Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal
La Liga said Wednesday it agreed in principle a "multipronged" deal with CVC including the 2.7 billion euros cash infusion in return for 10% of its revenue. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 August 2021

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal

Spain’s top soccer clubs to get cash boost from $3.2 bln La Liga deal
  • The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media as it could help finance eyecatching moves
  • La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a "multipronged" deal with CVC

MADRID: Spain’s top soccer clubs including Real Madrid and Barcelona would get lucrative cash infusions under a proposed 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion) deal between the country’s top league and a private equity firm.
The deal sparked a bout of transfer speculation in local media, including that it could help finance eyecatching moves such as top France striker Kylian Mbappe joining Real Madrid, though La Liga said the funds would mostly be for investment purposes to which it would have to agree.
La Liga said on Wednesday it had agreed in principle a “multipronged” deal with CVC including the 2.7 billion euros cash infusion in return for 10 percent of its revenue, as well as the creation of a newly formed company housing a range of commercial activities in which CVC would also take a 10 percent stake.
The deal values La Liga at around 24.2 billion euros in total and, if approved, will fund what it called “structural improvements” while offsetting some of the immediate impact from COVID-19, the league said in a statement.
The cash influx would be particularly welcome to Real Madrid and Barcelona which have lately faced unfamiliar constraints on their spending power, but how much of it leaks out into transfer fees and player wages remains to be seen.
Local media reports suggested the injection could help Barca resolve star forward Lionel Messi’s contract situation, while it was also suggested that the cash could prove pivotal in Real’s reported pursuit of Paris St. Germain’s Mbappe.
Importantly the stake sale still requires approval from the league’s executive committee and clubs, whose views have not yet been given. La Liga said the funds would be distributed on the basis of a formula derived from average audiovisual revenues over the last seven years, when La Liga started commercializing rights as a collective — implying the top two would get the biggest chunks.
Barca declined to comment when contacted by Reuters about the deal. Real did not immediately respond to request for comment.
CVC was part of a consortium last year which entered talks to buy a stake in the media business of Italy’s top soccer league, but the deal fell through following objections from some clubs.
La Liga said some 90 percent of the funds raised will be channeled directly to clubs, which would have to use the cash to finance investment programs agreed with the league. It didn’t say how long the CVC deal would last.
Faced with the end of a cycle of rapid growth in the value of TV rights — and pummeled by a year of next to zero ticket sales due to restrictions on crowds — soccer leagues and clubs not just in Spain are scrambling to find alternative sources of revenue.
The failure of an attempt earlier this year by 12 of Europe’s biggest clubs to set up a breakaway Super League ratcheted up pressure on the top clubs.
Under the terms of the deal, La Liga would set up a new company to house commercial elements, such as sponsorship deals, the league’s technology arm La Liga Tech and their joint US venture — including plans to stage a league match in the United States — in which CVC would take a tenth.
It didn’t say what structural improvements it envisaged but these could relate to stadium and training facilities.
Management of the league’s sporting responsibilities and its audiovisual rights business would remain outside the scope of the transaction, La Liga said. “When it comes to the rights strategy and sales, this will continue to be handled by La Liga,” a spokesperson said.
With the boost from the investment, the Spanish league hopes to match or exceed the English Premier League’s business in the next six to seven years, a source close to La Liga added.
For CVC, which used to own Formula One, the deal would add to its interests in sport. It agreed in March to invest 365 million pounds for a share in rugby union’s Six Nations tournament, grouping France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales and Italy.


UAE’s top female jiu-jitsu athletes shine in final round of the Mother of the Nation League

UAE’s top female jiu-jitsu athletes shine in final round of the Mother of the Nation League
Updated 25 September 2021

UAE’s top female jiu-jitsu athletes shine in final round of the Mother of the Nation League

UAE’s top female jiu-jitsu athletes shine in final round of the Mother of the Nation League
  • Al-Wahda, Al-Ain and Palm Sports 777 dominate in run-up to major international competitions

Abu Dhabi: Three of the UAE’s top martial arts clubs have dominated the fifth and final round of the Mother of the Nation Jiu-Jitsu League ahead of upcoming major international championships against some of the world’s most elite fighters.

The competition took place at the Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi and included adult, U-18 and U16 categories.

Al-Wahda Club secured top spot on Friday to take the league title in the adult category, with Al-Ain in second and Palm Sports 777 in third. In the U-18 category, Al-Ain finished top, ahead of Al-Wahda and Sharjah Self Defence Club. The U-16 title went to Palm Sports Team 777, with Al-Wahda second, and Al-Jazira in third place.

“The Mother of the Nation League has developed into an international-calibre championship, attracting athletes who have succeeded in capturing medals in several global championships including the Asian and World Championships and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship,” said Mohammed Salem Al-Dhaheri, Vice Chairman of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation.

“One of the most important aspects of the Mother of the Nation League is to provide a platform for the next generation of champions in the U-18 and U-16 categories, to gain top-level experiences and prepare for upcoming events.”

“We are extremely pleased with the strong participation in this championship, and it shows the efforts of the federation, with the continuous support of the UAE’s visionary leadership, to grow the sport among women in the country are paying dividends,” he said.

Maryam Al-Ali from Palm Sports Team 777, who captured the gold medal in U16 category, 44kg, said: “I came across strong competition today and managed to secure the win thanks to persistence and following the instructions of the technical staff. I would like to congratulate my fellow women athletes as we move towards our next goal in honoring the UAE in the World Championship and Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-jitsu Championship in November.”

Al-Ain Club star Shamma Rashed, who won the gold in the U18 40kg category, praised the work put in by the team’s technical staff.

“The athletes have conducted several training camps and participated in international championships, leading up to today’s final round, which helped in raising the bar of competition thanks to improved fitness and technical levels,” she said. “Our coaching staff played a role in my victory as they helped in enhancing my psychological and technical skills, to be able to control the bouts.”

The fifth and final round of the Vice President's Jiu-Jitsu League will conclude on Saturday, Sept. 25, with the men’s competition as Al-Ain, Al-Wahda, Al-Jazira, Baniyas and Sharjah Self Defence Club go head to head in the adult, U-18 and U-16 categories.


Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger

Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger
Updated 25 September 2021

Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger

Yanks’ opening 6-2 lead at Ryder Cup could’ve been bigger
  • Tony Finau, who was paired with Harris English, made six birdies on his own ball in his fourball match

SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin: Americans hit three unforgettable shots on the opening day of the Ryder Cup and two went for naught. Turns out they didn’t need them.
Captain Steve Stricker’s young squad patiently built the biggest US opening-day lead since 1975, pummeling defending champion Europe in both the foursomes and fourball matches Friday for a 6-2 cushion. While the fast start wasn’t new — the US team has gone seven straight Ryder Cups without losing the opening session — the solid finish was.
“My message to the guys before I left,” Stricker said, “is, ‘tomorrow is a new day. Let’s just go out tomorrow and try to win that first session again ... Pretend today never happened.”
That would have been a lot harder for his team had things not worked out as well as they did.
The one swing from that trio of spectacular shots that actually paid a dividend was a towering 417-yard drive by Bryson DeChambeau at the par-5 5th. Rather than play the 581-yard hole as a dogleg right, the way it was designed, the game’s longest hitter chose the straightest route. In three previous PGA Championships at Whistling Straits, no one had dared to try and cross the large pond and the grassy ridge pockmarked with pot bunkers that guard the right side.
DeChambeau was counting on a 20-plus-mph wind to help boost his tee shot past all that trouble, and his calculations were spot on.
“I knew if it was a little downwind, I could take a unique line ... and I said to myself, ‘all right, I have to aim at the green,” DeChambeau said. “So I did.”
With just 72 yards to the flag, he dialed down the power and turned up the finesse, lobbing a wedge to 4 feet and making the eagle putt in an afternoon fourball match that he and partner Scottie Scheffler halved with the European pair of Jon Rahm and Tyrell Hatton.
The less said about DeChambeau’s second moonshot the better. He tried driving the green at the 394-yard, par-4 13th and landed just five yards from the flag, but in a bunker on the left. A flubbed sand shot later, he settled for par and a tie on the hole.
More maddening still was playing partner Justin Thomas wasting this beauty from Jordan Spieth. Two down with two holes to play in the morning foursomes, Thomas’ tee shot at the par-3 17th skidded across the green and down a nearly vertical slope toward Lake Michigan. It wound up lodged in deep rough.
Spieth studied the shot for a long time, pulled out a wedge and swung wildly, his momentum carrying him down the hill and almost to the shoreline trying to find a foothold. The ball, meanwhile, somehow settled just six feet from the flag. But Thomas missed the putt in a match the Spanish duo Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia won 3-and-1.
“It was kind of one of those shots you practice as a kid for fun,” Spieth said, adding. “You could roll a thousand balls off the green and you’re not going to end up there.”
Rahm turned out to be Europe’s brightest light, going unbeaten in both of his matches. His partnership with Garcia enabled his countryman to notch a 23rd win, tying Nick Faldo for the Ryder Cup record. But the world’s top-ranked player had a much harder slog pairing with Hatton to wrest the half-point from DeChambeau and Scheffler.
The Americans were poised for a 1-up victory until Hatton stepped up and hit 5-iron into a hard left-to-right wind that settled 7 feet away. The Englishman coolly dropped the birdie putt, salvaging something from an otherwise tough day for Europe.
“Things like this can turn the tide,” Rahm said.
It was one of the few moments when a wildly pro-American crowd didn’t get its way. Travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic kept nearly all of Europe’s fans from entering the United States, and chants of “USA! USA!” echoed across the bumpy terrain every time an American drained a big putt.
Tony Finau, who was paired with Harris English, made six birdies on his own ball in his fourball match, and described the experience like riding a wave he didn’t want to end.
“It’s funny how momentum works. You know it can change at any given moment, and we knew we had to keep the pedal to the metal. These things start to stretch out when you have the momentum,” he said, “and it’s easy to lose.”
As if the great play and solid backing from the gallery wasn’t fuel enough, Michael Jordan and Steph Curry turned up to cheer the Americans on. Tiger Woods even sent a group text through Stricker to the American players saying, “I’m right there with you and go fight and make us proud.”
“We were able to do that,” Finau said finally, “and if TW’s watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot.”


Thriving Bahraini clubs welcome Saudi neighbours for women’s football festival

Thriving Bahraini clubs welcome Saudi neighbours for women’s football festival
Updated 25 September 2021

Thriving Bahraini clubs welcome Saudi neighbours for women’s football festival

Thriving Bahraini clubs welcome Saudi neighbours for women’s football festival
  • Tournament in Juffair celebrates the Kingdom’s 91st National Day, and  will highlight the progress being made on and off the pitch in Bahrain

MANAMA: It’s Wednesday evening, and Ravens - a Bahraini women’s football team known as the Teal Army - are in training for a pre-season tournament being held on Saturday at Al-Najma Stadium, close to Bahrain’s lively Juffair district.

Kicking off in the early evening and hosted by Super Soccer Academy, who will also field a team, the event sees two Saudi Arabian women’s squads - Qatif and Eagles - crossing the border in what could be the beginning of an ongoing partnership with the nascent Saudi Women’s League.

Leading the way is Ravens captain Rama Salem, who along with her team mates and other teams in Bahrain, not to mention the visitors from the Kingdom, are part of a generation that is changing the way women’s football is being perceived in the Gulf and the Middle East.

Raven's team captain Rama Salem. (Abdullah Aboody)

The recent establishment of the women’s game in Saudi Arabia has seen a predictably huge upsurge in participation, even for an already football crazy country.

And with their championship entering its second season after its Covid-delayed 2020 beginnings, Saudi women’s teams may look to emulate the achievements of their Bahraini neighbours, especially in nurturing young talent for the future.

In Bahrain, youth football standards have been boosted by the arrival of academies linked to top-tier clubs, such as Juventus, allowing local women’s teams access to elite-level coaching. In tandem with a growing league, this guidance has led to rapid development for teams like Ravens.

The success of Ravens hasn’t been about winning titles. Instead it’s their pedigree in developing players, many of whom go on to bigger things abroad, that catches the eye.

The team will be without two of their best players this season, not because of injury or suspension, but because both have recently jetted off on football scholarships in two of the powerhouse nations of women’s football: America and Germany.

Salem attributes this developmental success to Ravens’ club mentality.

“We’re a team of inclusivity. Everyone gets a chance to play, no matter what their ability is, where they come from, their age,” she said.
“We want to give these girls a platform and a stage that was never really made available to me at their age.”

Charlotte Pilgrim, an 18-year-old from Middlesbrough in the UK, is one of Raven’s success stories. After playing for the club for nearly four years, she is now on a full football scholarship at Rio Grande College in the US.

Charlotte Pilgrim taking part in a Ravens raining session. (Sameer Alsaeed)

Charlotte’s family moved to Bahrain from England when she was four, but initially finding a football team was difficult.

“I always played with boys,” says Charlotte.

“I was in what was supposed to be a mixed team, but I was the only girl. I held a lot back because of that, stayed quiet. When I started playing in women’s teams I became a lot more confident and vocal.”

Charlotte played for some of the other local women’s teams, but never quite found what she was looking for until trying out for Ravens.

“Straight away I could see the atmosphere was so happy and supportive, like a family,” explains Charlotte.

“The older players and coach were always encouraging us. In fact, it was because of Rama that I ended up going to a trial and getting noticed.”

Charlotte’s successful trial in Bahrain led to her being selected for a training camp at the England national team’s training facility, St. George’s Park.

She was the only player not based in the UK to be invited.

Videos of her playing at England’s training ground were seen by her American college and she was offered a place starting this year.

Charlotte feels her experience in the Middle East has enabled her to quickly settle in her new team.

“I think the Bahraini style of play has helped me,” she says. “It’s more about possession rather than speed and power, and I tend to keep the ball better.”

Charlotte isn’t the only recent success for the Teal Army. The 13-year-old Jordanian-Bulgarian prodigy Yasmeen Al-Zurikat has recently headed off to Germany, where she will play at VfR Warbeyen's influential Kämpferherzen academy.

A great future is expected for 13-year-old prodigy Yasmeen Al-Zurikat. (Abdullah Aboody)

Raven’s captain believes she has a bright future ahead of her. “She’s a phenomenal player,” she says. “Even at 13, she’s the most composed player on the pitch.”

Salem is relishing the opportunity to play against teams from Saudi Arabia tonight, but it also excited about the wider implications of events like this.

“It’s great for the country and the region, and especially great to see a lot of Arab woman getting involved with the sport and breaking old stigmas.”

The event starts at 5pm and entry (to vaccinated individuals only) is free.

Organizers predict a carnival atmosphere as the tournament has been planned to coincide with the Saudi National Day celebration.

A 4-team round robin tournament with 30 minute matches will be the highlight, but there’ll also be tennis football, mini-matches and penalty competitions, in addition to food stalls on the beach nearby. 


Chennai top of IPL after 6-wicket win against Bangalore

Chennai top of IPL after 6-wicket win against Bangalore
Updated 25 September 2021

Chennai top of IPL after 6-wicket win against Bangalore

Chennai top of IPL after 6-wicket win against Bangalore
  • Bangalore stays on 10 points in third place

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates: Chennai Super Kings moved to the top of the Indian Premier League points table on Friday with a convincing six-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Chennai won a sandstorm-delayed toss and chose to field at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, restricting Bangalore to 156-6 despite a promising start for Virat Kohli’s team.
In reply, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai reached 157-4 in 18.1 overs.
Kohli hit a 41-ball 53 and shared an opening stand of 111 with Devdutt Padikkal (70 in 50). That partnership ended in the 14th over and no other Bangalore batter lasted more than 11 balls.
Padikkal said his team had been looking to reach 170-180 runs “but unfortunately it just didn’t work out today toward the end of the innings.”
West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo did much of the damage with 3-24 in his four overs, including the wicket of Kohli, who almost hit a six but instead was caught by Ravindra Jadeja on the boundary.
Ruturaj Gaikwad top-scored for Chennai with 38 off 26, ahead of opening partner Faf du Plessis (31) and Ambati Rayudu (32). Harshal Patel took 2-25.
Chennai is level on 14 points with Delhi Capitals after nine matches with Chennai having the better net run rate. Bangalore stays on 10 points in third place.


Japan’s leader says Olympics were ‘symbol of global unity’

Japan’s leader says Olympics were ‘symbol of global unity’
Updated 24 September 2021

Japan’s leader says Olympics were ‘symbol of global unity’

Japan’s leader says Olympics were ‘symbol of global unity’
  • “Tokyo 2020 Games proved to be a symbol of global unity among people around the world,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said
  • Suga and the International Olympic Committee ultimately decided the Games would go on with extremely strict virus safety protocols

UNITED NATIONS: At a UN General Assembly meeting packed with global gloom, Japan’s outgoing leader highlighted what he cast as a moment of inspiration: the Tokyo Olympics, controversially held in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
“While humanity has been faced with immeasurable hardships, the Tokyo 2020 Games proved to be a symbol of global unity among people around the world,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said as he began his speech Thursday.
After the Games were delayed from their original 2020 date because of the pandemic, Japan deliberated for months about whether to hold them at all. Suga and the International Olympic Committee ultimately decided the Games would go on with extremely strict virus safety protocols.
The requirements included multiple tests for all Olympic visitors before arrival and tests and soft quarantine upon arrival. Most events and venues were spectatorless, and travel was heavily regulated.
Still, many Japanese objected to holding the event at a time when the country’s virus outbreak was worsening. There were protests as the Games approached, but opposition softened after they began and residents got engaged in following — on TV — a competition that ended with a record 58 medals for Japan, including 27 gold.
Infections inside the so-called “Olympic bubble” ultimately were kept to a few hundred. But outside it, surging coronavirus cases produced several declarations of states of emergency around the country as the Games unfolded.
“While there were various views about holding the Games this summer, we, as the host country of the Games, fulfilled our responsibilities and achieved what we set out to do,” Suga said. He commended the athletes for giving “hopes and dreams to everyone across the globe.”
Suga is stepping down when his term ends at the conclusion of this month. He saw support for his government plunge because of his handling of the virus.
He has served only a year after taking over from predecessor Shinzo Abe.