Colors: Yellow Color

UEFA, the Premier League and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have condemned 12 major European clubs, including the 'big six' from England, signing up to a breakaway ESL (European Super League).

Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham are part of the group. La Liga's Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid and Serie A's AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus are involved.

UEFA said it will use all measures possible to stop the cynical project. Senior figures at European football's governing body are furious about the proposals. In a seismic move for European football, the Premier League clubs will join AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.

The ESL said the founding clubs had agreed to establish a "new midweek competition" and that the inaugural season is intended to commence as soon as practicable. It also anticipated that a further three clubs will join the breakaway.

Manchester United co-chairman Joel Glazer will be a vice-chairman of the hew Super League. He said: "By bringing together the world's greatest clubs and players to play each other throughout the season, the Super League will open a new chapter for European football, ensuring world-class competition and facilities, and increased financial support for the wider football pyramid."

Prime Minister Johnson said the plans would be very damaging for football and that the UK government supports football authorities in taking action. He added: "The clubs involved must answer to their fans and the wider footballing community before taking any further steps."

UEFA had hoped to head off plans with a new-look 36-team Champions League set to be confirmed today. The European governing body released a joint statement together with the English Football Association, Premier League, Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), La Liga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) as well as Serie A.

They said they will "remain united" in trying to stop the breakaway, using both judicial and sporting measures if required. They also reiterated Fifa's stance that players taking part in the Super League would be banned from all other competitions at domestic, European or world level and could be prevented from representing their national teams.

In a separate statement, the Premier League said it condemned the proposal as it "attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart" of domestic and European football. Details on how the breakaway league would work are scarce, but there were talks in October over a new £4.6bn competition that would involve replacing the Champions League.

It would likely be a 'members only' concept, where many of Europe's richest clubs would have guaranteed entry, without the threat of relegation or the possibility of failing to qualify.

The threat of forming a European Super League could also be a handy tool for big clubs to use in their negotiations with UEFA for a better deal.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement the government is "concerned this plan could create a closed shop at the very top of our national game". He added: "We have a football pyramid where funds from the globally successful Premier League flow down the leagues and into local communities.

"I would be bitterly disappointed to see any action that destroys that." Labour leader Keir Starmer said the clubs involved should rethink immediately or face the consequences of their actions. "This proposal risks shutting the door on fans for good, reducing them to mere spectators and consumers," he said.

Juventus owner Andrea Agnelli, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and AC Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis would all have had a significant input into the Champions League discussions. However, those clubs are among those to have broken ranks, to the fury of Uefa, whose president Aleksander Ceferin wanted to stave off a Super League threat.

The Premier League said a European Super League would destroy the dream of fans that their team may climb to the top and play against the best. It added such a league would undermine the appeal of the whole game and that they would work with the FA, the English Football League, Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), League Managers Association (LMA) and fans to "defend the integrity and future prospects of English football.

The FA said it will not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football and will take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary. Bundesliga sides are opposed to the plans because the German model means commercial investors cannot have more than a 49% stake in clubs, so fans hold a majority of their own voting rights.

It is understood French Ligue 1 side Paris St-Germain are not part of the group. UEFA said it thanked those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up" to the breakaway league.

"We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced," they added. "This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough."

Quite when the European Super League would start is unclear. However, world governing body Fifa has already said it would not recognise such a competition and any players involved in it would be denied the chance to play at a World Cup.

Serie A has called an emergency board meeting to discuss the matter. The Football Supporters' Association said it is "totally opposed" to the plans, which it said were "motivated by nothing but cynical greed".

They added: "This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game's traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom." The PFA said it had substantial concerns about the proposal, adding it would detract from the strength and joy of domestic football and diminish the game for the vast majority of fans across the continent.

France's President Emmanuel Macron said he welcomes the position of French clubs to refuse to participate in a European Super League that threatens the principle of solidarity and sporting merit.

A statement from the French presidency added: "The French state will support all the steps taken by the LFP (France's professional leagues governing body), FFF (France's football association), UEFA and FIFA to protect the integrity of federal competitions, whether national or European." It has been agreed the new-look Champions League will involve an initial phase where every club plays 10 matches each rather than the current group phase.

In addition there would be play-offs, followed by a knockout phase. The most controversial aspect of the proposals surround the allocation of the four additional places, with two being reserved for the clubs ranked highest in UEFA's co-efficient table who fail to qualify for the Champions League through their domestic competition, but do secure some kind of European football.

At the moment, Liverpool and Chelsea would be the clubs who benefited from that system if it was in place this season. Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville said he was disgusted by the plans.

"I'm a Manchester United fan and have been for 40 years," Neville, who also co-owns League Two club Salford City, said. "It's an absolute disgrace.

"Honestly, we have to wrestle back the power in this country from the clubs at the top of this league and that includes my club." The former England defender said the six English clubs involved should be docked points and fined.

"It's pure greed," Neville said. "The club's owners imposters. They're nothing to do with football in this country. There's 100-odd years of history in this country of fans who have lived and loved these clubs.

"We're in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis. Football clubs in the [semi-professional] National League are going bust, furloughing players and these lot are having Zoom calls about breaking away.

"Dock them all points tomorrow. Put them at the bottom of the league and take the money off them. Seriously. You have to stamp on this."

Marissa Callaghan and Nadene Caldwell scored to give Kenny Shiels' side a 2-0 win on the night and a 4-1 victory on aggregate in the two-legged play-off.

Captain Callaghan tucked home on 55 minutes and Caldwell netted in injury time to secure the win against Ukraine, who had Natiya Pantsulaya sent off. The Euro 2022 finals will be Northern Ireland's first major tournament. It caps a remarkable 17-year journey for Northern Ireland, whose women's national team only reformed in 2004.

After a goalless first-half, Callaghan broke the deadlock 10 minutes into the second-half when she beat Ukraine goalkeeper Kateryna Samson to the ball and slotted into the empty net. It was a goal which perfectly summed up Northern Ireland's persistence as Callaghan won the initial header from Julie Nelson's free-kick before showing awareness to get to the second ball ahead of the sleeping Ukraine defence to give the home side the cushion they craved.

Caldwell secured the victory after Pantsulaya was sent-off late on. Simone Magill won the ball on the edge of the area and Caldwell, who had just come on the pitch as a substitute, beat the stranded Samson to spark wild celebrations. The celebrations at full-time marked an unbelievable journey for a team who were written off before a ball was kicked in qualifying.

Moments such as Ashley Hutton's last-minute goal against Wales or a superb 1-0 victory away to Belarus with 10 players demonstrate where the unwavering belief stems from. From arriving in May 2019, Shiels and his coaching team, which includes son Dean, have done a remarkable job changing the mentality and tactics of this side.

For players like Nelson, who has been through thick and thin since making her debut 17 years ago, it has been a life-long dream. For younger players like Rebecca McKenna or Chloe McCarron, this will a high point in their fledgling careers that they hope will be the first of many.

It's impossible to name every player but it has been a real team effort to get to this point - and every player in a green shirt played their part. It was an occasion and performance which deserved a packed house at Seaview, but this history-making team can expect the Green and White Army to follow their every move for years to come.

This team dared to dream, and now they will enjoy every moment of the reward they have worked so hard to achieve. Northern Ireland, ranked 25 places below their opponents, looked relaxed from the first whistle as they went about finishing the job they began by securing a lead in Ukraine.

Just as in Kovalivka, Northern Ireland came flying at their opponents right from the first whistle, with Kirsty McGuinness and Magill harrying Ukraine's defence. The positive approach settled any lingering nerves, and while manager Shiels is renowned for his enterprising style of football, it was a direct approach from set plays which gave his side half openings.

Laura Rafferty, one of two changes from the first leg, was inches away from opening the scoring when she poked wide after the ball dropped to the defender from an early corner.

Again, in a similar pattern to the first leg, Ukraine grew into the match and began to dominate the midfield as the half wore on.

Despite Ukraine's growing possession on the artificial pitch, Northern Ireland looked comfortable in defence and Magill, who had a shot comfortably saved by Kateryna Samson, and Callaghan provided an outlet for Shiels' side. McKenna, on her 20th birthday, continued where she left off from the first leg and Rebecca Holloway had the best performance of her short NI career to date as both players were tasked with providing width in both attack and defence.

However, it was the experienced head of Nelson who made the most-important intervention of the first half when she superbly denied Olha Ovdiychuk with some last-ditch defending following a rare lapse of concentration for NI just before the half-time whistle. Cheered on in the stands by the vocal Rachel Furness, who missed the match after sustaining a broken ankle in the first leg, NI came out for the second-half like and looked like a team with the weight off their shoulders.

That soon turned to pandemonium when Callaghan showed tremendous persistence to beat Samson to the ball and score - a goal that meant Ukraine had to net three times to overcome their opponents. It was akin to when men's captain Steven Davis scored twice against Greece in 2015 to fire Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals in France as Callaghan led from the front.

Northern Ireland dropped deep but still looked in command as the visitors ran out of ideas as the clock ticked down. They put plenty of crosses into the danger area but goalkeeper Jackie Burns and the defensive trio of Rafferty, Nelson and Ashley Hutton stood strong as NI began to pick Ukraine off on the counter.

McCarron's cross was just out of reach of Magill and Ukraine were reduced to 10 players when Pantsulaya was dismissed for cutting across the outstanding Sarah McFadden as she raced through on goal. Caldwell then struck in the final seconds to spark jubilant scenes and cap off a superb display as Shiels' team continue to outshine their underdog status.

Seven-time Formula One racing champion Lewis Hamilton has urged F1 chiefs to add an African race to its calendar for the first time since 1993.

With the current F1 calendar featuring more than 20 races per season, which means travelling to countries such as Australia, China, Russia, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, this season’s current leading driver has called for a return to the Kyalami circuit in Johannesburg, in South Africa – which has been the one continent that has been missing from the F1 calendar for the past 27 years. The circuit there would reportedly need some upgrades while there have also been recent talks about a race in another African circuit in Marrakech, in Morocco.

In Q&A video from Petronas, Mercedes driver, Hamilton, said: "I would love for a Grand Prix to be in South Africa. They are great sporting fans and are just petrol-heads who love cars.

"I would love to go there, it would be absolutely insane. There is a huge following there and it is one of the most important Grand Prix we need to get on the calendar."

He went on to say: "It's such an important place to go back to. At the moment, Formula One goes to countries and doesn't really leave much behind if anything.

"Formula One has to shift into being a sport that does go to places and leaves behind something that can really help the communities. Bringing the attention back to Africa and really highlighting the beautiful place that it is.

"I think that's the most important place that we have to go to. It needs to be held where it's not all about money, it's about the people.

"In business, that's not always the case so that's something I'm really pushing for."

F1 global director of race promotion Chloe Targett-Adams, who deals with event organisers, says the continent is key to the sport’s development.

The South African GP featured 23 times on the F1 calendar following its debut in 1962 but was last staged in 1993. There have been a number of plans to return Formula One to the country but there are currently no race circuits in South Africa which would be approved by the FIA to host an F1 event.

"It's such an important place to go back. At the moment, Formula One goes to countries and doesn't really leave much behind if anything. Formula One has to shift into being a sport that does go to places and leaves behind something that can really help the communities.

"Bringing the attention back to Africa and really highlighting the beautiful place that it is. I think that's the most important place that we have to go to. It needs to be held where it's not all about money, it's about the people. In business, that's not always the case so that's something I'm really pushing for."

Australia, Singapore and Japan were among the countries said to not be rescheduled for the 2020 campaign for a much smaller season with an eight race in European, which also includes back-to-back races at Silverstone at the start of August.

The 2020 Formula One season finally gets underway next week when the drivers descend on Austria for the first of two races to be held in the European country.

Progress on the redevelopment of the Alexander Stadium is on the brink of another significant milestone – the completion of the steelworks. Early next week the framework for the eye-catching new West Stand at the venue in Perry Barr will be fully in place, and work to add fixtures, fittings and all of the features required by a world-class sporting arena is now starting.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This is an exciting milestone and it's testament to the hard work and efforts of all involved that we have made such progress despite the challenges of delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We can now clearly see what the new stadium will look like when complete – congratulations to everyone who is working on the redevelopment.” The project is on budget and scheduled for completion in spring 2022.

Operations Director for lead contractor McLaughlin & Harvey, Martin Keys, added: “This is a really important milestone for the Alexander Stadium Redevelopment project.

“Considering the challenges of COVID-19, the complex roof design, and erecting the steel over the winter months; we have been able to complete the steel on programme. It is a really exciting moment for the project and demonstrates that when we work collaboratively together as a team we can overcome difficult obstacles.”

Funding for the Alexander Stadium Redevelopment comes from three sources: Birmingham City Council (£27.4million), the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (£20million) and West Midlands Combined Authority (£25million). Arup are designers for the Alexander Stadium redevelopment, covering all engineering services and architectural design, with Mace acting as project and programme managers, both appointed by Birmingham City Council.

James Watts, Associate Director at Arup, said: “Reaching this milestone is a fantastic achievement for all involved. It has been a true demonstration of proactive and collaborative working.

“Within Arup alone, our team of architects, engineers, planners and specialists have contributed more than 37 years of effort so far to help deliver what will be a wonderful sporting facility for Birmingham. With the steel frame now virtually completed, the curvature of the new stand that will become the stadium’s signature is visible for all.

“The 1,400 tonnes of steelwork has been designed, detailed and fabricated in the UK, with police escorts required for the longest components of the roof structure, which are 35 metres in length. If laid end-to-end, the steelwork would very nearly complete 50 laps of the new track. There is still a long way to go, but all involved should be proud of what has been achieved to date.”

Associate Director at Mace, Paul Robertson, said: “Celebrating the final piece of steel being installed is exciting for a project which has not been without its challenges.

“This time last year we were facing the prospect of starting construction in the middle of a pandemic yet works continue on time and on budget as we move towards the 12-month on-site milestone in May this year. The team partnership and approach has been exceptional, and everyone is pulling together as we move into this next critical phase of the project.”

British Athletics has announced the athletes selected for the men’s, women’s and mixed 4x400m relay at the 2021 World Athletics Relays which are due to be held in Silesia, Poland on 1-2 May 2021.

Prior to selection, it was agreed that there will be no men’s or women’s 4x100m relay teams entered due to several factors caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Following consultation between the respective athletes and the British Athletics Performance team, all parties agreed on this approach to the event.

Olympic relay bronze medallist Emily Diamond will be joined by multiple global relay medallist Zoey Clark and 2017 world silver medallist Laviai Nielsen in the squad.

Clark will also be reunited with Jessie Knight and Ama Pipi who were part of the silver medal-winning quartet at the European Indoor Championships in February. World Indoor and European relay bronze medallist Amy Allcock will join the squad alongside Yasmin Liverpool and Jess Turner.

The men’s team includes Olympic, world and European medallist, Martyn Rooney, and fellow London 2017 bronze medallists, Dwayne Cowan and Rabah Yousif Bkheit.

Joe Brier, Lee Thompson and James Williams - all part of the bronze-medal winning team at the 2021 European indoors - earn their second British team call-ups of the season.

Finally, Charlie Dobson, who will be making his senior GB debut, and Efe Okoro complete the line-up.

The mixed relay teams will be selected from the athletes within the women’s and men’s 4x400m relay squads.

Performance Director, Sara Symington, said: “We are really pleased to be selecting strong teams for the respective relay events. Maintaining the health and safety of all athletes, coaches and team personnel is of paramount importance to us, as is recognising athletes wishes in their preparation for Tokyo, so all athletes were given the option to opt-in or opt-out of the event for this year.

“In terms of the men’s and women’s 4x100m relays, it was a joint decision between the British Athletics Performance team and the respective 4x100m squads to not enter teams for those events to the World Athletics Relays.

“The 4x400m athletes and staff have opted to take the opportunity to compete and we will support them in this approach. It is vital that we recognise these are challenging times and that we fully consult with the athletes and staff on the best way to prepare for Tokyo, recognising that one approach will not necessarily fit both squads.”

Head of Long Sprints and Relays, Tim Benjamin, said: “I am delighted to be selecting these very strong 4x400m athletes for the World Athletics Relays, the first event in my new role. We have several really experienced relay athletes as part of these teams, as well as some exciting up and coming talent who have demonstrated their potential during a challenging last year or so. This is a key preparation event for the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, so I am really looking forward to seeing how these teams perform in Poland.”

The British team for the 2021 World Athletics Relays in Silesia, Poland, 1-2 May:

 

Women: Amy Allcock, Zoey Clark, Emily Diamond, Yasmin Liverpool, Jessie Knight, Laviai Nielsen, Ama Pipi and Jessica Turner.

Men: Joe Brier, Dwayne Cowan, Charlie Dobson, Efe Okoro, Martyn Rooney, Lee Thompson, James Williams and Rabah Yousif Bkheit.

 

Rachael Blackmore made sporting history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National with victory on Minella Times at Aintree. The Irish rider scored a thrilling triumph aboard the 11-1 chance, trained by Henry de Bromhead who also saddled runner-up Balko Des Flos.

The thrilled record-breaker said: "I don't feel male or female right now. I don't even feel human."  The 173rd running of the world's most famous steeplechase provided a story for the ages as Blackmore won in the colours of owner JP McManus.

The 31-year-old – who claimed six victories in all, including the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, and was a narrow runner-up in the Gold Cup with A Plus Tard - had already achieved a landmark success at last month's Cheltenham Festival when becoming the first woman to be the meeting's leading jockey. She demonstrated perfect poise and timing to guide Minella Times expertly round the 30 fences over more than four and a quarter miles for victory by six and a half lengths.

The closest a female jockey had previously come to winning the race was Katie Walsh on Seabass in 2012 when she finished third. "I cannot believe it," Blackmore - the daughter of a dairy farmer and a school teacher from Killenaule, County Tipperary - said. "He was a sensational spin. It is unbelievable." Starting out riding ponies as a child, she went on to gain a degree in equine science and combined her studies with competing as an amateur jockey.

There were no spectators at the Merseyside track because of Covid-19 protocols, but the historic moment was not lost on the jockeys, trainers and owners in attendance who cheered the pair back into the winner's enclosure. The 1-2 for De Bromhead sealed his own remarkable story, having won the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

One of the 40 runners, The Long Mile, was euthanised after suffering an injury while running on the flat between fences. It was the second equine fatality in eight editions of the race since safety changes were introduced in 2013. Jockey Bryony Frost was taken to hospital after being unseated from her mount Yala Enki. Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, who has won six times in other races over the National fences, led the way with an enterprising ride on outsider Jett.

The favourite, Cloth Cap, followed on the inside and travelled well for a long way before fading as McManus runners Any Second Now and Minella Times entered the picture. Mark Walsh did well to stay on Any Second Now after nearly being brought down at the third-last and the challenges of Burrows Saint and Discorama waned as Balko Des Flos and Minella Times pushed ahead.

As Blackmore and Minella Times safely jumped the last, it became clear a piece of racing folklore was being created and the pair passed the winning line clear of their rivals. Forty-four years after Charlotte Brew was the first woman to ride in the race on 200-1 outsider Barony Fort, who refused at the 27th fence, Blackmore had bettered Walsh's third-placed finish with an historic victory.

"It is huge. It's the first woman to win the National. It's history, but I suppose this has been coming over time," said Walsh. "There's been more women riding in the National over the last couple of years."