England's top-flight rugby clubs "have reiterated that they will not take part in the Heineken Cup next season, even though the decision leaves them seemingly isolated in Europe," according to the BBC. English and French clubs "gave notice 17 months ago that they would leave and form a breakaway competition." But last week, French teams "committed to the current tournament -- as long as their English counterparts also did." Premiership Rugby said it was looking at a "number of other options." The governing body's Chair Quentin Smith told BBC Radio 5 live those options included "expanding domestic competitions and looking at things we can do in our own jurisdiction, and playing countries and other clubs in the northern and southern hemisphere" (BBC, 12/5). REUTERS' Mitch Phillips reported English club owners and Premiership officials "have been at loggerheads" with European Rugby Cup, which runs the Heineken Cup and second-tier Amlin Cup, as well as the Irish, Scottish and Italian leagues, as they "seek to reform aspects of qualification and payment." The ERC "has proposed a reformatted tournament for next season, featuring 20 clubs instead of the current 24, as well as changes in the distribution of income." The unions of France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy -- but notably not England -- "recently issued a joint statement saying they backed ERC and the plans for a revised competition under its control." However, that "was not enough to convince the English clubs to go back on their stated desire to leave and set up an alternative competition." A Premiership statement said, "ERC does not structurally recognise the role of the leagues and clubs in driving the success of club competitions, under the overall governance of Unions" (REUTERS, 12/5).
Events and Attractions
The NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night in Mexico City had to be canceled "after smoke flooded the court," according to LA AFICION. NBA Spokesperson Sharon Lima said that the "smoke originated from a malfunctioning generator." Spurs TV commentator Sean Elliot said, "I thought that they were testing fireworks. A lot of teams are doing this before introductions, but the smoke did not stop and it was dark, it covered the whole court. It was unexpected." Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said, "There was a lot of smoke in the locker room." Still "in their uniforms, players were evacuated to buses" outside Mexico City Arena. Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio said, "We were not told what was happening, just that we had to leave." Ginobili and Spurs forward Tiago Splitter also "apologized to fans on Twitter." Ginobili tweeted, "We are already in the airport ready to return to San Antonio. It is sad that we were not able to play. We are very sorry to the Mexican fans." Splitter tweeted, "A true shame what happened today, I am very sorry to all the fans!! We were very excited for this game. A big hug" (LA AFICION, 12/4). INFORMADOR reported that fans "will be refunded the money that they spent on the game." A spokesperson at the arena told the crowd, "Tomorrow we will explain the way that fans will be able to request refunds." Mexico City Arena Marketing Manager Adrián Pérez "admitted that negotiations with the NBA for a future game will be held, but he did not provide further details" (INFORMADOR, 12/5). In San Antonio, Jeff McDonald reported the cancellation of the event in Mexico marked "a disappointing night for the NBA, which had billed the game as an attempt to open further inroads in Latin America, and an embarrassing one for Mexico City, which opened the sparkling new arena in 2012 in order to host events such as this." The league said that the game, part of the NBA's Global Games schedule, "will be rescheduled in Minneapolis for a later date." It was "originally slated to be just the second regular-season game in NBA history to be played on Mexican soil." The game was "approaching a sellout" and the pregame "atmosphere was festive." During the delay, Spurs officials "expressed health concerns about the prospect of playing in smoky conditions in an arena at an altitude higher than Denver’s (7,943 feet)" (MYSANANTONIO, 12/4).
SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS: ESPN Deportes' Alvaro Martin said for "everybody here in Mexico who had such high hopes for a sellout crowd and a great game, they're going to have to wait and perhaps watch it on television” (“SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/4). ESPN's Tim Legler said the cancellation is a "shame for everybody involved." Legler: "Logistically, it’s a nightmare. It’s a waste of time and a waste of money. ... It’s unfortunate for the people of Mexico City, who wanted to see an NBA game there for the first time in 17 years in this beautiful new arena. Both teams inconvenienced. So it’s a shame for the league. They tried to put on a nice event and it didn’t work out.” Legler added Minnesota coach Rick Adelman could be the "only guy that might be happy," as last night's game was rescheduled for Target Center (“NBA Tonight,” ESPN2, 12/4).
KEEP GOING ABROAD: ESPN's Marc Stein wrote despite Wednesday night's mishap, he remains "in favor of more regular-season games abroad, not less." Stein: "The NBA happily imports nearly 100 players per season from every corner of the globe. It's only fair that the league tries to export a taste of its game, played at the most meaningful level possible, to as many of those countries as possible ... even if we all understand that commercial motivations play a far bigger role in the NBA’s desire to schedule these trips than any romantic notions of giving back." While there are "too many logistical/financial/player-reluctance obstacles to ever allow for the league’s long-held dream of expanding to Europe," there is no reason the league "can't spare 3-5 of the 1,230 regular-season dates played annually on North American soil for international dispatch on top of the various preseason trips requiring passports every October" (ESPN, 12/5).
Organizers of the Thailand Golf Championship on Thursday said that "the event would go ahead with the full complement of star players despite violent protests in Bangkok," according to the AFP. The tournament's organizing committee said that "it had taken advice from government departments and the police after a wave of demonstrations gripped the capital." Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Charl Schwartzel and Rickie Fowler "are the headline acts already confirmed for next week's tournament at Amata Spring Country Club east of Bangkok." A statement said, "All stakeholders in the tournament, including sponsors, partners and the Asian Tour, are being kept fully up to date on relevant issues." Anti-government protesters have been fighting street battles with police "as political violence returns to Bangkok, three years after dozens died in a crackdown on mass rallies." Fowler earlier said he was unfazed by the protests, but admitted he may have second thoughts if something "crazy" happens (AFP, 12/5).
The chief of the South Korean Grand Prix said Thursday that "he would work to bring back the race" after it was dropped from the F1 calendar for '14. Park Joon-Yung, governor of the southern province of South Jeolla, where the race has been held since '10, said, "Formula One is the future of our province" (AFP, 12/5). ... A second marquee sports tournament "could be on its way to the Singapore Sports Hub." The World Club 10s Championship, a first-of-its-kind rugby union competition, is close to being finalized, "bringing together the world's top clubs to play the increasingly popular 10s version of the game." The three-day event, to be held annually at the new 55,000-capacity National Stadium, "is earmarked for its debut next July" (STRAITS TIMES, 12/5).