NHL Detroit Red Wings center Damien Brunner "is the most-productive player that the NHL lockout has brought to Europe," according to Stephan Roth of BLICK. Brunner, who joined Swiss National League A club EV Zug during the lockout, "has scored more points than any other NHL player" in Europe, which is impressive considering the talent that has flocked across the continent. In the Czech Republic, 40-year-old Jaromir Jagr plays for Kladno, the club his father once owned and he now manages and finances. In Russia, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk create "nightmares" for opposing goalies. In the NLA, Henrik Zetterberg, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares
and Tyler Seguin "excite the crowds." However, it is Brunner who leads them all with 23 goals and 25 assists in 27 games in the NLA (BLICK, 12/12).
Far "from being poles apart on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Australian Rugby League Commission officials and the players are now closing in on a new deal -- and may even have it signed off by the new year," according to Glenn Jackson of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Officials from both sides "emerged from a lengthy meeting on Wednesday more positive than they have ever been through the process after an 'enhanced' offer was put to the playing group." Following that offer, the parties are now "close" to a resolution. That "would suggest an increase on the A$5.5M ($5.8M) salary cap" -- which included a A$400,000 marquee allowance -- which was put to the players almost two weeks ago. ARLC Chair John Grant said, "We put another proposal back to them, which they took on board very positively. We've already put an offer that enhances '13, and that's got to build over the time [to the end of the new broadcast rights deal]." Wests Tigers skipper Robbie Farah said there was "cause for optimism." He added, "We're not sitting there butting heads. Both parties are really working hard towards reaching an agreement" (SMH, 12/13).
POSITIVE DISCUSSIONS: Cronulla Sharks skipper Paul Gallen said that "the discussions were positive." Gallen said, "The NRL has come back with a really good offer today. It's not where we want to be, but it's certainly not too far off. Things are moving forward. We're not too concerned about the date when we get a final answer. Hopefully before Christmas, you never know" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/13). In Sydney, Josh Massoud wrote "the circuit breaker was a willingness from the NRL [National Rugby League] to life next year's cap to between A$5.5M and A$5.8M, primarily through raising each club's marquee player allowance." An increase "of such magnitude would help" the Penrith Panthers and Manly Sea Eagles, which are "struggling to accommodate their squads under next year's cap." The "reliance on marquee players also relieves Grant from having to erode the future fund to compensate clubs for direct payments" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/13).
Cricket Australia has "ordered a major betting crackdown" in a leaked legal letter that "reveals ongoing worries about the game's integrity," according to Ben Dorries of the COURIER-MAIL. CA has demanded Australian sports bookmakers cease betting on a stream of options that CA believes "have the potential to be manipulated by current players." The leaked letter was written by CA legal counsel Tim Leoncelli and sent to bookmakers, including Sportingbet, Tom Waterhouse.com and Betstar. The letter "lists the bet types that CA wants banned and explains its rationale for forbidding each bet." The letter warns, "Offering bet types in breach of these rules threatens the integrity of the sport and the sports betting industry and CA will take appropriate action." Several bookies who have information sharing or integrity agreements with CA have already "had little choice but to ban the bet types although some will submit to CA that overseas betting organisations offer the bet types" (COURIER-MAIL, 12/13).
The Professional Footballers' Association has apologized to a black player who was sacked by his club because he "complained that they had racially discriminated against him," according to Ian Herbert of the London INDEPENDENT. Player Mark McCammon was advised by the players' union that it would not pursue his case against League Two Gillingham FC, which dismissed him in January after he "alleged he had been victimised because he is black." After McCammon sought his own legal advice to pursue the case, an independent industrial tribunal not only upheld his complaint, but ruled that "his accusations of racism against the club formed part of the reason for his dismissal." The tribunal stated in its findings, "[Gillingham] was in no position to assert that the accusations were false… because there was no investigation whatsoever into the accusations." PFA Chair Clarke Carlisle said that CEO Gordon Taylor had "apologised to McCammon, though the union's advice against taking the case to tribunal had been in good faith." The PFA encouraged the player to take a £15,000 ($24,190) pay-off from Gillingham, rather than "incur the far greater costs of a tribunal." Carlisle said that in the future, "greater weight would be put on an individual's desire to pursue such a case on a point of principle" (INDEPENDENT, 12/11).
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone said that F1 appears likely to have 19 races next year despite organizers "tweaking the calendar to create space for a 20th round in Europe," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. Speaking to Austria's Kleine Zeitung newspaper, the 82-year-old "poured cold water" on suggestions that the country's grand prix could be reinstated after a 10-year absence to take the vacant July 21 slot. Ecclestone was asked about speculation that a race could be held at Spielberg's revamped Red Bull-owned circuit and said, "Really? Who says that? Until now I have not talked about this with anyone." He added that the lack of hotels in that part of rural Austria "remained a problem" (REUTERS, 12/12). In London, Byron Young reported Ecclestone also revealed that the Turkish Grand Prix is "unlikely to go ahead." The Turkish government has vetoed suggestions it "put money into filling the gap on the calendar vacated by the cancelled New Jersey race." And without the extra funds, Ecclestone said that the race slated for July 21 is "unlikely to go ahead." Turkey's motorsport federation said that government funding "would be required" but the country's sports minister ruled that out last week (MIRROR, 12/12).
The German Football League (DFL) and clubs from the top-two tiers on Wednesday "agreed on a tighter set of security measures after a sharp rise in violence and pressure from politicians to act," according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. The DFL and the 36 clubs from the top-two leagues "voted in favour of tougher stadium checks, increased crackdown on flares and smoke bombs and tougher sanctions, video monitoring, and better-trained security staff." DFL President Reinhard Rauball said, "Professional football is coming out as a winner today. All 16 points were accepted with a wide majority. Germany's football culture is not threatened by this." Many fans, some 500 of whom had peacefully demonstrated outside the Frankfurt hotel where the meeting took place, "have accused the DFL of spoiling their football experience and having had little input in drafting the concept." German football "is struggling to contain growing violence with '11-12 season figures released last month hitting a 12-year high despite a financial boom and the world's highest average match attendance" (REUTERS, 12/12). FC Bayern Munich Exec Board Chair Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said, "It was a good meeting with the DFL. The result is what I expected. The Bundesliga has opposed violence, racism and pyrotechnics -- and that is good" (BILD, 12/12).
The Chinese Basketball Association issued a new regulation Wednesday, "banning impolite or provocative acts like waving finger in its professional matches." The new rule follows an incident during Sunday's sold-out match between the Beijing Ducks and Qingdao Eagles when former NBAer Tracy McGrady became "irritated by an opponent's waving finger" and retaliated by elbowing him in the chest. The CBA said that the players "must respect the audience, the opponents and the referees" (XINHUA, 12/12). ... The All India Football Federation will be conducting "a major reshuffle" during its upcoming Annual General Meeting, which will see the "induction of three new VPs, as well as members from the five zones" (PTI, 12/12).