Australian Football League CEO Andrew Demetriou "has stripped Essendon of funding until it stops paying suspended coach James Hird," according to Chip Le Grand of THE AUSTRALIAN. The decision is "a dramatic escalation of a dispute now headed towards another showdown with the AFL Commission." Following last week's "error on Melbourne radio," when the AFL boss stated that Hird was not being paid by the club, Demetriou said the league was withholding unspecified funds from the club until it abided by the AFL's "clear intention" that Hird not be paid. Demetriou: "The public statements from the AFL, from myself as CEO last week, were in the belief that Essendon had concluded its payment arrangements and begun the suspension period." Essendon received last year nearly A$12M in funding from the AFL. The AFL ultimatum "was met with a defiant response from Hird." Hird's lawyer, Steve Amendola, said that there was "nothing in the terms agreed to by Hird and the AFL that prevented Essendon from paying its banned coach." Amendola said, "It was clear on the night that James Hird would be paid by the Essendon Football Club during his suspension and I am happy to elaborate on the basis of why that was clear if the AFL continues to assert the contrary." The club issued a brief statement saying it would respond "in due course." The AFL said two weeks after terms were agreed to, AFL legal counsel Andrew Dillon met Essendon CEO Ray Gunston and "made clear the league's view that Hird was not to be paid while serving his suspension." Essendon "disputes this and says while the conditions of Hird's suspension were discussed, the issue of pay was not" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/13). In Melbourne, Emma Quayle wrote that the AFL told the club it was going to "deny $100,000 a month until it receives formal assurance that Hird's salary" has been stopped (THE AGE, 12/13).
WAITING TO HEAR BACK: SPORTAL's Ronny Lerner reported the AFL's statement on Thursday also said that the league had written to Essendon twice in the past week "seeking assurances from them that Hird was not being paid." The league claimed that they "still haven't heard back from Essendon." Demetriou: "Since September, the AFL has been in consultation with the Essendon FC concerning the terms of James Hird's suspension, including the fact he cannot be paid by the club for a period of 12 months. The AFL has since sought confirmation and is yet to receive it" (SPORTAL, 12/12). In Sydney, Massoud, Hooper & Wilson reported one of sports scientist Stephen Dank's closest medical allies has confirmed in court papers that Dank "provided banned peptide CJC-1295 to an NRL player." Dr. Ijaz Khan -- the physician responsible for injecting suspended winger Sandor Earl in '11 -- has "disclosed Dank's role in supplying the prohibited substance to the ex-Canberra Raiders flyer" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/12).
Motorsports governing body FIA "sought expressions of interest on Wednesday from would-be new teams that could enter the sport from 2015 or 2016," according to Alan Baldwin of REUTERS. The FIA "posted a note on its website" announcing "a new selection process to identify a candidate team to participate at a competitive level" (REUTERS, 12/11). In London, Kevin Eason reported the "tight closing date suggests that either the FIA already has someone in mind" or FIA President Jean Todt "has developed an elaborate sense of humour after being re-elected for a new four-year term." When asked what he thought of new teams being sought, one exec at a "lowly squad" said, "Looking for mugs more like." Any new team "would be entering a financial bear pit in the middle of a squabbling circus whose future is far from uncertain." Seven of the 11 teams are "known to be struggling for cash," while rumors persist that at least one "may not make it into the new season amid a background of executives seeking mergers in an effort to drag themselves out of their financial hole." Far from being the glamorous $1B global sport projected to millions of TV screens, this is an F1 in which the fourth-best team with a winning car last season "could not afford to pay its lead driver" (LONDON TIMES, 12/12). The BBC reported prospective new team owners "will need to supply details of the identity of all shareholders and ultimate beneficial owner of all the shares." Information on the candidate's relevant experience and capabilities, including technical experience, racing experience, facilities, equipment and engineering resources "will also be required." The total fee is $130,000 and full applications will need to be submitted by Feb. 10. A decision is expected on Feb. 28 (BBC, 12/12).
GARAGE SPACE: AUTOSPORT's Edd Straw reported the number of F1 entries is "limited to 13 two-car teams, meaning there is capacity for two more outfits after HRT's demise over last winter although there is no indication that there are plans to award both places." The FIA "has not specifically invited applications for new entrants" since '10 when it decided not to grant any of the applicants, which included the Jacques Villeneuve-branded Durango project, a slot for '11, the sporting regulations "have left the door open for new teams" (AUTOSPORT, 12/12).
WILLIAMS: The Williams F1 Team announced the continuation of the Dom Reilly partnership for the '14 season. Dom Reilly has been the official supplier of luggage and travel accessories to the Williams F1 Team throughout '13 (Williams).
A "novel attempt" by the Hong Kong Cricket Association to make use of a large tract of unused land next to Hong Kong Disneyland for the next five years to host an int'l polo tournament and domestic cricket "has been shot down by one arm of the government, despite another saying they were receptive to the idea," according to Alvin Sallay of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. With the sport "facing a dearth of grounds," HKCA President Rodney Miles revealed that the association "had been trying to get permission for the twin-use of an area at Penny's Bay." This land "has been ultimately designated as a site for Disney's extension by the government." But with the expansion only expected to happen in the next three to five years, the HKCA "had hoped for a short-term tenancy to use the site as a cricket ground and as a venue for an international polo tournament" (SCMP, 12/12).
The Australian Rugby Union Players Association "will exercise wage restraint" to help the new National Rugby Championship "become financially viable," according to Bret Harris of THE AUSTRALIAN. The NRC is a reincarnation of the Australian Rugby Championship which lasted only one year in '07 after losing A$5M. One of the main reasons the ARC blew its budget "was because of a high wages bill." RUPA CEO Greg Harris said players had to be "reasonable" in their wage demands if the NRC was to work and provide them with a better pathway to Super Rugby and the Wallabies. Harris: "What we have to look at now is the reality of the game's finances. What we would like to get and what is achievable are totally different things. We have to be reasonable in our discussions." Harris indicated the RUPA agreed with the ARU's position that full Super Rugby contracts "would cover NRC player payments, while additional payments would be made to Extended Player Squad members and other development players" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/13). In Sydney, Iain Payten reported fans "will be called upon to dream up law changes" for use in the NRC next year. Revelations about an ARU plan to put rugby's rules "in the hands of the public" emerged as Sydney Uni and a combined North Harbour club "were among the first of several entities to lodge expressions of interest in joining the inaugural 2014." The ARU "received eight EOIs from possible participants in the NRC, with powerhouse Sydney Uni announcing it would seek entry into the competition, and confirmation from the Gordon, Warringah, Manly and Norths clubs that they had submitted interest as a merged 'north of Sydney Harbour team.'" ARU CEO Bill Pulver said on Tuesday that a suite of "innovative new rules" would be considered for enhanced entertainment value. The ARU is "planning to stage a social media campaign in the new year where it will invite fans to submit ideas on what rules could be tweaked, removed or added to make the games more interesting" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/12).
New Zealand police have held talks with the Int'l Cricket Council "to sign a formal information-sharing agreement before the 2015 Cricket World Cup." The ICC anti-corruption unit met police and cricket World Cup organizers in Wellington in August "to discuss cricket corruption ahead of competition planning" (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 12/12). ... Russia's freestyle skiing federation "has banned national champion Anna Orlovskaya for two years" for a doping offense. A Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) statement did not specify the details of Orlovskaya's violation, labeling it as "a breach of anti-doping rules" (AFP, 12/12).