UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
Abramovich was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 May 2022

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich

UK govt approves sale of Chelsea by sanctioned Abramovich
  • Abramovich was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31

LONDON: Roman Abramovich’s 19 years as Chelsea owner is closer to ending after the British government approved the sale of the Premier League club by the sanctioned Russian oligarch to a consortium fronted by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly.
The government had to be sure that Abramovich, who was sanctioned over his links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not profit from the enforced sale of the club that his investment turned into one of the most successful in European football.
The reigning FIFA Club World Cup winners and 2021 European champions will be sold for 2.5 billion pounds ($3.1 billion) — the highest price ever for a sports team — once Premier League approval is granted.
Chelsea has been operating under a government license since Abramovich’s assets were frozen in March and it expires on May 31.
“Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual,” the British government said in a statement released Wednesday. “We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.
“The steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community.”
It was a hotly-contested sale process following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine three months ago and Boehly’s group had to guarantee 1.75 billion pounds ($2.2 billion) of investment in the team to be chosen as the new owners.
Chelsea had already agreed earlier this month to a deal with the consortium that features Boehly along with Dodgers principal owner Mark Walter, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, and funding from private equity firm Clearlake Capital.
Chelsea fans have become accustomed to lavish funding in the 19 years under Abramovich’s ownership, with more than $1 billion net spending on players who have helped the men’s team win 21 trophies.
Abramovich, who has not condemned the war, has said he would write off loans of more than 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to Chelsea but that has been complicated by the sanctions put in place by the British government.
Chelsea’s ability to sell match tickets and commit to new player spending has been curbed by the sanctions.
The certainty is that Chelsea will be playing in the Champions League next season after finishing third in the Premier League last Sunday despite the off-field turmoil. The women’s team won a league and cup double with a squad funded by Abramovich’s investment.
Chelsea had won the men’s championship only once — in 1955 — when Abramovich bought the club in 2003. Helped by expensive signings, the club won the Premier League two years later and has added four more since then, most recently in 2017.
Investment is needed in Stamford Bridge. Chelsea has the smallest and most dated stadium of the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with plans for a rebuild of the 41,000-capacity venue put on hold by Abramovich in 2018 when British-Russian diplomatic tensions deepened.
The $3.1 billion cost of Chelsea eclipses the $2.3 billion paid in 2018 for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
As well as being part owner of the MLB’s Dodgers, Boehly also has minority stakes in the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.


US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges
Updated 7 sec ago

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges

US basketball star Griner goes on trial in Russia on drug charges
KHIMKI, Russia: US basketball star Brittney Griner went on trial in a court on the outskirts of Moscow on Friday to face drug charges that could see her face up to 10 years in prison.
The case, which coincides with fraught relations between Moscow and Washington over the conflict in Ukraine, was brought after Russian authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage at a Moscow airport in February.
Griner, a star in the US-based Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), was arrested and charged with smuggling a large quantity of drugs.
The 31-year-old athlete was seen arriving at Khimki City Court in handcuffs shortly after noon Moscow time (0900 GMT) on Friday, wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and sneakers without laces, which are forbidden in Russian jails.
The prosecutor told Griner that she was being charged with intentionally transporting narcotics. Griner spoke to say she understood the charges.
Three employees of the US embassy, including deputy of chief of mission Elizabeth Rood, were present in the courtroom. Griner was seated in a cage with a zip-lock bag of cookies and a bottle of mineral water.
Griner told a Reuters reporter she was finding detention hard because she was unable to speak Russian, and that she was unable to fully keep up with physical fitness, only general exercises such as stretching.
Her lawyers told Reuters they would not say yet whether or not she would be pleading guilty.

’ILLEGAL DRUGS’
Asked about the case, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied it was politically motivated.
“I can only operate with known facts, and the facts indicate that the eminent athlete was detained with illegal drugs that contained narcotic substances. There are articles in Russian legislation that provide for punishment for such crimes,” he told reporters. “Only the court can pass a verdict.”
US officials and a score of athletes have called for the release of Griner — or “BG” as she is known to basketball fans. They say she has been wrongfully detained and should be immediately returned to her family in the United States.
Griner’s detention also prompted concerns that Moscow could use the two-time Olympic gold medallist to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian in US custody.
The Kremlin has said that Griner violated Russian laws and denied she was being held hostage amid Russia’s stand-off with the United States.
Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury, had played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia during the WNBA off-season, like several other US players offered lucrative contracts by the Russian Women’s Basketball Premier League.
However some have now left the Russian league, amid Griner’s detention and Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Griner’s partner, Cherelle Griner, told CNN in an interview on Thursday evening that she was hoping for a meeting with US President Joe Biden.
“I would love for him to tell me he cares,” Cherelle Griner said.
The US government has warned citizens against traveling to Russia in light of the “potential for harassment against US citizens by Russian government security officials.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week there was “no higher priority” than bringing home Griner and other Americans “illegally detained” abroad.

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE
Updated 01 July 2022

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE

YouTube star Logan Paul signs with WWE
  • The 27-year-old seeks revenge on former WrestleMania 38 partner The Miz

RIYADH: Logan Paul has officially become a member of the WWE locker room after signing a contract with the company this week.

The renowned American YouTuber took to social media to announce the news by sharing photos of his visit to the WWE headquarters. Paul was pictured signing his contract alongside Paul Levesque, aka Triple H, who serves as the executive vice president for Global Talent Strategy & Development, and his wife Stephanie McMahon who is interim chief executive officer for the WWE.

Paul didn’t waste any time and delivered a message to The Miz, Mike Mizanin, following their run-in at WrestleMania 38.

The social media star had previously teamed up with The Miz to take on the legendary masked luchador superstar Rey Mysterio and his son Dominik at the WWE showpiece event. Fans were impressed by his performance, as the 27-year-old mocked the late legend Eddie Guerrero with the Three Amigos and the Frog Splash.

Paul and The Miz emerged victorious on WrestleMania 38’s first night, largely thanks to the newcomer’s efforts.

However, after their The Showcase of the Immortals victory over the Mysterios, The Miz dropped Paul with a Skull-Crushing Finale. After much speculation that they might once again team up, Paul made it clear he’s out for payback at SummerSlam on July 30.

Last year, Paul attempted to kickstart a boxing career as he took on Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition. He managed to go the distance with the former world champion as the contest ended in a tie. Mayweather’s superior boxing was reflected by the CompuBox punch stats, with the tired champion having landed 43 punches of 107 thrown (40.2 percent), compared to Paul’s 28 landed of 217 thrown (12.9 percent).

On Feb. 3, 2018, following his white-collar amateur boxing match with Joe Weller, a British YouTuber who goes by the name of KSI (real name Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji) challenged Paul to two boxing matches in which Logan and his brother Jake would fight KSI and his younger brother, Deji. While Jake Paul won his match, Logan’s ended in a draw.

In November 2019, Paul made his professional boxing debut in a rematch against KSI. The bout consisted of six three-minute rounds, and resulted in a win for KSI via split decision, with two judges scoring the fight 57–54 and 56–55 for KSI, and one judge scoring it 56–55 in favor of Paul.


Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
Semi-automated offside technology will be introduced at Qatar 2022. (FIFA)
Updated 01 July 2022

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar

Semi-automated offside technology to be used at FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
  • System provides automated offside alert to video match officials, has been successfully tested at previous FIFA tournaments
  • 3-D animation improves communication to in-stadium fans, TV viewers

RIYADH: FIFA officials have announced that semi-automated offside technology will be used at the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar that kicks off on Nov. 21.

Bosses at football’s international governing body said the system would offer a support tool for video match officials and the on-field referee to help them make faster, more accurate, and more reproducible offside decisions on the biggest stage of all.

Following the successful use of video assistant referee technology at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, FIFA President Gianni Infantino declared in The Vision 2020-23 that his federation would strive to harness the full potential of technology in football and further enhance VAR.

He said: “At the FIFA World Cup in 2018, FIFA took the brave step to use VAR technology on the world’s biggest stage, and it has proven to be an undisputable success.

“Semi-automated offside technology is an evolution of the VAR systems that have been implemented across the world. This technology is the culmination of three years of dedicated research and testing to provide the very best for the teams, players, and fans who will be heading to Qatar later this year.

“And FIFA is proud of this work, as we look forward to the world seeing the benefits of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup 2022.

“FIFA is committed to harnessing technology to improve the game of football at all levels, and the use of semi-automated offside technology at the FIFA World Cup in 2022 is the clearest possible evidence,” Infantino added.

By working with adidas and various partners, and especially with the Working Group for Innovation Excellence and technology providers, FIFA has spent the last few years further improving the VAR system, including the use of semi-automated offside technology.

The new technology uses 12 dedicated tracking cameras mounted underneath the roof of the stadium to track the ball and up to 29 data points of each individual player, 50 times per second, calculating their exact position on the pitch. The 29 collected data points include all limbs and extremities that are relevant for making offside calls.

Al Rihla, adidas’ official match ball for Qatar 2022, will provide a further vital element for the detection of tight offside incidents as an inertial measurement unit sensor will be placed inside the ball. This sensor, positioned in the center of the ball, sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second, allowing a very precise detection of the kick point.

By combining the limb- and ball-tracking data and applying artificial intelligence, the new technology provides an automated offside alert to the video match officials inside the video operation room whenever the ball is received by an attacker who was in an offside position at the moment the ball was played by a team-mate.

Before informing the on-field referee, the video match officials validate the proposed decision by manually checking the automatically selected kick point and the automatically created offside line, which is based on the calculated positions of the players’ limbs. This process happens within a few seconds and means that offside decisions can be made faster and more accurately.

After the decision has been confirmed by the video match officials and the referee on the pitch, the exact same positional data points that were used to make the decision are then generated into a 3-D animation that perfectly details the position of the players’ limbs at the moment the ball was played. This 3-D animation, which will always show the best possible perspectives for an offside situation, will then be shown on the giant screens in the stadium and will also be made available to FIFA’s broadcast partners to inform all spectators in the clearest possible way.

The workflow of semi-automated offside technology and the connected ball technology have been successfully trialed at numerous test events and live at FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 and the FIFA Club World Cup 2021.

More tests will be conducted in the coming months to fine-tune the system before a global standard is implemented to ensure that the new technology can be used in the world of football.

All details on the semi-automated offside technology set-up and the connected ball technology will be presented to the teams that have qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2022 at the Team Workshop in Doha on July 4 and 5 and then shared with the public.

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, said: “We expect that semi-automated offside technology can take us a step further. We are aware that sometimes the process to check a possible offside takes too long, especially when the offside incident is very tight.

“The testing has been a major success and we are very confident that, in Qatar, we will have a very valuable support tool to help referees and assistant referees make the best and most correct decision on the field of play.

“I know that someone called it robot offside; it’s not. The referees and the assistant referees are still responsible for the decision on the field of play,” he added.


Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season
Cosmin Contra has apologized to Al-Ittihad for the club's late SPL title race. (Arriyadiyah)
Updated 01 July 2022

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season

Cosmin Contra apologizes to Al-Ittihad fans for SPL title race collapse, promises strong comeback next season
  • Romanian coach’s team blew 16-point February lead over Al-Hilal to lose title by 2 points on last day of season

RIYADH: Al-Ittihad coach Cosmin Contra has apologised to club supporters for his team’s late collapse in the 2021-22 Saudi Pro League title race which allowed Al-Hilal to claim a record-extending 18th championship.

And the Romanian coach promised that the Jeddah club would return stronger in the coming season.

In February, the 46-year-old manager’s team were 16 points clear of the Riyadh giants, but a poor run of form, including two defeats to Al-Hilal, saw them lose the title by two points on the last day of the campaign.

Writing on his official Twitter account, Contra said: “I would like to apologize that we let you down at the last minute, and although we did our best, we did not live up to the aspirations of our fans.”

He highlighted that great champions bounce back from big disappointments by learning from their mistakes. “Al-Ittihad will return next season stronger to achieve the title that we have been waiting for a long time,” he added.

In his tweets, Contra finished by thanking Al-Ittihad fans for the support they had provided to the team throughout the season.


AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging
The AFC’s Twitter account generated the highest improvement in impressions. (@SaudiNT)
Updated 01 July 2022

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging

AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia was competition’s most engaging
  • Record-breaking 340m social media impressions for tourney’s 5th edition

The AFC U-23 Asian Cup won by Saudi Arabia in Uzbekistan last month saw a record-breaking 340 million social media impressions — a massive increase of 193.8 percent from the fourth edition in Thailand two years ago.

Asia’s top 16 teams competed for 19 days across 32 matches in the cities of Tashkent and Qarshi, with the Kingdom clinching the coveted fifth crown by defeating hosts Uzbekistan 2-0 in a captivating decider.

The biggest increase was observed through the video content which received 46.9 million views on the AFC’s digital platforms, a rise of 1,066 percent from the 2020 edition, while the newly launched AFC TikTok account also garnered 9.3 million views with close to a million engagements.

The AFC’s Twitter account generated the highest improvement in impressions with a 217 percent increase from 2020 to 33 million, followed by Instagram, which received 115.65 million impressions or an increase of 119 percent, while the AFC’s Facebook impressions rose by 80 percent to nearly 110 million.

At the same time, engagement on the AFC’s social media channels grew by 141.2 percent from 7.3 million in 2020 to 17.68 million in 2022. This was thanks to the multi-lingual approach through the AFC’s platforms in English, Arabic, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Thai and Vietnamese.

The AFC’s Facebook account saw the highest uptake with nearly 10 million engagements, 315 percent higher than the last edition, with the confederation’s Twitter account increasing by 84 percent to 1.6 million engagements, while Instagram rose 61 percent to 6 million engagements.

On the pitch, the continent’s attacking prowess was also palpable with a total of 81 goals scored across the 32 matches, averaging approximately two goals per match, as the young Green Falcons became the first side in the tournament’s history to maintain an unblemished defensive record across all six matches in their impressive march to the title.

The tournament also saw spectator attendance records rewritten on several occasions, with 28,670 fans gathering at the Pakhtakor Stadium when hosts Uzbekistan opened their campaign against Turkmenistan, before a notable 32,268 supporters attended the thrilling final between the host nation and Saudi Arabia.