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Premier League sides have ‘grief fatigue’ and appears United bids have fallen short – SPORTS AGENDA

A number of Premier League clubs are becoming more and more frustrated with the number of tributes and cause-promoting they are being asked to carry out. 

Last week, sides were asked to observe a minute’s applause for John Motson in the latest request. 

The concern is that such gestures are becoming commonplace and will lower the significance of such acts when, for example, club legends pass away.

‘It’s grief fatigue and it’s too much — the bar has fallen way too low,’ said one well-placed source. 

‘The belief is that the Premier League and FA are frightened of upsetting anyone and just agree to recognise everything. 

Premier League sides were asked to observe a minute’s applause for John Motson last week

‘And it’s not just minute’s silences or applause. 

‘Managers are forever being asked to support so many different campaigns and causes that there is a lapel badge almost every week. It’s undermining impact.’

EFL warning over TV rights

The EFL’s invitation to broadcasters to tender went out last week amid hopes the league can double television rights to more than £200million a year. 

Much hinges on whether there will be competition for Sky, with Sportsmail reporting there have been expressions of interest from streaming firms such as Viaplay and DAZN, along with Sky and BT Sport. 

Transferring that interest into concrete offers will be vital. In a confidential circular to clubs, seen by Sports Agenda, the EFL warned of a worst-case scenario in which Sky was left on its own.

‘Sky is the dominant buyer, and will only pay more if it is forced to,’ the note read. ‘No competition could see a reduction on current terms.’

Do not be surprised to see the end of the 3pm blackout rule, as the EFL — keen on creating a hybrid model — seeks to provide more options for broadcasters. 

One slightly worrying statistic is that viewing figures for Championship matches are actually down six per cent on last season, although subscriptions are the key metric and there is less concern about those numbers given more volume is on the cards. 

The biggest audience so far was 601,000 for the opening night clash between Huddersfield Town and Burnley. Clubs were also told that broadcasting will make up £144.8m of £182.7m total revenue this year.

Stokes and Co get cozy 

The love-in between England and New Zealand’s cricketers continued after the hosts’ dramatic one-run victory ensured the two-Test series ended in a draw. 

Players from both sides had a game of ‘keepy-uppies’ on the field after England invited their opponents into the circle. 

Drinks on the field and in New Zealand’s dressing room followed before a mixed group headed to a nearby Wellington bar. 

Several of England’s players have taken the chance to take extended breaks in New Zealand, Australia and Dubai. 

It remains to be seen whether such cordiality will be a feature of this summer’s Ashes series.

Following an embarrassing episode for the BBC, when a prankster planted a mobile phone in the studio that subsequently made loud, pornographic noises before the Wolves v Liverpool FA Cup live broadcast and left Gary Lineker and pundits red-faced, Premier League clubs are now carrying out spot checks on accredited media when they enter grounds. Security staff say the checks are carried out before all matches that are to be on live TV. 

United takeover talks 

Perhaps the biggest indication that bidders for Manchester United have not reached the Glazers’ valuation comes from the fact that they have not gone exclusive with one of those involved in the process. 

The fact that the Qatari bid, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and at least two others have been invited to Old Trafford for talks over the coming fortnight suggests offers are not high enough and that the Raine Group, the US bankers handling the process, are seeking to play off those involved to drive the price up. 

Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani has promised to restore United to their former glory

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is also one of the frontrunners after bidding for Chelsea last year

The frontrunners to buy United are Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani (L) and Jim Ratcliffe (R) 

Fans ramp up protest 

West Bromwich Albion fans will be upping their protests against majority shareholder Guochuan Lai at the Hawthorns this week.

With two home games against relegation-threatened Wigan and Huddersfield, Albion fans are again calling for the repayment of multi-million-pound loans taken out by Lai, the club’s chairman. 

On Tuesday, worried Albion supporters will shine their mobile phone torches to protest against the ownership, with protest group Action for Albion handing out thousands of leaflets.

Next Saturday, large numbers of fans are expected to march from the town to the Hawthorns ahead of kick-off, as the same group extends its protests.

Wait goes on for Wolves 

Wolves’ win over Tottenham on Saturday lifted the club further clear of the drop zone, but marked another landmark.

When they face Newcastle on Sunday it will have been more than a year since a Wolves striker scored in the Premier League — with Diego Costa, Raul Jimenez, Matheus Cunha, Fabio Silva and Sasa Kalajdzic all failing to hit the target.

A glimpse into the volume of unemployed managers came last week when Oxford United had no fewer than 130 applicants for the job following the sacking of Karl Robinson. The League One club have narrowed it down to a six-man shortlist with the first round of interviews having now taken place.

Speedway allows Russian rider

With all eyes focused on the potential readmission of Russian athletes at high-profile events such as Wimbledon this year, an unlikely sport became one of the first to allow a Russian competitor back to these shores. 

Russian speedway rider Emil Sayfutdinov’s move to the Ipswich Witches raised eyebrows and a few questions within the sport when it was announced last week. 

A world championship contender — unable to take part in the world Grand Prix series last year because of a ban on Russian athletes — Sayfutdinov can race in this country because he holds a Polish racing licence and a Polish passport, having lived there for the last 13 years.

Aussies snub Saudi cash

While the Premier League were happy to wave through the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United, there is less enthusiasm at Football Australia for the Kingdom’s money. 

Visit Saudi could be a controversial sponsor for this year's Women's World Cup in Australia

Visit Saudi could be a controversial sponsor for this year’s Women’s World Cup in Australia

It emerged recently that Visit Saudi was being lined up by FIFA as a sponsor of the women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer. 

That triggered outrage Down Under, with officials seeking talks with FIFA. 

The message from the Aussies was loud and clear — there would be no negotiation given their stance on diversity and human rights. 

The sponsorship is not confirmed and there is hope among the organisers that FIFA will rethink when their Congress begins in Rwanda this month.


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