UEFA fail again, order CSKA Moscow to play Champions League game with ‘partial closure’ after racist chanting

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On Wednesday UEFA inexplicably sentenced Russian side CSKA Moscow to play their upcoming Champions League game against Bayern Munich with ‘partial closure’ of the Arena Khimki stadium following the racist abuse of Manchester City’s Yaya Toure last week.

The verdict was released, read the full statement below, after uproar in the soccer world about the continued level of racist abuse in Russia and other Eastern European countries in recent years, with CSKA themselves denying the racist abuse of Toure ever occurred, despite clear audio and video footage showing the incident taking place in Section D behind the goal which has now been closed.

(MORE UEFA opens CSKA racism investigation, Yaya Toure says it’s not enough)

However the sanction imposed by UEFA on CSKA for their game against Bayern on Nov. 27 is laughable, in my opinion CSKA should have been thrown out of the competition. Yes, that would’ve caused uproar and unrest, but racism in soccer isn’t going to be stopped by ‘partial closures’ of stadiums, miniscule fines or getting players to hurriedly pass around a sign that reads “say no to racism” during the prematch anthem.

UEFA has missed a golden chance to set a precedence as to how racists who attend soccer games in Europe and across the world should be punished. Swift and harsh punishment should be the order of the day, and if domestic teams and national teams aren’t allowed to compete in the Champions League, Europa League and other big tournaments, then that should be a big enough punishment to make the clubs whose fans are guilty of such deplorable behavior stand up, take notice and do something to eradicate it.

(MORE CSKA Moscow president Evgeny Giner: ‘Yaya Touré made it up’)

Following the incident at CSKA Moscow, a formal charge was made by UEFA after Toure had complained to the referee during the game that a section of supporters made monkey chants and gestures at the Ivory Coast international during his sides 2-1 win in the Russian capital. Since then, CSKA have denied any racism took place, stating many other excuses and trying to blame the British media for creating a frenzy.

“We are surprised and disappointed by the racism allegations,” CSKA said on their website last week. “In a thorough study of the videotape, we found no racist insults directed at the guests by CSKA fans, and the delegate confirmed this at the end of the match.”

This incident is not an isolated one.

Across Russia in the past few seasons there have been numerous reports of racist abuse against players, Roberto Carlos had bananas thrown at him and racist banners waved about him when playing for Anzhi Makhachkala against Zenit St Petersburg and Krylia Sovetov Samara back in 2011.

In 2012  fans of Lokomotiv Moscow threw bananas at Anzhi defender Christopher Samba, while earlier this year a supporters group for Zenit wrote a statement demanding that the club didn’t sign any black players.

This has gone on long enough, and UEFA missed the perfect chance to do something meaningful in the battle against racism in soccer.

Here is the full statement from UEFA following the decision to punish CSKA for their fans’ behavior:

The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to PFC CSKA Moskva following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City FC on 23 October.

Charges
• Racist behaviour of CSKA supporters during the above-mentioned match (Article 14 of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations).

Decision
• Partial closure of the Arena Khimki, where CSKA play their home games in UEFA competition: specifically, the Control and Disciplinary Body has decided to close sector D of the stadium during the club’s next UEFA competition home match.

CSKA’s next home fixture is scheduled against FC Bayern München in the UEFA Champions League on 27 November in Moscow.

The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. The European governing body has a zero tolerance policy towards racism and discrimination on the pitch and in the stands. All forms of racist behaviour are considered serious offences against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions. Following the entry into force of the new disciplinary regulations on 1 June, the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level – resulting in more severe sanctions to deter any such behaviour.

UEFA say it themselves in the final sentence, as terms such as “more severe sanctions” and “fight against racist conduct has been stepped up” are used.

But is forcing a closure to one small section of a stadium really enough punishment for widespread racist abuse of an opposition player?

I don’t think so. UEFA need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and realize that by handing out insignificant punishments like this, they’re only further encouraging this awful behavior to take place. Fans aren’t scared of the repercussions of their actions, and they won’t be until tougher sanctions are made.

Europe’s governing body missed the perfect opportunity the make an example of CSKA and the disgusting behavior of a section of their fans.

Transfer news: Liverpool line up double swoop, Morales in demand

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

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Liverpool have been linked with a double swoop on Borussia Monchenglabach.

German outlet Express claim that Jurgen Klopp is keen on signing Denis Zakaria and Marcus Thuram from ‘Gladbach this summer as the deal could be close to $110 million for both players. Thurman, 22 and Zakaria, 23, have been mainstays as Monchenglabach have hung in the top four race in the Bundesliga and they are both coveted by many of Europe’s top teams as rising stars.

Zakaria is a Swiss international who is a holding midfielder, while Thurman (son of France and Barcelona legend Lillian) is a center forward who has scored 10 goals in all competitions.

Manchester United and Arsenal are said to be interested in signing Zakaria who is a tall, powerful holding midfielder. Central midfield is an area where Liverpool need to strengthen as James Milner is nearing the end of his career, while Fabinho’s 2019-20 has been impacted by injuries and a loss of form and Naby Keita’s Liverpool career continues to falter.

As for Thuram (his agent is Mino Raiola) he would be seen as a back up striker who could step in for Roberto Firmino. Any player arriving at Liverpool will know it will be difficult to dislodge the front three of Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah but a young forward like Thuram will be eager to play his part and wait for his chance. With Rhian Brewster, 20, out on loan at Swansea City and still developing, Liverpool only currently have Divock Origi as a back up striker.

Klopp loves recruiting players from his homeland in Germany and sporting director Michael Edwards is also keen on trying to sign Timo Werner and Jadon Sancho in the coming months. Zakaria and Thurman would perhaps be easier targets to sign given the fact they’d be fine with initially being squad players and working their way into this Liverpool side.


Colombian striker Alfredo Morales is reportedly set to leave Glasgow Rangers as Steven Gerrard is lining up a replacement for him, as Liverpool’s young striker Rhian Brewster could be a loan option.

According to talkSPORT, Leicester, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa are all interested in a move for Morales, while Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan are all said to be keen on signing the hot-headed forward. Morelos has been sent off five times this season alone, but he has scored 29 goals in all competitions for Rangers who are reportedly resigned to losing him when the transfer window reopens.

Morelos, 23, has been a huge hit in Scotland and was a big part of Rangers’ run to the last 16 of the Europa League before the season was halted. El Bufalo is a physical player with an eye for goal and his close dribbling and pace suggests he would be a hit for a midtable Premier League club.

Leicester seems like a good landing spot for Morales, especially as the Foxes look likely to be able to offer Champions League action next season. Jamie Vardy, 33, continues to defy father time with his incredible 2019-20 campaign so far but even though Ayoze Perez, Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho and James Maddison have chipped in with goals, Leicester badly miss Vardy when he’s out. Morelos could also partner Vardy, as Brendan Rodgers has shown plenty of flexibility with his formation.

Liverpool reverse furlough decision

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Liverpool have announced they will no longer seek financial help from the UK government to pay non-playing staff during the coronavirus pandemic with the furlough scheme.

Over the weekend Liverpool announced they would take advantage of the furlough scheme from the UK government, which will pay 80 percent of wages of any staff impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Liverpool had announced that staff not needed over the next few weeks would be paid 80 percent of their wages by the UK government and they would make up the remaining 20 percent as part of the furlough scheme.

That decision by their billionaire American owners the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) enraged Liverpool’s fanbase.

Peter Moore, the chief executive officer of the runaway Premier League leaders, announced on Monday that the decision would be reversed after talks which included supporters groups, the Mayor of Liverpool and FSG.

“We believe we came to the wrong conclusion last week to announce that we intended to apply to the Coronavirus Retention Scheme and furlough staff due to the suspension of the Premier League football calendar, and are truly sorry for that,” Moore said. “Our intentions were, and still are, to ensure the entire workforce is given as much protection as possible from redundancy and/or loss of earnings during this unprecedented period. We are therefore committed to finding alternative ways to operate while there are no football matches being played that ensures we are not applying for the government relief scheme.”

Moore added that Liverpool will be financially impacted by this crisis and they are trying to find ways to offset the loss of revenue due to the season being suspended.

“But in the spirit of transparency we must also be clear, despite the fact we were in a healthy position prior to this crisis, our revenues have been shut off yet our outgoings remain. And like almost every sector of society, there is great uncertainty and concern over our present and future. Like any responsible employer concerned for its workers in the current situation, the club continues to prepare for a range of different scenarios, around when football can return to operating as it did before the pandemic. These scenarios range from best case to worst and everything in between,” Moore continued.

“It is an unavoidable truth that several of these scenarios involve a massive downturn in revenue, with correspondingly unprecedented operating losses. Having these vital financial resources so profoundly impacted would obviously negatively affect our ability to operate as we previously have. We are engaged in the process of exploring all avenues within our scope to limit the inevitable damage. We thank the many amazing people in our club, at all levels, who are committed to helping us do just that, despite the complexity and unpredictability in the world and our industry.”

The backlash against Liverpool’s decision follows plenty of criticism for Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur who did the same, as many leading voices believe that the billionaire owners of Premier League clubs should be paying their staff during this unprecedented pandemic instead of getting help from the government.

Many Liverpool’s fans and former players slammed the initial decision so it is good to those concerns have been addressed, as the Reds recorded a pre-tax profit of $51 million last year alone and $153 million profit the year before that.

VOTE: Premier League March Madness playoff final

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Our Premier League March Madness tournament began on Monday and we had some early drama in the relegation playoff semifinals.

The opening two games of our bracket produced two surprise winners, as #20 Norwich City edged out #17 Watford after winning 50.48 percent of the vote, while #19 Aston Villa comfortably beat #18 Bournemouth with 62.14 percent of votes.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub

That means Norwich will now face Aston Villa in the final, and Villa won both of their meetings in the Premier League this season. The first with a 5-1 win at Carrow Road, the second with a undeserved home win at Villa Park.

What do the winners get? If you win the relegation playoff final you are exempt from relegation and finish as the 2020 tournament as #17 seed, while the runner up will be relegated along with the two semifinal losers.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final
Tuesday: Sweet 16
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

Plus, our own Nick Mendola handicapped the field and here is who he thinks will be the favorites to win it all and which teams you should look out for as dark horses over the next few days. His predictions are wild and Arsenal fans will want to prove he is correct and they pick up a first piece of silverware under Mikel Arteta.

Okay, vote below (until 3 p.m. ET) for the two relegation playoff finalists as our Premier League March Madness tournament continues!

Report: Premier League prepares for June return

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The Premier League is reportedly preparing to return to action in June as the current season remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Multiple reports across the UK, including this one from the Daily Mirror, claim that the government has given the Premier League the green light to return to action from June, provided the situation has improved as expected by then.

Per the report, Premier League clubs have been told that they should prepare for games to be played from June 1 onwards behind closed doors and there is a ‘tentative agreement for the top flight to resume behind closed doors after the 20 clubs mapped out a plan with senior officials on a resumption of matches.’

The report adds that ‘in principle, with government health officials hopeful of a coronavirus peak in the UK in the next few weeks, they will sanction games under strict guidelines.’ 

Plans are in place for players to be isolated together and away from the public, as they could begin training in May so they can prepare for the current campaign resuming.

With the situation in the UK deteriorating over the last week and the country on lockdown, these tentative plans can of course change quickly.

Premier League players have had differing views on what should happen to the 2019-20 season and Luke Shaw is the latest to say games should not be played behind closed doors. But if teams play two games per week in empty stadiums or training grounds from June 1, there is the real possibility the season could be finished by the start of July and then FA Cup and Europe competitions could follow.

The overwhelming feeling from Premier League clubs, the league itself and many other individuals is that the 2019-20 season should be finished whenever it is safe to do so. Recent PL club meetings came to that agreement and that is the official stance.

However, the next big question is whether or not fans will be able to attend games for the rest of the season and this report seems to suggest that is totally off the table and if the current campaign is concluded, fans will not be present.