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Soccer

Premier League draw up prize money plan to help clubs as Liverpool set to pocket Ā£20m

The Premier League could hand its 20 clubs prize money early in order to ease the cash flow crisis that the global coronavirus pandemic that has inflicted, according to new reports. There have been no matches since March 9 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has officially infected over 1.5million people worldwide with the death toll nearing 100,000.

And that has led to a clutch of financial repercussions for Premier League clubs, with four having put their non-playing staff on furlough, signing up to the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme for the taxpayer to cover 80 per cent of their wages.

In an open and honest statement, Burnley projected last week that they will lose around £50m due to the suspension of England’s top flight.

That’s despite having recorded pre-tax profits for three straight seasons, with a wage bill that is among the lowest in the division.

Other clubs could stand to lose far more from a lack of gate receipts, commercial income and broadcasting revenue.

And The Times say that an agreement has been reached between the 20 Premier League clubs to release some of the funds awarded for the positions in which teams finish in the league table early.

With the sums higher for those who finish towards the summit, league leaders Liverpool – two wins from the title before the season was suspended – stand to earn in excess of £20million, it is claimed.

Clubs towards the bottom end of the table, those more likely to suffer during this crisis, will only receive several million pounds however.

The money handed to clubs will also include some of that usually awarded as facility fees – essentially meaning the payments clubs are owed when they appear in a match which is broadcast live on TV by Sky Sports or BT Sport.

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  • Sam Allardyce blasts Matt Hancock’s attack on footballers

The Times say the Premier League has already received all of its broadcast income from the domestic broadcasters and overseas rights holders, despite nine fixtures remaining of the campaign.

The league is at risk of facing massive refund demands of the £762m that has been paid for by broadcasters, with it having been projected by the Daily Mail that it would cost Liverpool around £55m – with their TV income dropping from £178m to £123m.

Premier League chiefs are keen to ensure clubs stay afloat after the drop in matchday income but are wary of prematurely offering out more cash in case the season cannot be concluded which would leave them owing the likes of Sky and BT huge sums.

Chief executive of the Premier League Richard Masters has warned it could lose at least £1bn if the pandemic is extended.

“We face a £1billion loss, at least, if we fail to complete season 2019-20, and further losses going forward if the seriousness of the pandemic deepens and extends into the future,” he said in a letter to MPs.

On the matter of clubs utilising the government’s scheme without players having taken a pay cut or deferral, Masters added: “The furlough scheme announced by Government is meant for the whole economy, including many enterprises which might be regarded as providing entertainment or otherwise dependent on elite talent.

“Not only is our industry facing losses now, but to be realistic, we must also base our plans on full recovery being some distance away.

“Ultimately, the very heavy losses that we face will have to be dealt with or else clubs or other enterprises who depend on football for income will go out of business.”

Tottenham, Newcastle, Bournemouth and Norwich have all consulted the scheme, while Liverpool planned to as well, before performing a dramatic u-turn two days later after facing a backlash from fans.

The Reds had posted a pre-tax profit of £42m in February as they increased their turnover to £533m, having also posted huge numbers 12 months previous.

Southampton meanwhile became the first club on Thursday to confirm their players had agreed a wage deferral.

In a club statement, the Saints said: “The board of directors, the first-team manager, his coaching staff and the first-team squad have agreed to defer part of their salaries for the months of April, May and June to help protect the future of the club, the staff that work within it and the community we serve.

“Furthermore, the club can confirm that it will not use the government’s Job Retention Scheme during April, May and June.

“Our owners, Mr. Gao and Katharina Liebherr, have put measures in place to ensure that all staff not deferring part of their salaries will continue to receive 100 per cent of their pay, paid in the normal way until 30th June.  

“Any decision on the future beyond this date will be made in advance of this, but only when more information is known.”

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MLB

Kiper and McShay draft dueling 22-man superteams of NFL prospects

    Mel Kiper has served as an NFL draft analyst for ESPN since 1984. He is a regular contributor on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio and writes weekly for ESPN Insider.

  • ESPN College Football and NFL Draft Analyst
  • Joined ESPN in 2006
  • Played quarterback in high school and was a backup QB for the University of Richmond.

How much talent is there in the 2020 NFL draft class? You could fill two super rosters with the high-caliber prospects. So that’s exactly what we did.

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MLB

MLB Network morning show crew still giving fans their baseball fix

On a typical April morning, the reporter, the anchor and the ex-player would gather at the MLB Network studios to recap the previous night's baseball games and discuss the day's hot topics. 

But due to the coronavirus outbreak, this year has been anything but typical for Lauren Shehadi, Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa – the hosts of the network’s popular morning show, "MLB Central." They’re still getting together, but they’re doing so from their homes – Shehadi in Maine, Flores in New Jersey and DeRosa in Georgia.

“It should be baseball season right now. I want to talk about baseball,” says DeRosa, who played 16 seasons in the majors, in an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “I’m just fired up that we took this step to at least put ourselves back out there. It’s a glimmer of hope. That’s the way I look at it.”

MLB Central hosts (L-R) Mark DeRosa, Lauren Shehadi and Robert Flores can't broadcast from the MLB Network studios during the coronavirus shutdown, so they're getting together for digital segments three times per week. (Photo: MLB Network)

The digital-only version of MLB Central airs three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Unlike the full three-hour breakfast buffet that usually appears on television, this is more of an appetizer.

“Sports fans are so starved for anything to serve as a distraction to what is some really grim news,” Flores says. “I think we’ve done a good job … to give people a distraction, an escape and just put a smile on their face, even if it’s for 10 minutes.”

The discussion topics are mostly fun and light-hearted, emphasizing the trio’s chemistry.

“You’d be hard-pressed if you walked into our studios to know if we’re taping or not. It’s the same kind of banter on- or off-camera,” Shehadi says.

Which five people can @LaurenShehadi, @RoFlo, @markdero7 & the @TheMayorsOffice not wait to see back on the field? #MLBCentral

Hint: One of them is “Cookie Belltts” šŸ˜‚ pic.twitter.com/49dqmfnxPF

The main questions fans want answered these days are when baseball will return and what it will look like when it does. From his experience, DeRosa says most position players will need 40 competitive at-bats – around two to three weeks – before they’re ready to play real games. But that’s where the similarity to past seasons will likely end.

“This is an opportunity within the game to take some chances,” he says. “If there are no fans, can we mic the players? Is there going to be an electronic strike zone? Some different innovations that they can take a look at moving forward when it does return to complete normalcy?”

If the regular season has to be trimmed, Shehadi is intrigued by the possibility of expanding the playoffs.

“I don’t know that there’s anything more exciting than a wild-card game. If there’s more of those or a best-of-three (series) where the manager’s every single move has to be calculated and every single move matters … That is so much fun to watch,” she says. “Watching a wild-card game is my favorite thing in sports, so any more of that is a beautiful thing in my opinion.”

As a former player, DeRosa says working with Shehadi and Flores has helped him see the game from a different perspective. “The old-school version of me would say, ‘No, I don’t want expanded playoffs. You have to earn the right to get in.’ The new-school way of me is thinking, like Lauren, ‘Those wild-card games. There ain’t nothing better. If I can get more of that, I’m in.’ ”

Figuring out which teams will make the playoffs is always a fun topic. Flores thinks the Tampa Bay Rays will be there, possibly unseating the New York Yankees as AL East champs. Shehadi believes the Cincinnati Reds have a great shot in a “wide open” NL Central. And DeRosa can’t wait to see the excitement in Chicago, where the White Sox will be “super-interesting” and his former teammate David Ross (“I think he’ll be amazing!”) is taking over as the Cubs’ new manager.

Even though it may be a while before any of those predictions can be judged, Flores says it helps to at least be able to look ahead to when things are a bit closer to normal.

“Traditionally, baseball has had a very important role in being there for the country in various times of despair,” he says. “We all want to see the game back.” 

Follow Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner

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Soccer

Beckham, Ronaldo and Galacticos catch up with group chat on lockdown

Real Madrid’s iconic Galacticos catch up with group video chat on coronavirus lockdown as David Beckham recalls Ronaldo telling him he was ‘only Englishman who could play for Brazil’

  • Ronaldo Nazario, David Beckham, Luis Figo and Iker Casillas enjoyed catch upĀ 
  • Real Madrid’s Galacticos took part in Instagram live session to reminisceĀ Ā 
  • Ronaldo told Beckham he was the only Englishman who could play for Brazil
  • He also thanked the winger for all the perfect deliveries he provided for himĀ 

David Beckham, Ronaldo and some of their legendary Real Madrid Galactico team-mates caught up with a group chat while on coronavirus lockdown.Ā 

Luis Figo, Iker Casillas and Roberto Carlos also joined in and the five of them reminisced about their glory days at the Bernabeu.Ā 

With the current lockdown and social distancing protocols in place, friends everywhere are having to contact each other remotely and the former Real stars were no different.Ā 

Ronaldo Nazario caught up with Roberto Carlos (top left), Iker Casillas (top right), David Beckham (bottom left) and Luis Figo (bottom right) in a live group video chatĀ 

Beckham posted this picture of him and Ronaldo together during their time at Real Madrid

Ronaldo and Beckham in particular indulged in a touch of nostalgia.Ā 

The pair helped Real win back-to-back LaLiga titles in 2006 and 2007. The Brazilian forward said: ‘For me, you were one of the best of all time in the centre, the way you touch the ball, could put the ball wherever you want, and without looking at me the ball would come.

‘I should thank you for many balls you gave to me. You were amazing.

And the former England captain returned the compliment, thanking Ronaldo for helping him adapt to life in the Spanish capital.

He said: ‘One of the first people that I ever saw was you, when you walked into the changing room it made me feel comfortable to be at the club.

‘I remember you turning around to me and saying that the Brazil squad believed that if there was any English player that could play in the Brazilian team it would be me, but I never believed you!Ā 

Real’s golden generation of talent won LaLiga in 2006 and 2007 but underachieved overall

‘Because Brazilian players are the best players! You know that.’

After signing Figo in the summer of 2000, club president Florentio Perez set about signing icons of the world game to play for Los Blancos.Ā 

He put together an all-star cast but despite the domestic titles there is a feeling they never fulfilled their potential as a group, failing to win the Champions League and truly assert their authority on the game for a generation.Ā Ā 




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Basketball

‘NBA 2K’ tournament bracket: Live stream & results for every match during ESPNā€™s Players Tournament

Star NBA players will be competing against one another in an “NBA 2K” tournament starting April 3 and lasting until the finals on April 11.

TheĀ NBA 2K Players Tournament features big-name athletes from today like Kevin Durant, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell and more. There are 16 total NBA players playing in a March Madness style bracket. There will be eight Round 1 games followed by four Quarterfinal matchups. Then we get into the Semifinals and eventually the championship.

The winner of the tournament will receive a $100,000 donation from 2K, the NBA and the NBPA in support of ongoing coronavirus relief efforts.

NBA 2K TOURNAMENT: Full TV schedule | Odds, prop bets

Live stream for NBA 2K tournament

UPDATE:Ā Despite the official announcement claiming you’d be able to watch these games on eight different social platforms, you can only watch these games live on ESPN or ESPN2. An NBA spokesperson clarified to Sporting News that Twitch and YouTube broadcasts of these games will be re-airedĀ versions and not live events.

————————————————

While the games will be broadcastĀ on ESPN channels, fans will also be able to tune into the games in a number of different ways. The NBA 2K Twitch channel above will be hosting the games, as well as the NBA’s official Twitch channel. In addition, both the NBA and 2K will be broadcasting the games on their respective YouTube channels.

Below is the full list of ways you can view the games.

Games will be broadcasted on either ESPN or ESPN2.

NBA 2K Players Tournament bracket & results

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Round 1

Kevin Durant might have grabbed the early lead with the Clippers, but Derrick Jones Jr. was able to take control in the second half with the Bucks thanks to a fast-paced 3-point barrage. Looks like transition defense in 2K is the bane of Durant’s existence.

Deandre Ayton and the Rockets cruised to victory in a much lower-scoring game against Zach Lavine and the Heat, who struggled with shot selection throughout the game. In his defense, he said he hadn’t played 2K since he was a rookie in 2014-15, whereas Ayton has been an avid player since 2K9.

Trae Young and the Bucks absolutely demolished Harrison Barnes and the Raptors in the biggest mismatch of the tournament. So far the younger player has won all three matchups.

TheĀ youngsters’ streak ended in the nightcap as Beverley, 31, topped Whiteside, 30, in a lopsided Bucks-Lakers matchup.

Montrezl Harrell andĀ Domantas Sabonis began play Sunday with an absolute blowout. Harrell beat SabonisĀ 73-51, leading Sabonis to rip himself on the telecast. Sabonis called his virtual play terrible but took the beatdown like a good sport.

Rui Hachimara barely edged outĀ Donovan MitchellĀ in the best game of the tournament on Sunday. Hachimara’s Lakers wereĀ up three points with five seconds left when Danny Green missed a free throw. Mitchell, playing as the Nets,Ā got the rebound and passed the ball upcourt toĀ Spencer Dinwiddie for a good look from three, but the shot didn’t fall.Ā 

Devin Booker, the favorite of the entire tournament, held off Michael Porter Jr. in an 85-75 win that was closer than the final score indicates. Booker showed his knowledge of the game by calling specific sets and motion plays; most other competitors have gone with simple pick-and-roll offenses.

Andre Drummond blew out DeMarcus Cousins in the final game of the first round by a final score of 101-49. Cousins essentially gave up by the fourth quarter.

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

Championship

‘NBA 2K’ Players Tournament TV schedule

Here is the TV broadcast schedule for the entire “NBA 2K” Players Tournament. The tournament canĀ be streamed through the ESPN and NBA apps. Each of the NBA’s social channels on Twitter (@NBA2K, @NBA), Twitch, YouTubeĀ and FacebookĀ will also show the games live.

UPDATE: The NBA announced a date change for the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals have moved from April 7 to April 9.Ā 

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Rugby

Lee Blackett named Wasps head coach on permanent basis

Wasps have appointed interim boss Lee Blackett as the club’s permanent head coach.

The 37-year-old stepped up from his position as attack and backs coach to replace the outgoing Dai Young on a temporary basis in February.

During his interim spell, Blackett won three of his four matches in charge to move within two points of fourth-placed Northampton before the coronavirus pandemic curtailed action, enough to earn a new contract on a full-time basis.

Blackett has reshaped his coaching staff, with Pete Atkinson joining as head of performance when his current contract with the Italian Rugby Union expires.

Richard Blaze, currently working with the England Women’s team, also takes up the position as forwards coach, replacing Andy Titterrell who has left the club.

“The last few months have been fantastic, and I can’t thank the coaches, players, staff and supporters enough for the support they’ve given me,” said Blackett.

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Soccer

Timothy Fosu-Mensah: Manchester United trigger one-year contract extension

Manchester United have triggered the extra-year option on Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s contract, keeping him at Old Trafford for at least another 12 months.

The Dutch defender’s deal was due to run out at the end of the current season but United have moved to extend his contract.

Fosu-Mensah, 22, has not appeared in the first team since the final game of the 2016/17 campaign but his extension follows similar decisions taken by Manchester United in the cases of Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic.

The defender’s spent time on loan at Crystal Palace and also Fulham where he sustained a serious knee injury that has kept him out of football for almost a year.

More to follow…

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Soccer

Coronavirus: Jadon Sancho, Callum Hudson-Odoi and leading England stars to face-off in Fifa tournament

Some of Englandā€™s leading players will go head-to-head from their living rooms over Easter as part of a new Fifa 20 tournament launched by the FA on Thursday.

With real action suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, players will find themselves in limbo over the holiday weekend – usually one of the most intense times of the season when leagues are nearing their climax.

The #Footballsstayinghome Cup kicks off on Friday, with the 16 players including Manchester Unitedā€™s Marcus Rashford, Liverpoolā€™s Trent Alexander Arnold and Olympique Lyonnais defender Lucy Bronze set to battle it out on the popular video game.

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Fans can follow the action on the FAā€™s Twitter and YouTube channels from 4pm on Friday with commentary provided by leading esports voices Brandon Smith and Richard Buckley.

Other players include Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount, Callum Wilson, James Maddison, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tammy Abraham, Todd Cantwell and Ryan Sessegnon.

The competition, which will run into next week, hopes to raise awareness for the National Emergencies Trust which is providing help to charities and foundations assisting those most impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Reuters

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Rugby

NRL: Australian rugby league competition plans to restart on 28 May

Australia’s National Rugby League competition will restart on 28 May if coronavirus restrictions are eased.

The league was stopped after just two rounds of the 2020 season, but Australian Rugby League bosses said they wanted to give everyone involved in the sport some “certainty”.

The pandemic has decimated sport with most campaigns cancelled or suspended.

“We haven’t finalised what that [competition] looks like yet,” ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce said.

“Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands of people who are out of work through clubs and millions of fans.

“It’s a mark for everyone to work towards that’s associated with the game.”

Australia has a relatively low number of coronavirus cases compared to parts of Europe and the United States. Just over 6,000 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and 51 have died.

The ARL also confirmed it intended to play the full three-game State of Origin series in June and July and that the NRL grand final would remain in its traditional format of one match, played in Sydney.

Thursday’s decisions were made after a phone hook-up with representatives from each of the 16 NRL clubs.

“The situation is changing dramatically and we need to get moving,” ARL chairman Peter V’landys said.

“It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.

“We have said right from the start that what we say today may need to change tomorrow. We will be flexible, and if the trend changes or if government restrictions change then so will we. The health and safety of our players and the general public remains the absolute priority.”

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Soccer

Cristiano Ronaldo pokes fun at new Manchester United signing Bruno Fernandes: ā€˜Train your arms insteadā€™

Cristiano Ronaldo was not impressed with Bruno Fernandesā€˜ attempt at his ab workout challenge on Instagram and could not resist teasing the new Manchester United man about the size of his arms.

Over the weekend, Juventus star Ronaldo challenged his fans to take part in a ā€˜core crusherā€™ workout, posting an impressive score of 142 reps in 45 seconds.

Fernandes joined in the fun, managing a respectable 117 reps and writing to Ronaldo: ā€œNot bad for a Sundayā€¦ā€

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But it seems that Ronaldo was not especially impressed with his attempt.

ā€œTrain your arms instead!ā€ he replied to his Portugal team-mate.

Fernandes has been a big success at United since joining halfway through the season from Sporting Lisbon, with club legend Bryan Robson recently praising him for the impact he has already made.

ā€œI think it helps that he was captain at Sporting. I just think itā€™s something that is naturally in you,ā€ Robson said.

ā€œBruno looks as though he has got that natural leadership quality, where he demands from his teammates and thatā€™s good.

ā€œWhat I do like to see when heā€™s on the pitch is, even though heā€™s a forward-minded player, heā€™s already swivelling and looking on his shoulder, demanding of his team-mates.

ā€œHeā€™s telling people to push in and have them where he wants them, which is great.ā€

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