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Volume 10 No. 25


English League One club Leyton Orient will change its name to "London Orient" if it succeeds in its bid to ground-share the Olympic Stadium alongside EPL club West Ham United, according to the London TELEGRAPH. The Telegraph revealed that Orient Owner Barry Hearn "is proposing the name-change as part of a raft of proposals intended to make the club an integral part of the Olympic Park legacy." London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision over the future of the Olympic Stadium is "expected in the next two weeks," with West Ham bidding to be the sole football tenant of the arena. Additionally, Hearn is "proposing a number of other initiatives including free season tickets and investing any profit from the sale of Brisbane Road in the playing squad." Hearn said that his intention "is to put Orient at the center of the new community and help create a genuine legacy for a stadium that has faced questions over its long-term viability from the moment its design was unveiled." Hearn said, "West Ham might not like it, but a ground share with Orient makes a lot of sense to the legacy company and for the Park." Hearn said that to give the Olympic Stadium to West Ham alone would amount to subsidising the club’s £90M ($144M) debt. He said, "They are owned by two of the richest men in the country so why should the taxpayer effectively service their debt after years of mismanagement by previous owners?" Hearn also wants Johnson to "take the bold decision to build retractable seats over the running track," even if they cost as much as £200M ($319M) (TELEGRAPH, 10/9).

The Hong Kong-based owners of English football team Birmingham City said that they are "in talks to sell the club with two possible buyers," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. The Midlands-based team was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the '10-11 season, and its largest shareholder Carson Yeung was arrested in Hong Kong last year on money laundering charges. Parent company Birmingham International Holdings Ltd. said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that "it signed confidential non-disclosure agreements with two parties it declined to identify." Talks are at an early stage, with "interested parties having sought and were furnished with electronic due diligence materials in relation to BCFC." The statement said, "To the best of the board’s knowledge, information and belief, having made all reasonable enquiries, the prospective buyers and their ultimate beneficial owners are third parties independent of the company and its connected persons" (BLOOMBERG, 10/9). REUTERS' Soh & Weir wrote that the British media reported last week that Gianni Paladini, an Italian who is the former chairman of EPL club Queens Park Rangers, "was leading a consortium trying to buy the club." Yeung has to apply for court approval to travel to Britain as he is barred from leaving Hong Kong while his case is being heard. According to Reuters data, he "owns about a quarter of Birmingham Int'l, which had a market value of HK$550M ($71M) before its trading suspension" (REUTERS, 10/9). In Birmingham, Colin Tattum reported that at least three groups, plus Paladini's consortium, "are keen and it seems that it is the beginning of the end of Carson Yeung's regime." Tuesday's statement read, "No binding agreements have been entered into by the Company nor any of its subsidiaries" (BIRMINGHAM MAIL, 10/9). The BBC's Ged Scott reported that "the club is not officially up for sale," but its long-term plans have become even more clouded in the 16 months since Yeung was arrested and CEO Peter Pannu went on the record in May to say that "they were open to offers of new investment." Hong Kong-based parent company Birmingham Int'l Holdings Ltd. has "not indicated how much any potential sale might raise," but they were reported to have rejected a £25M approach from Paladini last month, following which acting Blues boss Pannu was appointed CEO of BIHL" (BBC, 10/9).

National Rugby League club Canterbury Bulldogs have escaped with a A$30,000 ($30,500) charity contribution as punishment for its "Mad Monday celebrations" after the club claimed forward James Graham, and not a female reporter, was "the target of most of the derogatory remarks," according to Stuart Honeysett of THE AUSTRALIAN. The NRL said that Tuesday it had accepted the club's recommendation to make a A$30,000 payment to an NRL-nominated charity. The NRL "accepted the version of events" regarding various sexist remarks allegedly aimed at Nine Network reporter Jayne Azzopardi during the club's post-season celebrations at Belmore Oval, the club's stadium in New South Wales. The Bulldogs submitted a report of the incident to the NRL. It stated that some of the comments were "incorrectly recounted and should not be construed as having been directed at the media." The language was "unquestionably offensive, loud and left open to interpretation." The club "did not take adequate steps to ensure its representatives behaved in a responsible and professional manner." While the NRL accepted the situation, Azzopardi maintained that she "had no doubts the comments only turned offensive when she arrived at the ground" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 10/10).

AGREE TO DISAGREE: In Sydney, Chris Barrett reported that a YouTube video featuring Graham and an elderly woman dancing in a pub was "a bizarre central feature of Canterbury's defence" to the Australian Rugby League Commission. A Canterbury investigation determined that "none of the obscene comments recorded and broadcast by Channel Nine was directed toward the network's reporter," Azzopardi, who was positioned with a crew outside the training facility on the day after the grand final. Club CEO Todd Greenberg apologized to Azzopardi for her hearing the comments but said the parties had ''agreed to disagree'' over their target (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 10/10).

The London GUARDIAN reported that Canterbury is seeking an apology from Channel Nine. Jaycar Electronics Owner Gary Johnston, whose company is the Bulldogs' main sponsor, "uncovered no evidence" that any players abused Azzopardi with obscene comments. Johnston said, "I think Channel Nine should definitely apologise for what they've done, as far as inflaming a lot of aggravation over what was very little evidence that there was any abusive conversation to the Channel Nine people. It could have been [directed to] someone inside the building, in fact that's the more likely explanation. Channel Nine were secretly recording that conversation without the knowledge of the people inside the building so it was Channel Nine' s conceit that assumed that they were talking to [her]" (GUARDIAN, 10/9).