Evangelos Marinakis has completed a full takeover of League Championship side Nottingham Forest and offered Manager Mark Warburton his "backing," according to SKY SPORTS. A club statement released on Thursday confirmed the deal for 100% of Nottingham Forest has "gone through following months of negotiations and approval" from the English Football League. Marinakis is the owner of Greek club Olympiakos, winner of the Greek title for the past seven years, and the protracted deal had been "in doubt after it emerged he was facing allegations of match fixing." He is "no longer facing charges," and a statement said that he and fellow consortium leader Sokratis Kominakis passed the EFL's Owners & Directors test. Marinakis "immediately announced a series of appointments." Sports lawyer Nicholas Randall has been made chair, while Olympiakos CEO Ioannis Vrentzos takes up the same role at Forest and Sporting Dir Frank McParland gets a contract extension. The takeover means Fawaz Al-Hasawi, who wanted to keep a stake in Forest, "leaves after five years" (SKY SPORTS, 5/18).
Plans for Pro12 expansion in the U.S. "remain subject to concerns over governance issues" within USA Rugby and "uncertainty regarding stadiums and potential support," according to Pengelly & Dart of the London GUARDIAN. Sources in the U.S. and U.K. said that Houston was "set to be announced by the end of this month as a Pro12 team," starting play in Sept. '18. Pro12 and USA Rugby execs made no comment, however, and conversations with other U.S. stakeholders revealed "unresolved issues." One "potential obstacle" to any announcement of Pro12 plans this year is the sanctioning agreement for an "exclusive domestic club 15-a-side professional rugby league" held by Doug Schoninger, the N.Y. businessman behind PRO Rugby. Schoninger said, "Without knowing the details of the proposed Pro12 team in Houston, we believe for many reasons a Pro12 team in the USA is a complete violation of our agreement with USA Rugby and World Rugby and we will defend our rights vigorously." In Houston, "some question whether a Pro12 team could attract enough fans to make it financially viable." There are also local "logistical problems, beyond the considerable challenge of flying teams" between the U.S. and Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. The preferred venue, the 22,000-capacity BBVA Compass Stadium, has staged int'l rugby. But the stadium already hosts Major League Soccer side Houston Dynamo games, National Women's Soccer League club Houston Dash matches, int'l football fixtures and "occasional concerts." It is also home to Texas Southern University's American football team (GUARDIAN, 5/18).
Scottish Premiership side Rangers insists it is "on course for record season ticket sales despite a turbulent campaign at Ibrox," according to the Scotland DAILY RECORD. Club Chair Dave King "vowed to reinvest all season ticket cash in the playing squad" and said that he "can only marvel at the steadfast loyalty of our supporters." Rangers revealed the renewals figure will have "crashed through the 35,000 mark once a backlog has cleared" and believes there is now a "realistic prospect of exceeding the record sales of more than 43,000 achieved for the current campaign." The club's first season back in the top flight has "been anything but smooth." Rangers have European football to "look forward to again next season after securing a third place finish" behind Celtic and Aberdeen. King said, "The team didn't perform to expectation this season but it is important to remember that some targets have been met" (DAILY RECORD, 5/18).
THIRD PARTY FUNDS: The BBC reported Craig Whyte claimed he told David Murray that he would "not be buying Rangers solely from his own funds," a court heard. The High Court in Glasgow was shown an email, sent by Whyte "two months before he took over the club," in which he said that "much of the deal would be paid for from a third party fund." The court also heard that the ticket firm said to have "helped fund" Whyte's Rangers takeover wanted its involvement to be kept secret. Ticketus had concerns it would "embarrass" then Owner David Murray as well as upset supporters. The claims emerged as Ross Bryan -- a fund manager for Ticketus -- "gave evidence for a second day" (BBC, 5/17).
Ascenso MX side Zacatepec will "no longer be in the second tier" of Mexican football, according to Francisco Velasco of FUTNSOCCER. The news came "as a shock to many people." The decision "was said to be a financial one" as the team from Morelos no longer had "sufficient funds to keep the franchise alive in the Ascenso MX." There is an immediate replacement for Zacatepec, as the new franchise from San Luis that Atlético Madrid is behind "will replace the fallen team" (FUTNSOCCER, 5/17). In Morelos, Elizabeth Díaz reported the club "was put up for sale," meaning Morelos "will not have an Ascenso MX club next season." Players and coaches "were advised to look for new teams or return to their previous teams." Zacatepec execs "are currently in negotiations with businessmen interested in acquiring the club" (LA UNIÓN, 5/18).
A-League hopeful club Southern Expansion criticized Football Federation Australia for not accepting its "offer to enter a team in the W-League next season." The Chinese-backed group for the bid covering the St. George, Sutherland and Illawarra regions in NSW expressed its "deep disappointment" to the governing body and asked CEO David Gallop to "reconsider their decision." Bid Chair Les Murray wrote to Gallop last month saying that the club's preparations "progressed so well they were ready to run a W-League team, which would take the competition to 10 teams like the A-League" (AAP, 5/18).
Trepca ‘89, the top side in the Kosovan Superleague, is reportedly set to "become the first team from the former Serbian province to compete in the Champions League." Trepca is one of four football clubs from Kosovo which has met UEFA's licensing criteria and "will take part in the Champions League qualifiers" on June 27 or 28. Kosovo was granted UEFA membership in May '16, "despite strong resistance from Serbia" (RT, 5/17).