English rugby has been "urged to establish a proper national training centre" and appoint a head of int'l player development by '16 to "improve its chances of long-term success at Test level," according to Robert Kitson of the London GUARDIAN. The recommendation comes from an independent review conducted by former Scottish Rugby Union player and coach Ian McGeechan and former UK Sport Performance Dir Peter Keen. The review also described the Rugby Football Union's organizational structure as too "complicated" and recommended changes to the professional rugby department headed by Rob Andrew. The review was instigated "in the wake of the RFU's problems in recent years and has concluded that more clarity is needed to enhance elite performance" at Twickenham. An Int'l Performance Department, headed by national head coach Stuart Lancaster "will be created," and a new head of elite player development will be recruited to work with the senior and age-grade squads, as well as the sevens and women's teams (GUARDIAN, 1/30). The BBC reported the review "suggested rugby follow football's lead" and establish a facility similar to the FA's national football training center St. George's Park. Keen said: "England Rugby needs accelerated evolution, not revolution." RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said, "It is heartening to hear we are in a good place. We are, however, determined to provide greater clarity and focus to the performance pathway and these recommendations will help us deliver that" (BBC, 1/30).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
Scottish Football League clubs are ready to veto Scottish Premier League proposals for league reconstruction "in favour of introducing four leagues of 12-12-10-10 when they gather at Hampden" on Thursday, according to Gordon Parks of the Scotland DAILY RECORD. The SPL unanimously "agreed to the 12-12-18 league structure." However, top-flight chairmen will now "give their backing to the growing number of lower league clubs." The lower-tier clubs "want to ditch the three-tier motion" in favor of their own expanded format, which would see two further clubs "added to the senior ranks." A 12-12-10-10 format "is thought to be more palatable for bottom-rung clubs," which find an 18-team basement unattractive. East Stirling Chair Tony Ford insisted that there is "plenty of talking to be done" before they get close to a 75% majority vote "needed for any reconstruction plans to be implemented." Stirling said, "We suspect there will be a few more plans put on the table. We don’t like the league of 18 which is clearly too big." East Fife Chair Sid Collumbine Tuesday night categorically stated that his club "will not vote for any changes." Collumbine said: "We are in favour of reconstruction but not in time for next year" (DAILY RECORD, 1/30).
ST. MIRREN SPLIT: In Edinburgh, Craig Stewart reported St. Mirren Chair Stewart Gilmour has admitted that his own board is "split on league reconstruction plans" and needs more details before "formally voting for a 12-12-18 structure." In a statement, Gilmour said: "I would wish to clarify that contrary to some media reports, no formal vote was taken although the clubs have agreed unanimously to take this proposal forward to the SFL. We as a club and many other clubs will not vote until we know exactly what is on the table in front of us" (SCOTSMAN, 1/30).
F1 "will race at the Nürburgring this summer," according to BILD. The operating company of the insolvent Nürburgring GmbH, NBG, "has reached an agreement with F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone." Government sources "confirmed the deal on Wednesday evening." The Grand Prix of Germany "is scheduled for July 7" (BILD, 1/31). The PA's Ian Parkes reported Ecclestone had to overcome "political in-fighting" to get the deal done. On two occasions this month, Ecclestone has said that the race "will not be held at the Nürburgring because of financial issues." The fall-back position was for Hockenheim to play host this year, but according to Ecclestone, "therein lies further difficulty." The two circuits come under the auspices of different automobile associations in Germany, which "pride themselves on staging a race known as the German Grand Prix." Ecclestone said, "It's all a little bit political, with different political groups fighting each other." He added: "We've said to them we don't have to call it the German Grand Prix this year, we can call it the Grand Prix of Europe. It's all a bit messy. At the moment the race is on-off, on-off, but we're doing our best to get it sorted" (PA, 1/30).
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has played down the chances of HRT suitors Scorpion Racing winning an entry for the 2013 championship," according to Sam Tremayne of AUTOSPORT. A group of Canadian and American investors is "pushing to try and secure HRT's entry for the forthcoming F1 campaign." Ecclestone "has been in contact with the Scorpion Racing group" and wrote to investors saying: "Have you bought the HRT company? Because if you have, they (the FIA) would be accepting you." However, Ecclestone told the U.K.'s PA that "an entry for 2013 was unlikely." Ecclestone said, "I've spoken to them and told them to get in touch with the FIA and ask for an entry. They want to buy all the bits from HRT, then form a company and ask for an entry, but I personally don't think it will happen. It's all a bit too late" (AUTOSPORT, 1/30).
The Board of Control for Cricket in India on Tuesday held discussions with national selectors, coaches and National Cricket Academy officials "as part of its effort to bring in a uniform coaching structure and skill management in camps as well as streamlining its operations," according to Sunil Subbaiah of the TIMES OF INDIA. The meeting was chaired by BCCI Secretary Sanjay Jagdale, who said: "This meeting is basically to have better coordination between the NCA, the (Indian team's) support staff and the 'A' team's support staff, so that there is uniformity in fitness levels and skill management." No decision was made on the appointment of an NCA director operations, a post that has been vacant since Sandip Patil became the chairman of selectors. Jagdale said, "We are having a look at the NCA also, and we will decide about the director after a while. Right now we have a chairman (Ranjib Biswal), who is settling into his job" (TIMES OF INDIA, 1/30).
English cricket has been "urged to produce a unified and coherent response" to the danger of losing players to the Indian Premier League prior to the new domestic Twenty20 competition launching in May, according to Andy Wilson of the London GUARDIAN. Nottinghamshire "broke new ground this winter" by banning its players from signing IPL contracts because "it could mean them missing more than a month of the English season" while Essex said that it "may follow suit." Nottinghamshire Dir of Cricket Mick Newell believes that the counties "should act collectively." Newell said, "This is a bigger issue than Notts and Essex" (GUARDIAN, 1/30).
The judge in the case ruled Wednesday that Spanish Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, on trial for allegedly masterminding a doping ring in cycling, "will not be obliged to identify any of the clients whose frozen blood was found in bags seized by police," according to Iain Rogers of REUTERS. Fuentes, who denies involvement in doping, said that he could "identify to whom the blood in the numbered bags belonged." Judge Julia Santamaria said that she "would not prevent him from revealing the names but would not force him to do so." She added that forcing him to name individuals "would infringe the rights of those implicated." Fuentes and four other defendants, including his sister Yolanda, appeared in court "almost seven years after anabolic steroids, transfusion equipment and blood bags were seized" as part of an investigation code-named "Operation Puerto." The proceedings have attracted int'l scrutiny because anti-doping authorities, along with the Italian Olympic Committee and several sporting organizations, are taking part in the trial, are "hopeful it will finally lead to evidence of wrongdoing by athletes in other sports being made available." A World Anti-Doping Agency request for access to the blood bags has been "repeatedly denied by the Spanish authorities," and the body awaits the judge's ruling on their latest petition made this week (REUTERS, 1/30).
Hockey India announced that the Hero Hockey India League champion will capture a cash prize of Rs 2.5 crore ($470,000). The runner-up will receive Rs 1.25 crore ($235,000), while the third-place side of the field hockey league will get Rs 75 lakh ($141,000) (THE HINDU, 1/29). ... World players' union FIFPro has urged Indonesian football authorities to "resolve their differences after they were made aware of another case of an unpaid player being hospitalized." FIFPro said in a statement that French striker Moukwelle Ebanga Sylvain, who played for Indonesian Premier League club Persewangi Banywangi, "had not been paid for nine months and had suffered typhoid and stress" (REUTERS, 1/30).