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England has increased the rhetoric against plans for a privately run women’s cricket tournament and stressed that it "will not be releasing its centrally contracted players to play in it," according to Andy Wilson of the London GUARDIAN. "Sketchy" details of the Women’s Int'l Cricket League have emerged over the last couple of months, with former Southern Stars all-rounder Lisa Sthalekar "named as the driving force behind the plans." The England & Wales Cricket Board dismissed claims that the competition has endorsement from Cricket Australia and the Int'l Cricket Council, stressing instead that "the development of the women’s game should be left to the ICC and national governing bodies." ECB Head of Women’s Cricket and CC Women’s Committee Chair Clare Connor said, "There has been a lot of misleading and as yet unsubstantiated information around how far advanced the proposed WICL is." ECB Chair Giles Clarke, who has been a leading advocate of the women’s game, said, "Put simply, there is no support or interest for this proposed event" (GUARDIAN, 6/4). The BBC reported the proposed league "could see leading players earn" £23,500 ($39,000) in only 12 days. The tournament "would bring together the best female players in the world to play in six company-owned teams during a 12-day event in Singapore." England captain Charlotte Edwards, 34, said that she would want to play -- "but only if the competition was officially approved." Edwards: "It's a wonderful opportunity for top players. Nothing has been ratified by the ICC, but these things are exciting for the game and as England players you want to be part of it" (BBC, 6/4). EMIRATES247 reported the ECB "has put its faith in the new ICC International Women's Championship, a one-day tournament which will lead to qualification for the 2017 World Cup." Connor: "The immediate focus for international women's cricket is the ICC International Women's Championship, which the ICC board approved in January. For the first time ever, the top eight-ranked women's teams in the world will play each other in a bi-lateral competition. ... This is a real game changer for the women's game" (EMIRATES247, 6/4).
Players "are the big winners" of the Australian Football League’s equalization measures "to even up the competition," according to Greg Denham of THE AUSTRALIAN. All players will be better off following pay increases over the next two years, "but those who will significantly benefit are free agents and those coming out of contract in October." Players wishing to move to rival clubs "could be in for massive cash windfalls following the AFL Commission’s decision to allow struggling clubs the chance to play catch-up with the strong clubs" and pay as much as 105% of the salary cap from '15. More clubs with more money "will now have the potential to join in bidding wars for players seeking to move." Under the new rules, some clubs could have as much as A$1M ($927,000) to spend on recruits, "or on their current listed players whose retention is a priority" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/5). In Sydney, McKay & Forsaith wrote AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou "leaves the AFL a happy man after overseeing a raft of measures designed to keep footy fair." AFL Chair Mike Fitzpatrick said, "At the heart of these measures is the fans' experience. A determination to ensure each club has the on-field capacity to compete and potentially win each week." Demetriou's successor, Gillon McLachlan, said that "spending was just not sustainable and damaged the ability of poorer teams to compete." McLachlan: "There's an acceptance (the luxury tax) is necessary" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/4).
The Int'l Ski Federation (FIS) "is discussing the idea of slalom with three runs during its biannual congress," according to Stefan Sigwarth of the KURIER. The congress, which is taking place in Barcelona until Friday, "will also award the 2019 world championships in Nordic, Alpine and Freestyle Skiing/Snowboarding." The advocates of a slalom with three runs "promise double the excitment in the same time the second run took to complete." They believe the change "would attract more TV stations to show the event live." The first and second runs would remain unchanged, and the proposed new third run "would only include the top 15 skiers." The new format "could be tested during the November races in Levi, Finland" (KURIER, 6/3).
National Rugby League officials "will discuss plans to move towards a national insurance scheme when they meet with the Rugby League Players' Association on Tuesday," according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. One of the main items on the official agenda "relates to insurance -- players are not currently fully covered for catastrophic injuries, such as the one suffered by Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon." Rugby league "is the only major Australian sport without a single national insurance program," but there are plans to follow the lead of the Australian Football League, Australian Rugby Union, cricket and A-League "to ensure this will soon be the case." The NRL "is looking at the option of taking a whole-of-game approach with a single insurance scheme, regardless of where participants play." The move, which would ideally set a rate for permanent disability and for weekly benefits, "would allow for significant savings to be achieved" (SMH, 6/4).
DRUG TESTING: In Sydney, Proszenko reported in a separate piece the NRL "has begun testing players for prescription drugs this week, becoming the first governing sports body in Australia to do so." The Australian Rugby League Commission "informed its 16 clubs in writing that Laverty Pathology had been engaged to begin the groundbreaking testing procedures from Monday following agreement with the Rugby League Players' Association." The independent third party "will screen players for illicit drugs that covers amphetamines" -- such as speed, ecstasy and ice -- ketamine, cannabis, cocaine, opiates and synthetic versions of those drugs, such as synthetic cannabis and synthetic bath salts. But it is the testing for prescription drugs benzodiazepines -- commonly known as Valium, Mogadon and Xanax -- along with zolpidems including Stilnox, Dormizole and Somidem that the league "is most interested in." NRL COO Jim Doyle said, "There have been suggestions that some players are abusing prescription drugs but there is no evidence to back that up. Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence and rumour we are going to conduct tests to determine if we have a problem" (SMH, 6/4). In Melbourne, Dan Harrison reported new Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority CEO Ben McDevitt said that "show cause notices could be issued in relation to performance-enhancing drug use at AFL and NRL clubs within weeks." McDevitt told a Senate hearing late on Tuesday that "the agency was approaching the task with 'urgency' but it did not want to 'sacrifice certainty for speed'" (THE AGE, 6/4).