Tag Archives: trust

Portsmouth offer from Keith Harris rejected by Football League

Portsmouth face renewed threat to survival after Football League reject latest Harris offer

By
Mark Staniforth, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

20:50 GMT, 18 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:50 GMT, 18 February 2013

The Football League has dismissed a revised offer by football financier Keith Harris to take control of npower League One strugglers Portsmouth.

Harris' new bid, made public today, involves a plan to give fans a free 15 per cent stake in the club.

But the League today reiterated its position that Pompey will be expelled from the competition if the Pompey Supporters' Trust – administrator PKF's preferred bidder – is not successful.

Running out of time: Portsmouth's takeover must be completed soon

Running out of time: Portsmouth's takeover must be completed soon

A Football League spokesman said: 'As stated after its most recent meeting, the Board of the Football League is not considering alternative applications for the transfer of Portsmouth's share in The Football League.

'Instead, it remains focused on a successful transfer of share to the preferred bidder, the Pompey Supporters Trust.'

Football financier: Keith Harris

Football financier: Keith Harris

Trust spokesman Colin Farmery said fans had no interest in the new Harris offer, in which 15 per cent of shares will be allocated free to a group made up of supporters who have donated funds to PST, season-ticket holders and hospitality clients.

Farmery said: 'Why would we be interested in 15 per cent when we are just about to take a 100 per cent stake in the club

'It is curious timing to say the least from Mr Harris with the Football League having made it quite clear that our bid is the only one that can be considered.

'Mr Harris seems to think he has still got a bid but he hasn't. Our bid is literally about dotting the i's and crossing the t's.'

The Trust expect to move a step closer to acquiring the club on Thursday when a court hearing will set a final date for the valuation of Fratton Park to be heard, followed by a high court date at which the Trust expect to be given the right to take over the club.

Luke Donald two shots behind leaders at the halfway stage of the Northern Trust Open

Donald remains in the hunt in California after rising to fifth at halfway stage of Northern Trust Open

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

07:22 GMT, 16 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:27 GMT, 16 February 2013

World No 3 Luke Donald put himself firmly in contention as Bae Sang-moon and Fredrik Jacobson shared the lead at the halfway stage of the Northern Trust Open in California.

England's Donald, playing his first tournament since November, produced a five-under 66 to sit seven under overall, two off the leading pair of South Korea's Bae and Sweden's Jacobson on nine under.

Donald, 18th overnight, carded seven birdies against two bogeys to end day two fifth – and he could have been in a share of third alongside Americans John Merrick and John Rollins but for a dropped shot on his penultimate hole, the par-four eighth.

Climbing the leaderboard: Luke Donald hit five under par to rise to seventh

Climbing the leaderboard: Luke Donald hit five under par to rise to seventh

NORTHERN TRUST OPEN

Click here for the latest leaderboard

Donald told www.pgatour.com: 'Happy with my score, obviously coming off a pretty good break, you never know with how you're going to deal with being back in competition again but certainly a big improvement today, ball striking wise and my short game has been very sharp.

'I've been excited about that. It's been a big key to my score so far, and, yeah, excited to be in the mix again.'

On the top of the pile though were Jacobson and Bae, both of whom were six under for the day to climb from sixth to joint first.

Surveying the scene: Donald and his caddie John McLaren walks up to the sixth green

Surveying the scene: Donald and his caddie John McLaren walks up to the sixth green

For Jacobson it was a continuation of the form which saw him finish seventh at Pebble Beach last week.

'Obviously I take a lot out of that, just being in contention again,' Jacobson said. 'I've had some good practice sessions before, but to bring it on the course and play under pressure, that's what it's about.'

There was no room to relax, though, with a number of notable names on the heels of the top five.

Leading the way: Fredrik Jacobson shares the lead at the halfway stage

Leading the way: Fredrik Jacobson shares the lead at the halfway stage

World No 8 Lee Westwood headed up a group of three players on six under, which also included major winners Charl Schwartzel and Webb Simpson.

Overnight leader Matt Kuchar was among the players on five under having carded a two-over 73, as was defending champion Bill Haas, while Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were all four under.

Out in front: Sang-Moon Bae is going well in California

Out in front: Sang-Moon Bae is going well in California

Among the remainder of the British contingent, Brian Davis (three under), Greg Owen (two under), David Lynn (one under) and Ross Fisher (one over) all made the cut, but Martin Laird and Graeme McDowell missed out.

Other big names to miss the cut included Dustin Johnson, Padraig Harrington, Mike Weir, Zach Johnson, Geoff Ogilvy, Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover.

Charles Green defiant after winning disrepute case against SPL

Green defiant: Rangers chief hits out at SPL after beating disrepute rap

|

UPDATED:

22:14 GMT, 4 October 2012

Charles Green won his latest battle with the football authorities on Thursday night before insisting it was time for the SPL to think again about their treatment of Rangers.

The Ibrox chief executive made a personal appearance at Hampden and was cleared of disrepute charges when an SFA Judicial Panel delivered a not-proven verdict.

Green had been accused of questioning the integrity of the SPL Commission — headed by Lord Nimmo Smith — set up to decide whether Rangers were guilty of improper payments to players when operating an Employee Benefit Trust scheme.

Winning: Charles Green emerged victorious

Winning: Charles Green emerged victorious

The Yorkshireman is now ready to meet with SFA president Campbell Ogilvie to try to build a constructive new relationship with the association.

Yet he remains deeply unhappy with the SPL over their EBT investigation, which could potentially lead to Rangers being stripped of titles.

Green has refused to co-operate with the Commission, due to convene again next month, and claims the lingering issue has damaged attempts to rebuild the club following its financial meltdown and plunge into the Third Division.

‘Perhaps it is now time that those people within the SPL who have been pursuing Rangers at every turn take stock,’ said Green.

‘As a member of the SFA, we want to work constructively within its structure and hope that all parties and organisations can take a view that what is of paramount importance is the good of the game.

‘To that end, we will be meeting with SFA President Campbell Ogilvie in the near future.

‘We want to be a force for good in football and it is surely to the benefit of all that the way forward is not frustrated by continually trying to look back.’

In a statement on the Rangers website last month, Green described the SPL Commission as ‘fundamentally misconceived’.

Fancy seeing you here: Former Rangers goalkeeper Bobby Brown (right) meets current No 1 Neil Alexander at the Scottish League Cup quarter-final draw

Fancy seeing you here: Former Rangers goalkeeper Bobby Brown (right) meets current No 1 Neil Alexander at the Scottish League Cup quarter-final draw

He also attacked the ‘breathtaking hypocrisy’ of the SPL, claiming deals over the EBT issue were on the table in the summer as part of a plan to have Rangers back in one of the top two divisions.

While insisting he was not questioning the impartiality of the Commission members, Green also said whatever decision they reached would be a ‘decision of the SPL’.

‘I am pleased the judicial panel accepted today that I had not brought the game into disrepute,’ added Green.

‘What I said, I said in good faith and I was speaking up for the interests of Rangers.

‘To be critical of the SPL’s handling of the EBT issue, does not mean that I am showing disrespect for the game and that view appears to have been shared by the judicial panel.

Looking up: Rangers are pushing for promotion

Looking up: Rangers are pushing for promotion

‘It is my hope that we can all move on from today and start working constructively for the good of the game.

‘The creation of the EBT Commission by the SPL following the events of the summer and the club’s attempts at constructive discussion has been particularly difficult for those of us who are new to Rangers and are trying to rebuild the club.

‘It appears for all the world to be yet another obstacle being placed in our path as we try to rebuild a great Scottish sporting institution.

‘I am the first person to accept that there are people who have been associated with Rangers who have brought the game into disrepute, particularly the previous regime, whose delinquent approach to paying taxes triggered a series of events that brought the club to the brink of destruction.

‘The consortium I led came to the table with one objective in mind: to save Rangers Football Club and rebuild what is a great sporting institution.’

Rangers in SFA fold "within 24 hours"

Almost there! Green believes new Rangers will be in SFA fold within 24 hours

|

UPDATED:

23:20 GMT, 24 July 2012

Charles Green believes that a deal to hand newco Rangers membership of the SFA will be signed and sealed within 24 hours.

It will mean that not only will Sunday’s Ramsdens Cup clash at Brechin go ahead, but also the Ibrox club will be free to sign players ahead of a transfer embargo agreed to come into force on September 1.

Prospective signings Ian Black and Craig Beattie trained at Murray Park, with midfielder Black ready to agree a three-year deal at Rangers as soon as SFA membership is agreed. And last night it was also revealed that the club have offered former Kilmarnock forward Dean Shiels a contract.

Confident: Charles Green (right) is hopeful of a resolution with the SFA

Confident: Charles Green (right) is hopeful of a resolution with the SFA

Ibrox chief executive Green met SFA and Scottish Premier League counterparts Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster.

Television rights to Rangers games in the Third Division, a transfer embargo and the SPL’s dual contracts investigation have all been obstacles to a speedy agreement.

But Green reported only a number of ‘minor points’ to clear with the SPL and said: ‘We are making good progress now. I spoke to Stewart Regan this morning. I have also just spoken to Neil Doncaster and I am going to be meeting them both later today.

‘I am really hopeful now that, within the next 24 hours, we can have this thing signed and sealed so Alistair (McCoist) can start loading his players on a team coach to go and win a game on Sunday.

‘Most of the things are clear to all of the parties. The EBT (Employee Benefit Trust) issue was never with the SFA — it was really with the SPL.
‘As far as I am concerned, we have no outstanding issues with the SFA.
‘We have no issues with the football league, just some minor points to resolve with the SPL, and I’m hopeful we can do that today.’

Prospective signing: Craig Beattie has been training with Rangers

Prospective signing: Craig Beattie has been training with Rangers

An announcement on the SFA membership of Rangers is expected within the coming days — as Brechin City hold their breath over the sell-out clash being placed in doubt.

Vice-chairman Martin Smith admitted: ‘I’ve been having sleepless nights and every day I wake up expecting a phone call or text saying they have the licence and we can play.

‘We are going on the assumption that the game will go ahead. If we have bad weather and we are fighting against frost and snow, we still make the right preparations. This is no different. Everything has been put in place.

‘We have not done the budget yet for this year but, obviously, with this game in mind, we could have a great start to the season. We have sold more season tickets and that, allied with money coming from BBC Alba television, would make a huge difference.’

Rangers entry to SPL could be short-lived

Double blow! SPL entry could be short-lived and Rangers must answer case over EBTs

|

UPDATED:

22:31 GMT, 18 June 2012

Newco Rangers could face the grim prospect of winning entry to the SPL — only to be kicked out again almost immediately.

The fallen Glasgow giants will hear their fate on July 4 when the 12 member clubs rule on their application to be parachuted back into the top flight.

The SPL board also ruled that Rangers had a ‘case to answer’ regarding alleged dual contracts under the controversial Employee Benefit Trust (EBT) scheme.

Setback: Rangers owner Charles Green faces an early blow to his regime

Setback: Rangers owner Charles Green faces an early blow to his regime

And in an extraordinary development it emerged that, even if they win a place back in the top tier, the ‘contract’ issue could still see newco Rangers being expelled.

A senior SPL source confirmed that one of the main conditions that could see a newco Rangers re-elected to the top tier was for owner Charles Green to agree to the oldco being punished over the alleged contract breaches between 2000 and 2010.

But in accepting that condition, there could be a ‘double-jeopardy’ situation whereby an independent judicial panel set up by the SPL could still rule that they should be kicked out of the league. The panel would have wide-ranging sanctions and could also strip Rangers of ‘tainted’ titles secured during the EBT decade.

SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster confirmed newco Rangers had applied for re-entry and the issue which has pushed Scottish football to the brink of civil war will finally be decided by all 12 member clubs at a meeting at Hampden on July 4, where an 8-4 vote is needed to re-elect Rangers.

Doncaster said: ‘The SPL has ruled that there is a case to answer in respect to our investigation into payments to, or for the benefit of, players allegedly made by Rangers FC outside of contracts.

‘Disciplinary charges will be brought when the future status of Rangers is clarified (on July 4) and prior to the start of season 2012/13. There are 18 different types of sanctions which would be available.

‘It’s fairly straightforward what happens next and I wouldn’t want to jeopardise that by discussing these issues any further at this stage.

‘Also, an application for registration of transfer of Rangers’ SPL share has been received and consideration of that application by member clubs on July 4 will depend on receipt by the SPL board of all required documentation and verification.’

The SPL announced an inquiry into EBTs back in March — after revelations in Sportsmail by former Rangers director Hugh Adam regarding mis-registraion of players, a claim denied by former Ibrox owner Sir David Murray.

The league’s probe was held up because Ibrox administrators Duff & Phelps failed to hand over key documents until last week, after Rangers were consigned to liquidation.

A Rangers spokesperson said: ‘We note the announcement from the SPL. It is disappointing we have received no formal notification of this to date beyond a media statement.’

Who'll have us Rangers do not yet know which division they will play in

Who'll have us Rangers do not yet know which division they will play in

The issue of sporting integrity against financial necessity has split the SPL and Motherwell last night reflected the difficulties faced when they admitted they would be forced to opt for ‘the least worst option’ when voting for a re-entry by Rangers.

And the Fir Park club acknowledged that even a ‘yes’ vote may not see the Ibrox club playing SPL football next season.

A statement read: ‘We are fully aware an overwhelming majority of our fans and most others, who have so far expressed an opinion, are totally opposed to newco being allowed immediately back into the SPL.

‘In any event it would appear a ‘yes’ vote may not even guarantee that newco will play in the SPL next season as the club is still subject to SFA sanctions and there is an ongoing investigation into the use of EBTs to make payments to players.

‘But the consequences of five or more clubs voting no to newco do also need to be taken into account.

‘In addition to lower gate receipts, we are likely to lose an unquantified amount of commercial revenue.

‘In the event of a shortfall we do not have a bank or benefactor able to fund the gap.’

A statement on St Mirren’s official website said: ‘Once all the facts are available to the board of directors, they shall take any decisions that are required, in the best interests of St Mirren Football Club only as their guiding line.’

Euro 2012: England squad will visit Auschwitz

England squad to visit Auschwitz and Schindler's factory before Euros

|

UPDATED:

13:38 GMT, 29 May 2012

Members of England's Euro 2012 squad will visit the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz when they travel to Poland ahead of the European Championship.

They will go to Auschwitz prior to their opening fixture against France, soon after their June 6 arrival date, and sign the museum's guest book before lighting a candle of remembrance on the train tracks at Birkenau.

Visit: England players will go to Auschwitz

Visit: England players will go to Auschwitz

Other squad members will make a trip to the factory in Krakow once owned by Oskar Schindler, the German who helped to save over a thousand Jewish people from the death camps, while later this week senior players and staff will speak to Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper and meet fellow survivor and weightlifting champion Ben Helfgott MBE, before departing for their pre-tournament preparations.

The Football Association and Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) have entered into a partnership to produce an educational resource on the Holocaust for all secondary schools and colleges in England and Football Association chairman David Bernstein welcomed the initiative.

History: Other players will visit the factory owned by Oscar Schindler

History: Other players will visit the factory owned by Oscar Schindler

'This educational partnership brings together the important work of teaching future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust, using the ability of football to interest and engage young people,' he said.

'There are so many lessons to be learnt and understood, and we believe football can play its part in encouraging society to speak out against intolerance in all its forms.

'I am proud that Roy Hodgson and the England team are supporting such an important initiative and I would encourage all English schools to take advantage of the learning materials that will be created.'

Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: 'It is a credit to our national team that they have set aside time to pay their respects to those who died during the Holocaust and it's fantastic that they are so committed to building an educational legacy for young people in schools across England.'

Jenson Button feels safe in Bahrain despite anti-F1 feeling

I've no doubts over Bahrain! Button backs FIA decision despite growing anti-F1 feeling

|

UPDATED:

14:03 GMT, 18 April 2012

Jenson Button has admitted to placing his complete trust in the FIA with regard to this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Formula One personnel have so far
been untroubled by the myriad of protests and rallies that have taken
place this week, even if there is an anti-F1 slant in some places.

Impressive start: Jenson Button leads drivers' championship

High hopes: Jenson Button aims to build on impressive start

That was evident yesterday in the village of Al Dair where a 5,000-strong group of men, women and children staged a pro-democracy demonstration, but also voiced their opposition towards F1.

Where the sport is concerned, however, the emphasis is on safety, and it is apparent that on the roads to the Sakhir International Circuit there is an increased police presence with scores of vehicles.

Whether it is enough to deter some protesters, in particular the more hardline Coalition of the Youth of the Feb 14 Revolution, remains to be seen.

Button, when asked by Press Association Sport whether he had any safety concerns this weekend, issued a firm: 'No.'

He added: 'I trust in the FIA that they know all the information – I don't personally – so we have to trust in their decision.

'I don't think they will ever want to put us at risk. They do a lot on safety for drivers, in terms of the circuits and the cars and what have you, and that's a priority for them.

Protest: Tuesday's events were more peaceful than Monday's

Protest: Tuesday's events were more peaceful than Monday's

'So I believe in the FIA's decision.

'If everything is straightforward and nothing happens, it's not even going to be in the back of my mind at all.'

For all the teams and drivers it is now simply a case of getting through the weekend, placing as much emphasis as possible on the racing without getting distracted by events elsewhere in Bahrain.

For Button, who has spent the last couple of days warm-weather training in Dubai after a chilly weekend in Shanghai, the heat of the Middle East is certainly welcome.

With temperatures expected to be over 30 degrees centigrade, Button added: 'It's a massive thing for us, for me especially.

'I don't know why I can't work tyres in cold conditions. It must be the way I drive. I've tried driving differently but it doesn't work. Heat really helps me.'

Despite that, Button still managed to finish second in China on Sunday behind maiden race winner Nico Rosberg to trail McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton by two points in the drivers' standings.

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

Volatile: Protesters clash with police in Bahrain

His aberration aside in Malaysia, when he collided with the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan on a damp track, Button has been first and second in the other two races, and happy enough with his speed.

'The table makes for good reading at the moment,' said Button.

'It's not quite as good as Lewis, but we're very close. Only two points between us.

'The thing we've got to take from the first three races, in terms of the performance of our car, is that we might not have been the quickest all the time, but we've been close to being the quickest and that is important.

'It's important we are consistently quick because there are lots of other teams who are also quick, but don't have the consistency in terms of performance.

'Fernando (Alonso) won the previous race in Malaysia, but didn't really score many points in China, where Nico won, but he hadn't scored any points before then.

'Those sort of things make a big difference for us, so it's key if we can consistently be at the front.

'In our hearts we want to win every race, and that's what we come racing for, but we have to be consistently fighting for victories.'

New claims in Ibrox tax case

New claims in Ibrox tax case raise further questions

|

UPDATED:

22:57 GMT, 30 March 2012

Allegations: Martin Bain

Allegations: Martin Bain

The Rangers 'double-contracts' saga
took another twist on Friday night when details emerged purporting to
back the view that payments made into offshore accounts were simply
disguised wages.

Channel 4 News alleged that former
Ibrox chief executive Martin Bain asked for a contractual pay rise to be
paid to him through the Employee Benefit Trust scheme, rather than
through the standard PAYE system.

The programme claimed to have seen
documents from the club and quoted a letter Bain wrote to former Ibrox
chairman John McClelland in 2003.

In it, the broadcaster alleged, Bain admitted the practice of paying players and employees through the scheme was widespread.

In a further development, Channel 4
News received confirmation from Murray International Holdings finance
chief Mike McGill that not a penny of any 'loans' made to employees
through the EBT scheme had ever been repaid.

Asked when or if any of the loans would ever be repaid, McGill said: 'We do not consider it appropriate to make any further comment at this juncture.'

The most damning allegation centred around Bain, however, and appeared to back the view of former director Hugh Adam that payments into offshore trusts was simply a way of avoiding paying tax on wages.

The Channel 4 News report claimed it had been suggested to Bain that any pay rise he got would be paid through an EBT.

He allegedly wrote to McClelland on December 18, 2003, saying: 'Any pay rise I get should be paid through the trust obviously as a discretionary bonus, as it cannot be contractual.

'My increase was to be non-contractual put through as a discretionary bonus as I do with players, coaches and, more recently, John Greig.'

The programme further alleged that Bain was offered 100,000 in a bonus from the trust in 2005, then later that year requested a further loan of 100,000 'as soon as possible for purposes of investment'.

New allegations: Turmoil at Ibrox Stadium

New allegations: Turmoil at Ibrox Stadium

The allegations concurred with Adam's belief, reported in Sportsmail last month, that monies paid into offshore trusts were part and parcel of players' packages and, as such, should have been included in contracts lodged with the SFA and the SPL.

In the wake of Adam's allegations, both bodies announced inquiries into alleged breaches of registration rules.

However, the SFA have put their probe on ice as they would be the appeal body for any SPL decision.

Sir David Murray has insisted the club had done nothing wrong as payments into EBTs were 'discretionary'.

The issue of whether EBTs were discretionary or not is the basis of the so-called 'big-tax case' – the outcome of which is expected soon.

If the Tier-One Tribunal finds in favour of HMRC, Rangers could face a bill of around 49million.

Edge of the Box: Sky turn up heat for Rangers against Celtic

Old Firm fire burns as strong as ever but Sky still turn up the heat for Rangers against Celtic

|

UPDATED:

07:27 GMT, 26 March 2012

At 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland experienced its hottest March day since records began – eclipsing the previous high from 1965 in Strachan, Kincardineshire (although Gordon of the same name has certainly got pretty hot under the collar a few times since then).

However, a couple of hours earlier in Glasgow, the mercury was also rising in anticipation of a particularly significant Old Firm derby.

Or as commentator Ian Crocker put it on Sky Sports coverage of the game, ‘the temperature is about to hit the 70’s in Ibrox…hot and bothered’.

On hold: Celtic fans turned up to party but the Ibrox men made them wait

On hold: Celtic fans turned up to party but the Ibrox men made them wait

More from Mark Webster…

Edge of the box: F1's TV future is in safe hands with Sky Sports
18/03/12

Edge of the Box: Six Nations super slo mo grabs your attention… and eye-watering sights for any male
12/03/12

Edge of the Box: Soccer AM still has what it takes to get me up in the morning
05/03/12

Edge of the Box: Old Spice Boy Kamara gives Carling Cup coverage the Chris of life
27/02/12

Edge of the Box: BBC fall short with Olympic cycling warm-up event
19/02/12

Edge of the Box: Forget Suarez and Redknapp! For real drama, make your own Luck under Friday Night Lights
13/02/12

Edge of the Box: Sky wins day to beat BBC in Super Bowl TV battle
06/02/12

Edge of the Box: Trust Jim White to smash the winter window as he reaches for the Sky
01/02/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Much like the hordes of green and white clad fans we saw arriving at the ground brandishing inflatable champagne bottles, Sky were all set to crown the visiting Glasgow team champions – a win would of course do it – but they did also have the useful fall-back point that in the face of their current adversity, a home win for Rangers would certainly also have enough emotional resonance to make this particular derby one of the big ones.

Thus when host David Tanner slapped it on thick and heavy with an opening gambit that included ‘Celtic need Rangers, Rangers need Celtic and Glasgow would not be Glasgow without the Old Firm’, you could just about forgive the hyperbole in the circumstances.

If that kind of flowery language wasn’t to your taste, however, there was certainly a much more down-to-earth alternative provided by two old fellas chatting on a park bench.

This was a great little pre-recorded piece featuring two veterans of 45 years ago when Celtic last won the title at Ibrox – Gers Willie Henderson and Celtic’s Bertie Auld.

Boasting seriously undiluted brogues, these old stagers laughed and jibed away over some great vintage footage of both clubs in their glory years.

Willie recalled a goal by Celtic’s very right-footed winger Jimmy Johnstone by asking Bertie ‘wee Jinky stuck it in the top corner; did he get lent a left leg for that day’ while Bertie remembered talking to Rangers skipper John Greig in the tunnel before the big game.

'He said, what’s your bonus I said three quid. We’re on six, said Greigy. I know, I said, but I’m guaranteed it.'

Pride: Rangers fans and players finally had something to smile about

Pride: Rangers fans and players finally had something to smile about

Back at Ibrox it was an undulating sea of flags in alternating blue and white (with plenty incorporating red) or green and white waves, in the middle of which was a banner aimed at Rangers fans which boldly advertised ‘Party Over Here’.

This provided the backdrop for the booth where the pundits were former Rangers forward Neil McCann and Celtic hero Charlie Nicholas – and judging by his croaking voice, you couldn’t help but wonder if Charlie had decided to start celebrating a Celtic title the night before

The pair were excellent in their set-up and subsequent analysis, both perceptive and passionate, with McCann perhaps summing up the entire occasion best when he said this was Rangers ‘biggest game in seasons…they could make themselves heroes.'

Indeed, co-commentator Davie Provan thought much the same thing 10 minutes into the game when he observed ‘you can see the Rangers players are up for this…(they’re saying) not on our patch’ and within a minute, there was Sone Aluko going on a fantastic run to score the first of five goals, punctuated with three players seeing red.

Another fiery affair: Victor Wanyama was one of three players sent off at Ibrox

Another fiery affair: Victor Wanyama was one of three players sent off at Ibrox

That was also the not unfamiliar fate of Celtic manager Neil Lennon who wasn’t seen on camera again once he got himself sent off in the tunnel at half-time.

One former manager was caught on camera, though, in the second half, Walter Smith, who was sitting in the stands and for a few compelling seconds, appeared to be involved in a synchronised chewing performance with someone I can only assume is Mrs Smith.

It really was quite a mesmerising display, and should certainly have put them among the medals.

At the final whistle, Crocker deftly pointed out ‘this may be Celtic’s season, but Rangers had a day in the sun’, and accordingly the coverage shifted gear to the significance of the win to a club in crisis.

Enjoy it while it lasts: Neil Lennon was not allowed on the touchline after half-time

Enjoy it while it lasts: Neil Lennon was not allowed on the touchline after half-time

This they did, rather unusually, by welcoming Rangers manager Ally McCoist to sit alongside McCann and Nicholas into the booth to look back at the game, and project forward on Rangers future, of which he optimistically said he’d ‘talked to potential purchasers (and) been very impressed.'

So a win on the day for Rangers, and perhaps a victory in sight for the club itself

Meanwhile for Celtic, they’ll just have to get that title party started another day.

SPORT RELIEF WEDGIES

BBC4, and on a celebrity Only Connect, Spurs fan Stephen Mangan outed himself as a golf fan when he worked out a ‘dog-leg’ clue, but then tried to back track: ‘I’ve played, you know, occasionally…yes…no…what’s golf

BBC Breakfast and a bleary-eyed Freddie Flintoff was confronted by what turns out to be his toughest opponent yet; a chocolate muffin he can’t eat in under 25 seconds.

BBC1 and John Bishop embarked on a torturous ‘week from hell ‘ ,as Chris Moyles put it, on two wheels in Paris alongside Chris Boardman. ‘You’re quite balanced on a bike’, said Boardman. ‘A bit of a natural’, asked John. ‘I didn’t say that’, replied Chris.

Saturday night on BBC1 and Jermaine Defoe got ‘bladdered’ with the Horrible Histories team while Frank Lampard deftly flicked the little girl from Outnumbered on to Howard Webb.

Over 52million raised. Congratulations to everyone involved and all those who donated.

Fabrice Muamba starts speaking at hospital

He's started speaking! Real hope over Muamba as stricken star utters words to family and friends at his hospital bedside

Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips pay visit to hospital bedside

Flowers and shirt tributes laid at Reebok Stadium as fans forget rivalries

We're not even thinking about when our next game will be, reveals Davies

Coyle and Gartside make another visit to the bedside of midfielder

Bolton chiefs consider pulling out of FA Cup to avoid return to Tottenham

|

UPDATED:

18:00 GMT, 19 March 2012

Fabrice Muamba has uttered words as he battles to save his life after collapsing on the pitch.

Curtis Codrington, who is a close friend of the player and his fiancee Shauna, has been visiting Muamba in intensive care at the London Chest Hospital.

After speaking to Muamba's family on Monday, Codrington revealed that his friend has spoken 'minimal words in English and French, which is better than nothing.'

Earlier, there was more good news over the health of Muamba, who is 'showing small signs of improvement'.

Visit: Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole went to see Fabrice Muamba on Monday afternoon

Visit: Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole went to see Fabrice Muamba on Monday afternoon

Old pal: Johan Djourou arrives at the London Chest Hospital to visit his former Arsenal team-mate

Old pal: Johan Djourou arrives at the London Chest Hospital to visit his former Arsenal team-mate

Medics reported that Muamba's heart is now beating without the aid of medication and he is showing movement in his arms and legs, offering the world of football enormous hope for the player's recovery.

However, it could take days before Muamba's long-term prognosis is identified and he continues to be closely monitored and treated.

A joint statement, from the club and
The Barts and London NHS Trust released on Monday, read: 'Fabrice Muamba
remains in intensive care at The London Chest Hospital, where today he
is showing small signs of improvement.

'His heart is now beating without the help of medication and he is also moving his arms and his legs.

'However,
his long-term prognosis will remain unclear for some time. He is still
critically ill and will continue to be closely monitored and treated by
staff in The London Chest Hospital's intensive care unit.'

Support: A simple message for Muamba attached to flowers at the Reebok today

Support: A simple message for Muamba attached to flowers at the Reebok today

Update: Bolton boss Owen Coyle spoke off Fabrice Muamba continuing his 'brave fight' to save his life at the London Chest Hospital

Update: Bolton boss Owen Coyle spoke off Fabrice Muamba continuing his 'brave fight' to save his life at the London Chest Hospital

Bolton boss Owen Coyle earlier described the 'brave fight' that the 23-year-old is putting up after his heart attack.

The player has received support throughout the football community since his cardiac arrest on the pitch at Tottenham on Saturday night.

Arsenal defender Johan Djourou paid a second visit to his friend on Monday and Chelsea defender Ashley Cole also offered a vigil at his bedside, arriving alongside QPR midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips. Cole played with Muamba at Arsenal and Wright-Phillips represented England Under 21s alongside the Bolton star.

Caring: Bolton captain Kevin Davies revealed none of the players are only concerned about the welfare of Muamba

Caring: Bolton captain Kevin Davies revealed none of the players are only concerned about the welfare of Muamba

Former Blackburn defender Christopher Samba – from Muamba's native Congo – revealed he plans to hire a private jet and visit Muamba at the weekend with Anzhi team-mates Roberto Carlos and Samuel Eto'o.

Coyle and chairman Phil Gartside were back at the London Chest Hospital on Monday as the player's fiancee called on fans to pray for the star.

Coyle said Muamba's family had been inundated with messages of support following his collapse.

'The
message is the good will, the prayers from everybody, they are so
thankful and they want to put that on record – to say “keep up the
prayers, thanks for all the support”' he said.

Fans' favourite: A small picture of Muamba is attached to flowers by tribute shirts

Fans' favourite: A small picture of Muamba is attached to flowers by tribute shirts

'They have been inundated as we all
have, both in the football community globally and family and friends.
People are taking a genuine interest and a real concern with how Fabrice
is doing.'

Coyle was speaking outside the London Chest Hospital where the 23-year-old player is in a stable but critical condition.

'We all know he's such a wonderful
lad, he's a young man and we all hope that will help in this brave fight
which he is undergoing at the moment,' Coyle continued.

'It's a difficult situation but the family are bearing up as well as they can. They themselves are very positive people.

'You look at what Fabrice has been
through in life already and you can tell that he is a fighter. He has
such a fantastic smile and that's what we all want to see again.

Well wishes: Muamba's collapse has seen messages flood into Bolton's home

Well wishes: Muamba's collapse has seen messages flood into Bolton's home

No time for rivalry: Shirts from a number of different clubs were laid outside the ground

No time for rivalry: Shirts from a number of different clubs were laid outside the ground

'When situations like this occur,
there is a real strength, a real unity and a real togetherness. As a
family they are showing that and again that has been boosted by
everybody else's support.'

Coyle spoke shortly after Bolton skipper Kevin Davies also described Muamba as a 'fighter'.

Davies spoke this morning as the
world of football comes together to support the player and his family as
he battles for his life. The midfielder remains on a life support machine.

Davies said: 'Fabrice is fighting and we are all hoping he will pull through. I spoke to the manager and the doctor this morning and his condition remains criticial. I have been speaking to the manager and I have travelled back with the chairman. He went back down to support Fabrice and his family.

'It was optional to come into training today and decisions will have to be made but my immediate thoughts are with Fabrice and his family. The club will take a stance on (the next game) in the next couple of days. But at the minute we want to just try and help Fabrice.'

Visit: Bolton manager Owen Coyle was back with Muamba at hospital this morning

Visit: Bolton manager Owen Coyle was back with Muamba at hospital this morning

Support: Bolton chairman Phil Gartside (right) arrives with club doctor Jonathan Tobin

Support: Bolton chairman Phil Gartside (right) arrives with club doctor Jonathan Tobin

Couple: Fabrice with partner Shauna

Couple: Fabrice with partner Shauna

Davies was on the pitch when Muamba
collapsed in the FA Cup quarter-final at White Hart Lane and added: 'It
became very serious within just a few seconds. We all knew there was
something seriously wrong. You feel powerless – he's a colleague, a friend, a father and a son.'

Davies went to hospital with Muamba on Saturday night and marvelled at the work of medical staff.

'The amount of people who were
turning up, running around trying to get Fabrice sorted out was
amazing,' he said. 'There is no doubt in my mind if it wasn't down to
all those people, we wouldn't even be in this situation. We are all
thankful to them that they have given Fabrice a bit of hope.'

Davies has also been touched by the
overwhelming support for Muamba from across the footballing world. Fans
of both sides applauded the 23-year-old off the pitch on Saturday and
supporters at other matches since have offered their own backing with a
minute's applause.

Numerous scarves and other tributes from competing clubs have been left at the Reebok Stadium.
Davies is thankful for all of these. But there is a part of him that feels quite saddened.

'It is the first time in my nearly 19 years in the game that I have seen a stadium unite,' he said.
'It was touching but I was laying in bed thinking how sad it was as well.

'As professionals, we put a lot of
hours in. We work hard and make a lot of sacrifices. But it seems that
that the only way you are going to get a ripple of applause away from
your own ground is to get carried off on a stretcher.

'That is a sad state of affairs. Fans
are quick to get off their seats if there is a mis-timed tackle. Maybe
people have to ask why Fabrice Muamba runs 80 yards to put a last-ditch
tackle in.

'It is not because he has anything
against your team. It is because he is working hard for his own. If
there is anything positive to come out of this, when you see supporters
from all over, it would be nice if the fans could unite.'

Tribute: Some of Real Madrid's players wore shirts in support of Muamba on Sunday night

Tribute: Some of Real Madrid's players wore shirts in support of Muamba on Sunday night

On Monday morning, a joint statement
from Bolton, Barts and The NHS Trust read: 'Fabrice Muamba's heart
condition is stable, but he remains critically ill in intensive care at
The London Chest Hospital. The family is grateful to the media for
continuing to respect their privacy at this time.'

The football world has united in support for Muamba – and his 27-year-old partner
Shauna, who runs a successful Caribbean food catering business and got
engaged to the footballer on Valentine’s Day, took to Twitter to write:
'2 everyone out there thank u so much for all the love and support
collectively as a family we appreciate it all. Plz continue 2 pray 4 fab
x.

'Fabrice WILL!! Pull through because God is good. Love u so much @fmuamba keep strong we're praying for u honey xx.

'Please keep praying for @fmuamba its really helping I can feel it xx. God is in control. Please keep @fmuamba in ur prayers xx.'

Saturday's match against Tottenham was quickly abandoned after the horrific moment when Muamba fell to the turf with no-one close to him.

Bolton may now withdraw from the FA Cup to avoid a harrowing return to Tottenham in a rescheduled match.

If the rescheduled game is axed,
Tottenham would go into a semi-final against Chelsea at Wembley. Bolton
would not be penalised if they decide to withdraw.

Pray for Muamba: Gary Cahill celebrates his goal with a message for his former Bolton team-mate

Pray for Muamba: Gary Cahill celebrates his goal with a message for his former Bolton team-mate

Respect: Manchester United players took part in a 30-second applause ahead of their match against Wolves at Molineux

Respect: Manchester United players took part in a 30-second applause ahead of their match against Wolves at Molineux

A source close to Bolton told the
Daily Mirror: 'This is a group of young men, just kids really. How could
they cope with going back to Spurs and going through it all again'

Bolton’s
next match is the relegation six-pointer against Lancashire rivals
Blackburn this Saturday, although it may also be under threat.

Gary Cahill, his former teammate,
wore a message on his T-shirt that said: ‘Pray 4 Muamba’ as he scored
for Chelsea in the FA Cup win over Leicester on Sunday.

He
was joined by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, who wrote on Twitter: ‘I
want to dedicate (the goal) to Muamba. Keep fighting buddy, don’t give
up.’

Manchester United’s players led a round
of applause for the stricken player before their 5-0 win at Wolves,
while Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe and his mother visited Muamba and
his family in hospital.

As the 23-year-old spent a second night on life support, Bolton plan for
all their players to have further heart screenings and ECGs on Monday.

Applause: John Terry and Frank Lampard lead Chelsea's support for Muamba

Applause: John Terry and Frank Lampard lead Chelsea's support for Muamba

Vigil: Jermain Defoe and his mother Sandra visited Muamba at the hospital in east London

Vigil: Jermain Defoe and his mother Sandra visited Muamba at the hospital in east London

FADIGA ALSO SUFFERED BOLTON HEART COLLAPSE AGAINST SPURS

Fabrice Muamba was not the first Bolton player to collapse on the pitch. Khalilou Fadiga was struck down before Bolton's Carling Cup tie against Tottenham at the Reebok Stadium in 2004.

The Sengalese player had to be fitted with a pacemaker following his ordeal but managed to make a return to the game in 2005, playing five more games for the club before joining Coventry.

It was already known by Bolton that Fadiga had a heart defect when they signed him from Inter Milan in 2004 after the condition restricted him from playing for the Italian giants.

But the 37-year-old managed to keep on playing until last year when in retired at Belgium third division outfit KSV Temse.

Muamba had heart tests along with his team-mates at the start of the
season, but they did not flag up any problems for the athletic
midfielder.

Bolton’s Barclays Premier League fixture at Aston Villa on Tuesday has
been postponed and Spurs could yet cancel their clash against Stoke on Wednesday night.

Tottenham will have trained counsellors at their Spurs
Lodge training ground on Tuesday to help players affected.

Their
goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, pulled out of appearing on Match of the Day 2
on Sunday night.

After scoring and revealing his personal message to Muamba, Cahill – who
played with the midfielder at Bolton – said: ‘The game was a bit of a
blur for me after having seen what happened yesterday.

'I just hope he is
OK. My mind was in a different place today.’

A round of applause echoed around Stamford Bridge ahead of Sunday’s
game, while Liverpool offered their thoughts and prayers for Muamba
during the pre-match handshake.

Shock: Owen Coyle and players from both sides show their concern for Fabrice Muamba

Shock: Owen Coyle and players from both sides show their concern for Fabrice Muamba

Liverpool fans in the Kop display their get well messages before the club's FA Cup tie against Stoke

Liverpool fans in the Kop display their get well messages before the club's FA Cup tie against Stoke

Get well soon: Bolton fans have shown their support outside the club's Reebok Stadium home

Get well soon: Bolton fans have shown their support outside the club's Reebok Stadium home

Supporters at the matches at Wolves, Newcastle and Cardiff also paid tribute to the ex-England Under 21 midfielder.

And in Spain, Real Madrid players wore T-shirts before their game against Malaga with messages of support for Muamba.

Tottenham striker Defoe – who was visibly traumatised by the incident –
visited Muamba yon Sunday and a number of his Bolton team-mates also
wish to return to London to be close to their friend and colleague.

It was claimed on Sunday night that the supporter who jumped on to the
pitch just moments after Muamba collapsed was a heart specialist who
advised the medical staff to take the player to the London Chest
Hospital rather than the closer North Middlesex Hospital.

Shrine: Well wishers have flocked to the Reebok Stadium to leave get well messages for Muamba

Shrine: Well wishers have flocked to the Reebok Stadium to leave get well messages for Muamba

Well-wishers: Bolton fans have been leaving shirts and scarves outside the stadium to show their support

Well-wishers: Bolton fans have been leaving shirts and scarves outside the stadium to show their support

Well-wishers: Bolton fans have been leaving shirts and scarves outside the stadium to show their support

Critical condition: The London Chest Hospital in east London where Muamba remains under care

Critical condition: The London Chest Hospital, who released a joint statement with Bolton Wanderers FC (below), in east London where Muamba remains under care

Critical condition: The London Chest Hospital, who released a joint statement with Bolton Wanderers FC, in east London where Muamba remains under care

And it is understood the fan’s intervention played a key role in
ensuring Muamba had the best possible chance of surviving the ordeal.
Referee Howard Webb abandoned the match as medics tried to revive the
player, whose heart stopped beating by itself for two hours.

A Bolton statement read on Sunday: ‘Fabrice Muamba remains in a critical
condition in intensive care in the heart attack centre at the London
Chest Hospital.

‘Fabrice was admitted to the hospital on Saturday evening after
collapsing at White Hart Lane, where he sustained a cardiac arrest.

‘Fabrice received prolonged resuscitation at the ground and on route to
the London Chest Hospital, where his heart eventually started working.

Horror: Benoit Assou-Ekotto, William Gallas, Carlo Cudicini and Coyle look on

Horror: Benoit Assou-Ekotto, William Gallas, Carlo Cudicini and Coyle look on

‘As is normal medical practice, Fabrice remains anaesthetised in intensive care and will be for at least 24 hours.’

Manager Owen Coyle added: ‘Fabrice’s family have asked me to pass on
their thanks for the many, many kind messages of support from not only
Bolton fans but also fans from clubs across the country and abroad.’

Saturday’s events bear a chilling similarity to former Manchester City
midfielder Marc Vivien Foe’s death in 2003, when he collapsed while
playing for Cameroon against Colombia.

In action: Muamba (left) completes with Rafael van der Vaart at White Hart Lane

In action: Muamba (left) completes with Rafael van der Vaart at White Hart Lane

Message of support: A host of stars are praying Muamba makes a recovery after posting messages on Twitter

Message of support: A host of stars are praying Muamba makes a recovery after posting messages on Twitter

It brought back painful memories for ESPN pundit Kevin Keegan, who was
Foe’s City manager at the time of his death. ‘Although every case is
different, there were horrible similarities with what happened to Marc,’
he said.

‘There was no way the game could continue here – you could see, from the
distress of players on both sides, that you can’t play football after
something so traumatic.’

Quick to react: With Muamba floored, referee Howard Webb immediately called on medical staff

Quick to react: With Muamba floored, referee Howard Webb immediately called on medical staff

Comfort: Gareth Bale gives Jermain Defoe - a close friend of Muamba's - a show of support

Comfort: Gareth Bale gives Jermain Defoe – a close friend of Muamba's – a show of support

Stunned spectators: White Hart Lane emptied in silence

Stunned spectators: White Hart Lane emptied in silence

Stunned: Van der Vaart is lost in prayer

Stunned: Van der Vaart is lost in prayer

Anguish: Tuncay Sanli prays on the pitch for his team-mate as Tottenham's Luka Modric looks on

Anguish: Tuncay Sanli prays on the pitch for his team-mate as Tottenham's Luka Modric looks on