IOC to consult athletes before final ruling on whether Olympic medalists are allowed to kneel on podium

The International Olympic Committee is to consult with athletes over scrapping its ban on taking ‘taking a knee’ in solidarity with anti-racism movements at the Olympic Games.

Less than 24 hours after the IOC confirmed to Telegraph Sport that its guidelines outlawing such gestures at Tokyo 2020 were “still in place”, its executive board opened the door for an exception to be made for such protests.

Speaking after a board meeting on Wednesday, IOC president Thomas Bach said: “We have fully supported the initiative for the IOC Athletes’ Commission to have dialogue with athletes around the world to explore different ways for how Olympic athletes can express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter in a dignified way.

“We also agree with the athletes commission that we must always respect the Olympic spirit.

“This means we must make a difference between such support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter and potentially divisive demonstrations.”

Fifa, the Football Association, and America’s National Football League are among major sports organisations to remove sanctions for athletes taking a knee, which has been widespread following the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the United States last month.

The IOC published guidelines in January banning any form of protest at the Tokyo Games – including taking a knee, raising a fist or refusing to follow protocol at medal ceremonies – but is now under pressure to amend them.

When asked about his personal view of such protests, Bach said: “I will not pre-empt in any way this consultation the athletes commission will have.

“It would not be fair if now I make a statement and they are giving directions or instructions in this respect.

“Let the athletes’ commission and the athletes discuss it themselves and then come up with the relevant proposals.”


OLYMPICS: IOC to consult athletes before making final ruling on kneeling

The International Olympic Committee will consult with athletes before making a final ruling on whether medal winners would be allowed to kneel on the podium as an anti-racist gesture.

After the IOC executive board reaffirmed its commitment to non-discrimination, president Thomas Bach said: “We have fully supported the initiative for the IOC Athletes Commission to have dialogue with athletes around the world to explore different ways for how Olympic athletes can express their support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter in a dignified way.

“We also agree with the athletes commission that we must always respect the Olympic spirit.

“This means we must make a difference between such support for the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter and potentially divisive demonstrations.”

The IOC had outlined before the Games were moved back to 2021 that kneeling would not be allowed but the likes of the NFL have changed their position following recent events in the United States.

When pressed on the issue, Bach said: “I will not pre-empt in any way this consultation the athletes commission will have.

“It would not be fair if now I make a statement and they are giving directions or instructions in this respect.

“Let the athletes commission and the athletes discuss it themselves and then come up with the relevant proposals.”



BOXING: Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury – Fighters have reached agreement over two-fight deal, says Eddie Hearn 

Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have agreed terms on a two-fight deal, according to Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn.

The two British heavyweights are yet to meet in the ring but it appears to be moving closer to reality.

Hearn says that while there is still ‘a lot to overcome’ before the fights happen, terms have been thrashed out.

Read more by clicking here.


FOOTBALL: Theo Walcott to miss the first month of Premier League’s restart

Following this morning’s good news for Everton fans, the bad news arrives, in perfect yin-yang harmony.

Theo Walcott will miss the first month of the Premier League restart after undergoing abdominal surgery.

Walcott suffered discomfort in training at USM Finch Farm, with club doctors diagnosing the issue and the winger having an operation on Monday evening.

You can read more of Chris Bascombe’s story, here.


FOOTBALL: Matty Fryatt claims Nottingham Forest mismanaged the injury that ended his career

Matty Fryatt is suing Nottingham Forest after he claims the club mismanaged the injury which ended his career.

The former striker alleges the club was negligent in treating an Achilles problem he suffered during the 2014-15 season and is seeking substantial compensation.

Forest have denied any wrong-doing and the club have said they will be “defending” their actions.

The ex-Hull forward – who scored in the top four divisions and netted 135 career goals – had to quit after developing chronic left Achilles tendonitis.

 “It feels like my career has been taken away from me, stolen,” he said.

“There was no care. You were an object. I was put under pressure to play and forcing me to play caused the damage which ended my career.

“I feel sick with it all, frustrated, sadness. I’ve felt alone, abandoned and let down. It hurts. How was I left in this situation?

“Forest’s lack of understanding and their ignorance to it is so hard to take.

“They don’t want to take responsibility and for it to be dismissed the whole time, it’s like they weren’t listening to what I was saying. I find it appalling.”

He claims he was advised to train barefoot by Forest’s medical team and alleged that holes had to be cut in his boot to ease the pain.

He says the injury also affected his mental health and admits he has been difficult to live with, thanking wife Charlotte and his children Georgie, Charles, William and Louis for their support.

He said: “I’m a shadow of my former self. I’ve been difficult to live with for the past five years. There’s no confidence, I’ve felt lost.”

Forest said in a statement: “The club can confirm that it is defending proceedings which have been commenced by a former player Matthew Fryatt.

“As is normal the claim is being handled by the club’s insurers and the club will be making no further comment on the proceedings.”


Matty Fryatt playing for Forest



MOTORSPORT: W Series Esports League to be broadcast on the BBC

The W Series Esports League will be broadcast on the BBC, beginning with the first race on Thursday evening.

You can read more of Molly McElwee’s story, by clicking here.


RUGBY UNION: Rugby player banned for four years for anti-doping rule violation

Max Drage of Haywards Heath RFC has been banned from all sport for four years from January 10, 2020 until January 9, 2024, the RFU has announced.

Mr Drage provided a urine sample in-competition at Haywards Heath RFC’s ground on 16 November 2019. The sample returned an Adverse Analytical Finding for S4 Hormone and Metabolic Modulators and S1 Anabolic Androgenic Steroids. These are Prohibited Substances as defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency Prohibited List 2019.  

Mr Drage was charged with a breach of World Rugby regulation 21.2.1, “Presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in a player’s Sample.” 

RFU Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs Programme Manager Stephen Watkins said: “All rugby players are subject to the anti-doping rules which are in place to protect players and the integrity of our sport.”


RUGBY UNION: Premiership players could strike

Premiership rugby stars could go on strike over contractual issues arising from the league’s expected confirmation of a reduction of next season’s salary cap by up to 25 per cent.

Rugby Players’ Association chairman Mark Lambert says some of his members are being “strong-armed” into accepting reduced deals as a result, and could not rule out taking the ultimate sanction.

Mark Lambert of Harlequins (C)

Mark Lambert of Harlequins (C)


Lambert told the PA news agency: “We very much see it (a strike) in any walk of life as the last action, and something you would look to avoid for the benefit of all stakeholders, because it is an extreme move.

“But it’s difficult for us to entirely rule out any options when we’re in the current situation where we’ve got members with existing, fixed-term contracts in some senses essentially being strong-armed into thinking they have no choice but to sign an inferior contract.”



FOOTBALL: Scottish clubs to receive funding

Every Scottish league club will be able to access a £50,000 grant to help them through the coronavirus crisis following a donation worth more than £3million.

Edinburgh-based investment manager James Anderson has pledged a £2.5million personal donation which will be topped up by gift aid to be worth £3,125,000. Some of the money will also be used for two funds to help projects in the clubs’ communities.

Anderson was introduced to the Scottish Professional Football League by Hearts owner Ann Budge after donating a significant sum to the club in recent years. But it has been stressed that his new gift is not contingent on the Tynecastle side being saved from relegation.

The only condition for clubs to access grants is that they can prove they provide “support for the wider community in which they are based”.

The income could be vital in helping some lower-league clubs play at least some of next season amid extra costs of Covid-19 testing and the loss of gate receipts amid social restrictions.

Anderson, a 60-year-old partner at the Baillie Gifford asset management firm, said: “Football is at the heart of communities across Scotland, and there are not many societal organisations that bring people together nowadays, to catch them in a net when they fall.

“When Covid-19 struck, I realised what a significant loss it would be for towns across the country if their local SPFL club’s very survival was threatened. This isn’t just about the passion on the pitch, which is why we love the game, but about the responsibility our clubs take in communities across Scotland. I’ve seen first-hand over the last few years what a difference clubs can make to people’s lives, and so I am very pleased to have been able to offer my support at this difficult time.

“I’m also committing my ongoing support to Scottish football by way of confirming I will make further donations. I have also introduced others who share my values and who are committed to do the same. This is the start of our journey, together. I have great faith in the SPFL Trust, and confidence that they – and SPFL clubs along with their charitable trusts – will take this opportunity and make a great success of it.”

A total of £2.1million will be available to clubs with £400,000 being used to speed up the launch of the SPFL Trust’s Scottish Football United fund, a scheme in which the game can “respond to major issues or crisis”.

The gift aid portion will set up a new Anderson Fund which will be spent on projects which demonstrate a positive impact on “health, attainment, or inclusion as well as any general related support during the Covid-19 crisis”.

Each party has stressed that Hearts played no part in the discussions between Anderson, the SPFL and SPFL Trust, with a statement insisting that the donation comes “without qualification or preconditions relating to future structure or governance at the SPFL”.



TENNIS: Lockdown could help Serena Williams

 Serena Williams is as motivated as ever to add to her 23 Grand Slam singles titles and the COVID-19 shutdown could end up helping her in that quest, the American’s long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou has told Reuters.

Williams, who turns 39 in September, has reached four Grand Slam finals since giving birth to daughter Olympia in 2017 but failed to win any of them and remains one major title short of Margaret Court’s record of 24.

The tennis season came to a halt in March when world sport went into lockdown due to the novel coronavirus outbreak and the hiatus will continue at least until the end of July.

Frenchman Mouratoglou said Williams had been able to recharge during the break and that her appetite for titles had not waned.

“First of all it was good for Serena because she had time to rest and her body needed rest,” he told Reuters by telephone. “Second, her motivation hasn’t changed. She’s still as motivated as before to win more Grand Slams.”

Serena Williams of the US reacts after a point against China's Wang Qiang


Mouratoglou, who has been working with the American since 2012, said experienced players like Williams, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were best equipped to hit the ground running when tennis restarts.

“For someone like her, and probably the same for Roger or Rafa or Novak, they have so much experience that being out of competition for a few months doesn’t affect their game so much,” said Mouratoglou.

“And we’ve seen the best, someone like Roger for example, coming back from six months injury and winning a Grand Slam straightaway (in 2017). So, only those guys can do that. So for Serena, it’ll be fine.”



RUGBY UNION: RPA release fiery statement in response to salary cap reduction

The RPA chairman Mark Lambert has stated that ‘players are the lifeblood of the game and should be treated with respect’.

Most of the players have already had temporary 25 per cent pay cuts since March and April as a result of the unprecedented financial challenges exposed by Covid-19. PRL have been seeking agreement to reduce players’ wages permanently by 25 per cent across all PRL clubs. This was unanimously rejected by the Players’ Board.  

The RPA have been working diligently over the last 12 weeks to seek to avoid a repeat of the damaging situation the game found itself in when the clubs imposed temporary wage cuts on a unilateral basis in mid-March. This latest situation could have been entirely avoided with a collaborative and transparent approach and we now find ourselves heading towards a significant legal dispute unless meaningful and genuine dialogue takes place urgently. In the meantime, the RPA position remains unequivocal: the RPA is opposed to permanent cuts for our members.

From the outset of this crisis there has been an absolute disregard for the players and the values of the game. Players at some clubs are now being served with ultimatums and being put under undue pressure to sign amended contracts through the manufactured deadline of June 18th.

To be clear, this is a totally unacceptable way to operate. Players are the lifeblood of the game and should be treated with respect. Players should not engage with this approach. The RPA will continue to fight for our members throughout this crisis.


FOOTBALL: Watford agree short-term extensions

Watford remain in talks with Jose Holebas, Heurelho Gomes and Adrian Mariappa over their long-term futures after announcing the trio have agreed short-term contract extensions to cover the remainder of the delayed Premier League season.

The deals of the three players were due to expire on June 30 but they have agreed to the FIFA-approved contract extensions which cover for the fact that leagues across the globe have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And a statement from the Hornets said discussions were ongoing with the players over the next step as they near the end of their contracts.

“Individual talks continue between the trio and the Hornets with regards to their respective Vicarage Road futures,” the statement said.

Mariappa, 33, has made 18 appearances for Watford this season. Last month he revealed he had tested positive for Covid-19 during the first round of the Premier League’s testing programme.

Fellow defender Holebas, 35, has played 13 times for the Hornets this term while 39-year-old goalkeeper Gomes has made only three appearances. Regular stopper Ben Foster agreed a new two-year contract to stay at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.



‘Breadth of experience in the commentary box makes for richer coverage’

Cricket commentator Alison Mitchell has responded to Sir Geoffrey Boycott’s column from earlier this week.

My own belief is that there is a place for a wide range of perspectives when summarising a cricket match and everyone brings their own expertise. Listeners hear a voice knowing who it is they are listening to, and no one ever tries to be something or someone they are not.


Merseyside derby will be played at Goodison Park

Confirmation that derby between Everton and Liverpool will not be moved from Goodison, reports Chris Bascombe.

Divock Origi of Liverpool battles for possession with Yerry Mina of Everton in the Premier League in December

Divock Origi of Liverpool battles for possession with Yerry Mina of Everton in the Premier League in December



FOOTBALL: EFL criticised by Peterborough

Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony has criticised the English Football League’s handling of the crucial vote on Tuesday which saw the League One and League Two seasons curtailed.

MacAnthony has been outspoken on the process which has seen Peterborough narrowly miss out on a place in the League One play-offs, hitting out at football clubs for voting against playing football.

But the Posh owner on Wednesday suggested his club had been misled as the EFL had indicated for several weeks that the season would be completed, leading them to opt against furloughing players.

“Every letter from the EFL stated that we wanted to finish the season and we went along with that,” MacAnthony said on Sky Sports’ ‘The Football Show’.

“I spoke to Rick Parry, the chairman, in May and I said to him, ‘What are we doing? Things seem to be improving’ and he said, ‘We want to finish the season, there’s no reason not to finish the season’ so again we went along with that.

“We voted for football. We will always vote for football. I understand the health concerns but we’ve now been told football is back – the Premier League is back, the Championship is back. The EFL is 71 clubs and we’ve been told we can’t play football so it’s devastation and disappointment.”

Darragh MacAnthony, chairman of Peterborough United

Darragh MacAnthony, chairman of Peterborough United


MacAnthony also said he was disappointed the EFL had not done more to balance out Tuesday’s bad news by presenting plans to start next season, or to provide financial relief as clubs struggle with the loss of revenue.

“So many things could have been done in the last four or five weeks that weren’t done,” he said. “That’s why I’m disappointed with the EFL. It would have been lovely to find out what are we looking at starting date wise. Have you, the EFL, had a conversation with the PFA about wage cuts?

“Because you’re going to have a lot of players unemployed and the PFA are going to have to go to their members and, with what’s happened with the pandemic you’re going to have to have a wage cut and we need the PFA’s agreement with a that, it’s going to be good for the players, it’s going to keep them in jobs and clubs in survival.

“Has the EFL done a deal on the bailout? We’ve had some really crappy news, so give us some good news for the future.”



Rugby league: Kiwi international quarantined for kissing reporter

New Zealand rugby league international Benji Marshall’s week went from bad to worse on Wednesday when he was quarantined from his Wests Tigers team-mates for breaching social-distancing protocols by kissing a reporter.

The veteran half-back, who was sensationally dropped by Wests on Tuesday for the weekend’s match against Canberra, fell foul of the National Rugby League’s strict biosecurity rules when he greeted a television reporter with a peck on the cheek at training at St Luke’s Park in Sydney.

“Marshall was involved in a social distancing incident with an accredited reporter, which was immediately reported to the NRL as per guidelines,” Wests said in a statement.

“Under those guidelines, Marshall will remain at home tomorrow — which is a scheduled day off for Wests Tigers NRL squad — while the reporter undergoes a Covid-19 test.

“Assuming a negative result is returned, no further action will be required by Marshall or Wests Tigers.”

Seven Network reporter Michelle Bishop tweeted: “Just goes to show you, we can all get caught up in life and forget what kind of world we are living in at the moment. Off to be tested.”

Marshall will not be allowed to return to the club until Bishop’s test result is confirmed, the NRL said.
By Reuters


Snooker: Being locked up in a police cell more fun than competing at Championship League Snooker, says O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan has said a night in the cells was a more enjoyable experience than competing at the Championship League Snooker event in Milton Keynes, where he ran out of food while being stuck in his hotel room all day.

The event, which began on June 1, was staged without fans as part of strict Covid-19 safety protocols. Players had to arrive a day before their matches and stay at the on-site hotel after undergoing tests for coronavirus.

“Got to be off my head coming here, haven’t I? I’ve been sat in my room for 24 hours,” the five-time world champion told Eurosport. “I’ve done 16 hours in a cell once, and it was better because I got to choose my own food.”

O’Sullivan had earlier said that he had run out of supplies at one point and was left “eating cornflakes for the rest of the day”.

The 44-year-old won all three of his opening group matches but crashed out of the tournament in the next stage after a 3-0 defeat by Stuart Bingham.
By Reuters


Football: Everton’s first-team players take huge wage deferrals

Everton on Tuesday announced wage deferrals of up to 50 per cent for all first-team players for the next three months to ease the financial pressures on the club.

The club has also confirmed that directors, members of the executive team, and manager Carlo Ancelotti took salary cuts and wage deferrals of up to 30 per cent when the health crisis halted football in March.

 In a detailed letter to supporters, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale explained the response which was deemed necessary with the Premier League club suffering economically due to the lack of competitive football.


Tennis: Federer down and out for the season

Roger Federer will miss the rest of the season – including two planned grand slams – after undergoing a second round of surgery on his right knee, writes Ben Rumsby.

The record 20-time major champion confirmed on Wednesday he had suffered “a setback” in his recovery from a February operation he had hoped would ensure he was fit for Wimbledon.

Tennis’s biggest event was subsequently cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, with the French Open – which Federer had been poised to skip – provisionally moved to September and October.


Rugby union: Super Rugby AU dates confirmed

Super Rugby will return in Australia on July 3, with the Queensland Reds hosting the New South Wales Waratahs in Brisbane to launch Super Rugby AU, writes Ben Coles.

The news comes ahead of the start of Super Rugby Aotearoa in New Zealand on Saturday, which fans can now attend following the relaxing coronavirus restrictions in New Zealand.

Super Rugby AU features the four current Australian franchises along with the Western Force, who were removed from the competition back in 2017.

The sides will play each other home and away before a two-week finals series in September, with the final itself to be played on September 19. The full fixture list is set to be revealed on Thursday.

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