Former England captain TONY GREIG, one of the architects of cricket's World Series revolution in the '70s, has died at the age of 66 after "suffering a heart attack at his Sydney home on Saturday," according to Ransom & Mehaffey of REUTERS. Greig, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in October, was taken to a Sydney hospital where he died at about 1:45pm local time. A "larger-than-life figure" standing 6-foot-6, South Africa-born Greig was an "outstanding all-rounder" who played 58 tests for England from '72-77, scoring 3,599 runs at 40.43 including eight centuries and claiming 141 wickets at 32.20 each. He was also a brilliant slip fielder, taking 87 catches in test matches. Greig's biggest impact on the game came "after he joined forces in '77 with late Australian businessman KERRY PACKER to set up the breakaway World Series Cricket competition." Media magnate Packer's concept was "aimed at securing cricket broadcast rights" for his Channel Nine in Australia. It "shook up the game's world order by pioneering limited overs matches played at night and turning cricketers into full-time professionals" (REUTERS, 12/29).
SAD NEWS FOR CRICKET: In London, Scyld Berry reported Int'l Cricket Council CEO DAVID RICHARDSON said: “Tony played a significant part in shaping modern cricket as a player in the 1970s and then provided millions of cricket lovers with a unique insight as a thoughtful and knowledgeable commentator.” Greig's former teammate GEOFF BOYCOT had "offered him advice about combating cancer after Greig had been diagnosed with it this year." Boycot: "Tony was mentally ready to tackle the disease and prepared for his chemotherapy in the new year. His death has come as a huge shock." The tributes "extended beyond cricketers past and present." Australia Prime Minister JULIA GILLARD and Sports Minister KATE LUNDY released a joint statement saying: "Australia has lost one of the iconic voices of sport with the passing of Tony Greig" (TELEGRAPH, 12/29).
TRIBUTES POUR IN: In London, Nick Duxbury wrote a "take-no-prisoners attitude allied with flair was one of the many tributes" paid to Greig. Former England Test captain IAN BOTHAM said Greig was a "flamboyant and extrovert" figure. Botham added Greig "changed cricket for everybody as we know it now. He revolutionised the game." Former England cricketer NASSER HUSSAIN praised Greig as "a dramatic sort of guy with the blond locks and his collar up," for revolutionizing cricket. England and Wales Cricket Board Chair GILES CLARKE described Greig as "magnificent and fearless" (GUARDIAN, 12/29). Former teammate BOB WILLIS added: "He had a tremendous effect on my career. He persuaded me to get really fit and that revolutionised my career. I never had another injury and went on to take over 300 Test wickets. It’s a sad day for cricket. Sixty-six is no sort of innings" (SUNDAY TIMES, 12/30).
A runner in former LOCOG Chair SEBASTIAN COE's final track race in Great Britain has come out saying that it "was fixed" and that he "accepted a payment of about $10,000 to lose the competition," according to the HERALD SCOTLAND. Ex-British int'l athlete IKEM BILLY said that he was told by ANDY NORMAN, who was then promotions director of the British Athletic Federation, "to throw a race in Sept. '89 in order to allow Coe to win." Norman was Billy's agent at the time, as well as the race promoter. Coe "is not accused of being complicit in the fix or of knowing about Billy being paid to lose." Billy said that he was approached by Norman less than an hour before he was due to race. He said that on top of his race fee of about $5,000, he was also offered $10,000 to lose (athletics fees then were paid in U.S. currency). Billy claimed that the approach "was witnessed by another runner who competed in a different race at the meeting." Billy: "I hold my hands up. I was paid to finish second. I admit that it was fixed. Andy paid me to finish second. He told me: 'Make sure you don't win.' Everyone was scared of Andy. He dominated the sport" (HERALD SCOTLAND, 12/30).
Cyclist BRADLEY WIGGINS and a host of Olympic and Paralympic medalists "have been recognised on a special list of 78 sports stars drawn up for the annual New Year Honours," according to Ellie Walker-Arnott of the RADIO TIMES. Fellow Gold Medalists KATHERINE GRAINGER, MO FARAH, VICTORIA PENDLETON, DAVID WEIR and JESSICA ENNIS also become Commander of the British Empire while ANDY MURRAY, ELLIE SIMMONDS and LAURA TROTT were awarded the Officer of the British Empire. NICOLA ADAMS, HELEN GLOVER, GREG RUTHERFORD and LOUIS SMITH will become Members of the British Empire (RADIO TIMES, 12/29). For a full list of Olympians New Year Honours, click here.
NBA Commissioner DAVID STERN Friday announced that NBA Exec Counsel for Business & Finance HARVEY BENJAMIN is retiring from his full-time position after 20 years with the league. Benjamin will remain as a consultant for the NBA and its teams, and for other sports properties. Upon joining the NBA in '92, his first responsibility was the creation of the tax structure for the league's int'l business, including its regional offices. Prior to joining the NBA as VP/int'l business affairs, Benjamin was a partner at Proskauer Rose (NBA).
MANAGERS/COACHES: League Championship club Barnsley sacked Manager KEITH HILL after being beaten 3-1 at home by Blackburn, making it the club's seventh home defeat of the season. Barnsley, in search for its fourth manager in three and a half years, claims it is in talks with several "very experienced" managers about their vacancy. Meanwhile, Blackburn Global Advisor SHEBBY SINGH revealed that "he has met several potential candidates" to replace former Manager HENNING BERG, who was sacked on Thursday after only 57 days on the job (PA, 12/29). ... The Liberia FA has dismissed coach KAETU SMITH and his assistants "after poor results during their seven months" on the job. LFA President MUSA BILITY said that Liberia legend GEORGE WEAH "would head the committee to find a replacement." Bility: "Someone has to take responsibility for the team's dismal showing and in this case, it is the coach" (BBC, 12/29).
QUICK TURNAROUND: League Championship club Nottingham Forest has appointed ALEX MCLEISH as its manager, just one day after sacking SEAN O'DRISCOLL. McLeish, who has also had spells in charge of Rangers and the Scotland national team, had been out of work since being dismissed by Aston Villa in May (PA, 12/27). ... The Iraqi FA has promoted HAKEEM SHAKIR to head coach, "ending speculations of a possible appointment" of Argentinian DIEGO MARADONA for the job. Shakir had been in temporary charge of the national team since Brazilian ZICO resigned in November (REUTERS, 12/30). ... Premiership rugby club Sale Sharks coach JOHN MITCHELL has quit to return to South Africa. The former All Blacks coach "had only been in charge of the team for one month after taking over until the end of the season." The club said in a statement: "STEVE DIAMOND, BRYAN REDPATH and PETE ANGLESEA will continue to coach the side" (BBC, 12/29). ... Russian Premier League FC Rubin Kazan head coach KURBAN BERDYEV ended speculation about his future by signing a new two-and-a-half year contract with the club just hours before his old deal ran out (UEFA).
EPL CEO RICHARD SCUDAMORE "is set to pocket £4M ($6.5M) next year." He earned £880,000 ($1.4M) last season but "is expected to receive a huge bonus for brokering the league's record-breaking TV deals" (THE SUN, 12/28). ... Former MLB pitcher UGUETH URBINA returned to baseball on Friday after serving seven-and-a-half years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch. Before taking the field in his native Venezuela to play for the Lions of Caracas, Urbina described himself as "more mature" and said he was "very excited to play baseball again" (AP, 12/28). ... London 2012 Bronze Medalist ANTHONY OGOGO "has signed his first professional contract," with his debut at Los Angeles-based promoter Golden Boy Promotions set for February. Ogogo's "exploits in London dramatically raised his profile and attracted the attention of numerous promoters," including former world champion OSCAR DE LA HOYA's Golden Boy organization and the BARRY HEARN-owned Matchroom Sport (BBC, 12/27).