamp out this cancer

The German FA's action against Dynamo Dresden is a powerful stance. And one which sends out a message to say that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

On a weekend that saw shame’s dark
cloud once again inhabit English football at the Etihad Stadium, is it
time that the English FA followed the stance taken by their German
friends and took a decidedly stronger position against such shameful

During Sunday’s Manchester derby
alone, Manchester City fans launched blue flares onto the pitch, and
hurled coins at Manchester United players, one of which struck near Rio
Ferdinand’s eye.

If such thuggery was not already
damaging enough to the image of our national game, a 15-year-old boy has
also been arrested for allegedly sending racist tweets to Ferdinand.

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand after the shameful conclusion to the Manchester derby

Bloody mess: Rio Ferdinand was cut during the shameful conclusion to the Manchester derby

On the pitch, the players are hardly
setting the tone for better behaviour from the fans, with Gareth Barry
today charged by the FA for verbally abusing an official at the
Manchester derby.

It is not only Manchester City fans
and players at fault. All Premier League teams have those players who
scowl and swear viciously at referees, turning the television air blue
by mouthing expletives.

John Obi Mikel storming into Mark
Clattenburg’s changing room to confront the referee in the aftermath of
Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat in October merited more than the three-game
suspension that he received from the FA, regardless of any conviction he
may have held that he had been racially abused.

In the stands this season, Liverpool
fans have booed Patrice Evra, purely because he was the victim of racial
abuse at the hands of Luis Suarez, while Chelsea fans taunted Rio
Ferdinand because he is the brother of Anton, who suffered racial abuse dished out by John Terry.

Elsewhere, at Old Trafford, a
minority of Manchester United fans have sung about the Hillsborough
disaster and shamefully taunted Arsene Wenger, while a
section of West Ham fans informed Tottenham supporters that 'Adolf Hitler is
coming to get you…' in anti-Semitic chants last month.

The punishments have been timid to
non-existent. Referees continue to allow players to escape without
punishment for using offensive and abusive language, while the FA rarely
tackle the issue retrospectively.

Manchester United were not even
charged for the disgusting chants comparing Wenger to Jimmy
Savile while the FA are still yet to deliver a verdict on the
chants sung by West Ham.

It is not good enough. There are too
many honest fans who are passionate but law-abiding citizens,
whose good names are being besmirched by a minority of out-of-control

Perhaps it is time that the FA follow
the lead of the Germans and start to deal more convincingly with the
cancer poisoning English football.

Adam Crafton

Rangers Ibrox stadium could be renamed Sports Direct Arena by Newcastle owner Mike Ashley

Iconic Ibrox to become Sports Direct Arena Newcastle owner Ashley wants second major stadium controversially renamed



09:29 GMT, 29 November 2012

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is understood to be in negotiations with Rangers for naming rights to the Glasgow club’s iconic Ibrox Stadium.

The proposed deal would lead to one of football’s most famous stadiums, which opened in 1899, being renamed the Sports Direct Arena to promote Ashley’s sports retail empire.

Rangers have been exploring image rights deals since the Charles Green-led consortium took over the troubled club last June, shortly before they were demoted to the Third Division.

What's in a name: Mike Ashley is in talks over the naming rights of Ibrox

What's in a name: Mike Ashley is in talks over the naming rights of Ibrox

What's in a name: Mike Ashley is in talks over the naming rights of Ibrox

However, any move to rename the stadium is certain to anger many Rangers fans, even given the club’s financial plight.

Indeed, many would never acknowledge Ibrox being called anything else.

Ashley caused fury on Tyneside a year ago by renaming Newcastle’s own historic St James’ Park as the Sports Direct Arena, to showcase the branding opportunities to potential naming rights partners.

But Newcastle reverted back to St James’ Park last month in a bid to appease growing supporter concern about another re-naming —to the Wonga Arena — after a new 32million shirt sponsorship deal was signed with the controversial short-term loan company who charge huge interest.

Now, despite that setback, the opportunity to have his company name on an even more world-renowned football venue greatly appeals to Ashley, who is expanding his Sports Direct business in Scotland.


Arsenal – The Emirates
The Gunners signed a 100m deal with Emirates Airline in October 2004 in a 15-year deal, which was extended last week until 2028.

Stoke City – The Britannia Stadium
The building society were instrumental in funding the 27,000-capacity stadium and signed a 1m, 10-year sponsorship deal in August 1997, later extended.

Bolton Wanderers – The Reebok Stadium
The stadium was named after long-time kit supplier and local company Reebok when it opened in 1997.

Sponsorship: Bolton's home has always been known as the Reebok

Sponsorship: Bolton's home has always been known as the Reebok

Dagenham and Redbridge – London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium
English football's most bizarre sponsorship tie-up and unwieldy title, announced in July 2007.

Ireland – The Aviva Stadium
Built on the site of Lansdowne Road, this new 52,000 seater stadium was sponsored from its opening.

Spectacular: The Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Spectacular: The Aviva Stadium in Dublin

Imtech Arena – Hamburg
Previous incarnations have been the AOL and the HSH Nordbank Arena, but from July 2010 Hamburg's home has been sponsored by the biological sciences company.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park – Colorado Rapids
A good number of MLS teams play in branded stadia, but this has to be the most ridiculous.

Pizza Hut Park – FC Dallas
Reflecting the American's love of fast food is the home of Texan MLS franchise FC Dallas. Pizza Hut have their headquarters nearby.

Something to tell us

Former Brazil captain Zico announced
his resignation as coach of Iraq following a contract dispute, just
after he shared a conference panel with England manager Roy Hodgson at
the Soccerex conference in Rio, which discussed international football.

Exit: Zico has quit as manager of Iraq following a contract dispute

Exit: Zico has quit as manager of Iraq following a contract dispute

Trash room talking

The peace talks between Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck and the 16 elite referees following the false Mark Clattenburg racism allegations took place in a meeting room in the budget Hampton by Hilton hotel wing of St George’s Park.

However, the officials each have luxury rooms in the alternative upmarket Hilton accommodation at SGP during their regular training camps. These have moved from Warwick University, where the referees had to double up in basic student rooms.

Rad deal

Ronnie Radford’s iconic 1972 winning goal for Hereford against Newcastle is such an FA Cup staple that Conference sponsors Blue Square Bet are pledging to give the non-League club 500 for every fan who finds the top corner of the net in a recreation of the Radford strike taking place at Edgar Street tomorrow.

Stadium solution close

The future of the Olympic Stadium will become clearer on Wednesday when West Ham are expected to be finally named as preferred bidders following a legacy process branded a ‘farce’ by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner.

There is optimism a solution can at last be reached in the financial wrangling over who pays what for transforming a 500million track-and-field arena into a multi-sports stadium that could cost a further 200m.

Up for grabs: West Ham set to be named preferred Olympic Stadium bidders

Up for grabs: West Ham set to be named preferred Olympic Stadium bidders

Negotiations now surround only the final 20m to 30m of the spend with the Government hopeful the London Legacy Development Corporation, plus West Ham and Newham Council, will contribute more — along with Whitehall — to make the numbers stack up.

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Woman's touch

Heather Rabbatts, the first woman and mixed-race member of the FA board, has emerged as a contender to succeed David Bernstein as FA chairman next May.

And Rabbatts’ chances are improved by the other FA independent director Roger Devlin ruling himself out by being on the nominations panel.

Football League chairman Greg Clarke is another being linked with the FA job as well as the Premier League chairmanship, although London 2012 vice-chairman Sir Keith Mills could have his pick of both positions.

Miami mover

Ricardo Teixeira, the disgraced former FIFA executive committee member for Brazil exposed for taking bribes from the body’s now defunct former marketing partners ISL, has retired to Miami.

FIFA insiders do not expect him to return to Brazil because he would face questioning on a variety of corruption issues involving millions of pounds. Teixeira’s successor on the FIFA ExCo, Marco Polo del Nero, has had his home raided by Brazilian Police investigating alleged links with a criminal organisation.

Tottenham to meet police and Kick It Out over Yid row

Tottenham to meet police and Kick It Out in bid to resolve 'Yid' chant row



23:38 GMT, 15 November 2012

Tottenham have announced they will meet with Kick It Out and the police next week to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism.

The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) have criticised Tottenham for what they see as a lack of action against home fans using the words 'Yid' or 'Yiddo' in chants at White Hart Lane.

The SBL say the songs are anti-Semitic, but Tottenham, who have a strong Jewish following, insist their fans have used the controversial terms 'as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse'.

A 'Yid Army' Spurs flag

Tottenham Hotspur fans celebrate in the stands

Tradition: Tottenham fans have been in the spotlight over their 'Yid' chants

The SBL say they will make a complaint to the police if the chanting does not stop by November 20.

Tottenham have now issued a statement which said they would meet with the police and anti-racism group Kick It Out to discuss the matter of anti-Semitism.

The statement read: 'As part of our desire for a wider debate and action on how to collectively eradicate anti-Semitism from our footballing community, the club has arranged to meet with Kick It Out and the Metropolitan Police next week in order to discuss measures to be taken both inside and outside stadia.'

Tottenham have encouraged their fans to partake in a Kick It Out survey concerning everything to do with the debate around discrimination in football.

'A key component for this debate is for us to understand the views of the fans in relation to discrimination in sport,' the club statement continued.

Preparing: Tottenham train ahead of the north London derby with Arsenal

Preparing: Tottenham train ahead of the north London derby with Arsenal

'We are therefore delighted to support Kick It Out as they ask supporters to have their say in the biggest-ever fans' consultation on tackling discrimination in football.

'The survey covers a range of topics from how to improve reporting of abusive behaviour and stewarding in stadiums, to combating abusive behaviour on social media. The findings will be used to form a blueprint for football authorities in tackling discrimination in the game.

'At a time when discrimination is high on the football agenda, it is easy for fans and players to forget the great strides made over the last 20 years. But, there is still a long way to go.

Critic: Peter Herbert

Critic: Peter Herbert

'Kick It Out believes this important dialogue with football fans will help set out how to move forward in order to achieve a zero tolerance approach to discrimination in all its forms, and at all levels of the game.'

The issue of racism in football has been a hot topic in the last 12 months.
Last season Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches after racially abusing Patrice Evra and this year John Terry received a four-match ban for his part in an incident involving Anton Ferdinand, although a criminal court cleared the Chelsea captain of a similar charge and the Football Association said they did not think the defender was a racist. Terry always protested his innocence.

England's Under 21 players were subjected to monkey chanting when they played in Serbia, and Lazio were fined for a similar offence when their fans targeted Tottenham's players with offensive chanting during a Europa League match in September.

Ronaldo: Brazil will struggle to win World Cup in 2014

Brazil win the World Cup Not likely! Ronaldo cool on hosts' hopes of sixth title



12:00 GMT, 10 October 2012

Brazil legend Ronaldo is convinced his country will put on a great show at the World Cup in 2014, but doubts they can lift the title a record sixth time.

Fears were mounting over the countries' readiness to hosts the competition with the building of stadia and facilities seemingly behind schedule.

Ronaldo moved to quell those fears, but has revealed he believes the chances of the hosts nation lifting the cup on July 13 are slim.

Pleased to meet you: Ronaldo greets Fabrice Muamba at Stamford Bridge

Pleased to meet you: Ronaldo greets Fabrice Muamba at Stamford Bridge

He said: 'I'm sure we will be able to look back with pride and know that we organised the best World Cup of all time.

'The organisation, of course, has to be perfect. It will be perfect. We will guarantee it will be perfect.'

He added: 'We have the worst FIFA ranking ever in history,' he said. 'It is a difficult moment for the national team.

'However, we will be playing at home. This will be added incentive, it will be motivation. I think it will have a positive impact.

'Otherwise, I will be playing again!'

Ronaldo was at the Leaders in Football Summit at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium where he met former Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba.

FIFA have taken the opportunity at the event to pledge to keep empty seats to a 'strict minimum' at the the next World Cup.

Fear not: Ronaldo has allayed any fears Brazil will not be ready

Fear not: Ronaldo has allayed any fears Brazil will not be ready

Fear not: Ronaldo has allayed any fears Brazil will not be ready

This year’s London Olympics and European Championships in Poland and Ukraine were both dogged by no-shows in arenas that were meant to be sold out.

FIFA admit it is impossible to eradicate the problem completely but are confident they will have systems in place at Brazil 2014 to avoid similar embarrassment.

FIFA’s marketing director Thierry Weil said: 'Empty seats is always a huge topic.

'We are implementing new initiatives, we are implementing new resale platforms.

'There will always be no-shows – as we call it – in the ticketing world, people who, last minute, will not come to the stadium for certain reasons.

'But we will do our maximum to reduce that to a strict minimum.'

He added: 'We are concerned by no-shows, that is clear. Because it does not look good and it especially does not look good if you announce to the world that you have no tickets, then you see on TV that you have a lot of empty seats.'

Repeat performance Ronaldo lifted the cup in 2002

Repeat performance Ronaldo lifted the cup in 2002

Weil confirmed FIFA were revamping the official resale website they used at the last World Cup, something which would allow tickets to be reallocated as late as the day of a game – helped by the fact no physical ticket will be issued until matchday in any event.

One of the biggest complaints from the Olympics was the no-show of event sponsors, leading to large blocks of empty seats in highly-visible locations.

Weil said commercial partners would have to provide a list of names of individual attendees 'two or three days in advance, so they cannot just say the people will come and then nobody comes'.

He added: 'The tickets will only be handed over the day of the game to the people, so you can reallocate tickets to different people, even in the sponsor families.'

Weil was confident the new system would be up and running in time for next summer’s Confederations Cup.

He also vowed FIFA would do everything possible to make ticket prices 'extremely fair'.

'We try to have this World Cup open to everybody, in Brazil, and around the world,' he added, confirming the precise pricing structure would be announced on November 8.

Weil defended the format of the tournament, which will see teams travel all around Brazil, something that could prove very expensive for travelling fans.

He was also vowed the country would be ready to host the tournament, pointing out every event had problems in the build up.

'At certain stages, there will be some wake-up calls,' he said. 'At certain stages, there will be some delays. At certain stages, there will be negative things from different people.

'But, Brazil will be ready.'

Welford Road snubbed as potential 2015 Rugby World Cup venue

Welford Road snubbed in favour of King Power Stadium on long list of World Cup venues



09:15 GMT, 8 October 2012

Only one Aviva Premiership stadium has been named on the RFU's long list of 17 possible venues to host the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Gloucester's Kingsholm Stadium is the only one of 12 top flight grounds being considered for rugby's showpiece event, with iconic grounds such as Leicester's Welford Road and Harlequins' Twickenham Stoop being snubbed.

Snubbed: Leicester Tigers' Welford Road stadium

Snubbed: Leicester Tigers' Welford Road stadium

The list features 13 football stadia, including Wembley Stadium, Old Trafford and, more surprisingly, MK Dons's stadium:mk and Brighton's Amex Stadium.

Twickenham and Cardiff's Millennium Stadium are the other two traditional rugby venues on the list, while the Olympic Stadium has also been included as a possible venue.

The long list will be reduced to 12 next spring, meaning there is a chance that no Premiership grounds will host World Cup games.

Premiership fixtures continue throughout World Cup events but even so, many had expected more traditional rugby grounds to be involved.

Newcastle ready to make European return

Jose's Euro text peps up Pardew as Newcastle embark on Euro adventure



20:57 GMT, 22 August 2012

It was a simple text from The Special One which confirmed to Alan Pardew that Newcastle United and their manager are back in Europe.

The good luck wishes from Jose Mourinho on the eve of Newcastle’s departure for Athens to face Atromitos were official recognition from a European great.

Pardew and a squad who have already been stretched by injuries must ensure a smooth path to the Europa League. A Greek Euro exit is not an option for them.

The boss: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew takes training at the Peristeri Stadium on Wednesday

The boss: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew takes training at the Peristeri Stadium on Wednesday

It is six seasons since Newcastle were in Europe, the same amount of time since Pardew led his West Ham team in this competition. Newcastle, under Glenn Roeder, went out surprisingly in the last 16 to AZ Alkmaar when it looked impossible to do so. The Hammers were soundly beaten by Palermo in a similar play-off.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Pardew said: ‘It’s been something to look forward to. We are all focused on it and treating it as an adventure. It’s a new experience for some who have not been involved in Europe and it will be nice. We think we have prepared well.

‘We are looking forward to the different styles of play, different stadia and, hopefully, continuing on. We want to do what Spurs did a few years ago and claim a few scalps like Milan.

‘I had a text from Jose Mourinho on Tuesday wishing us all the best and it’s things like that which make you realise things are good. We are getting noticed, which is good. It’s nice for the team that other managers are looking at us.

‘It gives you as a club different credentials than just another Premier League team. You look at Everton, they were great against Manchester United on Monday — and they are not in Europe. It’s a feather in our cap.

‘We are proud we have done it through the league. I got into Europe with West Ham through a cup final and we probably drew the best team. This time around it doesn’t look so tough. But we have still got to win and it will be tough, especially this first leg.’

European adventure: Yohan Cabaye during a training at the Peristeri Stadium in Athens

European adventure: Yohan Cabaye during a training at the Peristeri Stadium in Athens

Newcastle’s pre-season was geared around picking a team capable of winning this play-off game and then travelling to Chelsea for the Saturday lunchtime showdown against the European champions.

But Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and Sammy and Shola Ameobi have been left in Tyneside for treatment, along with Cheick Tiote, Fabricio Coloccini, Demba Ba and the suspended Hatem Ben Arfa. Tiote, who hurt his knee in Saturday’s win over Tottenham, could be out for a month.

Pardew said: ‘We are stretched. We have brought everyone who is fit, and striker wise it highlights we are running a little low.

‘It’s not fair to ask a professional footballer to play three times at this level in this short period of time. But we have to deal with it. Whatever result we get on Thursday, we can’t jeopardise Chelsea.’

Challenge ahead: Newcastle face Atromitos in the Greek capital on Thursday night

Challenge ahead: Newcastle face Atromitos in the Greek capital on Thursday night

One man who will start is keeper Steve Harper, who was in the squad for the Alkmaar defeat and many other European adventures. Harper, 37, will make his first appearance for 16 months and admits he feared his Newcastle career was finished.

Atromitos have yet to start their league season and Pardew admitted Newcastle are relying on scouting reports from last season, when the Greek club achieved their highest finish of fourth in the table.

In their squad are former Liverpool keeper Charles Itandje and Njazi Kuqi, once on the books at Birmingham and a brother of former Newcastle striker Shefki.

London Welsh will appeal promotion ban

Champions London Welsh will appeal promotion ban after sealing title



14:50 GMT, 31 May 2012

London Welsh have confirmed they will appeal against the Rugby Football Union's decision to block their promotion to the Aviva Premiership.

The Exiles won the Championship title on Wednesday night, beating Cornish Pirates 66-41 over two legs, but the RFU decreed the club had failed to meet the minimum standards to be allowed into the Premiership.

London Welsh chairman Bleddyn Phillips said: 'We shall be lodging an appeal in the very near future and in parallel we are pursuing all other available opportunities to make sure we can take our rightful and deserved place in the Aviva Premiership.'

Champagne moment: London Welsh clinched the title on Wednesday night

Champagne moment: London Welsh clinched the title on Wednesday night

The final decision to appeal was taken after meeting of the London Welsh board today.

London Welsh were informed last
Wednesday, just hours before the first leg of the Championship final,
that they would not be eligable for promotion if they won the title.

The RFU board had ratified the
findings of an independent audit which confirmed London Welsh had failed
to meet with the Premiership's minimum standards.

The report highlighted primacy of
tenure of London Welsh's nominated home ground – the Kassam Stadium in
Oxford – as a key issue.

Phillips, a partner in the law firm Clifford Chance, described the RFU's decision as 'inequitable, unreasonable and unfair'.

London Welsh are frustrated that they have been denied a place in the Premiership when founder members London Irish, Saracens, Wasps and Sale have all used stadia without holding primacy of tenure.

The last team to be denied promotion were Rotherham in 2002. That situation prompted First Division Rugby – the forerunner to the Championship – to lodge a complaint with the Office Of Fair Trading against the RFU and Premiership Rugby.

The OFT ruled that clubs no longer had to be the main tenants at their home stadium but they must be able to stage matches at a venue on dates specified in advance by the Premiership.

London Welsh insist they have a legally binding agreement with the owners of the 12,500-capacity Kassam Stadium that would come into force if they are promoted.

The Exiles argue they can meet the fixture scheduling demands of the Premiership.

The London Welsh appeal will be heard by an independent panel put together by RFU disciplinary chief Bruce Reese-Russell.

Meanwhile, Newcastle wait to discover where they will be playing next season after they finished bottom fo the Premiership in a season which finished four weeks ago.

Patrick Collins: Now there can be no doubt that Britain gets the Games

Now there can be no doubt that Britain gets the Games



23:00 GMT, 26 May 2012

One week in and the relay has taken on the rhythm of a ritual: hours of waiting by a crowded roadside, a low rumble of expectation as the procession draws close, then a clamorous eruption of sheer delight as the golden cone is spotted, floating above the throng. Day by day, in their tens upon tens of thousands, the people have been flocking to the flame.

From the moment that London won the right to stage the Games, on that memorable afternoon in Singapore, some have wondered if Britain would ‘get it’. Would the nation readily accept the onerous expense, the burdensome responsibility and a substantial degree of disruption in order to put on an Olympics for the ages The answers have arrived with every inspiring stride of the torch relay.

In truth, the delirious response has come as no great surprise. Of course we get it. As a nation, we love sport and we are captivated by a big event. The Olympic Games are the apotheosis of sport, they are incomparably the grandest event on the planet. It was, therefore, inevitable that the British would throw themselves, heart and soul, at the challenge of making those Games a huge and memorable success.

Flaming the fire: The Olympic torch relay has captured the hearts of the British public

Flaming the fire: The Olympic torch relay has captured the hearts of the British public

Having covered every Olympics since Munich ’72, with the single exception of Montreal, I believe that London enjoys greater public support than any in my experience. At this stage of affairs, two months before the opening ceremony, most cities regarded the preparations with a kind of ominous suspicion.

In Athens they were still constructing their stadia. In Atlanta they believed, correctly as it proved, that the whole thing had the makings of a chaotic shambles. Even in Barcelona and Sydney, widely regarded as the finest of the modern Olympics, the public was initially unconvinced about the value of the entire exercise.

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Theatre of dreams: The Olympic stadium will play host to 17 days of sporting excellence

But we also know that a vast, hitherto desolate, expanse of east London has been wondrously transformed by the fact of the Games. We know that those Games will leave a legacy of fine buildings, glittering facilities and the kind of sporting investment we have not known in generations.

Of course, this legacy will need to be protected; not least when this Government can no longer bathe in a post-Olympic glow. But a successful Games will make official promises more difficult to break. Yet all these are for the years ahead. For the moment, we mark the passing days with the swell of noise and fervour and surging enthusiasm as the torch is carried on its journey of 8,000 miles through country lanes and city streets.

When the Games are officially opened, the stadium screens will carry the words of the founding father, Baron Pierre de Coubertin: ‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.’

Noble sentiments, but as the excitement grows and the scale of the achievement moves more sharply into focus, the song of another visionary springs to mind. It is a hymn to optimism, it is the work of Bob Marley, and its message is simple and soothing: ‘Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be all right.’

May it serve as the theme for the London Olympics.

Self-delusion is at the top of Dean’s agenda

Dean Richards is the man who orchestrated rugby’s ‘Bloodgate’ scandal, a piece of cheating which cost him the directorship of rugby at Harlequins and the respect he had accumulated over decades as a player and coach.
And yet, after serving a three-year ban, his confidence appears blissfully intact.

A week ago, he told this newspaper of his disillusion with the national situation. ‘England are not on my agenda at all,’ he said.

‘That fire burnt out a long time ago, as soon as they appointed someone like Johnno (Martin Johnson), in fact, someone who didn’t have the experience.

No stranger to confidence: Dean Richards

No stranger to confidence: Dean Richards

‘You have to ask yourself if you want to be part of a set-up that does things like that and the answer is “not at this moment”. If someone asked me about the England job right now, I would say No to it.’

There is a slim line between robust self-esteem and rampant self-delusion. Richards may have crossed it.

Red faces as Foden bares his pompous side

The initial instinct was to feel sorry for Ben Foden. When the England rugby full-back celebrated his stag party by cavorting stark-naked on stage with a gaggle of strippers, he did not expect to find incriminating pictures in the popular prints.

Caught short: Foden

Caught short: Foden

After all, what a chap does in the privacy of a ‘notorious Barcelona sex club’ is surely his own business. Poor show. Red faces all round.

But that might have been the end of it had Foden not elected to issue a warning to his less worldly England team-mates.

‘A picture speaks a thousand words and some things can be taken massively out of context,’ he prattled. ‘You have to be careful in what you are doing, especially on tour.’

The ‘thousand words’ cliche was merely banal but that ‘out of context’ ploy was absurdly crass. And the finger-wagging admonition — ‘You have to be careful’ — told us far more about Foden’s self-serving pomposity than we really wanted to know. The England team who disgraced themselves at last year’s Rugby World Cup contained a distressing number of players who believed their own publicity.

The new coach, Stuart Lancaster, was left with the task of separating the serious strivers from the vacuous poseurs. I suspect he still has some way to go.


Not for the first time, Kevin Pietersen has caused a minor flutter with a spiteful little Tweet.

Aimed at Nick Knight, the Sky commentator, it accused Knight of ‘talking his way into the commentary box’, which is what commentators tend to do. Those who know Knight speak of a serious, articulate man of considered opinions; terms which are rarely applied to Pietersen.

But KP is undoubtedly more famous than Knight. He is a ‘celebrity’. And in the world of Kevin Pietersen, that may be the thing that really matters.