Aston Villa move for standing areas at Villa Park to dismay of Hillsborough Family Support Group

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It’s a touchy topic, and even touchy feels too casual of an adjective when describing the re-introduction of standing areas to Premier League grounds. Yet according to the BBC, Aston Villa wants to move forward with plans to install rail-seating at Villa Park, and is asking the British government to lift the “all-seater” rule for the first time in 25 years.

“All-seater stadiums” — which  sound just as they are — have been mandatory in the Championship and Premier League since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 that left 96 spectators crushed inside of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium during the FA Cup semi-final.

Villa want to use areas of their stadium as a trial, and says there are 7-8 other Premier League clubs who are interested in the experiment (How they drew the short straw to go public with the idea is anyone’s guess). The concept for the proposed “safe standing” areas was discussed by Aston Villa football operations manager Lee Preece:

“The desire to further the debate is moving quickly. But we’re keen to support the Football Supporters’ Federation and advance the debate so we can get to the point where we can decide if we’re going to do this or not.

“The supporters will see the benefits of their own matchday experience in terms of atmosphere. For us as a club, perhaps the biggest advantage is around the issue of fans standing in areas that are licensed for seating only. “

It’s dicey. Does it solve an inconvenience? Maybe. Is it necessary? Hardly. And, as a spokesperson for the Hillsborough Family Support Group states, it can certainly be viewed as insensitive in light of ongoing investigations into the disaster.

Margaret Aspinall lost her son James in the disaster:

“I find it very insensitive at this moment in time because obviously the most important thing for the families is these inquests,” Aspinall told BBC Sport.

“We’ve got the 25th anniversary coming up, now we feel as if this is like another battle. We feel as if ‘why bring it up at this time when we’ve not had any accountability whatsoever for the 96 deaths’.

“I just wish them 96 could have been at an all-seater stadium. It cost them their lives for us to try and make it safe for everybody else, so please try and understand our position. We are not opposing. We are not against you. All we want is your safety.”

Maybe I’m too on the periphery here, but the standing room idea just seems absolutely unnecessary at this time. Admittedly the practice of “standing room only” is commonplace here in the U.S., but stepping back and analyzing the history makes me want to say, “No thanks.”

MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 2-1 New England Revolution (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): For nearly 75 minutes, NYCFC couldn’t muster up any chances in the attacking third, but thankfully their captain did what he does best. David Villa scored his 19th goal of the season on Sunday night to pull out a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution, but it was rookie Jonathan Lewis that notched the winner. The visitors took the lead 20 minutes prior after Sean Johnson spilled a shot in front of his own goal, allowing Teal Bunbury to pounce on the rebound. NYCFC now moves to within four points of Eastern Conference leaders Toronto FC with nine matches remaining in the regular season.

Three four moments that mattered

16′ — Harrison breaks ankles, but Villa can’t finish — This might be the only time all see you’ll see David Villa miss a chance like this…

38′ — Johnson gets a finger tip to Rowe’s blast — Sean Johnson had no work to do in the first half, at least until Kelyn Rowe decided to rip a shot from distance just before halftime.

57′ — Johnson’s error grants Bunbury, Revs the lead — Look away, NYCFC fans.

77′ — Villa find the back of the net — When you need a goal, who you gonna call? That’s right. David Villa. The NYCFC captain is now up to 19 this season.

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Man of the match: David Villa

Goalscorers: Teal Bunbury (57′), David Villa (77′), Jonathan Lewis (90+4′)

Honoring victims of attacks, Barcelona wins league opener

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Wearing shirts honoring victims of the recent attacks in Spain, Barcelona opened its Spanish league season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Neymar double helps PSG cruise past Toulouse ]

Players had the word “Barcelona” instead of their names on the back of their shirts, and the Catalan hashtag “TOTSSOMBARCELONA” (We are all Barcelona) was on display around the Camp Nou stadium. The message was also shown on the stadium’s large screens, as well as on many banners carried by fans.

An emotional minute’s silence was held before the game as the music of Catalan cellist Pau Casals played in the background.

Before the minute was up, the more than 55,000 fans at the stadium broke into a round of applause and began chanting “No tinc por” (I’m not afraid), a chant which has become a symbol of people’s reactions to the attacks that killed 14 people and injured more than 120 in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils.

Extra security was implemented in and around Camp Nou.

There was a minute’s silence before every Spanish league match this weekend.

Without Neymar and the injured Luis Suarez, Barcelona got off to a winning start in the league after consecutive losses to rival Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final.

It scored two goals three minutes apart near the end of the first half – an own-goal by Betis defender Alin Tosca and a close-range shot by Sergi Roberto. Both goals came after plays started by Gerard Deulofeu, one of the players expected to try to replace Neymar after his world record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

“We lost depth with Neymar’s departure and we have to find a way to overcome that,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Lionel Messi looked lively but wasn’t able to score his 350th goal in La Liga. He came close, though, being denied by the woodwork three different times.

AP Sports Writer Tales Azzoni contributed to this report.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Brighton breaks club record with signing of winger Jose Izquierdo

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Brighton hasn’t gotten off to the ideal start in its debut season in the Premier League, but a key reinforcement is on the way.

[ MORE: Chelsea tops Spurs at Wembley behind Alonso’s brace ]

After starting the 2017/18 campaign with back-to-back defeats, the Seagulls announced on Sunday the signing of Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge in Belgium for a record fee.

The 25-year-old spent three seasons in Belgium’s top flight and totaled 38 goals across all competitions for Brugge, prior to making the move to England.

Additionally, Izquierdo has worked his way into the Colombia squad as of late, and scored his first international goal for his country in June 2017 in a friendly against Cameroon.

MLS Follow Live — NYCFC hosts Revs, Minnesota meets Sounders

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Only two matches will feature on the MLS docket Sunday evening, but luckily two of the league’s most exciting teams will take to the pitch.

[ MORE: Toronto tops Fire as East leaders reach 50 points on season ]

First, New York City FC will attempt to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference ladder when they host Kei Kamara and the New England Revolution.

In the night cap, the Seattle Sounders look to extend their unbeaten streak to nine matches when they welcome newcomers Minnesota United to CenturyLink Field.

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Here’s the schedule and kick-off times for Sunday’s two MLS fixtures.

New York City FC vs. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United — 10 p.m. ET