Tuesday 31 August 2010

Cycling Legend Laurent Fignon Dies

Laurent Fignon, who won the Tour in 1983 and 1984, died following a long battle with cancer, the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris confirmed.

"Valerie Fignon, his wife, is sad to annouce the death of Laurent Fignon today," the hospital said.

Fignon, who will forever be remembered for the final time-trial stage of the 1989 Tour when he lost out to Greg LeMond by eight seconds, won 76 races during his career, including La Flèche Wallonne in 1986, Milan-San Remo in 1988 and 1989 and the Giro d'Italia in 1989.

Fignon, who had worked as studio commentator with the France 2 television station since 2006, announced in June 2009 that he had advanced cancer of the digestive system and was undergoing chemotherapy.

The rider, nicknamed Le Professeur due to his studious looking appearance, never really recovered from his hometown defeat in the 1989 Tour.

In his 2009 autobiography Nous étions jeunes et insouciants [We were young and carefree] Fignon recalled a time when he was once recognised as the man to have thrown away the maillot jaune.

"Ah, I remember you: you're the guy who lost the Tour by eight seconds." Fignon responded with the line: "No monsieur, I'm the guy who won it twice."

Laurent Fignon factfile
Date of birth: August 12, 1960
Place of birth: Paris, France
Professional career: 1982-93

Major victories

Grand Tours:
Tour de France: 1983 and 1984. Nine stage wins; yellow jersey for 22 days
Giro d'Italia: 1989. Two stage wins; pink jersey for 15 days
Vuelta a España: two stage wins

One-day races:French National Road Race Championships: 1984
Milan-San Remo: 1988 and 1989
La Flèche Wallonne: 1986
Morbihan Grand Prix: 1983
Paris-Camembert: 1988
Grand Prix des Nations: 1989

Stage races:
Criterium International: 1982 and 1990
Tour of Sicily: 1985
Tour of Holland: 1989
Ruta de Mexico: 1993

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Thursday 26 August 2010

Champions League Draw Group Stage

One of English football's favourite sons took the stage at Monaco's Grimaldi Forum on Thursday as Gary Lineker participated in the UEFA Champions League group stage draw. For Lineker, the former England captain, it was the first of his duties as the official ambassador for this season's final at Wembley Stadium.

"It makes me feel proud," the striker turned television presenter told UEFA.com of his new assignment. "I think the Champions League is a wonderful competition with the best teams in Europe, the best club competition in the world. And the fact it's coming to London, to Wembley – a long time since it's been in London – is great. It's nice to be part and parcel of both the Champions League and the fact it's at Wembley."

The 49-year-old knew all about the old Wembley from his days leading the line for England, Everton FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC, winning the FA Cup there with Tottenham in 1991. Lineker struck 48 goals in 80 games for England, including the six that earned him the Golden Boot at the 1986 FIFA World Cup. He also tasted European glory with FC Barcelona when helping the Spanish club lift the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1989.

"It's got so much history," he said of the venue. "The original stadium, which is now completely changed, had so much history going right back to FA Cup finals, the World Cup final, the European Cup finals. So it's got that history. And all the players, right around the world, aspired to actually play there. I don't think that has changed with the new stadium."

The old Wembley staged European Cup finals beneath its Twin Towers in 1963, 1968, 1971, 1978 and 1992. Now Lineker will fly the flag for the new Wembley as it prepares to host its first major European showpiece since it opened in 2007.

"What you have got now is the same environment, on the same site, but you've also got a beautiful stadium," he continued. "Whereas, to be perfectly honest, the old Wembley was pretty much crumbling and falling down, with terrible facilities. So it was more the atmosphere that people wanted to go for, rather than the stadium itself. Whereas now you've got both aspects perfectly covered – the new Wembley is magnificent."

Group H: ARSENAL, Shakhtar Donetsk, SC Braga, FK Partisan

Group A: Inter Milan, Werder Bremen, TOTTENHAM, FC Twente
Group B: Lyon, Benfica, Schalke, Hapoel Tel Aviv
Group F: CHELSEA, Marseille, Spartak Moscow, MSK Zilina
Group D: FC Barcelona, Panathinaikos, FC Copenhagen, Rubin Kazan
Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre
Group C: MANCHESTER UNITED, Valencia, RANGERS, Bursaspor
Group E: Bayern Munich, AS Roma, FC Basel, CFR Cluj

©UEFA.com 1998-2010. All rights reserved.

Inter Top Champions Money List

Getty Images
The 32 clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League last season received performance-related payments, as well as money from the TV market pool, amounting to €746m.

Inter lifted the UEFA Champions League Trophy in Madrid on 22 May 

A total of €746,400,000 was distributed to clubs participating in the UEFA Champions League last season, with winners FC Internazionale Milano receiving the largest amount of €48,759,000 after completing a triumphant campaign with victory in the final against FC Bayern München.

UEFA has confirmed how much the sides involved earned from their 2009/10 exploits, after money generated by the centralised marketing of European football's premier club competition was redistributed among the 32 teams.

Italian champions Internazionale, who defeated Bayern 2-0 in the Madrid final on 22 May, received almost €49m in payments from UEFA. This was made up of more than €29m for their performances from the UEFA Champions League group stage onwards and another €19.6m from the television market pool. 

The performance-related payments for runners-up Bayern amounted to €25m and, with the addition of €19m from the TV market pool, the German club earned a total of €44,862,000.

The €746m in prize money allocated to the 32 clubs taking part from the group stage onwards consisted of €408,600,000 from commercial revenue plus €337,800,000 from the market pool. 

The commercial revenue comprised funds accrued from media rights and commercial contracts concluded by UEFA in relation to the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League and 2009 UEFA Super Cup.

All the clubs were entitled to receive a minimum of €7.1m in accordance with the distribution system, which awarded a basic participation bonus of €3.8m plus €3.3m from the six €550,000 match bonuses given per group game. Additionally, performance bonuses were paid in the group stage: €800,000 for every win and €400,000 for every draw.

From there, the 16 teams that reached the first knockout round earned an extra €3m, the eight quarter-finalists €3.3m, and the four semi-finalists – including FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais – another €4m. Inter then received €9m as winners of the Santiago Bernabéu final and Bayern €5.2m as runners-up.

Monies from the market pool were distributed according to the proportional value of the national TV market each individual club represented, among other factors, so the amounts given varied from country (or national association) to country.

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Monday 16 August 2010

Real Madrid Pre Season

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Facing a Bayern Munich squad with much more football played at its feet, Real Madrid turned to a smart and compact game plan at Allianz Arena en route to a penalty shootout win. The sellout crowd on hand for the tribute to Franz Beckenbauer was treated to an entertaining match despite the lack of goals in regulation time.

Only two Madridistas had yet to debut for their new team. Sami Khedira and Ricardo Carvalho got the nod for kick-off as Mourinho turned to a 4-2-3-1 game plan. The matched promised to be a thriller and so it was. Notwithstanding the goalless first half, there were plenty of near misses that brought the crowd to its feet. Real Madrid had the first on 3’ when Pedro Leon curled in a perfect pass for Higuain, who headered the ball over the crossbar.

Bayern pressed forward and had their best chance of the match in their first good look on goal. Ribery was upended by Ramos in the box for a spot kick, but Casillas laid out perfectly to prevent Muller’s shot from going in and then stretched his body to the limit again to prevent Klose from firing home the deflection.

Real Madrid attacked back and on two occasions nearly got on the scoreboard. Cristiano Ronaldo took possession of the ball in the midfield, escaped from three pursuers and opened to Ramos along the wing. The right-back then assisted Higuain, whose shot went straight into the hands of Butt. Three minutes later, Marcelo’s strike from 20 meters out was inches wide of the left post. Hoping to give Beckenbauer something to cheer for, Pranjic tried his luck with a volley from the top of the box to no avail and Ribery and Klose were both stymied by the hands of an inspired Casillas.

The appearance of Di Maria, Benzema, Lass and Van der Vaart on the field of play gave a breath of fresh air to the Whites, who came close to breaking the deadlock with a play that saw all four substitutes take part in. Cristiano Ronaldo later had a chance of his own following a superb cross by Benzema, but his header was punched over the woodwork by the Bayern keeper. 

With regulation time expired, the match came down to a penalty shooutout and Casillas again came up big to earn Real Madrid the victory.

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Tuesday 10 August 2010

Graham Taylor Returns Home

He's not coming back to run Watford Football Club - to quote his own words - but Graham Taylor has committed his future to the Hornets in accepting a permanent appointment as chairman at Vicarage Road.

"I didn't expect to be chairman of Watford and I wasn't looking for that when I was asked to join the Board in January 2009," Graham explained yesterday.

"But everyone knows how much this club has meant to me and my whole family over many, many years."

Graham Taylor has previously reiterated the number of other commitments he has, and that he hasn't retired full stop - that decision only related to football management.

"I wanted to give myself time do a number of other things; some football-related, some not. So when I was originally asked to stay on in an interim basis it wasn't an easy decision, primarily because of everything else I was doing."

Graham has also made it clear he's not going to be what fans would regard as a full-time chairman.

"My role is as a non-executive chairman. I have great confidence in the executive staff we have here.

"So I want the people employed by Watford to be able to make their own decisions within the clear framework that the Board have already created."

This point emphasises GT's desire to help bring continued stability at Vicarage Road. Although this stability, he points out, can be interpreted as a lack of ambition.

"If people are thinking that way, then they don't know me very well. It is possible to, for example, get promoted again. But it is also true to say that the very future of this club has been at stake, because we were very close to going into administration.

"Watford has a great reputation of being a community, family club - and also of being successful. It's vital the club maintains the reputation it has. I believe it belongs to the people of Watford and I don't want that to change."

The word stability can suggest that there isn't necessarily progression, but the chairman doesn't see it that way.

"It's not a lack of ambition, it's about recognising who we are and what we are in the present-day circumstances.

"Things are as good as they can be right now - and yes, I do want to play my part in helping to move things forward.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see everything right, like the stadium. It is extremely disappointing to look across from the Rous Stand towards the east side of the ground.

"We're a town of about 90,000 people with a catchment area of nearer half a million. But we share that area with some far bigger clubs.

"There's nothing to stop ambition, nothing to stop us wanting to succeed again. But don't forget we had to be rescued not so long ago, so if it means we have to work one step at a time, then so be it."

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Sunday 8 August 2010

Journey From Strife to Stability

Sunday August 08 2010
THURSDAY last was a good day for John Delaney, CEO of the FAI. It was good to be involved at the high end of the business, announcing a new sponsor for the national team -- and all done within the ambience of the brand-new Aviva Stadium

It's over five years since Delaney assumed control of a troubled FAI. Back then, he listed his priorities as the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road, the establishment of an academy at Abbotstown, and the merger of the League and the FAI.

Two out of three ain't bad, but Delaney says what gives him most satisfaction is the stability which the Association has enjoyed in those five years. Previously, in-fighting and political warfare broke out sporadically; nowadays everyone seems to be singing from the same hymnsheet out at FAI HQ in Abbotstown.

The importance of this stability was brought home to Delaney on a visit to the annual UEFA meeting for General Secretaries. "Of the 53 countries within UEFA, 26 had changed their General Secretary," he says. "How can you achieve anything if you don't have stability?"

On several fronts, the FAI are now regarded as poster-boys among UEFA delegates. It's not only the stability, but their coaching initiatives, their ready acceptance of the club licensing system, their development of club facilities countrywide, and that new stadium, which have caught the eye at UEFA HQ.

In terms of improved revenue streams, Delaney believes the Aviva is a godsend. In the past, the FAI's revenue was totally dependent on the senior international team's fortunes. Now, he says, "the stadium allows us to hold events we couldn't hold before. We are planning a four-club tournament, we have the four-team international tournament, and the Europa League final in May.

"How that final came about is interesting. I brought Michel Platini to the All-Ireland hurling final, before he was UEFA president, and he couldn't get over it. Then I brought him to the stadium when it was just rubble and when I asked if there was any chance of a European final, he simply said, 'you build it, we'll come'. It was the first time a final was promised before the stadium was built."

Another development arising from that Croke Park visit was Platini's experiment of two extra officials at each end-line in Europa League ties. "That stems from seeing umpires in action and asking me what they were there for," said Delaney. The cross-fertilisation of ideas among sports is a healthy development, having also seen soccer's red and yellow cards adopted by the GAA, and the GAA's 'free from where the ball lands after a late tackle' adopted by rugby. 

In 1996-'97, the FAI's turnover was €7m. The AGM in Wexford later this month will be told that turnover in 2009 was €50m, with profits of €3.6m. And a lot of that is due to a sponsorship portfolio, which has never been as strong. "Our sponsorship revenues have trebled in the last four to five years," says Delaney.

One of the principal beneficiaries has been the domestic League, which is now sponsored by Airtricity, with increased prize money and club debt greatly reduced. "We were ahead of most countries in applying the salary cap on wages, limiting them to 65 per cent of turnover. It's a tough journey, but it's getting us to a successful outcome.

"You should only spend what you can earn, yet some players were on four-figure sums and one was on €3,500. Shamrock Rovers now are a good example of how it can be done. Clubs need to get stronger in their communities, like junior clubs. If you bring in too many from outside, that sense of community is gone. If clubs get deeper into their communities, more people will come to their games, that will improve their finances and will make them more attractive to local sponsors."

However, it is when he talks about the FAI's development at grassroots level that Delaney really becomes animated. In the past five years, he has travelled to every corner of the Republic, and visited 800 clubs, so his view of the strength of the game comes first hand.

"We have invested heavily in development over the last five and a half years," he says. "We have 20 different programmes to allow everyone of every age, shape, race and creed to play, we have development officers in every county, and we have elite structures to bring the best players through.

"Our emerging talent programme ensures that the best are playing the best, there is continuous assessment, and they receive the best coaching and the best knowledge. An example are the U17 girls who were beaten in the European final on penalties, and who beat Germany, who had never been beaten before at that level in 23 games."

Delaney believes that all these programmes, which are under the charge of Dutchman Wim Koevermans, will keep our international teams competitive, "which we need to be."

A central part of that development has been the huge improvement in club facilities. Painting in the background, Delaney points out: "Football was primarily a garrison town game for the working class, and didn't produce revenue, but the success of the Charlton era and Premiership games being shown live in Irish homes marketed the game in a way that wasn't done before.

"Initially, we struggled with that growth but in the last four years we got €62m from the Department of Sport, and added to FAI contributions and local funding well over €100m has been put into the development of soccer and has transformed the game to the extent that you could bring the Irish team to Tipperary club, St Michael's, for instance, to train.

"Other examples from my travels are Broadford in Co Limerick, who went from a cattle truck, which was used for transport and changing gear, to a terrific nine-acre complex, and Glin Rovers who were formed under a tree 40 years ago -- they couldn't get a meeting house because it was soccer -- and now they have a lovely clubhouse. Our role is to support as many clubs as we can and it would be acknowledged that we have done that well over the last five years, but there's a lot more to be done."

Central to Delaney's thinking is the development of a trained coaching network. "In '96-'97, we had only two full-time coaching staff, now we have over 100, with 55 to 60 of those co-funded with local authorities. We are the first sporting body to use that concept, which went down well with county managers, and most of them said yes to co-fund, where we pay half and they pay half. They have all been re-affirmed because they are doing wonderful work in the community.

"Take Ballymun, for instance, where we ran a programme with Garda Youth Diversion. We ran a midnight soccer programme for four weeks in a row and the level of anti-social behaviour incidents dropped from 87 a night to 11. 

We stopped for one week and the level went back up to 68. That's a snapshot of what can be achieved. We're expanding that scheme to other parts of Ireland and the Gardaí would like us to run it nationally. They say it's the one sport that can do it -- that and boxing."

Two months ago, the Airtricity League clubs voted unanimously to stay under the control of the FAI at the end of the five-year cycle next year, so that leaves the Abbotstown academy as the one item on Delaney's agenda which remains to be achieved. "It's one of my goals for the next five years," he admits. On his record of achievement to date, not many will bet against it happening.

Sunday Independent

Journey from strife to stability

A Week in the Life of .....John Delaney

Irish Independent Monday, August 9th 2010

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