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How Cardiff City’s relegation this time is different

One thing about championship teams is that they’re resilient. No matter what is thrown at them, no matter how deep the hole, they find a way to bounce back and overcome adversity.

— Nick Saban

Relegation really is a kick in the teeth. To be sent packing from the Premier League to the Championship is never fun, for lack of a better term, it sucks. This is the fate my team, Cardiff City, face after relegation from the Premier League with a battle that went right down to the wire and as a result get to enjoy a season in the Championship, oh what fun I cannot wait *holds back the tears*. The Championship however is far from a walk in the park with many quality teams competing in a packed fixture schedule with 46 games in a season with the ever exciting race for automatic promotion, the playoffs and relegation battles full of drama. The difficulty of the league is obvious with only 16 different teams managing to bounce straight back the season after relegation. The last time Cardiff were relegated we weren’t so lucky finishing 11th in our first season after relegation, 28 points behind champions, Bournemouth. However this time it feels a lot different, there’s optimism among fans and players that we can give the league a serious go this upcoming season gaining promotion again first time of asking. The odds are in our favour too with oddschecker currently having us third favourites overall to go up as champions. This post will outline some key differences to relegation last time around and how City fans can look forward to the upcoming season.

One of the key differences is the better quality of players we have. Players all over the pitch such as Neil Etheridge, Josh Murphy, Junior Hoilett, Bobby Decordova–Reid, Sean Morrison, Nathaniel Mendez–Laing and so on have already performed at a high level in the Championship (as well as last season) and no doubt in my mind they will do so again. Obviously the main thing will be keeping everyone at the club. Last time around saw a mass exodus of players such as captain Steven Caulker, Gary Medel and Craig Noone which damaged us badly. However if we manage to keep the majority of our stars then next season everything could be coming up Milhouse. Arguably one of our weaker areas on the pitch is midfield following some key exits at the end of last season however that’s being attended to. Signing Will Vaulks from Rotherham to bolster our midfield after the loans of Harry Arter and Victor Camarasa ended and Aron Gunnarsson joining Qatari team Al-Arabi (still not completely over that one 😞) it is an area that needs depth and improvement. Another midfielder or two through the door to go with the likes of Joe Ralls, Leandro Bacuna and Callum Paterson (who can play just about anywhere mind, don’t be too surprised if he plays a few games in goal before the end of the season) to partner a strong attack, a sturdy defence and quality keeper in Etheridge then we’ve got all we need for a promotion push.

Another key difference is the man in charge, Neil Warnock. Warnock is a veteran of the English Football League and is far more experienced than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who was in charge last time around with relegation. Ole was trusted with the job following the sacking of Malky Mackay starting the punderful #RevOLEution. Less than nine months, a relegation and some very questionable signings later, Solskjaer left City and the supposed revolution was over. Magnus Wolff Eikrem anyone? How about Jo Inge Berget? What about everybody’s favourite Federico Macheda? Jokes aside Solskjaer was there at completely the wrong time. He was hugely inexperienced and was his first time managing in the English Football League where he was given a seriously difficult task of trying to keep Cardiff up then the job of kick starting a promotion push, it just wasn’t meant to be. Neil Warnock however is the polar opposite. He has experience of the championship and English football overall, knows how it feels to be relegated and certainly knows how to push for promotion. Warnock holds the record of most promotions in English football with eight. Warnock has hinted that Cardiff could be his last job in football management and with this being the last year on his contract at City this could well be his retirement year. If so then he’ll want to go out with a bang, and no bang would be bigger than a ninth promotion.

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, there’s much more of a feeling of unity within the club compared to 5 years ago. There’s a closer fans/players relationship and a strong bond between fans and the manager. Fans are optimistic for the upcoming season and there is a belief among many that we can have a positive season and the players will believe it too. Last time there was divide between some of the board and fans as we were rebranded and playing in a red instead of the famous city blue. I still wake up in cold sweats at night thinking of the 0-2 loss at home to Brighton in the first promotion year when red scarves were given out to fans for free, dark times. However that is all in the past with the board and fans now on the same side looking forward to what the new season brings. There’s a strong feeling of togetherness and spirit at the club and it will show on the pitch. There’s a saying in boxing that ‘a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter’ meaning that a young fighter who’s happy and their morale is high is more proficient and dangerous in the ring, and Cardiff are definitely a happy fighter. Keeping morale and spirits high from the team and the fans will make City a force to be reckoned with in the Championship.

How the season will pan out nobody actually has a clue, unsurprisingly I can’t see into the future. I could read this back in six months’ time and cringe at how wrong I’ve got this or surprise myself of how accurate my predictions have been. Regardless it will be an exciting season filled with hopefully many ups, probably some downs and definitely a lot of questionable refereeing.

AFTV: Fans Views or Giving Toxicity a Platform?

Anyone who’s a football fan (and probably quite a few who aren’t) will know who AFTV are. For those who don’t, AFTV (formerly known as Arsenal Fan TV) are a channel on YouTube created and hosted by Robbie Lyle who create content about Arsenal football club. The videos that gain the most attention are the interviews they do after games with regulars often appearing such as Troopz, DT, Claude and Ty. I’ve known about it for a long time with the first video I ever saw of theirs was at the start of the 2013/14 season after the loss to Aston Villa on the opening day where a fan called Chris Hudson went on a rant about the result, board and poor transfer window (it’s mental how most of the points he made wouldn’t seem too out of place in an AFTV video now nearly 7 years on). The general perception towards AFTV for a while was just that of ‘meh’, nobody really cared too much but that’s beginning to change. With that I’m going to try and look at a few of the positives and negatives surrounding AFTV.

Disclaimer: This post is not a dig at Robbie, anyone who appears on the channel or AFTV themselves. It’s just a look at what the channel is and the arguments around whether they’re good for the club or not.

First of all, how the hell did AFTV get to where they are? They currently sit on 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube with those being Arsenal and rival fans alike. Their growth in the last few years has been insane, however if I had to pinpoint it to one moment where it started then it would be around December 2014 with the help of Twitter. Around this time was when the Wealdstone Raider and Andy Tate were blowing up across social media and some of the same people who were making parodies of them did so as well with AFTV personalities such as Claude, Chris Hudson and Ty. Whilst they never were as big as Andy Tate and the Wealdstone Raider, it still put Arsenal Fan TV (as it was known as at the time) on the map. In the next few years when you add in the introduction of fans to the channel such as Troopz and DT who were staunchly in the Wenger Out brigade and were seen on AFTV every week usually moaning about results, you then see this following develop where AFTV became the channel that it is today.

It’s important to take a look at the positives of AFTV to make a balanced argument and there are a few. Ultimately, it does what it says on the tin in that it’s a platform for Arsenal fans to express their views and opinions. It also gives supporters an opportunity to see what fellow fans are thinking and will most probably find somebody or a few people who share the same views as them. It’s also given some of the fans on there new opportunities to pursue careers online with YouTube. I’ve referenced them a few times already but the two most famous of the lot are probably Troopz and DT and this has shown with them starting their own YouTube channels. Were it not for AFTV giving them the platform that they do then it would’ve been much more difficult for them to build up the following that they’ve gained. One of the biggest criticisms that comes their way is that they profit off of negativity. But is that really their fault? They’ve been interviewing fans for years through ups and downs and because the last few seasons have been particularly naff then that doesn’t mean that they should just stop. It’s not their fault the players aren’t playing particularly well and they’ve been inconsistent. You can argue that they’re not profiting off negativity, they’re just profiting off Arsenal who happen to be having a pretty poor season so far.

However, there are definite negatives that come with AFTV. The strongest I believe is that there is a feeling of toxicity surrounding them. Especially towards the latter years of the Wenger era, a lot of fans with anti-Wenger narrative found themselves on the channel with some of the fans on there somewhat establishing themselves as the poster boys for the Wenger out brigade. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion however constantly slagging off the manager and players won’t go unnoticed by the club and will have a negative impact on morale. If you had a particularly bad few days at the office would you really be okay with people you’ve never met in your life shouting at a camera and saying you need to lose your job? Do me a favour. Many fans now are starting to get sick of them with some chanting at the Everton game “Arsenal Fan TV, get out of our club” with it also being picked up on the Sky cameras. The tide is starting to turn. There is a split starting to form amongst Arsenal fans as to whether is it really a good thing or not. There is also a feeling of this from some players with Hector Bellerin criticising them a few years back saying how it’s wrong for somebody to call themselves a fan yet thrive off negativity and criticism. Gary Neville has also criticised them in the past calling the channel an embarrassment. With a lot of the same faces coming on every week, there’s an argument to be made that the channel doesn’t really represent Arsenal at all. The minority of fans interviewed don’t reflect the views of all Arsenal fans in the slightest. Are you trying to tell me that every Arsenal fan on the planet wanted Wenger out or wants Mesut Ӧzil to be sold? Of course they don’t, yet there could be the perception that the majority of Arsenal fans think this because this is what’s mostly heard on AFTV. Many of the people who tune in to AFTV when Arsenal lose are fans of other teams. Not that there’s a huge problem with this, it’s just that at what point does is stop becoming content tailored for Arsenal fans? Other fans only watch it to take the mick when Arsenal play poorly so is it even for Arsenal fans anymore when the bigger market comes from elsewhere?

AFTV are going nowhere whether you like it or not. They’ve built an unbelievable internet empire and whether you love them or loathe them, you’ll probably find yourself at one time or another watching some of their content. They have essentially become the voice of Arsenal on the internet whether you perceive that to be a good thing or not. I’m not here to say whether it’s right or wrong, everyone’s entitled to their own opinions and who am I to say what people should or shouldn’t enjoy. It does make me wonder sometimes what would need to happen for AFTV to actually stop? Their presence cannot be ignored and whether you think it’s a good thing or not, they’re in for the long run and despite the potential toxicity that comes with it they’re not going anywhere.

Men’s Mental Health Within Sport

*TRIGGER WARNING* Will focus on serious and potentially upsetting content

This is going to be a much more serious post today but an incredibly important one nonetheless. There is a crisis regarding men’s mental health in today’s society. Every 60 seconds, a man somewhere around the world takes his life. Suicide remains to be the biggest killer in men under 50 and approximately 75% of suicides in the UK are male. Despite more men speaking out and talking when they’re struggling, it still remains a terrifying thing to do with many people scared of worrying friends, family, teammates and partners therefore deciding to keep their problems to themselves. With today being international men’s day and the middle of Movember, it felt it would be appropriate to take a closer look at men’s mental health within the world of sport.

Mental health within sport is not something that has always received attention with it often being overlooked or straight up ignored. With the traditional “stiff upper lip” mindset of past decades many men in sport suffering did not want to speak up in fear of looking weak therefore keeping their problems to themselves and suffering in silence. Many lived in fear of just being told to “man up” (a term I absolutely cannot stand) and unfortunately that is still the case today. One case of a sportsman battling mental illness and addiction in the 70s and 80s and keeping it to himself was George Best. Whilst being one of the most talented footballers of his time, Best struggled with issues of self-confidence, addiction and depression. He always wanted to be the best performer on the pitch and afterwards the best on the night out. John Neil Munro noted in his book When George came to Edinburgh that his wife knew when he was going through depressive episodes and unfortunately he would turn to drink to cope. This came at a time when there was little to no support networks within sport for those who were suffering from mental illness and addiction.

Today there is more of an effort made within sport from grassroots to the professional game to support those with mental illness. The UK charity Mind have been partnered with the English Football League for two seasons with their logo on the back of shirts by the players names. They also offer a course to those who work within sport be it coaches, administrators or volunteers across England and Wales on how to support those with mental illness. This year the English Institute of Sport launched a positive mental health programme for athletes should they require it. The programme has four steps where athletes can access support from the EIS or the British Athletics Commission, they’re then assessed by a doctor to determine the nature of the problem before being referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist and then receiving a programme of support. This kind of support and awareness from professional bodies is crucial in the fight against mental health. Although it is far from complete, this kind of support can be a trigger for other professional bodies to follow suit and offer the much needed support for people within sport. Former Arsenal captain and all-time footballing legend Tony Adams founded his own clinic called Sporting Chance which specialises in supporting sportsmen and women who are struggling following his own battles with mental illness and addiction. Ricky Hatton praised the clinic in his autobiography War and Peace as they know how to support athletes well through Adams’ experiences. This kind of support is vital as it’s people helping others within sport based on their own experiences and using their fame for a positive cause.

There has also been an increase in sports stars speaking out about their battles with mental illness. I recently read Ricky Hatton’s autobiography in which he talked about his battle with depression following his bouts with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. It was distressing to read about how he would self-harm and attempted to take his life but it’s incredibly important that he’s talked about it. It goes to show that you can be famous and have however much money but mental illness doesn’t discriminate. However he managed to come back through support from professionals. There’s nothing weak about asking for help and Hatton has proved that. Another pro who has been an advocate for mental health following his battles with addiction and mental illness is Lineal Heavyweight champion of the world, Tyson Fury. The world was his oyster following his famous win in Germany against Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 however he soon started to struggle badly with mental illness and alcohol and substance addiction. He’s said in interviews how he nearly took his own life but kept fighting for his family. A few years on and he’s back in the ring, he’s recently recorded a Christmas song with Robbie Williams and appeared at WWE’s Saudi Arabia event Crown Jewel in October 2019. This goes to show what great things can come when you seek help when you’re struggling. Fury and Hatton are two sporting heroes of mine and millions of others and showing the bravery they have to come out and talk about their struggles in the macho world of men’s boxing (and men’s professional sport in general) is exactly the engagement and awareness we need to prove that it’s ok not to be ok and to get help when you’re struggling.

So the next time one of the lads in the dressing room is particularly quiet, has missed a few training sessions or decides against coming for a drink after the game. The next time you’re out with your friends and one of them who’s usually always there hasn’t come along for an unexplained reason. If you notice somebody who you’re close to has been a bit distant and haven’t heard from them in a long time, please get them to speak before it’s too late. Just a quick “is everything ok mate?” text can make a world of difference and encourages them to talk and they know that you’re there for them. If you’re suffering then please tell somebody. I know it’s the last thing you want to do but communication is so important. Be it a friend, family member, partner, boss, teammate, helpline or GP, there are people who will listen and can help. You are important, you have worth, you are loved and are capable of incredible things. Please, speak up if you’re struggling and check in with your friends.

Here are the numbers for some mental health and suicide hotlines in various countries around the world. Samaritans (UK and IRE) – 116 123; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) – 1-800-2738255; Lifeline (Australia) – 13 11 14; Need to Talk? (NZ) – 1737; Suicide écoute (FRA) – 01 45 39 44 00; Samaritans ONLUS (ITA) – 800 86 00 22; Stitching 113Online (NED) – 0900 0113; Suicide Crisis Line (RSA) – 0800 567 567; Teléfono de la Esperanza (ESP) – 717 003 717

Japan: The Rugby Story of the Host Nation You Can’t Help But Love

The Rugby World Cup is well underway in Japan and despite the tournament being less than two weeks old it’s already shaping up to be a cracker. There have been brilliant performances from the big boys and a few surprises too from some of the second tier nations. Wales v Australia turned out to be an absolute classic and probably the game of the tournament so far, South Africa and New Zealand both impressed and looked strong in their Pool B opener on the first Saturday of the tournament, England impressed me against Tonga and the USA and Pool D minnows Uruguay recorded their first win in tournament history upsetting Fiji 27-30. Among all this, however, the hosts Japan have grabbed many headlines for all the right reasons. Not only did they beat the then number 1 ranked team in the world, Ireland, last Saturday in an incredible game they’ve also been outstanding hosts. They’re a team people can’t help but love and today’s post will look at a bit of the history of the game in Japan, rugby in the last few years and present day and why exactly do the neutrals love them.

Historically, rugby has never been too huge of a sport in Japan. It was played and followed but it’s popularity was probably in a bit of a middle ground when compared to other more followed sports such as sumo, football, baseball and tennis. Rugby was given a poor reputation by the Japanese government in the lead up to the Second World War and was heavily criticised during the war by the fascist Imperial Rule Assistance Association. The IRAA deemed the sport to be too foreign and gave it the name tokyu meaning fighting ball. Many Japanese rugby players died during the war however following its end it saw a rather quick recovery. The sport began to grow in popularity during the 1960s, 70s and 80s with various tours and matches abroad. England went on tour to Japan 1971 in the centenary year of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Japan toured Wales, England and France in 1973. The tour of 1973 went rather poorly playing 11 games and losing 9. Japan have qualified and played in every World Cup since the first tournament in 1987 and hold the record of most Asia Rugby Championship wins with 25.

So all of that takes us to present day. That fantastic famous Saturday afternoon in Brighton seems like only yesterday when Japan rocked the rugby world by beating two time World Cup winners South Africa 32-34 at the Amex Stadium back in September 2015. The term gets thrown around a lot but it was honestly a result nobody saw coming and is arguably the biggest rugby upset of all time. It was at this point Japan began to win the hearts and support of rugby fans everywhere regardless of where they were from. Despite winning 3 group games and losing 1 they ended up finishing third in their group therefore were harshly knocked out (Scotland finished in front of them as they had 2 bonus points). They’re now the first Asian country to host the World Cup which is incredible considering in most of Asia rugby isn’t as popular or followed as much as other sports. They started the tournament against Russia and whilst got off to a shaky start the rest of their performance was strong. Their pace and tempo in which they attacked tired the Russians out quickly and won 30-10. Last Saturday there came another World Cup upset in which they beat Ireland in a modern day classic and what was a seriously feel good moment and a result they deserved. With Japan now on course to win their group and make it to the Quarter Finals for the first time, providing no major slip ups and all results go as planned in Pool A and Pool B then a date with South Africa awaits. Whilst it would be an immensely difficult task, we all know what happened the last time they met at the World Cup.

I believe there are many reasons behind Japan becoming a fan favourite but a big part of it is their style of play. Their attack is strong and they’re an incredibly fast team going forward. The opener against Russia showed how they can tire teams out with their style of play and the win against Ireland showed how persevering they are. They kept playing at a high tempo even at the end and wouldn’t give up. As a team they won’t stop going until the final whistle and it’s almost as if they refuse to tire out. If they play with the same quality and tempo they did in their opening two games in their final two then it will spell disaster for Scotland and Samoa. Samoa are a massive team in size and are incredibly physical and strong, however I believe the quick Japanese style will tire them and be too much to handle. Scotland are better suited to Japan’s style of quick attacking play and have the advantage of playing them last. Despite this, in my opinion it would be a monumental ask from Scotland to get a result against Japan purely because of the quality of the Japanese side. What’s gone down well aside from the performances is the manor in which the team, fans and the country as a whole have held themselves off the pitch. The Japanese team and fans have been respectful and friendly which goes a far way in all aspects of sport. The hospitality shown during the tournament has drawn praise from many professionals and fans alike and it is something the people of Japan can be proud of. It’s been an incredible World Cup on and off the field brining many new eyes to the sport and the game will only grow in Japan from here on in.

The days of losing 145-17 to New Zealand are long gone and with the way Japanese rugby has grown in the last few years and their performances in this World Cup the only way is up from here. If the remaining month of the tournament is anywhere as exciting and entertaining the last two weeks then it will one that will be talked about for a long time.

KSI vs Logan Paul 2: The Internet Stars Going Pro

So this is bound to divide opinion. It was announced on Tuesday the 3rd of September that the boxing rematch between YouTube stars KSI (real name Olajide Olatunji) and Logan Paul will take place on the 9th of November in the Staples Centre, Los Angeles, following their first bout which took place in Manchester last August ending in a majority draw. What has arguably grabbed headlines the most however is the fact that both men are turning professional and the fight is being promoted by Matchroom Boxing and is to be broadcast live on streaming service DAZN. This time there will be no headguards and is taking place as a professional boxing match with strong rumours of big name professional stars fighting on the undercard. To say the response to this ambitious move has been varied would be an understatement with some fans calling the event an absolute shambles and others saying how it will actually do more good for the sport of boxing than people might think. Both arguments are fair and people rightfully feel excited or frustrated about the event, therefore I’m going to take a look at what are the positives and negatives of the internet’s biggest rivalry turning professional.

First of all, a look at the positive sides of the argument. When the pair met in late August 2018 the fight was broadcast on a YouTube pay per view system with a set price of $10 (or around £8). On fight night over 1 million people bought the fight and around 1.2 million people watched the event on illegal streams on streaming website Twitch making it the most watched non-professional boxing match of all time. To put the PPV buys into perspective, Tyson Fury vs Deontay Wilder made around 400,000 buys, Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz Jr was somewhere between the 400,000–500,000 buy mark and the second fight between Carl Froch and George Groves generated around 350,000 purchases . From a business point of view, it makes perfect sense to make the fight a professional bout as it’s bound to bring in a large viewing audience. The interest is obviously there and I imagine it will do huge viewing figures on fight night. Also, look at it for what it actually is. It’s two fighters making their professional boxing debuts. They’re both licensed pro fighters and this will be their first professional bout and what an audience to make your debut. The last bout had a bit of a professional feel to it in the build up with a “Gloves Are Off” special interview hosted by Johnny Nelson, two “press conferences” in Los Angeles and London (they weren’t much of press conferences though, more shouting matches) and a weigh-in the day before fight night. The only thing missing was the fact it wasn’t a professional bout however this time it is. Most importantly, this could bring a whole new audience to the sport of boxing. With the rumours of a strong undercard featuring the exciting Devin Haney and Billy Joe Saunders defending his WBO Super–Middleweight title (nothing should surprise me in boxing anymore but, what?!?!?!) this could see a new wave of fans drawn to the sport and even inspire some to take up boxing. Hopefully, this event will bring many new eyes to the sport.

However, there are many good reasons to argue why this shouldn’t be a professional bout. The main argument is purely, why? Yes it’s going to make a lot of money but business aside, why do it? I’m 1 million percent sure that no other YouTubers will be fighting on the card or commentating on the live broadcast which was part of the draw for their target audience last time. By putting KSI and Logan as the headliner but having huge names like Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney on the undercard (I still can’t get my head around Billy Joe possibly on an undercard for any fight, let alone this one) there is no way any celebrities or YouTube stars are getting anywhere near the card. Furthermore, it could make for a bit of a strange atmosphere come fight night. You’ll get people in attendance there only for KSI and Logan whilst not caring in the slightest about the undercard and others who will be there for Billy Joe or Haney and couldn’t care less about the main event. Both of which is damaging to the professionals on the undercard and the main event. The system they used for their previous bout (and the KSI–Joe Weller fight before that) by having other YouTubers on the card in non-professional fights and YouTube stars True Geordie and Laurence McKenna on commentary worked perfectly fine for their target audience. This time however I think it’s a bit ambitious to make it a professional bout if other YouTube stars involved in previous events was part of the attraction and that’s being taken away. If the rumours are true (and it looks like they are) that Billy Joe Saunders and Devin Haney are on the undercard then, in my opinion, that’s just a strange move. Saunders is a world champion and could easily headline a PPV on his own and Haney is probably 1 or 2 fights away from Vasyl Lomachenko, are these really the fighters you need on the undercard? I get that having them on the undercard would make the event seem even bigger than it already is, however if over 1 million people bought it last time is there need to make these fights on the undercard when there’s already a huge following for the bout? If professional fights are being put on the undercard, then why not use this opportunity to promote some young fighters to a big audience? The fight has not been received too well by some hardcore boxing fans with it being described as disrespectful, a farce and a mockery of the sport. The main frustration is that there are countless pros who have worked tirelessly for years and would give an arm and a leg to get where KSI and Logan are in terms of headlining at an arena like the Staples Centre yet they’re doing it in their professional debuts. Whilst a valid point, they’ve established a huge following and regardless of where the fight was held it was always going to sell out. Some fear that this could be the catalyst for a trend of celebrities and reality stars turning professional without too much background in the sport just for the money. Again, whilst a valid point, professional governing bodies would need to approve for them to turn professional and personally I don’t see it happening if too many applied to turn pro after little/no previous fights.

It was always going to bring controversy. Who knows what’ll happen come fight night, there’s no doubt it will be a success business wise but the response and aftermath will be mixed to say the least. However one thing is for certain, it will completely rock the landscape of boxing and will change the sport on a huge scale for better or worse.

Bury FC’s D-Day: An example of all that’s wrong in English football

As of today, the 23rd of August 2019, Bury football club stand of the brink of expulsion from the English Football League due to financial issues. They have been in financial crisis since owner, Steve Dale, bought the club in December 2018 and now are staring expulsion in the eye if nobody comes forward to buy the club in the next few hours. Dale has turned down multiple offers in the last month with fans begging him to sell up and save their club. This unfortunately encapsulates everything that is wrong with modern football. Situations like what’s happening at Bury prove that the soul of football is being completely torn out, club by club by toxic owners. It would be a tragedy to see such a historic club like Bury fold because of financial issues and an owner who won’t put his ego aside and just sell up. In what’s more of a sombre post, today I’m taking a look at the sad case of Bury FC and a few other clubs on how this unfortunately is a problem in English football that is far too common.

For a bit of history and context, Bury FC are a League 1 football team founded in 1885 based in Bury, Greater Manchester. They’ve won the FA Cup twice in 1900 and 1903 (holding the joint record for the biggest win in the final, beating Derby 6-0) and won promotion last season from League 2, the Fourth tier in English football’s top 4 leagues. However it came to light in April 2019 that players and staff had not been paid their March salaries on time as well as HMRC claiming the club needed to pay around £277,000. With the club needing to sell up for around £1.6 million in all to pay off all their debts, Steve Dale set up a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) where those associated with the club would receive their money owed whilst others who needed money (HMRC etc.) would receive 25%. This however is deemed as insolvency in the eyes of the EFL meaning they were deducted 12 points before the start of the new season. After the EFL concluded that Bury had insufficient funds to keep the club alive and pay the CVA, they’ve been given the deadline of the 23rd of August to accumulate the funds or face expulsion from the Football League. Which unfortunately brings us to today. The club have only a few hours left to attract a new buyer or they’ll be kicked out if the football league. This is a heart-breaking scenario which no fan or club should ever have to go through, this is not what football’s about.

However this is not too uncommon in the English game with other clubs experiencing similar fates in the past or the present. Bolton Wanderers are going through a similar situation with the club going into administration in May of this year with a huge debt and recently postponed their game against Doncaster Rovers which was due to be played on the 20th of August. Players gave a statement in July that nobody had been paid by the owner, Ken Anderson, for nearly 20 weeks with non-player staff having to rely on food banks. They also had no drinking water at their training ground or hot water in their showers. Bolton, like Bury, began the season with a twelve point deduction due to their administration status. Their future is unknown having to field young players this season with many senior team players leaving in the summer transfer window and no incomings. The same situation has happened at clubs such as Portsmouth, Blackpool, Coventry, Sunderland, Charlton, Newcastle and many others, I could list clubs that have been horribly run all day. Clubs with big histories with incompetent owners who are doing far more harm than good with some of the mentioned ending up going into administration and severe financial issues. Some of the clubs mentioned have managed to make positive changes with the Oyston family finally selling Blackpool and Ellis Short selling Sunderland to a consortium led by Stewart Donald, these are huge catalysts in the need for change in clubs with toxic owners. Maybe this can give hope to other clubs that positive change can happen and it isn’t over until it’s truly over.

As a football fan, it breaks my heart to see that a community could have their club ripped away from them. Football is about fans. It’s about following your team through the highest of highs and the most devastating lows. It’s about the midweek losses on a freezing winter’s night in the pouring rain so the good times feel even better. A parent taking their child to the football for the first time and the look on their face seeing their team, creating a memory that will last forever. The pies, cups of tea, bovril and lukewarm pints of lager in squashy plastic cups. Fans standing and chanting all game, questionable refereeing, becoming enemies with the away team and fans for 90 minutes then friends after the final whistle (unless it’s a local derby, obviously). The big derbies and rivalries, getting drawn against a huge club in the cup and possibly causing an upset by beating them. The last minute winners, the limbs and unforgettable scenes, celebrating with the person stood next to you who you’ve never met before but that doesn’t matter because you’ve both got one important thing in common, the love for your club. It’s making friends and creating fond memories all in the name of football and supporting your team. Is that something you honestly want to take away, Steve Dale? Football isn’t just a game, it’s so much more than that for the reasons mentioned and so many more. I’d hate to see my club in such a state which makes it always a tragedy whenever it happens to any football club, especially one like Bury with such a huge and important history. Today the footballing world stand with Bury in hope that an agreement can be made and the club will be saved, to see Bury fold would not only be a dark day in the history of Bury FC or the EFL but to football as a whole.

Ruiz v Joshua 2: Saudi Arabia showdown. Yay or nay?

After what’s felt like forever since the first fight and nearly 10 weeks of negotiations, the highly anticipated rematch of Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua for the WBA Super, WBO and IBF world heavyweight titles has been finally announced for December 7th. Since the upset at Madison Square Garden which rocked the boxing world with Ruiz dethroning Joshua as unified champion, fans and fighters alike have been talking about the rematch. What they wouldn’t have predicted, however, is that it would be held in Diriyah, a town just North West of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh. First of all, what? It’s come as a surprise to many with weeks of confusion surrounding where the rematch would be held, Cardiff seemed to be the front runner for a while or a trip back to the States but not many would’ve predicted Saudi Arabia. I would’ve guessed Antarctica before Saudi Arabia but maybe it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise with Amir Khan recently fighting in Jeddah and the World Boxing Super Series Super Middleweight tournament final being held there also. I try to keep my posts as unbiased as possible, even if this one might be a bit trickier, and I’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons as to whether a fight this big should be held in Saudi Arabia.

First up the pros, and whilst it may seem tricky to see some there are definitely a few. Saudi Arabia is a completely new market for boxing and could become a popular place for the sport in years to come. As previously mentioned, Callum Smith beat George Groves in Jeddah to win the Super Middleweight edition of the World Boxing Super Series in September 2018 and Amir Khan recently beat Billy Dib also in Jeddah for the WBC International Welterweight title (even if it was a bit of a strange show, I honestly didn’t know Samuel Peter was still fighting until he took on Hughie Fury on the undercard). Other sporting events have also been held in Saudi Arabia in recent years such as Formula-E (with Diriyah set to be the opening race of the 2019/20 season in November this year), WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble, Crown Jewel and Super Showdown shows and the Saudi International golf tournament. It’s no surprise that Saudi Arabia have the capability to hold big sporting events that locals and tourists will enjoy. All this is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 project where Saudi Arabia are trying to become less dependent on their oil as a mean to grow their economy and the entertainment sector has had over $2 billion invested in order to hold such events. For the points mentioned, the bout that’s being dubbed “Clash on the Dunes” could be fantastic for Saudi Arabia in terms of the future of boxing and sport (even though they’ve missed a golden opportunity by not calling it “Rowdy in Saudi” like I suggested on twitter, come on Matchroom you know it makes sense) and there’s no doubts it’ll be just as exciting as the first bout.

However there are obvious cons and some grey areas about holding a fight this big in Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest is that it’s a huge risk. Yes big fights have been held in Saudi Arabia before and there’s a potentially huge market there but is it worth the risk? A Ruiz–Joshua rematch could easily sell out any stadium or arena in the UK or the USA however with the rumours both parties wanted it on neutral ground it definitely would’ve sold out stadiums in a neutral European venue such as Italy, Germany or France, so why risk it in a place where the sports and entertainment industry is still developing? It could also make it more of a difficult sell for British fans to travel to support Joshua considering Saudi Arabia used to be an incredibly difficult country to travel to. British fans have a history of supporting British fighters abroad creating a fantastic atmosphere following the likes of Ricky Hatton, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua himself for the first Ruiz fight. It’s much easier now to get into Saudi Arabia with tourist visas available for the first time however they come at a price. Fans would probably have to get a “Sharek” visa (visa specific for sports and entertainment events) which costs around $170 which is pretty expensive compared to the $14 it costs for Brits to get an esta to enter the US. The closest major city to Diriyah is the capital, Riyadh, which is anything but a cheap date when it comes to nice hotels, restaurants and shops. Add in the ticket price (although apparently a visa will be included with it) and flights it’ll get expensive quite quickly. Considering Christmas will only be 18 days away from fight night it’s highly possible that fans won’t want to spend big so soon to the holidays and give the trip a miss. Also just this morning, Andy Ruiz Jr said on Instagram that apparently the fight isn’t taking place in Saudi Arabia but on his terms in the United States. Great. So we will probably have the Heavyweight Champion of the World fighting in a neutral location begrudgingly in his first defence of his titles, what fun. America would be a safe bet as Ruiz never really wanted to fight in the UK and it would be a brilliant second chance for AJ to re-introduce himself to the US market, however Saudi Arabia is where it’s happening.

Overall, this will change the boxing landscape forever. It’ll either establish Saudi Arabia as a serious competitor in the boxing world and could see many future huge fights over there or it’ll be a case of too much too soon. Politics and debates aside, this will be an incredible fight with everything on the line. The last one was exciting and full of drama and this one will be no different. Joshua and Ruiz will make huge statements by getting a win, however the winner won’t be able to get too carried away as a bout with WBO mandatory Oleksandr Usyk will be looming in the not too distant future.

Premier League Transfer Window: Who were the biggest winners and losers?

The transfer window slammed shut yesterday for Premier League and Championship clubs before the Premier League season kicking off tonight with Champions of Europe, Liverpool taking on newly promoted and last season’s Championship winners Norwich City. A crazy amount of money was spent in the Premier League this window and especially in the top 6 with the likes of Harry Maguire, Nicolas Pepe and Tanguy Ndombele going for huge fees. What would be more original to celebrate the upcoming season than a graded list, this time Premier League transfer window edition. I’ll have a look through the main winners and losers of this summer’s window and why they deserve to be where they are. I’m only grading teams based on their transfer activity this summer and not how good they are full stop, even though there are some big teams in the “losers” category it’s quite obvious they’ll still have good seasons because of the quality they already have. These are just my opinions and I’m sorry if I think your club have had a poor window, I’m not trying to offend anyone it’s just the way I think the window has gone.

Winners

Arsenal: £45 million budget? Do me a favour. North London won this transfer window and Arsenal really played their part. They managed to identify weak spots in the team (most notably in defence and on the wing) and answered those problems impressively. Record signing Nicolas Pepe will be an incredible signing and playing with the likes of Mesut Ӧzil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre–Emerick Aubameyang will only get better. Arsenal have definitely one of the top 3 strongest attacks in the league. Defence needed improvement and arguably it still does. However with the additions of David Luiz and Kieran Tierney on Deadline Day and William Saliba returning from his loan from Saint Etienne next season, a young back four of Bellerin– Saliba – Holding – Tierney from next year onwards with Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles in the mix is a big improvement. I predict a good season from Arsenal finishing back in the top 4 and a desperately needed Champions League place after 3 years in Europa.

Tottenham: I said North London won the transfer window and Tottenham played as big a part in that as Arsenal. Tanguy Ndombele will most definitely strengthen the team and fill the Moussa Dembele hole in midfield that’s been quite obvious since his departure. Captures of Giovanni Lo Celso on loan from Real Betis and Ryan Sessegnon for £25 million from Fulham will only improve the team. Lo Celso will bring creativity to the squad regardless but will play an even more prominent role if Christian Eriksen leaves before the European window slams shut (I personally think he’ll end up at Real Madrid). Spurs fans will probably be disappointed they didn’t get a deal done for Paulo Dybala but honestly after the problems with personal terms with Man United earlier in the window maybe it’s a blessing in disguise that it didn’t happen. New signings added with big names such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son should (should is the key word there, never underestimate Tottenham to make things go pear shaped.. much like Arsenal) see Spurs have a good season.

Aston Villa: Hey big spender! Where on earth did that window come from? Villa spent roughly a staggering £130 million on players and fair play to them. Tyrone Mings will bring quality and experience to the defensive line after he impressed last season for them on loan. Tom Heaton is a brilliant signing for The Villans, he’s a fantastic goalkeeper and really impressed me during his time at Burnley. I really like the captures of Matt Targett, Trezeguet and Wesley whilst signing Jota from bitter rivals Birmingham made me laugh. I enjoy signings like that, you love to see it. With their quality already there with the likes of Jack Grealish, John McGinn and Jonathan Kodjia, my prediction is a strong season for Villa and a mid-table finish.

Everton: Wow okay, I didn’t see Everton having a window as strong as they did. Signing Andre Gomes from Barcelona after his loan last season was impressive enough but the Toffees weren’t finished there. They rocked the football world by signing Juventus youngster Moise Kean on a permanent deal for an undisclosed fee, rumoured to be around the £27 million mark. And if that wasn’t enough, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi joined after a last minute bid of around £35 million was accepted on Deadline Day. A young front 3 of Iwobi, Kean and Richarlison can cause havoc to any Premier League defences with a barrage of quality midfielders behind them. With these signings and an already quality team, this could be the year Everton break back into the top 6 and get a European spot.

Losers

Chelsea: If North London is where the Transfer Window was won then South West London is where it was lost. Yes they had a transfer ban and it’s harsh to rag on Chelsea too much when they couldn’t do anything about it but it’s not as if they really helped themselves with outgoings. Granted, they signed Mateo Kovacic making his loan deal from Real Madrid permanent (it was part of the original agreement) and Christian Pulisic is coming back from his loan at Borussia Dortmund, but outgoings made it a poor window for Chelsea. Selling star man Eden Hazard paired with the ban means they couldn’t bring in anyone of his quality as a replacement and they’ll miss him big time. The loss of Alvaro Morata to Atletico Madrid and David Luiz to Arsenal means they’re a striker and defender down to no response. Whilst some Chelsea fans will be happy to see the back of Morata, it’s far from ideal to lose a big name whilst serving a transfer ban. Don’t get me wrong, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi and Tammy Abraham are all good strikers but they’re not quite in the category of the League’s best attackers. I still think Chelsea will have a decent season but they’ve had a less than decent transfer window.

Man United: The blue side of Manchester won big in the window, the red side not so much. It seems a bit strange putting United here after signing two certain first team starters in Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and a possible starter in Dan James, but the general consensus surrounding United is just it was a bit of a meh window. I personally don’t think it was anywhere near as bad as some have made out though. You can’t spend roughly £145 million and have a bad window, it just can’t happen, however key areas were left out and it’s making some United fans feel a bit deflated. They really needed another midfielder, especially if Pogba end up moving abroad, and Bruno Fernandes or Milinkovic–Savic (if not both) would’ve been ideal. Romelu Lukaku leaving for Inter isn’t great but a lot of United fans seem happy enough that he’s gone, but not replacing him with a big name will hurt them in my opinion. I think they’ll have an ok season, fairly similar to last year, but feeling like they could’ve done a lot more. Much like their business in the transfer window.

Norwich: Norwich were talk of the town in the championship for most of last season and rightly so. They played some great football on their way to becoming champions and winning promotion. However it doesn’t take away from the fact that in my opinion they’ve had a fairly poor window. Getting Schalke keeper Ralf Fahrmann on loan and Josip Drmic on a free from Borussia Monchengladbach are great bits of business but they’ve not done too much else. I feel as if they’re just a bit underprepared in terms of incomings and aren’t quite ready for a Premier League season. I could be completely wrong and their stars of last season could be incredible in the Premier League too but I just don’t see it happening. Their fairly poor performance in the window could begin to show with a difficult season. I hope I’m wrong because I don’t mind Norwich and I’m a big fan of Teemu Pukki and admire what Daniel Farke has done at the club, I just don’t see them doing too much this year and haven’t done enough in the window.

Burnley: All things considered, Burnley have had a poor window. Danny Drinkwater and Jay Rodriguez stand out as their best signings and they’re not bad additions. Drinkwater is a Premier League and FA Cup winner and Jay Rodriguez is a great striker who I’m a fan of but that’s the only positions where they’ve really strengthened. The problem is they’ve not added much at all to a side that struggled a bit last season. Losing Tom Heaton really won’t help as they lack depth in the goalkeeping position. Sure they’ve got Joe Hart as backup to Nick Pope but it starts to thin out a bit past Hart. For a team that struggled last season I would’ve thought they would’ve got more players in to ensure they could not only finish mid table but possibly push for a top 8 finish. Maybe they’ll perform better this season without a confidence knock from a Europa League third round qualifying exit but I see them having a similar season this year to last, staying up because there are teams worse than them but finishing in the bottom half of the table.

Is America’s Game about to get a bit more British?

In just less than 5 weeks’ time the NFL will kick off its centurion season with all 32 teams hoping their roads will lead to Miami for Super Bowl LVI. The current favourites with the bookies are reigning champions the New England Patriots with Belichick’s men hoping to win a record breaking 7th Lombardi Trophy beating their current tied record of 6 (shared with the Pittsburgh Steelers). Other strong contenders consist of last year’s runners up the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints but there are plenty of teams who fancy themselves as dark horses and can cause trouble for anybody in the NFL such as the Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears or the Philadelphia Eagles (Go Birds!!). Football is undoubtably America’s game but could it be about to get a bit more British within the next few years? By that I don’t mean half time tea and scone breaks or saluting a picture of Hugh Grant before every game but there have been strong rumours of a potential London franchise and the rumours have only been getting stronger recently. I’m personally dead against a London franchise but I’m going to try and keep this as unbiased as possible. This post will take a look at potential strengths of a London team whilst also acknowledging the obvious problems that would come with it.

First off the good aspects of a London franchise and although I’m against it, there are fairly strong and obvious arguments. More than anything, a London team will bring more British eyes to the sport and get more people interested. Support for the NFL has skyrocketed in recent years and that’s obvious with the annual London Games. A clear example shows in 2016 when over 84,000 fans were in attendance at Wembley to see the Washington Redskins draw 27–27 with the Cincinnati Bengals. To put that in comparison to football for non-NFL fans, that’s probably the equivalent of 84,000 American Premier League fans turning up to see Burnley vs Brighton (statement’s fully open to argument, just my take). The numbers don’t lie, the NFL has a strong British fanbase and a team on their doorstep would only grow support from current non-NFL fans. It could also give UK fans who don’t support a specific team a reason to follow one. With a team closer to home it could make them feel more connected than they would following a team that plays stateside. It could also lead to a surge in British youngsters deciding they’d like to take up the sport and with the opening of an NFL academy in London could lead to more talented British players in the NFL. There are arguments for a London franchise, however it doesn’t mean that there are still a few problems that could arise with it and strong arguments against.

One of the strongest arguments against a London Franchise is just simply, why? Yes there’s a huge following for the NFL in the UK and that’s shown with annual London Games but does that really warrant a franchise to be born? To put it into comparison, let’s take the Barclays Premier League. According to Nielsen (used in a December 2018 Forbes article), 39.3 million Americans followed the Premier League in the 2017/18 season. That is a huge amount of support but would the Premier League ever agree to relocate a team Stateside or even start a new one because of the market? Of course not. Granted it would be a lot more difficult as the NFL has no relegation rule like in English football but you catch my drift. A branch out so ambitious would never happen in another sport despite a strong following from abroad so why treat the NFL any different. Also, I doubt highly any British fans would stop supporting their own adopted teams to start following a London team instead. As previously mentioned, I’m an Eagles fan and despite the fact most seasons are frustrating to say the very least (apart from the masterclass in the 2017 season which won us Super Bowl LII, forever in debt to that squad) there’s no chance I’d ever stop following them for a side closer to home because they’re my team. There would also probably be a bit of confusion surrounding the future of the London games. It’s possible that they would come to an end full stop which would be a big shame but with a London team playing in the capital regularly arguments would rise as to would there really be need for them with an existing UK franchise.

There’s also some tricky logistics surrounding a London team, most notably the cost of it all. The cost to send the rosters over for the London games can cost upwards of $200,000 without shipping equipment and other items. Costs would be huge for teams playing on the road to ship everything to the London and for a UK team to play Stateside. Training facilities could be an issue as there are no NFL level training facilities as of yet in the UK which could be used for an entire regular season meaning a large amount of money would have to be invested in order to build a new training ground. Costs would also be high for travelling fans to follow their team if they ended up playing on the road in London. Whilst a trip to London could be part of the novelty and a pull factor for American fans to see their team play on the road, it would be far from cheap which could put people off. The same is true about fans of a London franchise following them when they’re playing in the States meaning attendance for road games could be quite poor. One of the main questions surrounding a UK team is who would likely end up getting relocated for it to happen. The strongest rumour is that the Jacksonville Jaguars would move in order for the London franchise to happen. Jacksonville’s attendance has been slightly less on average than the TIAA Bank Field’s capacity with a 66,674 average for a 67,164 seater stadium for the 2018 season. Whilst that’s still a good attendance for the stadium’s size, it doesn’t really compare to the record 85,870 fans at Wembley who saw the Jaguars lose to the Eagles in October 2018. Whilst the rumour at the moment is the Jags don’t be surprised if it’s their central Floridian counterparts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who end up getting relocated. Their average attendance last season was only over 54,000 which is pretty naff for a stadium with the capacity of over 65,000. The owners of the Bucs and the Jags having a pretty strong knowledge of the UK sport market with their other investments (the Jaguars being owned by Fulham owner Shahid Khan and the Glazer family owning the Buccaneers and Manchester United) and with three franchises currently in Florida, don’t be too surprised if the Jaguars or Buccaneers get relocated. Whilst relocation is all too familiar for some fanbases such as the Chargers, Rams and soon the Raiders, it’s unfortunately part of the game making it even more of a kick in the teeth.

It’s fair to say that there won’t be a British franchise in the NFL within the next couple of years. However I personally think it will happen in the not too distant future. It’ll give UK fans a chance to see more live football and would result in more money for the relocated franchise with higher attendances (if it is the Jags or Bucks, I don’t see too much in the Bills rumours). If it does happen it will undoubtably be the most ambitious move in professional top level sport and will change the game forever.

The Popularity of American Sports in the UK and its Future

Christ it’s been a long time since the last post, sorry about that. I’ve been on holiday twice since I last posted and it’s been a pretty mental few weeks but we’re back. So, what’s happened in the meantime? Boris Johnson has been chosen as the new Prime Minister (eugh) and Europe are in the middle of a massive heatwave (less scary way of saying that the world is slowly dying). In the world of sport, England won the cricket world cup on the same day Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in an unbelievable game of tennis for the Wimbledon crown. Irish golfer Shane Lowry won his first major, The Open Championship, held at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, many congrats Shane (I mean he’ll never read this but still, well done champ). Dubois vs Gorman lived up to expectation with Daniel Dubois making one hell of a statement with his knockout win, I’d personally love to see him fight Joe Joyce next. Another exciting fight has since been announced where #1 pound for pound king and current WBA super, WBO and Ring lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko takes on 2012 gold medal British Olympian Luke Campbell for the previously mentioned titles and the vacant WBC crown at the O2  in London (that is definitely getting its own post soon). And last (but not least), the USA women’s national team won their fourth world cup after beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final.

And that sort of brings me to today’s topic, American sport. Whilst the USWNT winning the World Cup is an unbelievable achievement, football (or soccer) still isn’t too big of a game in the States with gridiron football (NFL), basketball and baseball being their most popular. And with this popularity has seen a rise in interest in these sports in the UK recently with many Brits supporting teams from those three sports I’ve mentioned (I only really follow the NFL and the Philly Eagles are my team. Go Birds!). Today I’m going to take a look at how popular the NFL, NBA and the MLB are in the UK and what it could mean for the future for the sport.

First off, football. British fans have been following the game for years and it’s popularity is only increasing. Since the London Games have started in 2007 more Brits have been drawn towards the sport and that popularity has shown with the increase of games held in the capital. This year, 4 games will be held in London (2 at Wembley and 2 at Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground) which is a joint record of games played in London tied with 2017. The attendance has been incredible over the years with on average a record 85,000 fans attending each game in 2018 according to statistics from Wembley Stadium. There are a number of British born players currently playing in the NFL including Superbowl 52 winner Jay Ajayi, Jack Crawford, Jermaine Eluemunor and Graham Gano. There are also some former British rugby players at NFL teams including former Worcester Warriors lock Christian Scotland–Williamson who’s now contracted to the Pittsburgh Steelers and former Wasps winger Christian Wade who recently signed with the Buffalo Bills. Whilst either are yet to play, they will most definitely bring more eyes from Britain onto the sport as people will have known them from their rugby careers. The future of the NFL will only be a positive one in the UK. With the popularity of the London games I can see possibly more games being held over here and possibly even in other parts of the country. World class stadiums like Old Trafford in Manchester or even the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff have held huge sporting events and would see huge attendances. The announcement of the NFL London Academy in May 2019 means more British born players will be seen in the league in years to come and that the interest here is huge. There have even been rumours of a London franchise being created, but those are just rumours as of yet, let’s see what happens there (my views on this fairly meh idea will be saved for another post). Gridiron football is already huge in the UK and with the points mentioned it will only get bigger.

Like football, basketball also has a following in the UK. The NBA also have regular season games held in London with the first held back 2011. However, differently to the NFL the London games are not a series per se as games in the regular season are held “globally” rather than England exclusively. However the “global games” in the regular season most recently have only been held in the UK and Mexico. What differs Basketball from American Football is that a British Basketball League exists with 12 teams competing. Whilst the league is not watched as much as the NBA (nor is it anywhere as big) it still shows that there is a market for basketball in the UK and that it’s a sport that’s supported. Some British fans worry for the future of the sport in the UK as the NBA announced they’d only be holding one global game in Europe in the 2020 season and that’ll be held in Paris. Rightly fans are anxious about what the future holds however I personally believe that the NBA can have a bright future in the UK. The opening of an academy would give young British basketball players the chance to develop further at a high level and to follow in the footsteps of past British born stars such as Ben Gordon and Luol Deng and present players such as OG Anunoby who plays for current NBA champions the Toronto Raptors. The NBA is followed strongly in the UK and there is no doubt in my mind it can get even bigger, however it would mean taking the same steps as the NFL in securing big success in the UK.

Lastly, baseball. A sport which has seen little interest in the UK but it looks as if that could all be about to change. A baseball league system does exist in the UK however it’s not too popular with cricket being the main batting sport (Ben Stokes for Prime Minister after his display in the World Cup final, Jofra Archer as his deputy). In June 2019, the first ever London games were held where the Boston Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees at West Ham’s London Stadium with the Yankees winning both. An agreement was signed to host four regular season games across two years with the previously mentioned Red Sox–Yankees fixtures and the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Chicago Cubs over two days next year. Personally I think this will be incredible for the sport and its growth within the UK. It’ll put more eyes from Brits on the sport and will gain new support and more fans as time goes on. My prediction is that another deal will be signed so that more regular season games will be held in London beyond 2020 and the popularity will grow. Like the NFL, an annual London Series will probably be born attracting bigger crowds as time goes on.

Whilst traditionally American sports may not overtake British favourites such as association football or rugby in popularity it’s still exciting to see how much they are growing in the UK. It seems that it will only increase in terms of fans watching and participation in the sports across the country. These are exciting times for British football and baseball fans and whilst the future for the NBA-UK relationship is unknown at best its popularity and support will ever die down completely. As Yazz once famously said: “The only way is up”.

Heavy Duty: One of the non-PPV Shows of the Year

In less than two weeks’ time heavyweight boxing is coming to the O2 arena with arguably the two most promising young British heavyweights, Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman, squaring off for the British Heavyweight Championship. The card dubbed “Heavy Duty” is packed with talent from top to bottom featuring young promising fighters and some more experienced all headed by Daniel Dubois against Nathan Gorman having it out in the squared circle. It’s exciting to see two undefeated stars on a non-PPV card, especially in an age where fights between big undefeated stars are somewhat of a rarity. In this post I’ll be running through the big fights on the card and how this is one of the best non-PPV cards of the year.

A good place to start is the main event which when it was announced got me very excited. After the British Boxing Board of Control ordered Dubois–Gorman last November my instant thought was whilst this was big news ultimately not to get too excited as it may come to nothing, something us boxing fans are unfortunately all too familiar with. Countless times have fights been ordered, I get excited and it eventually comes to nothing. Will I ever learn? Of course not, I’ll continue to get my hopes up for things I want only for it all to come crashing down, oh the joys of being a sports fan. However I’m glad that I’m wrong in the instance of Dubois–Gorman as it’s a fantastic fight. Nathan Gorman is a fast, skilful and intelligent fighter with a great ring iq. As well as this he’s a heavy hitter and fights out of the orthodox stance, a perfect all-rounder. Daniel Dubois also fights with an orthodox stance but is strong, heavy hitter with devastating knockout power. Although, in my opinion, Dubois has an underrated boxing skill that makes him dangerous for any fighter. Both have been the distance before but I doubt that either will want this one to go  12 rounds, a knockout win for either man would be a massive statement in their early careers. The winner will be seen in a whole new light with this being the biggest win of their careers so far, however it will be far from the end for the loser. Dubois is only 21 and Gorman is 23 meaning they have plenty of time to re-build coming off an early loss (also meaning both are only a few years older than I am and are headlining the O2 while I’m sat at home eating rice crispies while writing this, way to put things in a harsh perspective). I doubt this will be the last time both men fight with them being so young and talented. They’ll only get better with experience and age and will become bigger names in the heavyweight division as they improve, this would definitely be another huge fight in a few years’ time which no doubt in my mind people will want to see.

The co-feature bout sees another big heavyweight contest with undefeated silver medal Olympian Joe Joyce squaring off against former world title contender Bryant Jennings with his only losses coming against Wladimir Klitschko, Luis Ortiz and in his last outing against Oscar Rivas. Without shadow of a doubt this is the biggest test of Joyce’s career so far. Joyce already has impressive stoppage wins over Alexander Ustinov (former competitor for the WBA Regular Title against Manuel Charr) and former WBC Heavyweight Champion Bermane Stiverne (the first man to take current WBC champ Deontay Wilder 12 rounds). This fight is a great test for Joyce to see how far he can make it in the heavyweight division. Some say at 33 years old time isn’t necessarily on Joyce’s side (personally disagree but that’s another argument) however he has been making serious moves in the division in his young professional career. After the Bryant fight, Joyce would have fought two former world title challengers and a former world champion in only 10 fights. A win against Jennings would push Joyce to another level and with rumours in the past of a bout with Luis Ortiz, maybe a win against Jennings would be enough to get the Ortiz fight next. This is a great fight and an incredible co-feature bout for the card. Having a fight this size on the undercard makes the main event feel even bigger and a win for either man would be massive for them. As stated Jennings is a former world title contender but will Joyce’s ruthless style be too much for the American? Obviously I don’t have the answers as I can’t see into the future but nonetheless it will make for an interesting and entertaining fight.

The rest of the card is stacked with talent and great bouts, most notably are local hero Liam Williams, Sunny Edwards and Archie Sharp. British middleweight champion Liam Williams takes on French middleweight Karim Achour for the vacant WBC Silver Middleweight Championship. Williams comes into the fight off the back of two impressive knockout wins in his last two outings against Mark Heffron and Joe Mullender. A world title shot doesn’t seem too unlikely for Williams in the not so distant future and a win against Achour would definitely shoot him in the right direction for a huge world title bout. Elsewhere, Sunny Edwards looks to extend his 11-0 unbeaten record taking on Hiram Gallardo for the vacant IBF International Super Flyweight Title to add to his WBO European and International Super Flyweight championships. Sunny is one half of “the Croydon Klitschko’s” with his brother (and WBC Flyweight Champion) Charlie Edwards and in my opinion will follow him in one day becoming world champion. Sunny has bags of talent and potential definitely having what it takes to become Super Flyweight Champion of the world when his time comes. Also on the card Archie Sharp looks to defend his WBO European Super Featherweight Championship against Jordan McCorry. Sharp won the title against Lyon Woodstock last October in a war over 10 rounds. This should be an entertaining fight (like the rest on the card that I’ve mentioned) and should Sharp get through there are exciting domestic fights to be made against the likes of Sam Bowen and Zelfa Barrett.

Overall, the 13th of July will be an entertaining night of boxing and one of the non-PPV shows of the year. Having two big domestic names like Gorman and Dubois fighting each other at the O2 for the British Championship not only makes them bigger names but makes the British Championship feel more important which is good to see. A great main event on an already fantastic night of boxing makes Heavy Duty one to certainly look forward to.

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