April 18, 2017 was a big day in Brazilian football. They decided who won the league title – in 1987.

Sport Recife took the crown, three supreme court judges to one, over Flamengo who had, for 30 years, considered the title theirs, even though Recife entered the 1988 Copa Libertadores.

This was the most drawn out court case in the history of Brazilian football, but far from the first.

Fulham and Brentford will contest a promotion playoff final for the largest prize in club football

Fulham and Brentford will contest a promotion playoff final for the largest prize in club football

In 2013, for instance, Fluminense avoided relegation post-season after Portuguesa were deducted four points for fielding an illegal player, a substitute who had been suspended. This was considered harsh as it was accepted there had been a miscommunication with the league over the ban and Portuguesa had no way of knowing they had acted illegally.

It was also the third time Fluminense, a significant club in Rio de Janeiro, had dodged relegation on a technicality. A year later, Portuguesa attempted to walk off mid-match, after a court official arrived during their second tier game with Joinville and announced he had an order allowing them to play in the top division.

So that is club football in Brazil. The league ends, everyone dashes to the law courts and then we discover who is up and who is down.

In England, we call it the Championship. On Tuesday, Fulham and Brentford will contest a promotion playoff for the biggest prize in club football. A ticket out of there. In this of all seasons it is like the last chopper leaving Saigon.

A team will win their ticket out of the Championship - similar to the last chopper leaving Saigon

A team will win their ticket out of the Championship – similar to the last chopper leaving Saigon

Who is relegated from the Championship this season? Who knows? 

Wigan were deducted 12 points for going into administration, but are appealing on the grounds their new owner may have done it for a bet. Sheffield Wednesday were also deducted 12 points, but the EFL have decided not to apply that until next season, meaning Charlton may now sue because they would stay up if Wednesday went down.

Who would sue on Charlton’s behalf is uncertain because East Street Investments buy-out from owner Roland Duchatalet was not ratified by the league, meaning a third party is also looking to buy the club. Of course, if Charlton were successful in getting Wednesday relegated, it is very possible Wednesday would sue.

Presiding over this dumpster fire masquerading as a professional sports competition is EFL chairman Rick Parry, much beloved of select committee MPs, who see him as the solution to all football’s problems, many of which he caused. And then they wonder why clubs take enormous financial risks in an attempt to escape.

EFL chairman Rick Parry is seen as the solution to all football's issues, many of which he caused

EFL chairman Rick Parry is seen as the solution to all football’s issues, many of which he caused

Next season may bring salary caps and further restructuring of finances that would not be necessary if the EFL was better run. To frown on owner investment and parachute payments while allowing clubs like Hull City to be driven into the ground, or Wigan to be taken over by consortiums unknown, is exactly why owners gamble all to flee.

Fulham have made significant errors in the transfer market in the past, Brentford are noticeably more efficient, but either club will be delighted to leave the Championship behind this season. Deloitte estimate victory could be worth between £135million and £265m, depending on how long the stay in the Premier League lasts.

That could buy a lot of lawyers. And if any club is unfortunate enough to enter the Championship any time soon, it may well need them.

FOLAU DOES NOT NEED TO CONFORM 

Israel Folau has principles and beliefs. They may not be your beliefs, they are certainly not mine.

But they have got him into a lot of trouble in the past and he has stuck by them. So when, before Catalan Dragons first match of the Super League season against St Helens, he remained standing while every other player kneeled in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we should consider him sincere. Predictably, Folau, who has Tongan heritage, drew abuse on social media.

Yet unthinking conformity makes any gesture meaningless. One imagines Folau has given this more thought than those who kneel for a quiet life. And while we might not agree with the conclusion he has reached, we should at least acknowledge it is his right to make that decision. And that this is freedom.

We should consider Israel Folau sincere after he stood while his team-mates had taken a knee

We should consider Israel Folau sincere after he stood while his team-mates had taken a knee

IF BEING A FOOTBALL FAN CAUSES MENTAL ANGUISH, TAKE UP GOLF

Good heavens, there were some overwrought outbursts around the collapse of the Newcastle takeover last week.

Kate Osborne, Labour MP for Jarrow, had already written to the Premier League saying the delay in making a decision was causing her constituents ‘mental anguish, anger and immense stress’.

Then, once the deal fell apart, her colleague Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central, demanded that Mike Ashley donate the £17million deposit gleaned to good causes. It was wrong for him to keep it, she said, given that he had caused the fans ‘such misery’. Look, it’s meant to be fun. Supporting a club can frustrate, yes. And, as Jurgen Klopp said, football is the most important of the least important things.

But, if your football club is causing you mental anguish, anger, stress and misery, you might want to take up golf, read more or go to the pictures if they ever reopen. Not least because this doesn’t look like it is ending soon.

Henry Mauriss, chief executive officer of Clear TV, is supposed to be waiting in the wings to buy Newcastle but with the Saudis out of the way, if that does not happen soon, he may not have the funds either. 

Labour MP Kate Jarrow wrote to the Premier League after the collapse of Newcastle's takeover

Labour MP Kate Jarrow wrote to the Premier League after the collapse of Newcastle’s takeover

Equally, Amanda Staveley is back trying to recruit the fans to her cause, mainly because, without the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and the Reuben brothers, she would appear to be £270m light of the £300m asking price, with zero additional funds once the takeover happens. 

As the planned future investment was in the region of £250m, that’s a shortfall of £520m. And if any Newcastle fan has got that, there really isn’t need for a minor partner or fixer. Ashley will sell direct, as the name of his company suggests. And that’s what will get him out: a buyer, not an ad hoc pressure group led by an investor with a black hole where the asking price should be. 

There have been dark murmurs of clubs at the top conspiring against a potential rival but ultimately Covid-19 and other complications appear to have done the dirty work. For this does not appear to be a bluff. As well as the time factor, the PIF statement focused on commercial viability, a revised investment thesis and the economic challenges of the Covid-19 landscape. 

There was nothing in there that made it sound as if a change of heart from the Premier League would resurrect the agreement. So, if this makes you mentally anguished, stressed, angry or miserable, you may need to find a coping mechanism, and soon.

SPORT JUST CAN’T AFFORD TO KEEP BEING SOLD OUT  

Doncaster racecourse would like to admit fans for the St Leger meeting which begins on September 9.

This demonstrates admirable bravery given the fate that befell Goodwood. Having devised a way of getting 5,000 into Saturday’s meeting in 10 groups of 500 – some of whom would be kept in areas that did not even have a view of the racing, except on screen – their plans were scuttled by the Government at the last minute. 

The cost to the course was upwards of £100,000 at a time when racing can ill afford it. Sport cannot continue being sold out from above like this. Like the hospitality industry, it cannot endure limitless setbacks. 

Eventually, those big green spaces will look ever more appealing as housing estates.

Doncaster racecourse's hope to admit spectators is brave given the fate that befell Goodwood

Doncaster racecourse’s hope to admit spectators is brave given the fate that befell Goodwood

TROPHY PARTY FEELS EMPTY WITH NO CROWD

Social distancing reached fresh levels of lunacy at Wembley on Saturday. Emeli Sande did not sing Abide With Me from the pitch, but the stadium roof.

Except she wasn’t even on the roof because the performance was mimed and pre-recorded. Not being a live show, she could have sung it sitting on the crossbar for all the difference it made. Later, the medals were not presented but picked from a tray by each player, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had to collect his own cup so gathered the plinth as well in error, which is how he came to drop it all. 

Surely, someone with clean hands could have been found to do the honours? So what did we learn? That Abide With Me really is the most dreary hymn and is only given life by the ritual of 80,000 voices, and that the hoopla of trophy presentations is an empty experience without fans sharing the joy.

Football has endured without crowds, but finals just look sad.

HOWE’S LEGACY WITH CHERRIES WIL BEAR FRUIT

Bournemouth’s debt to Eddie Howe continues, even now he has gone.

The sale of Nathan Ake for £41million to Manchester City, and the probable departures of Josh King, Callum Wilson and Aaron Ramsdale, will all help to keep the club afloat in the Championship. That is Howe’s legacy, even if it is an unfortunate one: a squad worth plundering.

He did 26 years and built the Bournemouth we now know. In 2015, when Manchester City bought Kevin De Bruyne for £55m, that fee alone was substantially more than the combined total of every transfer in Bournemouth’s history.

So Howe worked miracles to keep such a small club in the Premier League for five years. It is a sad fact of sporting existence that few stories end happily, so Howe’s final act as Bournemouth manager was to deal with the ramifications of relegation. 

Yet, if Bournemouth get through this and one day return, they will do so as a result of Howe’s bequest. This has been one of the great performances of the Premier League era.

Eddie Howe has left his position as Bournemouth boss but big-money sales will be his legacy

Eddie Howe has left his position as Bournemouth boss but big-money sales will be his legacy

Cristiano Lucarelli had 12 clubs as a player: 10 Italian, one Spanish, one Ukrainian, none English. He has had six clubs as a coach, all Italian. So, naturally, he is talking to Watford about becoming their director of football. 

Quite what Lucarelli knows about the English game, and specifically its Championship level, we can only guess. 

Maybe knowledge of a specific league or market isn’t considered important at Watford. But perhaps it should be. It could explain why they are in the Championship again. 

When Anthony Taylor refereed his first Arsenal-Chelsea FA Cup final in 2017, he missed an Alexis Sanchez handball and an Aaron Ramsey offside for Arsenal’s first goal.

We thought when VAR was introduced it would sort out such mistakes. This time, Taylor sent off Mateo Kovacic for a foul on Granit Xhaka that, at best, wasn’t a yellow card and, at worst, was possibly a foul by Xhaka on Kovacic.

And VAR did nothing because it was only a booking, and therefore not worth assessing, even though the consequence was a red card.

So two finals, same teams, three years apart, one with VAR, one without, both clouded by poor refereeing decisions that affected the game, and no corrective action taken. Now that’s a failed system.

Two FA Cup finals, both officiated by Anthony Taylor, had been clouded by poor decisions

Two FA Cup finals, both officiated by Anthony Taylor, had been clouded by poor decisions

It is not the most auspicious start for Arsenal that after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang skipped questions about his future, Dani Ceballos refused to discuss extending his loan from Real Madrid. 

He did find time to tell a Spanish radio station that Madrid are the best club in the world, however. ‘Anyone who wears that shirt is happy,’ he added. 

Unlike those who wear Arsenal’s and seem permanently on the lookout for a train in the distance. 

Harry Kewell has been appointed manager of Oldham, their seventh in less than two years. 

He began by calling for stability, which is akin to demanding coherence from Matt Hancock. Good luck with either. 

In time, Exeter Chiefs may change their image or at least their branding, but short-term it was good that names on a petition alone could not browbeat the club into submission over cultural appropriation.

The Chiefs’ average attendance is 6,683, and a petition calling for the club to ‘drop its harmful use of Indigenous Peoples’ imagery and branding’ currently stands at over 4,000. So if all those who signed up are Exeter regulars, and they decide to boycott home matches on principle when supporters are allowed back in, gates should plummet and change will result.

And if they do not? We can assume that those dictating to the club were not representative of it. Starting with local MP and petition backer, Ben Bradshaw, who is seen about as regularly at Sandy Park as the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

It was good that names on a petition alone could not browbeat Exeter Chiefs into submission

It was good that names on a petition alone could not browbeat Exeter Chiefs into submission

Ronnie O’Sullivan went to The Crucible, didn’t stop moaning – with some justification – then broke the record for the fastest win in World Championship history by defeating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-1 in 108 minutes. 

It’s why they put up with him. Who else is going to do that this week? 

source: dailymail.co.uk

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