Categories
Rugby

AFL, Seven working to extend broadcast deal

The AFL and Channel Seven look set to reinforce one of world sport's longest-running broadcast partnerships as the two parties negotiate a potential two-year extension of the game's media rights.

Seeking some certainty amid the COVID-19 crisis that has wiped out football indefinitely, the AFL, the Seven Network and Fox Sports are exploring a new marginally reduced contract that would run until 2024.

Gillon McLachlan and the AFL and Channel Seven are negotiating a potential two-year extension of the game’s media rights.Credit:Getty Images

In a series of sensitive talks involving league chief Gillon McLachlan, his chief financial officer Ray Gunston and respective media bosses James Warburton and Patrick Delaney, the AFL is also negotiating a new 2020 rights package dependent on when and if the season resumes.

In marked contrast to the bitter fall-out between the NRL and Nine, Seven and Fox have remained publicly supportive of the AFL and McLachlan's determination to salvage something of the 2020 season.

The next financial instalment from the AFL's broadcasters is due on May 31 and the parties are negotiating a pro-rata payment dependent on the outcome of the league's intention to complete a 17-round or 153-game season, along with finals.

But the broadcasters are playing hard ball, insisting the games, should they eventuate, will be worth less due to the compromised nature of the season.

Given the certainty of lessened broadcast revenue in 2020 it is understood Seven is open to maintaining reduced, four-times-a-year instalments, easing the short-term pain for the competition by averaging the broadcast rights money over a two-year period or even longer.

The prevailing view is that the AFL is unlikely to resume the 2020 season until July and that it could start as late as the end of August and still achieve a premiership result.

The prospect of the grand final being staged outside Victoria in that event remains strong and all parties remain open to a night or twilight play-off.

Like the Nine Network, both Seven and Fox have also pointed out that this year's games have lost some value due to the absence of crowds, their reduced length and the prospect of them being played at smaller, less broadcast-friendly venues.

Seven West Media and News Corporation, which contributed the bulk of the record six-year, $2.5 billion media deal to broadcast Australian rules football until 2022, like the AFL are seeking stability along with the opportunity to make some savings over the long term.

The Age revealed last August that McLachlan had spoken with former Seven boss Tim Worner about the possibility of extending the deal by two years given the uncertainty of the changing media climate.

Those conversations have continued since Warburton replaced Worner but an extension seems contingent upon Fox Sports' involvement. Despite the financial struggles of both media companies the prevailing view is that weekly AFL games over 23 weeks of the year plus four weeks of finals remain fundamental to both businesses.

Having reduced AFL staff numbers by 80 per cent in the short term, overseen similar cost cutting across the 18 clubs, negotiated a reduced pay deal with the players for 2020 and secured a $600 million line of credit from NAB and ANZ, McLachlan must now complete the crucial media component of the puzzle in the hope that the competition can complete the remaining 144 home-and-away season games.

The AFL chief has received strong public support from News Corporation and Seven West, which has praised the competition for its decision to purchase Marvel Stadium and create a solid asset that underlined the $600 million bank loan.

McLachlan followed up last week by implementing a rescue package agreed to by the 18 clubs in which head office assumed unprecedented control over the clubs in what essentially is a receivership model.

By stark comparison Nine's chief executive Hugh Marks is attempting to significantly renegotiate down the network's NRL deal over the longer term and has attacked the code for "mismanagement over many years" for its "bloated head office completely ignoring the needs of clubs, players and officials".

The AFL's $2.5 billion deal came about following the direct intervention of Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation contributed $1.3 billion of the total, with Seven West $840 million in cash plus $60 million in contra.

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Categories
MLB

How Premier League players took it to owners and helped the coronavirus cause directly

This is the Morning Win.  Nate Scott is filling in for Andy Nesbitt this week.

Soccer players in England have been stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to how to best support their country's fight against the coronavirus pandemic, but have come up with a brilliant solution that also strikes back at unfair demands put on them by the owners.

Let's dive in: In England, the Premier League is the biggest sporting league by a mile, and there was real pressure on the players to do their part.

It reached the point where the league asked players to take a 30% pay cut while the league was suspended due to the global outbreak of coronavirus. The players' union rejected it.

There was danger in doing this, of course. By rejecting pay cuts, Premier League players were opening themselves up to the argument that they were being greedy, and heartless, and not willing to part with their money in a time of trouble.

But Wayne Rooney of all people ended up writing a column in The Times about this, and his argument was a sound one — Sure, he wrote, he'd be happy to give money to a worthy cause. But he asked: Why are players taking a cut to give money back not to healthcare workers or team employees, but rather to the team owners, most of whom are billionaires?

Rooney's argument was simple: I'm happy to donate money, as long as I know where the money is going. If it's going to team employees or healthcare workers, by all means. But, he argued, I'm not giving it back to the team owners with nothing but an assurance that they'll do the right thing.

By asking players to take a pay cut, Rooney and many Premier League players argued, the Premier League was essentially saying that the team owners knew better what to do with the money than these simple footballers.

So the players took control back. The captains for all the Premier League teams linked up and formed #PlayersTogether, an initiative where professional soccer players would make large, joint donations to NHS England, the governing body for health services in the country.

In doing so, the players will most likely give up similar money to what they would have gotten in a pay cut, and instead of essentially returning the money to the owners, they're getting it to the frontline workers who are fighting coronavirus in their country.

It was smart, it makes them look good, and it shows how complex these issues are. Well done to them.

Thursday's Big Winner: Tom Brady

QB Tom Brady (Photo: David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports)

Brady gave a wide-ranging interview with Howard Stern where he actually said some interesting things. (Some problematic things, too.) But most notably, Brady opened up on his marriage to Gisele, and how it was family issues that led to him missing offseason workouts the last two seasons, and nothing to do with Bill Belichick.

Quick Hits: New Raiders stadium, Dinwiddie for GM, NFL Draft issues

– We've got footage of the new, wild Raiders stadium in Las Vegas.

– Spencer Dinwiddie has a plan to fix the Bulls, and it involves trading for himself (and Kevin Durant)

– The NFL Draft, held virtually, is already running into all sorts of problems.

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Categories
MLB

November could be the greatest sports month ever (maybe)

On Monday, Augusta National announced that it was rescheduling the 2020 Masters to November. Golf fans rejoiced, as they were treated with something beautiful (and novel) to look forward to.

It also got sports fans thinking: Whoa, this November could be the greatest sports month ever.

Listen, this is pre-supposing a lot of things. One, that we'll get the global coronavirus pandemic under control, or get to a point where sports could realistically be held safely. Two, that some of these sports will get seasons in this year, or start their seasons on time. Three, you know, that like a comet doesn't hit the Earth or the Yellowstone caldera blows or whatever.

Pending all that happening, it it plays out like we're hoping and this disease is somewhat under control by then, November 2020 could have:

  • The Masters
  • The World Series
  • NFL football
  • College football
  • Premier League
  • NBA basketball
  • NHL hockey

That is … bananas.

Flipping over from NFL football to the Masters, then having a night cap of a World Series game … my brain just can't really process that. We're through the looking glass here.

Will any of this happen? I have no idea. It's silly to get excited about it, and for all we know, none of these sports will be happening. But it's fun, however briefly, to dream.

Tuesday's Big Winner: Jay Cutler

Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler walk the red carpet before the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Music City Center Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.

ORG XMIT: TNNAT (Via OlyDrop) (Photo: Larry McCormack / Tennessean.com)

Cutler appears to be stranded in the Bahamas with his wife Kristin Cavallari and their friends, waiting out the coronavirus quarantine. He says it's been close to a month, which doesn't make sense math-wise, but Cutler was always about tossing footballs, not doing numbers. Anyway, may god have mercy on the staff who is trapped with him and his family.

Quick Hits: One Shining Moment, Tom Brady, 'Hamilton'

– One lonely broadcaster filmed a full-length "One Shining Moment" video, playing all the characters by himself. It's … elaborate.

– Was Tom Brady trying to snub the Patriots with his goodbye letter? Maybe! We dug WAY too deep into it.

– The "Hamilton" cast is here (with John Krasinski) to sing those quarantine blues away.

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Categories
Soccer

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund among top German clubs giving £18m to struggling rivals

Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen are donating more than £18m to German rivals struggling financially because of coronavirus.

The four wealthiest clubs in Germany are foregoing their combined share of undistributed broadcast revenue – totalling £11.4m – plus £6.9m of their own funds to help other sides in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.

  • Bayern players opt to take wage cut

Due to the German league’s 50+1 rule, which prohibits a majority sharehold to private ownership apart from just a few exceptions, there are concerns over the futures of clubs finding it difficult to cover losses caused by the indefinite postponement of fixtures.

The DFL Presidium is to decide how the £18.3m (€20m) will be distributed and, after a meeting of the German league on Wednesday, Dortmund were among the clubs to release a statement outlining the new “solidarity campaign”.

“The aim of the campaign is to provide financial support for hardship cases triggered by the corona crisis,” it read. “We have always said that we will show solidarity if clubs are at fault because of this exceptional situation, which they can no longer manage alone.”

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Categories
Tennis

Millman’s Davis Cup opponent becomes tennis’ first confirmed COVID-19 case

Former Australian Open champion and world No.1 Lindsay Davenport fears the first positive coronavirus case in professional tennis is just the tip of the iceberg and worries about "horror stories" emerging from fellow players across the globe.

Talented young Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, whose last match was a loss to John Millman just 19 days ago in Australia's Davis Cup victory in Adelaide, revealed on social media that he was in self-isolation after contracting COVID-19.

John Millman (left) and Thiago Seyboth Wild at the coin toss for their Davis Cup encounter in Adelaide in early March.Credit:Getty Images

"This is one of the problems that we're facing in tennis and why the delay is going to be really challenging," Annacone said.

"It's an individual, international sport. We are on planes SO much, travelling the globe, so many different continents so that not only are we susceptible but what we're finding out now is that there's a lot of pathways to pass this [disease] on to others.

"So we have to be really careful."

Although Seyboth Wild is officially the first tennis player to test positive to coronavirus, Australian Bernard Tomic 10 days ago reported to having "all the symptoms" before moving into self isolation in Miami.

"Look, let's be honest, there are a lot of tennis players that have done a lot of travelling this year," Annacone told the Tennis Channel.

"So we've got to be smart, we've got to self-isolate and we've got to do everything we can to try to wrestle this to at least neutrality for the time being."

AAP

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Categories
MLB

15 things we miss most about baseball, ranked

2020 has been the Angel Hernandez of years. Just the worst.

Since the day sports stopped, there’s been no shortage of bad headlines, with the delay of the MLB season seemingly at the bottom of the list of worries. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be missed until whenever it does happen.

Today should be a happy Monday. In a normal year, we’d be gearing up for the start of the MLB season, which would be just a few days away. Unfortunately, 2020 is anything but a normal year and Monday, March 23, 2020, sucks more than any normal Monday should.

Sometimes, group therapy is the best kind of therapy — trust me, I’m a sportswriter — so let’s relive the things we miss most about baseball while we wait for the season to kick off.

Honorable mention: Mid-inning activities

Man, I don’t know how I’m gonna go a few months without seeing the presidents race at Nationals Park or the sausage race at American Family Insurance Park/Field/Stadium/Whatever, or watching The Freeze cook fools in the “Beat The Freeze” challenge in Atlanta. Throw in some T-shirt cannons and we’ve got all sorts of entertainment to keep you hooked before the next inning begins.

15. The bases

Baseball without bases is like a cheeseburger without patties. So, yeah, the bases are a good thing to miss.

14. The consistency

Baseball season means having something to watch pretty much every day for the next eight months. For all the time spent that your significant other makes you watch “This Is Us” or “Bar Rescue,” baseball is a very acceptable change of pace for evening programming.

13. The views



(Credit: Getty Images)

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There’s really nothing like the skyline near baseball stadiums. Whether that’s a view of downtown Pittsburgh or the San Gabriel mountains, baseball stadiums across the country lend themselves to beautiful views.

Perhaps the best part of any activity pre-game is watching how finely tuned and manicured the field is 45 minutes before the first pitch. For me, watching a grounds crew work is a therapeutic experience; seeing how each foul line is carefully chalked down, how evenly water is sprinkled on the dirt, how the mound is raked and the infield is dragged. It’s all precisely executed, and it’s almost wondrous in and of itself.

Really, grounds crew members are the unsung heroes of MLB. How the hell do they mow those designs into the outfield? Black magic, that’s how.

12. David Fletcher? David Fletcher.

Fletcher had one of the more interesting, productive seasons in MLB in 2019. While he played most of his time at third base, he had over 100 innings each played in left, at shortstop and at second base, with 17 DRS total between all positions. He had a 4.5 bWAR (3.4 fWAR), and just six home runs on the season, but it’s unfortunate that we won’t get to see his continued growth in the majors just yet.

11. The first pitch

Baseball, for all of the patience it requires, toys with your emotions like a toddler with a cellphone.

That’s why that first pitch is such a weird moment of every baseball game. First pitch for a strike means your team is absolutely winning; first pitch for a ball means get the fire barrel ready, because you’re lighting your team gear on fire. If the first pitch is a ball, then that anxiety doesn’t waiver until there’s a called strike. It’s all a very brutal, emotional experience.

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10. Day games!

Day games!

The day goes by so much faster when there’s an early start for a game. Whether you have the luxury of watching at home or listening on the radio, there’s nothing like day baseball. Really, there’s a lower stress level when watching day baseball, too, and it frees you up to catch up on your shows at night. All baseball is missed, but day baseball especially so.

9. The food

If you want to brave the elements and deal with the crazies fighting in Aisle 13 over the last roll of Charmin, maybe you can head over to the frozen section to pick up a tub of neopolitan ice cream in the process. But there’s a catch, and that’s this: The calories might be the same, but everything at the ballpark tastes better. Hot dogs, beer, chicken fingers but maybe most importantly, ice cream. Plus, you can get ice cream in a souvenir helmet, and who doesn’t want that?

8. Seeing your heroes at the ballpark

Whether its Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre, a young fan seeing a favorite player or this guy and SN’s Joe Rivera, seeing your buddies and heroes at the local ballpark is something that’s going to be missed while the season isn’t happening.

Role models come in many shapes and sizes, whether that’s a baseball player or a baseball writer, so not being able to congregate and witness the masters at work is something that’ll be sorely missed for the time being.

7. The dingers

Had we not seen a metric crapton of home runs hit in 2019, then this would be higher on the list. But there’s a tiny bit of long-ball fatigue right now, which means dingers, homers, slammalamma ding-dongs, taters, big flys, round-trippers, four-baggers, jacks, jimmyjacks and moonshots are still missed, but not as much as they would be in any other season.

6. The voices

Whether it’s solo Bob Uecker, the loaded booth trio of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, or any broadcaster in between, you probably listen more to these guys than you do your husband or wife throughout the year.

The voices of baseball are familial and inviting, as you spend most of your season with them. There’s a reason that baseball broadcasters are the most beloved among all the major sports — they’re in your ear for 140-plus games a season, so there’s little doubt you miss them as much as much as you miss toilet paper right now.

5. Francisco Lindor’s smile



(Credit: Getty Images)

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There’s probably no baseball player who exudes pure joy, elation and love for the game more than Francisco Lindor. Those pearly whites are among the best set in MLB, and Lindor and his natural charisma are just so, so easy to root for. 

So while the Indians suffer after deciding to move on from Lindor at some point — and another team will surely be happy to have them — we’re all suffering right now by being robbed of Lindor’s 80-grade smile. 

4. The smells

Nothing tickles the olfactory senses quite like hot dogs, garlic fries and fresh-cut grass. More than any other sport, the experience of being at a game is so vital for baseball fans, and the aroma of the sport is one that attendees are going to miss.

3. The sounds

The crack of a bat. The popping of a glove. Jim Joyce’s Strike 3 call.

I’d say close your eyes and imagine it, but if you do that, you might keep them closed and then not finish reading this list. So, don’t do that.

In any case, much like the aromas of the game, baseball has its own unique sounds. A bat breaking, the sounds of slides, the roar of the crowd after a great catch, the whizz of a 98 mph fastball. They’re the sounds of the turning of spring and a soundtrack for the summer.

2. Mke Trout

We are living in unprecedented times. Not because of COVID-19, but because of Mike Trout.

Baseball fans usually know history when they see it, so seeing Trout’s season cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic is a punch in the gut — especially since we don’t know when that season is going to kick off.

But rest assured, whenever the season does get underway, Trout will somehow end up with a 9-WAR year. 

1. Being there

Whether you’re a writer, player, fan, camera person, mascot or beer vendor, there are very few things in sports that match being at a baseball game.

It’s where you can be a fan the way you want to be. You can treat it like a day at the park or dress up like those Oakland A’s diehards with the green afros. You can act a fool in between innings on the jumbotron, or you can laugh at the drunks in Section 113. There’s nothing like taking in a nine-inning game on a warm summer night. 

Despite all its warts — ticket and concession prices, locale — getting out to a baseball game is something so worth the experience. That we won’t be there for a long time is a real downer. 

But hey, it’ll be back before you know it — and we’ll hopefully all appreciate it all the greater.

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Categories
Soccer

Barcelona urged to make Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal decision because of Lionel Messi

Barcelona should not pursue Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang because he is not a long-term answer for when Lionel Messi finally leaves the club, claims former Major League Soccer star Alejandro Moreno. Aubameyang was linked with a January move to Barca and continues to be of interest of the La Liga giants ahead of the summer window. The forward is out of contract at Arsenal in the summer of 2021.

Moreno says there is no doubting Aubameyang’s talent, with only Mohamed Salah scoring more than the 49 Premier League goals he has notched since his arrival in England in January 2018.

However, he does not think Barca should be signing a player of his age, with the Gabon international turning 31 in June.

The ESPN FC pundit claims Barca must be planning for the long term and for when superstar forward Messi leaves the club, therefore signing younger players than Aubameyang.

“Look, I think Aubameyang is a tremendous player,” Moreno said.

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“But if you’re Barcelona and you’re moving away from Luis Suarez because, well, he’s getting older, if your idea is to get younger, then get really younger.

“Then think about the future, don’t think about the short-term fix because Aubameyang would be just that and that’s not even getting into the fact that when you’re thinking about the playing style of Aubameyang, it’s a guy that needs space and needs that ability to try and get in behind and attack those spaces with his speed.

“Well that’s not what Barcelona does, it’s not a sort of team that is direct and over the top, it’s a team that likes to play the little dinky balls in front of the defenders and try to combine and work your way towards goal.

“So it doesn’t quite match the style of Barcelona and I just think that, as a philosophy for Barcelona, if indeed you’re trying to get younger and if that’s your decision, then truly do that and think about the future and how you structure yourself for post-Messi years, because that’s happening. Whether they like it or not, that’s happening.

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“They have to start preparing for that – Aubameyang is not the answer long term.”

Meanwhile, former France and Chelsea defender Frank Leboeuf does not think Aubameyang is at the required level to play for Barca.

“I think he is a fantastic and great football player, but when you talk about Barcelona you talk about top, top notch players,” Leboeuf said.

“Pierre-Emerick is a star, he is a fantastic captain sometimes for the Gunners but he’s not what you expect [at Barcelona].

“He’s not [Kylian] Mbappe, he’s not even [Erling Braut] Haaland, even if he’s a surprise and he needs confirmation [of how good he will be].”

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Categories
MLB

New England Patriots' QB question: Who will replace Tom Brady?

Bill Belichick has been thinking about this moment for years, the moment he would continue on as New England Patriots coach without Tom Brady by his side.

The surprise is that Belichick’s next move isn’t more obvious.

No one can accuse Belichick of pretending this day would never come. Starting in 2008 with Kevin O’Connell, the Patriots selected four quarterbacks (O’Connell, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett) in the first three rounds of the draft, more than nearly any team in football and far more than any team with an all-time great quarterback in place. The Patriots selected Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round last year and his presence helps explain why Belichick is so comfortable using his go-to move this March: slow-playing the market.

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The Patriots appear to be in no hurry to find Brady’s successor because he may already be in house and they know there will be starting options available for backup prices. Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston are three men without a country. Jacoby Brissett is the highest-paid backup in football. The Patriots have less experience at quarterback than any team in football, but they also don’t have much competition for the remaining options. The Chargers are committed to Tyrod Taylor (and presumably a rookie), according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The Dolphins are expected to seek out a rookie to pair with Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Panthers are rolling with Teddy Bridgewater and possibly a rookie. The Bears and Raiders quickly pounced on their reclamation projects (Nick Foles and Marcus Mariota, respectively) to have in place if their current starters falter.

Perhaps the Redskins will look for an alternative to Dwayne Haskins, but heading to D.C. won’t look nearly as attractive to a veteran player looking to rejuvenate his career as playing for New England. The game of musical chairs is nearly over and the Patriots can eventually point at one of the few remaining options and name a price, if they want. So whom may they choose? Let’s take a look at the possibilities …

Rolling with Jarrett Stidham and a backup to be named later is the most Patriots-like move on the board. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi has noted in recent weeks that Stidham received far more first-team reps throughout training camp and the 2019 regular season than expected because Brady missed so many practices due to his family or injury. By nearly every account, Stidham made the most of his time.

Patriots beat reporters who watched Stidham in camp believed he performed better as a rookie than Garoppolo or Brissett ever did. Stidham had the best preseason stats of any rookie in the Belichick era and the Patriots were confident enough in him to release veteran Brian Hoyer before the season, making Stidham the backup.

Even the most ardent Stidham supporters in the Patriots building, however, have no idea how he’ll actually perform as the starter in a regular-season game. There’s no way they are going into the season with just Stidham and Cody Kessler, so another veteran is coming on board eventually. There are plenty available …

Trading for Andy Dalton or Jacoby Brissett would create a competition with Stidham. There’s every reason to believe that Dalton or Brissett would have an advantage because of their experience, but there’s also every reason to believe Belichick will make it an open competition with virtually any incoming quarterback. Belichick is loath to admit that any of his players have starting jobs locked up; there’s no way he’s going to just hand the QB reins to an outsider sight unseen.

Stidham knows the Patriots’ system better than Dalton. With organized team activities delayed indefinitely, there will almost certainly be a highly condensed offseason. There’s no guarantee training camp will start on time. That will make it difficult for anyone trying to replace Brady, including Stidham. Brissett’s familiarity from his rookie season with the Patriots would help here, although his contract creates a challenge.

It’s hard to imagine the Patriots giving up much in compensation for either Dalton or Brissett and their salaries are a problem. Brissett is due nearly $16 million in 2020 pay, while there’s no way Dalton will see the $17.7 million he’s due. Would Dalton be willing to take a big pay cut to play for Belichick? Would the Colts be willing to pay some of Brissett’s salary to help out Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, just two years after he left them at the alter? Both options are messy.

Signing Cam Newton at a discount would be fascinating. McDaniels doesn’t get enough credit for his creative scheming year by year, often staying one step ahead of the league. The Patriots were reportedly high on both Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield entering the 2018 draft, and it’s easy to imagine Belichick wanting to get wild with some college-influenced spread concepts. He’s been borrowing liberally from the most innovative college thinkers on defense for years.

Newton’s health status makes him nearly impossible for the Panthers to trade, so a release should come sooner than later. Newton may subsequently have to wait until travel and regular medical testing return to normal before finding a team. Luckily for the Patriots, they can afford to be patient. Belichick often scoops up premier talent when the value is at a low, and Newton would qualify. This would be the biggest swing for the fences the Patriots could take and the most fun. Who wouldn’t watch Cam playing in Foxborough?

It’s hard to imagine Jameis Winston in a Patriots uniform. Belichick prizes reliability and avoiding mental mistakes perhaps above all else. While picking up a 26-year-old former No. 1 overall pick with 70 career starts and a career 7.7 yards-per-attempt average looks good on paper, Winston would probably drive Belichick crazier than he already did to Bruce Arians. I just can’t see it. And this reflects the Friday reporting of Giardi, who said a high-ranking New England official told him the Pats are "unlikely" to target Winston.

Of course, there’s probably some surprise path Belichick is considering that no one can think of. That’s why he’s Bill Belichick and you’re not. I suspect he’s a lot less concerned with his quarterback situation than the Patriots fan base at large. No matter what he does, Belichick has an abundance of options and Stidham is atop the depth chart. Just don’t be too shocked if the second-year QB stays there.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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Categories
Soccer

Barcelona urged to sell four players this summer including Antoine Griezmann

Barcelona should attempt to sell four members of their first-team squad, according to former Premier League star Shaka Hislop. Barca are two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga with 11 games of the campaign remaining. They are also level at 1-1 with Napoli following the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie last month.

But Hislop still believes there are members of Quique Setien’s squad that Barca are better off without.

One of those names is Antoine Griezmann, who only joined the La Liga side from Atletico Madrid last summer for £107million.

Griezmann has only scored eight goals in 26 league appearances for Barca.

The Frenchman was one of four players Hislop told ESPN FC that Setien should move on.

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Ivan Rakitic

“I think he’s now surplus to requirements,” Hislop said.

“I think this is a Barcelona team that needs a lot of change so there will be quite a clear out.

“I think you get good buyers for Ivan Rakitic and given the fact that he’s not featured a lot, I just think Barcelona have moved past Rakitic. Sadly, he’s got go.

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Ousmane Dembele

“Incredible talent but I’ve been disappointed with him since his arrival and I think that disappointment is his own making,” he added.

“Maybe he needs a step down, a step away from a club like Barcelona, to really appreciate the opportunity that he had.

“Maybe that sees him settle down. I understand he’s also had a lot of injuries, that’s got nothing to do with him or his attitude, or that’s bad luck.

“But I feel he hasn’t helped himself in many of his own issues. He’s an incredible talent, of course [there’s still time for him].”

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Samuel Umtiti

“I think he’s gone. Far too error prone of late for me,” Hislop said.

“I think finding himself further down the pecking order. Barcelona have had some issues defensively, I understand and accept that.

“Fresh faces are needed, some of those others faces have to go out.

“Umtiti, and I think I can get a buyer for him, I let him go.”

Antoine Griezmann

“Antoine Griezmann, if I can get somebody to take over his contract,” the pundit said.

“Probably not [no club would pay his fee and wages] is the truth.

“That gives Barcelona a real problem. But if somehow I can, if somehow I can convince PSG or whoever to take him, I’ll drive the bus myself.”

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Rugby

Coronavirus response to push back decision on Greenberg’s future

Plans to decide NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg's future on Thursday have been scrapped in order to focus on rugby league's response to the coronavirus crisis.

The Australian Rugby League Commission was scheduled to meet on March 19 to make a call on Greenberg's tenure. A sub-committee including chairman Peter V'landys, Wayne Pearce and Gary Weiss were formed to make a recommendation to the board on whether the former Bulldogs boss should continue in the role.

Todd Greenberg has been given a stay of execution.Credit:Getty

League powerbrokers decided they couldn't allow the instability of a power struggle at the top at a time when the coronavirus outbreak will force all games to be played behind closed doors from round two.

Amanda Laing stepped down from the commission during the week to avoid perceived conflicts of interest over the upcoming broadcast negotiations, leaving two spots vacant on the ARLC after the resignation of Mark Coyne. It's unlikely replacements will be determined at Thursday's meeting.

There has been friction between V'landys and Greenberg as the March 19 deadline approached. According to a Herald poll, club chairs and chief executives were split on whether Greenberg should keep his job, although their support for V'landys was strong.

V'landys, who has made it clear he doesn't covet the chief executive position, told Channel Nine during the week that he didn't find Greenberg "arrogant" but that some clubs did.

The pair have been working together closely in recent days as they process the government's response to the pandemic.

Saturday's rugby league games will go ahead as scheduled after Cronulla centre Bronson Xerri was cleared of coronavirus. Xerri, who will not line up against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium, and a teammate were isolated from training but only the Sharks centre was tested. So far, he is the only NRL player to be tested for the virus.

The commission and the NRL executive will meet on Saturday to discuss the code's response to the outbreak.

If Greenberg is able to navigate rugby league through the crisis, it could result in his stocks rising and strengthening his case to remain at the helm long term.

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