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What do you know about England’s 999 matches?

As England go into their 1,000th senior men’s game, against Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on November 14th, Elephant Sport takes a look back at some of the stats, facts and figures involved in their first 999 matches.

Overall

Games won: 571 – England’s first win was against rivals Scotland at The Oval on 8th March 1873. William Kenyon-Slaney netted a double and was the first-ever player to score in games between the two nations; the first match had ended in a 0-0 draw in the previous November.

The Three Lions most recent win was a 6-0 win away to Bulgaria in Sofia; both Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling got doubles as England edged closer to qualifying for the 2020 European Championship.

Games drew: 232 – The first-ever draw for England came in their first-ever match as they took on fierce rivals Scotland at Hamilton Crescent, Partick, Glasgow on 30th November 1872, this match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Last time that the Three Lions drew was 12th October 2018 as they were held to a 0-0 draw against Croatia in a behind closed doors Uefa Nations League qualifier. That draw saw England register their 400th clean sheet, while Jadon Sancho became the first player born in the 21st century to represent the senior England side.

Games lost: 196 – It only took three matches for England to lose with it being against their rivals Scotland who they played annually when the national football team was created. The game was held at Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow, and despite the Three Lions taking the lead they lost 2-1 after Frederick Anderson and Angus MacKinnon scored, cancelling out Robert Kingsford’s earlier effort.

The most recent loss for Gareth Southgate’s side came at the hands of Czech Republic on 11th October this year at the Sinobo Stadium. Harry Kane had given the away side the lead, however, Jakub Brabec scored to equalise in Prague while Zdenek Ondrasek ensured that his side inflicted England’s first qualifier loss in 10 years.

Goals scored: 2,188 – The first goal scored for England was William Kenyon-Slaney as he netted in England’s second-ever game back in March 1873 in the three lions 4-2 win over Scotland. Harry Kane was the last player to score in their last match when England won 6-0 in Bulgaria.

Goals conceded: 983 – Henry Renny-Tailyour scored the first goal against the Three Lions in the same game that William Kenyon-Slaney scored in, his team-mate William Gibb also scored as Scotland lost 4-2. The most recent goalscorer against England was Zdenek Ondrasek, who scored five minutes from time to win the game for the Czech Republic.

Results-based

Highest ever win: Ireland 0-13 England – 18 February 1882 at Knock Ground, Belfast, Northern Ireland

This game still stands as England’s biggest-ever win, and it came in the first-match between two countries. To this day, it is still the largest-ever defeat for Ireland; it was also the first match they’d ever played. This game also yielded two hat-tricks for England, with the first making history in doing so.

Biggest loss: Hungary 7-1 England – 23 May 1954 at Puskás Ferenc Stadium, Budapest, Hungary

After famously losing 6-3 to the Magyars at Wembley, England travelled to Hungary with the idea that defeat was just a blip. However, the hosts destroyed them. They led 3-0 at the break, and things only got better for the home side.

Highest ever score-line: England 13-2 Ireland – 18th February 1899 at Roker Park, Sunderland, England

Playing at the now-demolished Roker Park, England took on the Republic of Ireland in the British Home Championship, a tournament in which Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England played for the trophy. This is the biggest scoreline to this day. Gilbert Smith scored four times while Jimmy Settle also netted a hat-trick.

Most matches played against: Scotland – 114 – England v Scotland is international football’s oldest rivalry. The first-ever encounter between the two nations came in 1872 and they continued to play annually from 1872 until 1989.

The most recent of those 114 matches ended in a draw in June 2017, as Leigh Griffiths gave Scotland the lead in the final minute before Harry Kane equalised in stoppage time to earn a point in World Cup qualifying. England have won 48 times in total, while Scotland aren’t far behind with 41 wins over their rivals.

Most wins against a nation: Wales – The Welsh have lost 67 times in the 102 games they have played against the Three Lions. The first meeting between the two ended in a 2-1 win for England at the Oval on 18th January 1879, with goals from Herbert Whitfeld and Thomas Heathcote Sorby for the hosts.

The two last met for the first time at a major tournament when they were in the same group at the 2016 European Championship. Gareth Bale gave the Dragons the lead from a free-kick before substitutes Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge won the game for England.

Managers

England Three Lions

Longest-serving England boss: Sir Walter Winterbottom is by far the longest-serving England manager, with 17 years of service for his country between 1946 and 1962. He was the first-ever national team boss for the Three Lions and managed them for 139 games in total, taking them to two World Cup quarter-finals (1954 and 1962). During his time in charge, England won 78 matches while losing only 28.

Following him was Sir Alf Ramsey who of course guided England to World Cup glory on home soil in 1966. He was in the dugout for 11 years.

Shortest-serving England manager: Sam Allardyce – Some caretaker managers have lasted more than his one game for the Three Lions. He’d won that courtesy of a late Adam Lallana goal to give his side a 1-0 win over Slovakia in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.

The former Bolton, West Ham and Newcastle boss had signed a two-year contract on 22nd July 2016, however, allegations of professional misconduct meant that he left his role by mutual consent on 27th September, having managed the team for just 67 days.

Managers to serve for England: 15 – Sir Walter Winterbottom (1946–1962); Sir Alf Ramsey (1963-1974); Don Revie (1974–1977); Ron Greenwood (1977–1982); Sir Bobby Robson (1982–1990); Graham Taylor (1990–1993); Terry Venables (1994–1996); Glenn Hoddle (1996–1999); Kevin Keegan (1999–2000); Sven-Göran Eriksson (2001–2006); Steve McClaren (2006–2007); Fabio Capello (2008–2012); Roy Hodgson (2012–2016); Sam Allardyce (2016); Gareth Southgate (2016–current).

Only Don Revie (Scotland); Sven-Göran Eriksson (Sweden) and Fabio Capello (Italy) have managed to become boss of England despite not being English.

Biggest win ratio as Three Lions’ boss: Sam Allardyce – 100% – On the technicality of him only managed a single match in which England beat Slovakia 1-0, technically Allardyce is their best-ever boss. Fabio Capello won 28 of the 42 games in his three-year tenure.

Players

Record appearances for the Three Lions: Peter Shilton – 125 (1970-1990) – His first match was on 25th November 1970 as he helped the Three Lions to a 3-1 friendly win over East Germany, while his last was on 7th July 1990, as the veteran goalkeeper failed to stop the hosts winning the third-place play-off at the World Cup in Italy, as they won 2-1.

Most capped outfield player: Wayne Rooney – 120 (2003-2018) – Wayne Rooney made his debut in a friendly on 12th February 2003 after coming on as a substitute against Australia. In doing so he at the time became the youngest player to play for England at the age of 17 years and 111 days. He played at three European Championships and three World Cups before announcing his retirement from England on 23rd August 2017 with 119 appearances for his country.

He did, however, come out of retirement for one match on Thursday 15th November 2018 when the Three Lions faced the USA at Wembley. Rooney came on in the 58th minute, replacing Jesse Lingard, with funds generated by the match going to the Wayne Rooney Foundation.

Most appearances as captain: Billy Wright and Bobby Moore, 90 – Two players hold the record for most appearances wearing the England armband: Wright, who featured for 70 matches in a row as skipper, and Moore, who famously lifted the 1966 World Cup.

Wright’s 70-match streak started in a 2-2 friendly draw with France at the Arsenal Stadium on 3rd October 1951 and ended in the 8-1 win against the USA at Wrigley Field on 28th May 1959.

Moore’s first match as England captain was on 29th May 1963 in just his 12th appearance for England – he was the youngest man ever to captain England at the highest level. England won 4-2 against Czechoslovakia. His last match was a 1-0 friendly defeat to Italy on 14th November 1973.

Longest international career: Sir Stanley Matthews – 23 years (1934-1957) – Forward Matthews made his England debut on 29th September 1934 as he scored a goal in their 4-0 win over Wales at Ninian Park in Cardiff in front of 51,000 people. His career was interrupted by World War II, but Matthews then resumed international duty, with his final appearance coming against Denmark in a 4-1 victory on 15th May 1957 in Copenhagen.

Matthews was the first-ever England player to be knighted.

Most goals for England: Wayne Rooney – 53 (2003-2018) – Rooney would become the youngest ever player to score for his country in his sixth appearance as he equalised in a Euro 2004 qualifying match win over Macedonia on 6th September 2003 at the age of 17 years and 317 days.

The Croxteth-born striker overtook Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals for England, which had lasted for 45 years, on 8th September 2015 scoring a penalty against Switzerland. He went onto score three more goals, with his last being in England’s 2-1 loss to Iceland at the 2016 European Championships.

Most appearances as a substitute: Jermain Defoe – 35 (2004-2017) – From the start of his international career, Defoe was utilised as a substitute, making his debut on 31st March 2004 under Sven-Göran Eriksson coming on in 12th minute for Darius Vassell. His final match for England came on 10th June 2017 as he came on in the final minute of stoppage time against Scotland.

Out of his 57 matches, only 22 were as a starter, though Defoe does have the record for most goals scored by a substitute to his name with seven. The last time he scored after coming off the bench was against Italy on 15th August 2012. He scored 20 times overall for England.

World Cup

Most goals at a World Cup: Gary Lineker– 10 goals in 12 matches (1986 & 1990) – As it stands, Match of the Day presenter Lineker is the highest scorer for England overall at World Cups with the striker going to Mexico 1986 and Italia 90.

England’s home – Wembley Stadium

He scored six in five matches in Mexico with his last being in a 2-1 quarter-final defeat to Argentina, while he managed four in seven in Italy, scoring the goal that took the semi-final to extra-time against Germany though the Three Lions went on to lose on penalties.

Of the current players in the team, Harry Kane could come close to Lineker’s record as, after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Tottenham striker finished with six in six for England, therefore, needing five to beat his fellow Englishman.

Most World Cup’s scored in: David Beckham – 3 (1998 & 2002 & 2006) – As it stands, Beckham is the only England player to score in three World Cups. The attacking midfielder scored the first goal against Colombia in a group stage game in 1998, getting his second in a 1-0 win over Argentina in 2002, while final one came in a 1-0 win over Ecuador in the 2006 round of 16.

Most caps at major tournaments: Ashley Cole – 22 – Left-back Cole featured the most times for England at major tournaments after making his debut on 28th March 2001 in a 3-1 win over Albania in a World Cup qualifier. His first major tournament was 2002 World Cup where he played all five matches for his country; he went on to feature for the Three Lions at the 2004 and 2012 European Championships and the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

His final match at a major tournament was the 2012 European Championships where England and Italy drew 0-0 and then Italy scored all their penalties to win the shootout.

Current Players

Current players with the most appearances: Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling – 55 – Former skipper Henderson made his debut on 17th November 2010 at the age of 20 as England lost 2-1 to France, with him picking up a yellow card.

Sterling first played for the Three Lions on 14th November 2012 as England lost 4-2 to Sweden courtesy of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic masterclass as the striker scored all four. The winger was 17 when he played in the first match for his country.

Highest goalscorer still playing for England: Harry Kane – 28 goals (2015-current) – Just like his Tottenham career Kane burst onto the scene for England after making his debut on 27th March 2015 with the Spurs striker coming on as a substitute in 71st minute for captain Wayne Rooney, it took him two minutes to score his first goal for his national side.

Since then the striker has been a revelation for England being handed the armband for the first time on 10th June 2017 against Scotland and after Rooney retired, he’s been the leader ever since, scoring 28 goals in 43 games. In the 2018 World Cup Kane became only the third England player to score a hat-trick at the World Cup.

Current number of capped player for the Three Lions: 1,244 – For the 1,000th game, all players that have ever played for England have been handed legacy numbers with 1,244 players already putting on their nation’s shirt. The first three players to be capped by England were Robert Barker (1), with Harwood Greenhalgh the second and Reginald Welch the third. The three most recently capped players are Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi (1,242) and Mason Mount (1,243) and Aston Villa’s Tyrone (1,244).

Feature image of England Three Lions badge courtesy of Ben Terrett via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wembley Stadium courtesy of Cushdy via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY 2.0. Second Three Lions crest photo by Keith Williamson via Flickr Creative Commons.

Fifa hopes a bigger Club World Cup will help to grow the Chinese game

On October 24th, Fifa president Gianni Infantino confirmed that China will host an expanded Club World Cup competition in 2021.

The number of participants will rise from seven to 24, including eight European clubs and six from South America. North, Central America and the Caribbean region, Africa, and Asia each will have three clubs, with one from Oceania. It will be played every four years from 2021.

Infantino described the new tournament as “the first real and true [Club] World Cup where the best clubs will compete”.

It will be the first time that China has hosted the event, and the second time it has been reformed.

The tournament was first contested in 2000 as the FIFA Club World Championship in Brazil and featured the winners of the Uefa Champions League and the Copa Libertadores.

Since 2005, the competition has been held annually and includes seven teams: the winners of that year’s AFC Champions League (Asia), CAF Champions League (Africa), CONCACAF Champions League (North America), Copa Libertadores (South America), OFC Champions League (Oceania) and UEFA Champions League (Europe), along with the host country’s champions.

By enlarging the event, Fifa wants to make it the second-most important global football tournament after the World Cup itself. It estimates it could generate more than £862m in revenue.


At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, there were seven major Chinese sponsors, despite China once again not reaching the finals

According to Fifa’s 2018 financial report, 83% of the aggregate revenue of $6.4bn (£4.9bn) in the 2015-2018 cycle was created by the 2018 World Cup.

By expanding the scale and influence of the Club World Cup, football’s world governing body is aiming to further boost its money-making ability. But why has China been selected as the host of the 2021 edition?

Co-operation between Fifa and China used to mainly be focused on the business level because of the poor quality of the men’s Chinese national team. Chinese enterprises have invested massively in Fifa in recent years. At the 2018 World Cup, there were seven major Chinese sponsors, despite China once again not reaching the finals.

It might be the only country in the world that can stage international events regardless of the cost

The success of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the upcoming 2022 Beijing & Zhangjiakou Winter Olympics, prove China’s ability to host and organise huge international sports competitions well.

It might be the only country in the world that can hold international events regardless of the cost. This factor surely motivated Fifa to agree China as the inaugural host the reformed Club World Cup.

In August, Chen Xuyuan was elected as the new president of the Chinese Football Association (CFA). One of his goals is to bid to become World Cup hosts, but this ambition has never previously received large support even in China.

China’s desire to host major football tournaments is usually linked by outsiders to its ambitions to develop its domestic game, but this analysis is flawed. While hosting big events may facilitate the construction of more modern stadia and infrastructure in Chinese cities, the development of Chinese football on the pitch depends more on implementing the correct policies and strategic long-term planning.

Tensions

After witnessing the disappointing performance of their men’s national team and the CFA’s controversial policies for a long time, hosting the 2021 tournament will give Chinese fans the chance to watch top foreign players in action and perhaps sow the seeds of support for a Chinese World Cup bid further down the line.

There are some other potential benefits to China. After so many tensions on the international stage in recent years, staging an influential football tournament will allow China to present itself in a way which tackles the stereotypes that shape its global image.

Part of this diplomatic mission, in conjunction with Fifa, will be to ‘sell’ the Club World Cup, particularly in Europe, where opposition to an expanded competition has been loudly voiced by the top domestic leagues.

Each participating club will receive at least £15m, with the winners banking £93m

Money may yet persuade those clubs to change their minds. The European Club Association announced in March that its members would boycott the expanded tournament, but the prize fund has now been confirmed.

Each participating club will receive at least £15m, with the winners banking £93m. That larger amount is still slightly less than the bottom-placed Premier League club will earn in a season from TV revenue and prize money, but it may cause some European Leagues, who enviously eye English football’s wealth, to break ranks.

If it does, Infantino and Fifa’s Chinese stakeholders could well get the prestigious tournament they hope the Club World Cup will be in 2021.

Why the NFL is still a long way from having a London franchise

“This is definitely if not the, then one of the best stadiums I’ve ever been in my life.”

Those were the words of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr following his team’s 24-21 victory over the Chicago Bears in the first-ever NFL match played at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

“Playing at Wembley was really cool, with the memories and all the different games that have been played there,” the Raiders star continued.

“But being able to play here and being able to see what could be done. It’s amazing that they could do all this. First class.”

Being in the stadium a week later to watch the Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 37-26 in a hotly-contested AFC South matchup, you could understand Carr’s praise.

While Wembley, and previously Twickenham, have provided fine venues for the NFL’s annual International Series, they had an exhibition-type feel, despite them hosting competitive, regular season matches.

The difference at Tottenham was huge. This felt like a proper NFL stadium.

Having been to the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, home to both the New York Giants and Jets, you could tell it was modelled on US stadia and built with American football in mind.

Every detail left both players and coaches alike expressing nothing but positivity. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said: “The amenities in terms of the locker room, the way the locker room is set up, structure as far as the training room, the hydrotherapy room for the guys, it’s top-notch. Whatever they did, they did it right.”

The video, played on the big screen, of the pitch being changed in preparation for the visitors from across the pond underlined the feeling that this state-of-the-art arena has finally given the NFL a home in London.

The incredible transformation of Tottenham’s new stadium from Premier League to NFL

Franchise ready

Over the past five years, talk of London getting its own NFL franchise has only increased. 31 of the 32 teams will have played in London following the end of this season, with the Green Bay Packers the only team yet to do so, and they are likely to make the trip within the next few years.

There are many reasons why British fans should be hopeful that the dream of getting their own team could one day become a reality, with of course the main one being Tottenham’s new stadium.

“I remember running out of that tunnel, I was psyched to play here because it was packed to the brim”

– Panthers QB Kyle Allen enjoyed his time in London

However, a stadium is nothing without fans to fill it – and London certainly has them. Both games at Tottenham were sell-outs; every game played in the capital since the first competitive game was played here in 2007 has been at least 90% full, and there are now 47,000 season ticket holders, who purchase tickets to every match played in the city each year.

The strong support certainly didn’t go unnoticed amongst the players, with Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen remarking: “It was a really cool stadium. Packed to the brim. I remember running out of that tunnel, I was psyched to play here because it was packed to the brim, man. Fans were loud, stayed the whole game, rain or shine. It was a good experience.”

This support has led to four games being played in London this year, although it remains to be seen if this level of appetite could be maintained over the eight home games which a franchise would play here.

But one thing which remains without doubt is the appetite for the sport in the UK. Walking to the stadium, you could count jerseys of almost every one of the 32 teams in the league. The vast majority of those in attendance clearly knew their stuff about the sport.

The NFL estimates it has around 13 million fans in the UK, with four million of those described as “avid”. This would suggest there is more than enough interest for a franchise to not only be a success but grow and its stars become household names amongst British sports fans.

Who could move?

However, whilst the city certainly has the fanbase, and now the stadium to boot, there are issues which mean the franchise dream may not be as close to coming to fruition as some supporters hope.

The major reason why it seems some way off is that no owner seems overly keen to relocate their team overseas, at least not imminently.

The NFL has long since ruled out expanding the league – the current format of 32 teams, split into eight divisions of four, works perfectly. There is no space to add one more team, and any expansion efforts would require probably eight new teams to want to join the league at the same time, something not considered realistic.

The only chance for a London franchise would be for a current team to move from their home in America to the UK. The Jacksonville Jaguars seem the most likely of any to make a permanent move across the Atlantic.

Should the NFL decide a London team is a necessity, it would almost certainly be the Chargers it would attempt to move

In 2013, the team agreed to play one home game every year in the British capital, an agreement which runs out in 2020 but is likely to be extended. Their owner Shad Khan also owns Fulham Football Club, and last year attempted to purchase Wembley Stadium, before pulling out after he was advised the Football Association would reject his offer.

While Khan denied the motive behind his bid was to secure a London home for his Jaguars, there can be little doubt that was a factor behind his attempt to buy English football’s HQ.

While for many teams the idea of relocating to another city in America, never mind another country, would be madness, the Jaguars are not one of them. The team joined the league in 1995, but since then have made the playoffs just seven times, and only once since 2008.

So far in 2019, they rank 26th in terms of their average attendance. Relative to other teams in the league, they are a small franchise who are also towards the bottom of the league in terms of financial revenue.

Khan nevertheless seems content with the current arrangement, which allows the Jaguars to build their support in London through playing there every season while continuing to play seven matches in Jacksonville. The team would likely look to increase the number of games played in the capital before making any decision on moving.

The only other team where a strong case for moving to London could be made is the Los Angeles Chargers, who have failed to attract much of a fanbase since their move from San Diego in 2017. They currently play in a 30,000-capacity arena but will move to the 70,000-capacity SoFi Stadium in 2020, which they will share with the LA Rams.

Should the NFL decide a London team is a necessity, it would almost certainly be the Chargers it would attempt to move, although there is no chance of them switching before they have had a few years at their new stadium to see whether they can generate a fanbase in LA.

Stumbling blocks

The other major issue which is yet to be fully worked out is scheduling. The NFL have experimented with having teams play the week after a trip to the UK, but in the majority of cases they are given a bye week.

Mark Waller, the NFL executive vice president of international and events, is optimistic, however: “We’ve proven all the logistical variables now. Last year we played three games on consecutive weekends. That was an important test for us because in the event we ever did have a franchise in London, it’s likely our schedule would be blocks of three or four games, then three or four games over in the States so the team wasn’t travelling every other week.”

This is an important point, given the London franchise would be unlikely to be competitive were they flying back and forth every week. However, the issue of competitiveness remains.

Waller added: “The one thing we can’t ever test for unfortunately is, if you have a team based in London, could it be competitively successful over time when it’s travelling significantly more than any other team?”

Teams in the NFL are used to travelling large distances, such as from east to west coast and vice versa, but they are not making these trips regularly during the season and they are usually spread out across 17 weeks of the campaign. This is clearly an issue the league would need to consider before bringing a team to London.

Map showing the current NFL teams

Another issue would be the play-offs. Were a British franchise to earn a home post-season match, it could be seen as them having an unfair advantage, with the opposing team having to travel such a great distance.

With games likely to be played in blocks of four at home then away, the team would also need to factor in the need for a training base in the US, as they wouldn’t be flying back to London after every away trip.

This could turn into a positive, however, as they would probably be able to attract more players to join the franchise who may have been put off by having to live in a foreign country for half the year, as they’d probably only be there for about two-and-a-half months.

It’s clear London now have a stadium, and they’ve always had the fans, but what is also clear is there are several hurdles that need to be jumped before the city finally lands its own team. But with the success of the London games year-on-year, it looks only a matter of time before a franchise makes the trip for good.

Main photo by Harry Currall

Does the London Stadium now feel like home for the Hammers?

On Thursday August 4th 2016, West Ham United kicked off a new era in the club’s history at the London Stadium after bidding farewell to Upton Park, their home since 1904.

Has the move to Stratford been the fresh start and the springboard for the Hammers to step up to elite level, as owners David Gold and David Sullivan claimed it would be?

Three years on, and with encouraging signs both on and off the pitch, Elephant Sport has talked to two die-hard Irons supporters about whether the troubled settling period at the former 2012 Olympic Stadium is well and truly over and the club can look forward to better days.

Since switching from the old Boleyn Ground, which has since been redeveloped as flats, West Ham fans have witnessed a slow progression at their new home, and last season the club recorded their best-ever points tally at their new ground, taking 31 Premier League home game points from a possible 57.

Life at the London Stadium

Pete May, who writes the hammersintheheart blog and is the author of several books on West Ham, believes that life for the Hammers and their fans at their new home has been difficult to say the least.

“The move has undoubtedly been problematic, with a lot of teething troubles in those early days. For example, there were issues with the matchday stewarding and, of course, you saw it all boil over in March last year in the 3-0 loss to Burnley, when captain Mark Noble had to deal with pitch invaders.

“There were also chants aimed at the owners of ‘You’ve destroyed our club’ as well as some of the fans moaning about lack of money and transfer investment in the team.

“I do, however, think there are signs of the stadium doing us good as the club is stronger now financially and able to sign players such as Felipe Anderson for £36m and Sebastien Haller who cost £45m.

“Another great thing that helps is they have named one of the stands after club legend Billy Bonds. There was a big naming ceremony and Billy came out and broke down in tears, which was very moving.

“Little things like getting the correct colour for the carpet over the running track have also helped; it is now claret with the club badge, as opposed to a green one, and that does actually make it feel a bit more like West Ham’s home.”

The pitch invasion which accompanied that defeat by Burnley, when Sullivan and Gold had to exit the stadium for their own safety, was certainly a toxic low ebb of their tenure at the London Stadium, but it also served as a turning point.

The recruitment in May 2018 of manager Manuel Pellegrini, a Premier League winner with Manchester City, signalled a statement of ambition.

With the Argentine at the helm, and more revenue being generated by their 66,000-seat new home, West Ham have been able to attract higher profile players. This enabled them to finish tenth in the English top-flight last season.

Missed opportunities

Comedian and Stop! Hammer Time podcaster Phil Whelans thinks that the club missed a huge opportunity in the past and simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity to move into the London Stadium.

“It felt like there was a sort of opportunity to aim to be one of the solidly top three of four clubs in London rather than vying with the likes of Watford or Crystal Palace.

“West Ham have had a history of missed opportunities, I think the dynasty that had control of the club at the advent of the Premier League should have seen what this new league was going to become. I think they should have developed a massive new stand or made the old stadium bigger because the catchment area for the club goes out in Essex and Kent.

“I think the club could have speculated to accumulate at some point a long long time ago.”


“People are getting used to it, however, there was a lot of resentment at first”

Since the arrival of current boss Pellegrini, the Hammers have broken their transfer record three times in just over a year including bringing in Issa Diop, Anderson and, most recently, Haller. May believes that the stadium is a huge reason for this.

“I think being in a bigger stadium has definitely helped in a way as players are attracted by the thought of playing in it. We seem to be getting bigger names now like Anderson, Haller and Fornals who has just cost £23m, so I think that players like the idea of living in London and having a 60,000-plus capacity stadium to play in.”

Fan opinion

Overall, there has been a positive change for the claret and blue side of London since moving away from Upton Park and May feels the general mood around West Ham has improved.

“People are getting used to it, however, there was a lot of resentment at first. The other mistake that they made was lumping all of the families in with fans who like to stand up and sing, and so there was a mix of people who were standing up and sitting down.

“The problem was exacerbated by the club getting rid of a lot of the old stewards and bringing in people who were more used to stewarding concerts rather than football matches. It took a while, but these issues were ironed out after the first season or so, and generally it is getting better.”

There is a significant chance that either Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United may fall out of the top six this season, leaving a space or even spaces for newer sides like Leicester and West Ham, who have made great starts to the current campaign, to make a breakthrough.

“If you could somehow be a team that supplements that elite rather than displaces any one from it, then that is something to go for”

Phil Whelans told me: “I think certainly that the potential is there. Sometimes it all goes wrong for teams, and it’s currently going wrong for Manchester United. You have just got to keep it tight, keep building, keep investing and not just thinking the 11 players that got you seventh place will do even better next season. You have to keep freshening the squad, but certainly the platform is there.

“I think last season and this one so far have been good. We finished mid-table last season, and it feels like something we can build on this one. I guess you probably attract better players if you have become a bit more of a ‘glamour’ side, and possibly being in a big stadium with global TV coverage has helped in that respect.”

Atmosphere

Even though attendances don’t affect the financial standing of a club in the English top-flight like they used to – it’s all about TV money these days – the atmosphere generated by big crowds is a key weapon in a home side being able to generate the buzz that is needed to see off visiting teams.

West Ham United are currently only behind Manchester United and Arsenal in terms of average attendance at home this season with 59,917 being their average after four matches this season.

May feels his side have done well to fill their stadium.

“A lot of people didn’t think that West Ham would, but it hasn’t been much of a problem. The London Stadium has been getting noisier. That being said, when we win 5-0, it is loud and if we are losing it is quieter, and there isn’t a great deal we can do about it.”

There is still a lot of growing to do for the Hammers at their new stadium, on which the club has a 99-year lease, and Whelans has a perfect picture of what West Ham can become in the next 10 years.

“I feel like we need to start challenging for a bit of silverware and be a top European side in either the Champions League or the Europa League. We can definitely be a top eight team, but to be a top six team would mean displacing one of those existing clubs, and that will be tough.

“There would have to be a significant withdrawal of funds. I suppose it is conceivable that if, for example, Roman Abramovich’s visa problems continue, he might sell Chelsea, but I feel someone [equally rich] would step in and buy them. If you could somehow be a team that supplements that elite rather than displaces any one from it, then that is something to go for.”

Windies may profit as close of play beckons for boss Cameron

West Indies cricket has taken a massive step in the right direction over the last year.

After three home Test series without a win, they saw off England 2-1 earlier this year. However, what could really see the Windies on the up is changes at the top of the game.

Dave Cameron, president of West Indies Cricket, may have to step down from the post he has held for the past six years, with Windies team manager Ricky Skerritt ready to challenge him.

Many West Indies fans are surprised by this turn of events – but in a good way, because the 47-year-old is not exactly ‘Mr Popular’ in the Caribbean cricketing circles.

His tenure has been marked by criticism from players, both past and present, and the divide between Windies fans and the WICB intensified after the 2016 T20 World Cup.

After Windies beat England in a thrilling final to win their second T20 world title, former Windies captain Darren Sammy stepped up to expose the WICB’s shortcomings.

As well as highlighting a bitter contractual dispute between the board and its players, Sammy revealed the Windies team was sent to the World Cup without even the right uniform.

Turbulent times

Although Cameron took over the WICB during turbulent times, and with the popularity of cricket one the wane in the West Indies, his reign has seen the sport’s fortunes take a nose dive.

Despite the odd bright spot such as this winter’s win over England, the Windies currently occupy lowest ranking they have ever been in, over the three formats of the game.

‘It may be unfair to say Cameron should take all the blame for the Windies’ recent woes’

One of the biggest reasons for their failures on the field is down to the lack of top players in the team.

The likes of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo have become superstars in T20 competitions all around the globe but aren’t available to play cricket for the West Indies.

Cameron’s ruling that in order to be selected for the Windies, players have to take part in the Carribean domestic league, meaning they can’t go abroad to maximise their income,

Due to the rift between the WICB and the team, the players have gone on strike twice during Cameron’s reign and now none of the players from the World Cup-winning team have central contracts with the West Indies.

Embarrassing

One of the most embarrassing days for Windies cricket was in 2014, when their players pulled out in the middle of a tour of India. It was claimed at the time that the travelling players were sent to participate in a series without receiving an actual contract from their board.

Cameron, a former club cricketer, once told the Windies players: ‘My role is to run the business and your role is to play cricket to the best of your ability.’

He keeps his distance from them, preferring to focus on his role of generating income for West Indies cricket in tough economic conditions, but some of the board’s problems have been self-inflicted.

For example, the West Indies missed the Championship Trophy for the first time ever in 2017 because the team only played one ODI series from 2015-2016; this meant that they were not able to pick up enough points to qualify.

It maybe too optimistic to say that Windies will return to their 1970s and 80s heyday, when they dominated the sport, and it may be unfair to say Cameron should take all the blame for their recent woes.

However his likely exit will create new hope and a rejuvenated attitude throughout Caribbean cricket. And what better time to do it, coming off a great series win and with the new young talent coming through.

The West Indies should capitalise on this, and give their fans something to cheer come the World Cup later this year.

Ogogo gone as AJ hits the heights

Anthony Ogogo last week formally announced his retirement from boxing, after over two years out of the ring.

Seemingly destined for great things after winning bronze at the 2012 Olympics, he was one of five British boxers to claim medals in London and seen by many as Britain’s most promising middleweight.

However, the Suffolk fighter has been forced to call it quits after suffering a succession of injuries, with his professional career coming to a premature ending after only 12 fights.

After picking up his bronze medal at the age of 23, Ogogo turned pro the following year, along with fellow Olympian Anthony Joshua.

His talent and ability marked him out,, and he was signed by Richard Schaffer and Golden Boy promotions (pictured right).

Being signed to an American promotional company increased the prospect’s star power internationally.

In a tale of two Anthonys, Ogogo’s and Joshua’s careers appeared to run parallel, both being the same age and appearing on the same undercards early in their careers.

However, Ogogo may have got his big break before AJ; landing a spot on a Floyd Mayweather show.

Greater rewards

It is extremely rare for British prospects to fight overseas so early in their career, especially on the card of the biggest draw in world boxing at the time.

But Ogogo was already being moulded into one of the sport’s brightest young hopes, with his slick boxer-puncher style winning over fans at home and in Germany, as well as the USA.

‘British boxing has seen the last of one of the most promising talents of his generation’

After 11 wins, he was set to fight for the vacant WBC international middleweight championship, an interim belt that lines you up for much greater rewards and eventually a full world title.

The contest was against fellow Brit Craig Cunningham, who had only one loss going into the fight, but Ogogo went in as firm favourite.

However, things didn’t go to plan as Ogogo’s head clashed with Cunningham’s forearm, leaving him with a shattered left eye socket.

Even though he couldn’t see properly, he bravely fought on for a further eight rounds before his coach decided to pull him out.

Maybe too courageous for his own good in terms of his long-term health, he was said to be 75% visually impaired for the rest of the fight.

Best efforts

It wasn’t the first time Ogogo had suffered an injury setback, so he was no stranger to rehabilitation. However this battle was the biggest and final test the fighter would have to face.

Ogogo has spent the last three years trying to get back in the ring and continue his quest for a world title. In that time, he has had several surgeries in different countries, and is said to have spent £250,000 on treatment to his eyes.

Despite all his best efforts, he has had to call an end to his career at the age of 30, and British boxing has seen the last of one of the most promising talents of his generation.

The now-retired fighter has been dealt the worst hand possible. As well as the shattered eye socket, his list of injuries include:

Anthony Ogogo’s injuries

  • Broken hand
  • Three dislocated shoulders
  • Damaged Achilles tendon
  • Knee tendon problems

So whilst Joshua has signed multimillion-pound promotional and commercial deals, Ogogo has been left penniless by his injury struggles.

Since Ogogo has been out of the ring, AJ has fought seven times and picked up three world titles long the way.

It is a shame to see such a great prospect’s career cut short, especially when looking at the strength of the current middleweight scene, with the likes of Genady Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs and Billy Joe Saunders.

Not to mention the cash cow Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who was in the same stable as Ogogo at Golden Boy.

The thought that Ogogo could have shared the ring with those fighters must be a devastating for him, as is knowing he will never step in the ring again.

Can Ajax reclaim former glories with an accent on youth?

Few results this season have shocked world football as much as Ajax’s 4-1 demolition of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the Champions League.

Some blamed poor management at Madrid in the wake of Zinedine Zidane’s departure after winning European club football’s top prize last year.

The fact that they have now re-hired the French legend speaks volumes about how letting him go in the first place was a major mistake.

The Amsterdam Arena, home of Ajax

In part, his exit was borne out of frustration over plans to sell Cristiano Ronaldo, knowing Real would inevitably failing to replace him.

However, their stunning defeat at the hands of Ajax wasn’t entirely self-inflicted; it was also down to a renaissance for the Dutch giants.

In truth, they have been a shadow in recent years of the club which won four European Cups – three in a row from 1971-73 and another in 1995.

More TV money in other, larger markets have seen Ajax fall down the continent’s pecking order, but they have found a different way to compete with the Euro elite.

On a trip to Amsterdam two years ago, I witnessed the beginnings of a process which led directly to that recent 4-1 triumph in Madrid.

The opposing team that day at the Amsterdam Arena were AZ Alkmaar, and the final score exactly mirrored the win over Real two years later.

Trusting young talent

Against AZ, it was amazing to see Ajax field so many talented young players – a host of fearless 18 and 19-year olds starting in a fiercely competitive fixture.

Cruyff is a legendary player and manager

After 10 minutes or so, it was apparent they were quite right to trust in this latest batch of outstanding products from their famous De Toekomst academy.

Seven of those players in the squad to face Alkmaar started against Madrid in the second leg: Andre Onana, Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek, David Neres, Frenkie De Jong Lasse Schone and Hakim Ziyech, with Schone on the scoresheet in both games.

Ajax has long had a reputation for turning out major talent, including Johan Cruyff, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristian Erikson and Luis Suarez to name but a few.

In 2011, Dutch master Cruyff returned to the club in a technical role and had plans to reinvigorate the club’s youth facilities, sell high-earning and ageing players and completely change the way that Ajax operated.

He resigned the following year after a dispute over attempts to bring Louis van Gaal into the club’s set-up, but the seeds of change were sown.

Erik ten Hag, Ajax’s current manager, has noted: “At 19, they needed to be ready to play in the first team, because at 20, they are gone.”

The reserve team, Jong Ajax would be filled with teenagers that would play the Ajax way of free-flowing attacking football.

De Toekomst currently produces the highest number of young players who become professionals. The academy clearly has a formula that works.

Director and former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has helped oversee this period of change. “We have to give a [clear] path to the next one. If players stay too long, the next ones cannot play. The whole things chokes.”

When 21-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong leaves this summer for Barcelona in a £74m transfer, Ajax has the likes of Jurgen Ekkelenkamp waiting to come through and take his place.

Hunting for honours

It is only recently, however, that Ajax has been able to combine nurturing young talent with challenging once again for Europe’s major honours.

‘The likes of De Light and Van de Beek will eventually move on, but Ajax hope they will have repaid them for polishing their talent before leaving’

For some time, they have produced players and sold them before they are able to make a real impact for Ajax outside of the Netherlands.

Last summer, seven of the current crop were called to a meeting and asked to extend their stays in Amsterdam for another season or two to help Ajax push for the elite prizes and give something back to the club that had developed their abilities from eight years old.

It worked, and they are now seeing their academy labour is now bearing fruit. As well as being through to the Champions League quarter-finals, Ajax is second in the Eredivisie, five points behind PSV Eindhoven with a game in hand.

The only player who didn’t respond to the club’s plea was Kluivert who wanted to escape from his father Patrick’s shadow and joined Roma.

The likes of De Light and Van de Beek will eventually move on, but Ajax hope they will have repaid them for polishing their talent before leaving.

Tragedy

Another future star who featured against AZ in that game two years ago was Abdelhak ‘Appie’ Nouri. He was seen as Ajax’s very brightest prospect, a player that the team could be built around.

Then, tragedy struck during a pre-season friendly in July 2017, when Nouri suffered a cardiac arrhythmia attack which resulted in severe and permanent brain damage.

As well as being a terrible blow for the player and his family, it must have placed a huge burden on his team-mates, preparing for a new season and having to fill the void left by Nouri’s enforced retirement at the age of 20.

Perhaps the experience of doing so further toughened up the rest of Ajax’s young guns; they have certainly pushed on this season, as confirmed by their Champions League progress.

Going all the way and securing another European crown may not be a realistic prospect, but a first Eredivisie title for four years (and a 34th overall) is definitely achievable.

In the meantime, more talent will be emerging from the Ajax academy, and perhaps some of those players will want to stay and create a dynasty of success in Amsterdam – if Van der Sar allows them…

All photos from Wikimedia Commons.

Reanne Evans and snooker’s gender divide

The glass ceiling remains intact. Try as she might, Reanne Evans, snooker’s most decorated female player, has failed to make a meaningful impact on the men’s tour thus far.

Last month’s defeat to the legendary Jimmy White at the Shoot Out was the latest missed chance for Evans to make a statement, to give a taste of the quality that has won her 11 world titles in the women’s game.

Although opportunities have been relatively sparse, that defeat at the hands of White, 56, is the latest example of Evans’ inability to produce the goods when it really matters.

A one-table setup, a large, boisterous audience, live TV coverage, and Evans’ touch deserted her, an inexplicable miscue the defining moment of a nervy encounter, allowing White to secure victory in the fast, high-octane format that is the Shoot Out.

Of course, it would be wrong to place too much emphasis on Evans’ or indeed fellow female player Emma Parker’s performances at the Shoot Out.

Such a variant event is not an accurate measuring stick of any player’s true ability; the bright lights and baying crowd a far cry from snooker’s usual dignified confines. But such chances are ones that must be seized if a woman is to break up the boy’s club that is the professional tour.

Evans’ record in professional ranking events leaves something to be desired. She has participated in the World Championship qualifiers for four years in a row, failing to reach the Crucible each time.

In 2017, she overcame Robin Hull 10-8 in the first round of qualifying, a victory she described as the ‘best win’ of her career, but succumbed meekly to Lee Walker in the next.

She took part in Q School, a means by which players can qualify for the tour, in 2018, but could not emerge victorious. Results in the other scattered ranking events in which she has competed represent a failure to perform to her true ability.

Lack of incentive

The gender divide in certain sports is something of a hot topic. In a sport such as snooker — or indeed darts, where the best female players too have struggled to compete — where physical aptitude plays second fiddle to mental resilience and tactical shrewdness, why is it that the chasm between the most successful female player of all time and even the lowest ranked players on the men’s circuit is so large?

Evans herself has pointed to the lack of prize money within the women’s tour as a reason for why many females struggle to attain the same standards as their male counterparts.

“We need to attract more [players], improve the game and build our own ladies’ tour up, then maybe — in a couple of years — give the top four ranked players places in invitational events or on the [main] tour,” she said in a BBC Radio 4 interview in 2015. “At the moment ladies don’t want to be pushed into the deep end.”

In the four years since those remarks, while the prize money on offer in the men’s game has burgeoned, landing the women’s world title still nets only a measly four-figure sum, peanuts compared to the record £500,000 cheque on offer to the winner of this year’s main World Championship.

The sad and brutal truth is that sponsors and investors will continue to shirk the women’s tour as long as the main professional game remains in such good health.

All in the head?

“The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have” – Steve Davis

But perhaps mere facts and figures do not do this particular issue justice, but rather key psychological factors play an important part in this debate. Six-time world champion Steve Davis believes that entrenched differences between men and women mean that female snooker players will always be at a disadvantage.

“The male of the species has got a single-minded, obsessional type of brain that I don’t think so many females have,” Davis said in a 2014 interview with the BBC.

He added that women lack “that single minded determination in something that, it must be said, is a complete waste of time — trying to put snooker balls into pockets with a pointed stick. Men are ideally suited to doing something as absolutely irrelevant in life as that.”

Evans even went so far as to back up Davis’ view at the time:” I think women find it difficult just to concentrate on snooker,” she said “I’ve got my little girl and you’re always thinking about them. Maybe men find it easier to focus on one thing at one time. Maybe that’s a slight advantage there.”

The question lies in whether or not such underlying psychological discrepancies are scientifically inherent, or if they are merely borne of the constructs that society has demanded women adhere to for centuries.

For Evans, the quest continues to disrupt the top table of snooker’s established male elite. There is a sense that all it could take is one breakthrough moment, one string of results or a big-name scalp for Evans to convince the world, and indeed herself, that snooker itself is not discriminative, but we as a society often are. 

Sarri’s chaotic ride on the Chelsea rollercoaster isn’t over yet

Following their 6-0 humiliation at the Etihad, Chelsea delivered a much improved performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City.

Most Chelsea fans were fearing another big defeat by Pep Guardiola’s side, but Maurizio Sarri’s team provided a much stiffer test for the champions this time round.

The Italian organised his side to stifle City’s attacking flair, which looked to be the perfect game plan up until the second half of extra-time when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga refused to be substituted for Willy Caballero, who helped City win the League Cup against Liverpool in 2016.

Sarri believed the young Spaniard was suffering with cramp and wanted to replace him, with a penalty shoot-out looming. Denied, he flew into a rage, and every pundit covering the game said his authority had been badly undermined by Kepa’s actions.

The manager’s mood wasn’t improved by Chelsea’s eventual 4-3 loss on spot kicks, and after the game, Sarri said Kepa had made a “big mistake,” adding there would be “some consequences”.

“I spoke with Kepa, then we spoke all together. He said sorry to the technical staff, but it was not enough. Then he said sorry to his team-mates and the club. He made a big mistake, but we don’t want to kill him.”

Perhaps the manager made a mistake himself by not starting with Caballero in the first place, given that he has featured in most of their cup matches this season?

Revolving door

With the vultures still circling after Chelsea’s recent poor run of results, despite their resolute display at Wembley, their next fixture – at home to Spurs in the league – was billed as an absolute ‘must win’ match for Sarri.

In a feisty encounter at Stamford Bridge, the Blues put a massive dent in Tottenham’s title thanks to a 2-0 victory. Kieran Trippier’s own goal in the 84th minute sealed a precious three points for the hosts in their quest for a top-four finish after Pedro had given them the lead in the 57th minute.

Having seen his decision to drop Kepa – thus reasserting his authority – pay off, is Sarri now on the road to redemption?

Hardly,  as he still under immense pressure to pull the Blues out of disharmonious state they have fallen into in recent weeks.

This will be no easy task, especially as Chelsea’s preferred option always seems to be jettisoning their manager when the going gets tough and their top-four status is threatened.

Among the recent victims of the club’s revolving door policy are Jose Mourinho – gone before Christmas in the season after winning the Premier League – and Antonio Conte, who followed title success with an FA Cup win but was still shown the exit after falling out with too many of his players.

Tactical troubles

Chelsea’s improved most recent displays can’t alter the impression that Sarri’s tactics in a 4-3-3 formation, which served him well at Napoli, don’t seem to be working in west London.

Many fans feel he is not helping himself by mishandling N’Golo Kante, Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 2018.

The Frenchman is naturally a defensive-minded player, so he feels more comfortable as a holding midfielder who can protect the back three.

However, Sarri has moved him into a more offensive role to make room for Jorghino, who he signed from Napoli for £50m. Supporters and pundits alike feel the Italian has struggled to adapt to the English game, and as a consequence the back four lack protection.

Also, the idea of playing Eden Hazard as a false nine can work at times, but Chelsea would look more threatening with a target man such as Olivier Giroud or Gonzalo Higuaín.

This then allows the likes of Hazard and Willian to play off them and use their dribbling skills and running speed to beat defenders and whip crosses into the box.

Transfer ban

Adding to Chelsea’s troubles is the ban on the club signing players imposed by Fifa after football’s world governing body found it guilty of breaching regulations regarding the recruitment of overseas players under the age of 18.

A ban covering two transfer windows was handed down, with Fifa finding Chelsea at fault in 29 cases out of the 92 it investigated. Chelsea are appealing against the punishment, but this may only serve to delay it until January 2020.

Perhaps Sarri’s ride on the Chelsea rollercoaster still has some way to go…

In the meantime, will Chelsea go on a spending spree this summer to stock up on fresh talent before any ban kicks in? Will this mean they need to sell prime asset Hazard plus others to finance several signings? Real Madrid have long been linked with the Belgian international, but other reports suggest their next main target is Paris St-Germain star Neymar Jr.

Will another consequence be that the Blues – ironically, given the reason for the ban – are forced to promote more players from their own academy to the first-team squad?

Chelsea have been notoriously poor at doing so in recent years – John Terry remains the most notable of their homegrown talents to become a first XI regular in the past couple of decades.

But then their policy of managers always being expendable, regardless of any trophy successes, means anyone in the hot-seat is always thinking in the short term, and will opt for signing  finished-product players rather than taking a chance on youth.

Calum Hudson-Odoi is the most recent young Chelsea player to catch the eye, but the feeling persists he is only getting (limited) game time to ward off interest from Bayern Munich, who tried to sign him in January.

Of course, the other question is – will Sarri still be in charge, whether Chelsea are splashing the cash this summer or looking to their academy for solutions?

If a two-window ban is eventually imposed, would any big-name manager want to join? Would failing to finish in the top four also deter pedigree candidates?

Perhaps Sarri’s ride on the Chelsea rollercoaster still has some way to go…

Main image courtesy of wkocjan via Flickr Creative Commons under licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Battle of the boxing broadcasters

Broadcasters have long had an important influence on boxing, but in the past year it has intensified to another level.

For most of its history, the sport has been all about battles in the ring, but we are entering an era in which the biggest fights are those between media companies.

The USA and UK are seen as boxing’s biggest markets, and both countries now have three different networks competing against each other.

For British fight fans, it is common practice to turn to Sky Sports to provide the best and biggest contests in the sport. However, Sky’s arch-rival BT Sport is also becoming a major player, especially after the success of its pay-per-view (PPV) coverage of Deontay Wilder vs Tyson Fury.

If that wasn’t enough, ITV have decided to join the battle of the broadcasters by signing a deal with promotional company Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) last December.

PBC have had great success in America, especially through their dealings with Floyd Mayweather; now the company is venturing into the UK market and spicing up the party.

Shockwaves

The situation has long been similar in the States where boxing fans are accustomed to the ongoing stalemate between boxing broadcasters. However, as in the UK, things have escalated.

For a while, the competition in the US market has been between Al Haymon (PBC), Bob Arum (Top Rank) and Oscar De la Hoya (Golden Boy Promotions), all on separate TV networks.

In addition to its recent contract with ITV, PBC also have ongoing deals with Showtime and FOX, whilst Top Rank’s dealings are solely with ESPN.

However the introduction of DAZN  last year may change boxing for good, and has already sent shockwaves throughout boxing in America.

Branded as the Netflix of sport, DAZN is a streaming service that shows various sport events for monthly subscription fee – potentially signalling the end of PPV.

DAZN have already teamed up with Golden Boy and UK-based Matchroom to create a great triple-threat fight between ESPN, Fox and DAZN.

Why is this so important?

Promotional deals

Boxing works differently to, say, football, where organisations such as the Premier League and Uefa sign broadcast deals for their ‘product’ to be shown in various markets.

Promoters have always been the key figures in boxing, and their stables of fighters become aligned with whichever media companies they do deals with.

More recently, individual boxers have been signing with broadcasters directly. Mayweather fought under the Showtime banner; last year, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez signed a £278m deal with DAZN; Tyson Fury has just announced an £80m tie-up with ESPN.

How does this affect viewers?

When fighters sign long-term promotional deals with media companies, all of their fights for the duration of that contract will have to be shown on that platform.

One of the most common criticisms of boxing nowadays is that the best do not fight the best – well, it’s quite difficult when two fighters are contracted to two separate broadcasters.

Now we have the three best heavyweights on three separate television stations. With Fury signed to ESPN, Wilder with Showtime and Anthony Joshua to the DAZN.

Resurgence

This has been an ongoing problem in boxing over the past decade and has put several mega-fights on hold, including Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao.

After being talked about for several years, it finally went ahead in 2015, when former multi-weight champion Pacquiao – at the age of 36 – was deemed by many to be past his best.

Boxing has seen a resurgence in its fortunes in recent years, and is now generating a much larger following worldwide.

The key to this upsurge isn’t easy to pinpoint, but one thing is clear – large sums of money are being invested in the sport with a view to making even larger sums.

So, what will happen going forward?

Record-breaking

The most alarming issue, as mentioned earlier, is the battle of the broadcasters could make it much harder to ever see certain fights happen. A few that spring to mind include:

Big fights that may not happen…

  • Tyson Fury vs Anthony Joshua
  • Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder
  • Errol Spence vs Terrance Crawford
  • Canelo vs Genady Golokvin III
  • Vasyl Lomachenko vs Gervonta Davies

One thing that has been evident since these networks have been going head to head is fighters have been getting extremely big paydays thanks to broadcast budgets increasing significantly.

DAZN broke into the US market last year with a record-breaking budget of $1bn over the next eight years. Fox and PBC have a budget of $120m a year for the next four years.

With these unprecedented amounts comes huge financial incentives for fighters, as broadcasters will offer ridiculous amounts to have the biggest draws on their platforms.

We have already seen the consequence of this already. Last year boxing saw the ‘richest contract in sports history’ when Canelo Alvarez signed his 11-fight deal with DAZN.

Since then we have seen many top-tier fighters in the majority of weight classes sign contracts for career high paydays.

Fortunately for fans, this means fighters are much more active. There is no longer a situation where boxers are fighting once a year.

However, that also means more expense for boxing fans who want to be able to see as many key bouts as possible across all the media platforms now involved in the sport.

This cold war between the broadcasters is already creating unsavoury situations such as White v Chisora being on Sky Sports PPV on the same night as BT Sport’s Warrington v Frampton PPV last December.

However due to the power of these companies, the resolution to this dilemma is further away than ever.