06.08.2022
Court case may free Old Firm giants Celtic and Rangers chance to leave SPFL for a bigger league

Bosman lawyer Jean-Louis Dupont insists Scotland’s top clubs stand to benefit from a new legal challenge to UEFA’s stance on cross-border leagues.

Minnows FC Swift Hesperange have filed a lawsuit against Europe’s governing body and the Luxembourg Football Federation.

If successful, it could open the door for the likes of Celtic and Rangers to boost their earning power by taking part in transnational leagues with bigger television markets.

Backed by the club sponsors, Swift Hesperange claim UEFA’s opposition to cross-border leagues has hampered their ability to join a proposed Benelux League with teams from Holland and Belgium.

The club have filed a claim with the Tribunal D’Arrondisement in Luxembourg insisting UEFA and their national FA are restricting their prospects of growth via ‘rules prohibiting clubs from creating and running transnational competitions’.

In 2020, Aberdeen, Celtic, Hibs, Hearts and Rangers were informed of plans for a 20-team competition featuring clubs from Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. Drawn up by Andrew Doyle, co-owner of League of Ireland side Shelbourne, the blueprint had the backing of investment bank JP Morgan and projected annual broadcasting revenue of up to €400million.

Talks ground to a halt when Celtic’s major shareholder Dermot Desmond informed Doyle’s SAL Sports Capital that the Parkhead club were no longer interested.

Confident that cross-border leagues are coming ‘sooner rather than later’, however, Dupont – the legal brain behind the Bosman ruling and a key figure in the fight between UEFA and the clubs pushing a European Super League – will ask a Luxembourg judge to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) at a preliminary hearing this autumn.

‘Swift and its sponsor, Leopard, are ambitious,’ the Belgian told Sportsmail. ‘The club had already complained publicly in the past regarding some FLF and UEFA rules – in particular, the homegrown players rules, that disadvantage the clubs from small countries. But their voice was not heard. They decided to make it heard in court.

‘Clubs will not “move”. But clubs from small countries would be entitled to produce their domestic football in a larger territory, in order to match the production power of the big leagues.’

Admitting a successful challenge could have huge repercussions for large clubs outside the big five leagues, Dupont foresees the likes of Ajax, Anderlecht, Benfica, Celtic, Copenhagen, Porto and Rangers joining transnational leagues with larger TV markets – and more money.

He said: ‘Celtic and Rangers are great clubs. But how much do they get for their media rights compared to the smallest (English) Premier League club?

‘And this is the lack of domestic incomes that determines negatively their competitiveness on the European stage.’

Hopes of both Glasgow clubs competing in the group stage of the Champions League hang by a thread after Rangers lost the first leg of their third qualifying round tie to Union Saint-Gilloise.

Convinced clubs in Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Ireland and Scandinavia need to pool resources to become more competitive, Dupont said: ‘In my view, yes. But in an organised and clever manner, once the ECJ has decided all legal issues.

‘We will have an introductory hearing in the fall in the State Court of Luxembourg and it will be for this judge to decide if she/he refers the case to the ECJ.’

A specialist in European law, 58-year-old Dupont was part of the legal team which secured the Bosman ruling in December 1995, a move which prompted a revolution in football transfers.

Asked if a successful court challenge to UEFA’s competition rules could have an even bigger impact on European football than Bosman, he replied: ‘Yes, because it affects the production market rather than ‘only’ the labour market.’

Pressed to put a timescale on the introduction of cross-border leagues he replied: ‘No. But sooner rather than later.’

The scourge of UEFA and FIFA, Dupont has brought multiple cases against the football authorities and is currently representing the European Super League Company – backed by Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona – in their fight to establish the principle that the world bodies are not the sole owners of the rights to football and cannot prevent rival competitions springing up.

Acknowledging the links between the Super League and the push for cross-border leagues, he said: ‘Intellectually, there is a common ground: in both cases, some clubs challenge the EU legality of UEFA’s monopoly on the organisation and management of transnational club competitions.’

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    ‘Man, the first time was so nice, I had to do it twice,’ Anthony Joshua bellowed after avenging his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr to become a two-time heavyweight world champion in 2019.

    Raising his belts aloft at the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arena, having been rocked, dropped and ultimately shocked by his, on paper, significantly lesser opponent just six months prior, the Briton was once more the rightful owner of the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and stood as the man to beat in the heavyweight division.

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    Joshua was warned by many not to jump into an immediate rematch – just as he was after losing to Ruiz Jr. But, as it was then, the risk is certainly not without reward. Forget retirement talk, rematch victory would, you’d hope, finally cement an undisputed clash against Tyson Fury in what would be the biggest fight in British history.

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    He left the forces in March to begin training for the rematch, but the Ukrainian plans to return to the front line immediately after the bout.

    ‘I did not want to leave my city. I really did not want to leave my country,’ he said in June. ‘But when I went to the hospitals where our wounded soldiers are being rehabilitated they told me to go. Go to fight this fight not only for your pride but for Ukraine. You will do even more for our country fighting in the ring than fighting here.

    ‘So now I want to bring some kind of joy to those soldiers and to those staying in the front line by doing what I do.’ He added: ‘Immediately after I defend my titles against Joshua I plan to return to Kyiv. I must be in my country.’

    Usyk, who insisted ‘I’m not fighting for money or recognition’ at the launch press conference in Saudi Arabia, now has more than titles on the line going into the rematch. He’s even teamed up with an NFT platform in a bid to raise £1.64m for Ukraine ahead of the bout.

    For Joshua, much has also changed. He admits his approach was totally wrong in their first encounter – even insisting he thought he was winning the fight throughout – and has parted ways with long-term trainer Rob McCracken as a result.

    Joshua had a host of options to replace his former mentor, having visited numerous prolific trainers out in America, but it was Robert Garcia who pipped Eddy Reynoso, Virgil Hunter and Ronnie Shields to the job.

    Garcia has established himself as a world class trainer over the past two decades, guiding his fighters to 14 world title wins and helping brother Mikey – a former four-weight world champion – become one of the best fighters on the planet.

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    The question now is whether Joshua can land that killer blow. Usyk certainly felt his power on occasion last September, and it’s known the Ukrainian is susceptible to a body attack, but whether the Briton can assert his pressure, and avoid gassing out in doing so, remains to be seen.

    The heavyweight landscape has also shifted since their first encounter, with Tyson Fury now claiming he’s retired. Of course, he’s also claimed both that he’ll only return for £500million and that he’ll return to fight Joshua for free, all while conveniently clinging onto that WBC strap of his. Most of us have learned to take what he says with a pinch of salt.

    More importantly is that Fury defeated his mandatory challenger in Dillian Whyte and is under no pressure from WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman to make his next defence. Essentially, he’s free to watch on as the action unfolds and make his next move accordingly.

    Of course, the British public will want to see Fury and Joshua go head-to-head, but a clash against either fighter will be a historic event nonetheless.

    One man who will be desperate to be a part of it – other the fighters, of course – is Matchroom chief Eddie Hearn, for whom a Joshua defeat would be disastrous.

    Having signed Joshua to a big-money, long-term exclusive deal with DAZN, it was then announced that the impending bout will be shown on Sky Sports Box Office.

    Joshua’s stock will once again rise should he beat Usyk, but it would arguably plummet with defeat – as would the value of that DAZN deal.

    And with Usyk heading into his final outing as a Matchroom fighter, with a break from boxing following the bout also on the cards, another loss would be devastating for both the UK fighter and promoter.

    For Usyk, however, victory would be a symbolic and historic triumph during a horrifying period for his country. And for Joshua, victory would revive his career and setup one of the biggest fights of all time. For both, defeat leaves you wondering what next.

    While Usyk heads into the fight as the favourite, the bout – which surely will be drastically different from the first – could in truth go either way. As could the direction the heavyweight division moves in, with not only Joshua’s legacy on the line, but also the opportunity to finally seal the biggest fight in British history.

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  • 7 минут назад 08.08.2022Sport
    England are DISQUALIFIED from women’s 4x400m relay at Commonwealth Games

    England’s 4x400m quartet were last night dramatically disqualified after celebrating bringing a golden curtain down on the Commonwealth Games.

    Running as if the baton was stolen, Jessie Knight had seemingly led the team to a thrilling victory in the 4x400m relay by holding off a surge from Canada to match the gold secured earlier in the day by England’s men in the 4x100m.

    However, in frenzied scenes, it was announced Knight, Victoria Ohuruogu, Jodie Williams and Ama Pipi had been stripped because Williams stepped out of her lane on leg two. An England appeal against the verdict was dismissed.

    It was an anti-climax to a pulsating finish to the race, which had seen Knight handed the baton 10m clear in the lead.

    But it was whittled down by half on the back straight by Canada and Jamaica and into the final 50m the Canadians were level. Knight lunged at the line and initially England were listed as winners by just one hundredth of a second.

    That apparent near-miss followed the gold secured by the men’s sprint quartet, which was anchored home by Ojie Edoburun just nine days after he was told he was needed to cover an injury to Reece Prescod.

    When he crossed, he let out a huge scream, having converted the healthy lead earned by Jona Efoloko, Zharnel Hughes and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake into England’s sixth such relay win in the past nine editions of the Commonwealth Games.

    ‘I’m just so happy to come in and fit in so well with the boys – for me, words can’t describe it,’ said Edoburun.

    ‘I didn’t want to miss out on this special generation of athletes and I want to take this confidence into the European Championships (later this month). This is something we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.’

    England’s women, minus the considerable force of the injured Dina Asher-Smith, saw off Elaine Thompson-Herah’s Jamaica but were well beaten into silver by Nigeria.

    After being led out by Asha Philip, the middle pairing of Imani Lansiquot and Bianca Williams fell behind Nigeria, before handing over to British champion Daryll Neita. She ate into their lead but their time of 42.10 was 0.31sec off gold.

    Williams, who earlier this year accused police of racism after a stop-and-search, which triggered a misconduct investigation against the officers, did a lap of honour with her infant son. She said: ‘That is the first time he has been out on a big stage but there will be many more.

    ‘He is so fast. He is going to be special. His father [Ricardo dos Santos) is a Portuguese 400m runner so he has the genes.’

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  • 7 минут назад 08.08.2022Sport
    Frustrated Middlesbrough boss Chris Wilder wants new signings to help promotion push after QPR loss

    Chris Wilder has insisted his Middlesbrough side are ‘miles off’ their Championship promotion rivals and pleaded for new signings after a dispiriting defeat at Queens Park Rangers.

    Boro have taken one point from their opening two fixtures and were 3-0 down inside 38 minutes at Loftus Road.

    The club have signed six players this summer but only paid a fee for striker Marcus Forss, who was on the scoresheet against QPR, with two free transfers and two loan deals making up the rest of their business.

    A visibly frustrated Wilder described the next week as ‘pivotal’, insisting both he and his players need help if they are to mount a serious promotion fight.

    ‘I think everyone can see we’re still miles off where we need to be,’ said Wilder. ‘You guys who commentate on the league are putting us up there, maybe for historical reasons — the club’s history, my history, our recent history together.

    ‘But where we are as a group, there is still an awful lot of work to be done to even talk about us in the same breath as Sheffield United, or West Brom, or Norwich, or Watford or Burnley that are getting tipped to be up there.

    ‘We need incomings and I’m sure everyone can see that. I’d like to think there’s an ounce of sympathy for me at the moment. But we are all working hard and we are all trying to get deals over the line.

    ‘That’s not a criticism of anybody. But we have to, and I think everybody understands that. It’s got to be a pivotal week for us and we all want that. We’re trying to do the best deals we can and get the right players because it’s no good not getting the right players in.’

    Boro brought in funds of around £30million with the sales of Marcus Tavernier and Djed Spence to Bournemouth and Tottenham and Wilder is understood to want five or six new players.

    They are set to sign USA international Matthew Hoppe from Spanish side Mallorca but the striker is waiting on a work permit to complete a move.

    Hoppe started his career at German club Schalke before joining Mallorca last summer. ‘Good, if that is the case then brilliant because we need help,’ Wilder said when asked about the potential signing.

    ‘The players need help, I need help, we all need help. It is quite difficult because the biggest event is the game but every press conference it’s players, players, players. That’s what everybody is talking about.’

    Middlesbrough face Barnsley in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday night before a home clash with Wilder’s former side Sheffield United next Saturday.

    But it was a fine day for QPR, who officially opened the Stanley Bowles stand. Bowles, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, made 315 appearances and scored 96 goals during a seven-year spell.

    And Chloe Kelly, scorer of England’s dramatic winner in their Euros triumph, was the guest of honour. West Londoner Kelly, a QPR fan who began her career at Rangers, presented the match ball before kick-off on Saturday.

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