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Barcelona tops Deloitte Football Money League

La Liga giants FC Barcelona have taken the top spot in the Deloitte Football Money League ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Champions League winners Bayern Munich are third while English Premier League (EPL) giants Manchester United are at the fourth spot.

Former EPL champions Liverpool, who are at the fifth spot, have much to celebrate as they have managed to enter the top five for the first time two decades.

The Deloitte Football Money League lists the revenue-generating performances of top European clubs.

Overall, the top 20 clubs saw a revenue decline of 12 percent during the disrupted 2019-20 season as compared to the 2018-19 season. This is mainly due to a drop in broadcast revenue and a massive fall in matchday revenue.

East Bengal rope in Subrata Paul from Hyderabad FC

East Bengal FC on Tuesday announced the signing of seasoned India goalkeeper Subrata Paul on loan from Hyderabad FC for the remainder of the ongoing Indian Super League (ISL) season.

34-year-old Paul has played six matches for Hyderabad FC in the current season keeping two clean sheets.

Comenting on the development, Paul said in an official statement: “I know the weight and meaning of the red and gold colours and I consider myself very lucky and blessed to be a part of SC East Bengal. I cannot wait to get on the pitch and help them shine.”

“I am looking forward to catching up with my fellow teammates and help the club in every way possible,” he added.

Significantly, it will be Paul’s second stint with East Bengal after the 2008-09 season in where he bagged the Federation Cup.

On the other hand, an elated East Bengal head coach Robbie Fowler said: “Subrata is vastly experienced and has been doing an amazing job between the sticks for a long time now. His signing bolsters our goalkeeping options. Subrata’s wealth of experience will also help the other keepers around.”

Nicknamed the ‘Spiderman’ for his heart-stopping saves during India’s AFC Asian Cup campaign in Qatar in 2011, Paul has donned the India colours six times till date.

Paul has kept as many as 28 clean sheets in his ISL career with 91 appearances with clubs like Mumbai City FC, NorthEast United, Jamshedpur FC, and Hyderabad FC.

Covid-19 forces AFC to cancel U-16, U-19 C’ship

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has decided to cancel various competitions including the AFC U-16 Championship Bahrain 2020 and the AFC U-19 Championship Uzbekistan 2020 due to the prevalent Covid-19 pandemic.

The next editions of the two competitions will now be allocated to the same hosts in 2023 when the Uzbekistan Football Association will host the AFC U20 Asian Cup and Bahrain Football Association will stage the AFC U17 Asian Cup.

Issuing a statement, AFC said: “The AFC, taking into consideration the uncertainty and risks in view of the current pandemic, has decided to cancel a number of competitions to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders.”
Meanwhile, AFC has also decided to cancel the 2020 AFC Futsal Championship in Kuwait and the 2021 AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup in Thailand. Kuwait will stage the AFC Futsal Asian Cup 2022 and Thailand, the AFC Beach Soccer Asian Cup 2023.

“We are grateful for the support of the hosts for these competitions who agreed with the AFC the need to safeguard the interests of all stakeholders during this time of uncertainty and taking into consideration the risks of the current pandemic,” said AFC general secretary Dato’ Windsor John.

CSK set to release Piyush Chawla and Kedar Jadhav ahead of IPL 2021

With the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League just three months away, the preparations for the tournament have already begun. IPL Chairman Brijesh Patel said that a deadline of January 21 has been given to the eight participating teams to submit the names of their retained players. He further added that the trade window will be open until February 4. Prior to the start of the 2021 edition, a mini-auction will take place on February 11.

The Chennai Super Kings, who failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time last season, will look to make major changes to their squad. According to TOI, the team intends to offload Piyush Chawla and Kedar Jadhav in a bid to increase their budget which currently stands at Rs. 15 lakhs. Both the players have underperformed while donning the yellow jersey after being picked up for a combined sum of Rs. 14.55 crores.

Shane Watson announced his retirement after the end of the previous season and therefore, the team will be lacking the services of the prolific all-rounder. Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh missed the last season due to personal issues and there is uncertainty over their participation in this edition too.

Chennai will have to build their squad with young talents as the senior players are approaching the end of their careers. MS Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket last year but will definitely play the IPL next season. The legendary skipper will have a major role to play in this crucial phase for the franchise. While the authorities have to use their brains creatively in the auction, releasing Chawla and Jadhav will allow them to sign multiple players in February.

BCCI ends partnership with IMG after 13 years

The International Management Group’s (IMG) 13-year-long partnership with the BCCI and the Indian Premier League (IPL) ended this week after the cricket board wrote to the UK-based events company, officially conveying that the time has come to part ways.

Brought on board in 2007-08 by the BCCI to professionally run the IPL on the lines of any world class sporting event around the world, the IMG had been integral to the T20 league through all these years.

The BCCI has, over the years, gained rich experience in running the league and is well-equipped to put in place a world class team to run the show. Right now, all we can say is that the partnership with IMG has run its course,” top sources told TOI.

Retained by way of a five-year deal in 2017, after an initial 10 years of being on board, the events company had two more years left to go for the contract to end before the untimely exit came less than four days ago.

With former BCCI vice-president – and later IPL commissioner – Lalit Modi at the helm, the IMG boarded the T20 league wagon since its inception in 2007-08, signing an annual Rs 27 crore deal for a period of 10 years.

In 2009, when the IPL got shifted to South Africa – owing to the general elections in India – the BCCI, again with Modi at the forefront, decided to hike IMG’s annual contract to Rs 33 crore before reworking it back to Rs 28 crore per year.

In 2017, the BCCI gave IMG a 40% hike while renewing the deal for another five years (adding approx. Rs 12 cr per year to the kitty).

IMG’s senior vice-president and marketing head Catherine Simpson had quit her position last month and those in the know say “the writing was on the wall ever since her exit”.

Simpson is learnt to have quit the company owing to her differences with the BCCI which had been growing steadfastly over the years.

Senior executives such as Andrew Wildblood – who was at the forefront of the partnership in 2007-08 with Modi at the helm; Peter Griffith – who quit IMG and the BCCI-IPL set-up in 2015 to join the US-based National Football League (NFL) as its chief operating officer; John Loffhagen – a senior lawyer with experience in sports events, who now works as an independent consultant; and Simpson – the latest among the executives who worked with the IPL have all left the building now.

“Relationships kept swinging from sweet to sour every now and then, like any professional set-up. These were qualified individuals, but every journey has to come to an end. This one has also reached its conclusion,” is how BCCI sources put it.

In 2010, at the time when the BCCI was busy terminating Modi from the ecosystem and the IPL, IMG’s role – under Wildblood – too had remained under the scanner, particularly for the hefty fee that the cricket board was paying the UK-based company.

“At that time, renegotiations took place, and IMG stayed,” recollects a former BCCI office-bearer.

Now, the board is looking to put in place a team of qualified executives to run the show as the 14th edition of the IPL draws near. “There’s ample time.

Things will work out just the same,” sources added.

Player retention deadline set to January 21, trading window closes February 4: IPL chairman Brijesh Patel

According to IPL chairman Brijesh Patel, the eight franchises of the lucrative league has been given a deadline of January 21 to submit the names of their retained players. Earlier this week, a virtual meeting took place between Patel and the other members of the league’s governing council where the planning and preparations of the next edition were discussed thoroughly.

“We will have players’ retention till January 21 and the trading window for the franchises closes on February 4,” Patel told PTI. He also informed that the date of the auction is yet to be finalized.

A mini-auction is set to take place between the eight existing teams in the second or third week of February.

The usual players’ purse of Rs. 85 crore will be given to the eight teams and there will be no increase of purse for the 2021 auction, Patel said.

It is most likely that two big salaried players, Piyush Chawla and Kedar Jadhav, will be offloaded by the Chennai Super Kings. The men in yellow are the only team who had Rs. 15 lakh left after the last auction and they would further increase their purse by releasing the duo.

Mumbai Indians boast of a very set team and therefore are expected to retain most of its players. However, they might release a few players here and there to increase their purse from Rs. 1.95 crore.

Rajasthan Royals have the maximum purse 14.75 crore, followed by Sunrisers Hyderabad (10.1 crore), Delhi Capitals (9 crore), Kolkata Knight Riders (8.5 crore), Royal Challengers Bangalore (6.4 crore).

India is the first choice to host the 14th edition of the IPL but a lot will depend on how the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is conducted. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been marked as the second option if the need arises.

“The BCCI will wait for a month to see how the Covid-19 situation is in India before finalizing the schedule. Everyone wants it to be held in India but we still need to wait for some more time before taking a call,” a BCCI source said.

Indian rider CS Santosh in medically-induced coma after suffering crash in Dakar Rally

Famous Indian motorcycle racer CS Santosh was put in a medically-induced coma after suffering a crash during the ongoing Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. The incident took place on Wednesday when the 37-year-old was representing the Hero MotoSports in one of the world’s biggest rallies. He was airlifted to a hospital in Riyadh and has been kept under 24-hour observation.

“In an unfortunate incident, @cs_santosh22 suffered a crash in Stage 4 of #Dakar2021 today. He has been taken to a hospital in Riyadh. In the initial assessment, he seems stable. Join us in wishing him a speedy recovery,” Hero MotoSports said in a tweet.

According to reports, Santosh has injured his head in the crash. He was conscious when paramedics arrived on the scene before he was rushed to Riyadh.

Hero MotoSport rider Paulo Goncalves died in a similar incident last year while competing in the Dakar 2020. Hero MotoSport withdrew from the rally following Goncalves’ death.

Santosh crashed around 135km into the stage on a gravel track and had to forfeit the stage. Santosh was attempting the Dakar Rally for the seventh time, which is considered the world’s most brutal off-road motorsport event. In 2015, Santosh became the first Indian to compete the race. He went on to participate in two more editions.

During the 2013 Abu Dhabi desert challenge, Santosh had a near-fatal accident after his Suzuki MX450X caught fire. He had suffered burns to his neck.

Reports say that India will not fly to Brisbane, CA waiting for confirmation

Over the past week, there have been numerous reports about the Indian team not willing to travel to Brisbane for the fourth Test if they are required to stay under stringent quarantine protocols. Further unconfirmed reports emerged on Thursday informing that the BCCI had officially written to Cricket Australia to advise them they do not want to travel to Brisbane.

However, Cricket Australia maintains that the board has not heard anything from their Indian counterparts since both the BCCI and Queensland Health agreed upon the plans for the Gabba Test on December 29. The biosecurity protocols for both the SCG and Gabba Tests are identical, with players allowed to leave their rooms to see one another but not their hotels for anything other than training and playing at the respective grounds.

According to Fox Sports, no formal communication has taken place since December 29 from any of the four BCCI office bearers to Cricket Australia. The office bearers in addition to president Sourav Ganguly are: Jay Shah (Secretary), Arun Singh Dhumal (Treasurer), Mahim Verma (Vice-President), Jayesh George (Joint Secretary).

It comes after Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane on Wednesday said a decision would be left to officials, not players.

“We as players, we are just focusing on this Test match. The Indian team management, they will take the decisions,” Rahane said.

“For us as players, it’s all about giving our best on the field.”

“The Test match is starting tomorrow (Thursday) so we are just focusing on that and we want to do well.”

The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Gabba Test has led to tensions between the Indian and Australian camps with captain Tim Paine predicting

“It’s boiling away. There’s some stuff starting to happen, there’s a bit of chat starting to happen so I think this Test is going to be fascinating not just from a cricket point of view,” he said on Wednesday.

“There’s a bit of tension starting to boil under the surface with a lot of unnamed sources coming out from their camp saying where they want to play the fourth Test and where they don’t want to go. I think it’s starting to grind a few people so we’ll see how it goes.”

And in a move likely to further test the patience of Cricket Australia, Indian coach Ravi Shastri was photographed walking unmasked into the SCG on Wednesday.

Every player in the Indian squad wore masks in compliance with biosecurity measures but Shastri simply walked past security guards and into the team’s dressing room.

Oman gets approval from the ICC to host Test cricket in February 2021

The country of Oman is all set to host a two-Test series between Afghanistan and Zimbabwe in February. The matches will be played at Oman Cricket Academy Ground 1 after the International Cricket Council (ICC) granted approval. With this achievement, Oman will become the second nation in the Gulf region to stage a Test match.

So far, Test matches have been played in 22 nations across the world while 122 stadiums have hosted the traditional game. The first officially recognized Test match was played between Australia and England in Melbourne in March 1877.

Oman began as an affiliate member of the ICC in 2000 and gained Associate member status in 2014. The permission to host Test cricket can be considered as a major step forward for the country as far as cricket is concerned. The Khimjis, a well-known business family in Oman, happens to be the reason behind cricket thriving in the country. The chairman of Oman cricket is Kanak Khimji, a passionate cricket lover, and businessman.

Pankaj Khimji, the son of Kanak, who represents Oman in the ICC meetings, ensured that his country becomes a Test venue. Expressing his delight, he said: “To see Test cricket being played in Oman is a dream come true.” He went on to hail his father’s efforts in chasing a dream to bring Test cricket to Oman.

This news has lifted the spirit of cricket enthusiasts in Oman and their national team players. Speaking to, Chaitanya Khimji, former treasurer of the Oman Cricket, said: “Oman cricket will grow by leaps and bounds with this opportunity granted to them. Truly a momentous occasion and very happy that this is happening for cricketers and cricket supporters of Oman.”

Former Sri Lankan captain Duleep Mendis, who is the Chief Development Officer at Oman Cricket, thanked chairman Kanak Khimji and the board of directors for guiding Oman through tough times. The Oman Cricket Academy is one of the finest coaching facilities in the Gulf region and has unearthed many talented cricketers.  After the UAE, it is only Oman from the Gulf region and an associate nation that has Test, ODI, and T20 status.

Oman Cricket was presented the Best Cricket Development Programme Award for National Youth Development Project during the 2014 Asian Cricket Council Conference.
With Test cricket, One Day Internationals, and T20 Internationals to be held on this ground, cricket enthusiasts will be able to watch high-level cricket that is needed for the improvement of their game. Plans are on to boost the seating capacity at the ground before the historic first Test match.

In 2015, Oman created history by becoming the second cricketing nation from the Gulf to qualify for a World Cup event when they booked their place in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20. Madhu Jesrani, secretary of Oman Cricket, soon after this achievement, had said: “This historic achievement has happened on Oman’s Renaissance Day (which marks the anniversary of the Sultan’s ascension to the throne in 1970) and hence we dedicate our triumph to our ruler Sultan Qaboos and the government which has supported our efforts in a big way.”

The enthusiasm for cricket in Oman is so high that their national team may soon become a Test-playing country as well.

Rohit Sharma to open the batting at Sydney, confirms Ajinkya Rahane

After suffering a heavy defeat in Adelaide, Team India bounced back brilliantly in Melbourne to level the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. The visitors ruled the game with an in-form bowling attack and went on to defeat the Aussies by 8 wickets.

The two teams will collide once again on January 7 at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the third Test of the series. In what can be considered as a huge boost in morale for the Indian team, senior batsman Rohit Sharma was included in the squad ahead of the encounter. Sharma, who missed the first two Tests due to a hamstring injury, joined the team after serving a strict quarantine period of 14 days.

And now, stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane has confirmed that the explosive right-hander will not only be a part of the playing XI but will also open the innings.

Speaking about the same on the eve of the first Test, Rahane said “We are excited to have him back. Experience at the highest level. He had training session. He started training straightaway. Last couple of series, you saw Rohit opening the innings, so you will definitely see him at the top.”

Expressing his views on the bowling line-up that has been depleted due to injuries, Rahane said, “Umesh has been our main bowler. We will definitely miss him. It gives other guys to do well at the higher level. It is about the team, we will do well. The way Siraj stood up, was exceptional.”

There was controversy ahead of the New Year’s Test when five Indian players were spotted dining at an indoor restaurant in Melbourne. Though an investigation was carried out to determine whether the players breached the Covid-19 protocols, Rahane said that it has not affected the team’s preparations.

“Being in quarantine has its own challenges. As a team we are focusing on the game. Outside in Sydney, things are normal, but we are stuck in the hotel. It’s challenging, but we are just focusing on the game.”