Australia rugby national team incumbent captain BEN MOWEN "will only receive match payments if he represents the country this year after missing out on an Australian Rugby Union top-up contract," according to Chris Dutton of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. But Mowen denied ARU negotiations "had influenced his shock decision to quit the ACT Brumbies at the end of the year and take up a contract in France." Mowen's decision "ends his chances of leading the Wallabies to the 2015 World Cup," but the 29-year-old said that "time with his family," including 18-month-old daughter ELEANOR, "was his priority." The ARU system "only contracts players who have represented the Wallabies for two years," with exemptions made for players such as ISRAEL FOLAU. Mowen made his int'l debut only seven months ago, and he said his decision was based on not being able to ''emotionally invest'' in another two years on the road with the Brumbies and Wallabies. Mowen will earn about as much in France as he could in Australia. But his French deal "will be guaranteed and does not carry the pressure of having to play every week and earn representative bonuses" (SMH, 1/10).
People and Pop Culture
Former German midfielder THOMAS HITZLSPERGER said there is "a long way to go" before there will be an openly gay man playing in a top league, according to the BBC. Hitzlsperger, who retired because of injury in September, "revealed his sexuality on Wednesday." Hitzlsperger: "We still have a long way to go because we fear a reaction and we don't know what will happen. I can't imagine playing football and doing this at the same time." Hitzlsperger, who also had spells at West Ham and Everton, "admitted he thought about coming out while he was still playing." But he "decided against doing so because he felt the resulting scrutiny on him might have proved too much of a distraction from on-pitch matters" (BBC, 1/9).
Adidas has promoted Senior VP of Sport Performance ERIC LIEDTKE to succeed ERICH STAMMINGER as exec board member of global brands after Stamminger decided not to extend his contract for personal reasons. Liedtke will aim to boost the sportswear brand ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (adidas). ... French ad group Havas named Global CEO DAVID JONES will be leaving the company to become co-founder and CEO of a new tech start-up. He will be replaced by YANNICK BOLLORE (Havas).
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EPL West Brom appointed former La Liga side Real Betis Manager PEPE MEL as its new head coach "on an 18-month deal." The Baggies "have been looking for a new manager" since sacking Steve Clarke on Dec. 14. Mel, 50, "held talks with West Brom in December but was ruled out after it became clear he wanted to bring his own backroom staff." After three years in charge of Betis, Mel was replaced by JUAN CARLOS GARRIDO at the start of December (BBC, 1/9). ... The majority of tests conducted on a supplement suspended Jamaican sprinter SHERONE SIMPSON was taking "revealed a banned substance." Caribbean Toxicology's Professor WAYNE MCLAUGHLIN, a witness for Simpson, told the three-member Jamaica Anti Doping Disciplinary PanelTwo that separate tests on a sealed bottle of "Epiphany D1," a supplement she was taking, "showed the presence of banned drug oxilofrine." McLaughlin noted, however, that the drug was not listed on the label of ingredients of Epiphany D1 (REUTERS, 1/8). ... Ahead of the players' retention deadline for the forthcoming Indian Premier League, Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday announced that VIRAT KOHLI, CHRIS GAYLE and AB DE VILLIEERS "will stay with the franchise," and named New Zealand spinner DANIEL VETTORI their head coach and former South Africa player ALAN DONALD as bowling coach (IANS, 1/9). ... Modern pentathlete SAM WEALE "has announced his retirement from the sport after a career spanning more than a decade that saw him compete at two Olympic Games." Weale took up the sport in '00 and represented Great Britain at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing 10th, the best performance by a GB man since GRAHAM BROOKHOUSE finished eighth in '92 (SPORT FOCUS, 1/8). ... Spanish Olympic cyclist SERGIO MANTECÓN GUTIÉRREZ "has signed with the Trek Factory Racing World Cup cross country racing team for 2014" (CYCLING NEWS, 1/8). ... Former F1 driver EDDIE IRVINE "was sentenced to six months in prison by an Italian court on Thursday in a trial over a brawl in a nightclub." The judge found Irvine and the son of a former Milan mayor, GABRIELE MORATTI, guilty of "mutual injury" during the incident in the VIP section of the Hollywood nightclub in the northern Italian city in '08 (REUTERS, 1/9).
BT Sport's JAKE HUMPHREY: "I wish Pepe Mel all the best at West Brom, but it should still be Steve Clarke's job. That one still baffles me..."
Daily Mirror's ED MALYON: "Argentine sports daily Olé changes name to Léo in celebration of Messi's return" (picture, left).
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