Rugby correspondant recalls racism and homophobia in sports reporting: “I remember footballers having bananas thrown at them”

Rob Robertson is a rugby correspondent for the Scottish Daily Mail. During his career he never has seen the minority correspondents racially abused by other colleagues. “However, I have seen members of the public do it to them.”

Photo Credit: Rob Robertson

“Not only the racial abuse but I have seen gay colleagues being the subject of taunts by their fellow reporters. They were always a lot older and the last time I saw that happen was twenty years ago.”

The rugby correspondent recalls that back in the 1980’s the media did not use racist terms but it was a lot of incidents happening during the games which were reported by the media.

“In football I remember players such as Mark Walters of Rangers F.C. had bananas thrown at him. The same happened to the Clyde Best from the West Ham United F.C.”

Sport is a major sector in the media industry but it does not reflect fully on the social and cultural diversity. Moreover, the sport coverage doesn’t ensure equality for all.

Looking at the women coverage there is a hope that changes can be made. “Journalism in Scotland was traditionally male dominated and still is but efforts from the likes of the WIJ Scotland, training and campaigning group for women journalists, has made a difference.”

Rob Robertson believes that it shouldn’t be just about raising the awareness. “It should be more a case of making sure you use no racist comment in your copy or on the radio and TV.”

“It has happened before when the former West Bromwich Albion manager Ron Atkinson was booted off ITV for claiming a player was lazy because he was a minority. He thought he was off microphone but he wasn’t.”

Rob Robertson agrees that corespondents should treat equally every player, despite their background.

It’s the medias role to ensure that they are following professional ethics.

Europa League Qualifiers Preview

It’ll certainly be a tough task for all four Scottish clubs to progress to the next round of the Europa League qualifiers, with each club travelling to face their opponents away from home tonight.

Riga FC V Celtic

Neil Lennon’s side travel to Latvia to face the champions of the Latvian Higher League, Riga FC, who currently sit four points clear at the top of their league, having played 19 games.

It’ll be the first taste of Latvian opposition for Celtic, who are without centre half Christopher Julien and winger Mikey Johnston due to injury. The return of Odsonne Edouard, who was rested in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Livingston, will be a massive boost for the Scottish champions.

Celtic are entering the competition at this stage having suffered a shock Champions League exit at the hands of Ferencvaros. However, they will be confident of beating Riga and earning a place in the play-offs, where the winner of Sarajevo v Budocnost Podgorica awaits.

Hapoel Beer Sheva V Motherwell

Stephen Robinson has described his Motherwell side as “underdogs” as they travel to Israel to face Hapoel Beer Sheva tonight.

The Steelmen are heading into the game without the suspended Bevis Mugabi, who was sent off in last weeks’ match against Coleraine. Meanwhile Jake Carroll, Charles Dunne, Liam Donnelly and Scott Fox all remain absent through injury. Robbie Crawford, who signed on loan from Livingston, is yet to feature for Stephen Robinsons side.

A place in the play-offs and a home tie against Viktoria Plzen or Sonderjyske is up for grabs if The Well can pull off a win against a Hapoel side who reached the Europa League group stages in 2017.

Sporting CP V Aberdeen

What might’ve been an all but impossible task for Aberdeen may not be such a tall order anymore. This comes after nine of Sporting CP’s first team squad and their head coach have tested positive for coronavirus.

Despite the outbreak, Dons boss Derek McInnes fully expects the match to go ahead and has described the game as a “formidable task” for his side, despite the Portuguese sides’ lack of first team players.

Aberdeen are without Scott McKenna who has completed his move to English Championship side Nottingham Forest, while Sam Cosgrove, Michael Devlin, Matty Kennedy and Curtis Main remain injured.

Aberdeen come into this one on the back of a 0-3 defeat to Motherwell, while Sportings’ opening league match against Gil Vicente was postponed due to the outbreak.

The Dons will be hoping that Sportings’ poor record against Scottish clubs continues. The Portuguese side have won just five of their 14 encounters with Scottish clubs Rangers, Celtic, Dundee and Hibernian.

Willem II V Rangers

Rangers boss Steven Gerrard hopes his side can regain their defensive prowess after conceding twice to Hibernian on Saturday, following eight successive clean sheets since the start of the season.

The Ibrox side travel to Tilburg to play Dutch side Willem II, who finished fifth in the Eredivisie last season after the league was suspended and subsequently declared void.

Rangers are without midfielders Ryan Jack and Joe Aribo, while defender Nikola Katic also remains out through injury. Brandon Barker and Kemar Roofe remain doubtful after missing the 2-2 draw with Hibernian on Sunday.

Rangers will be looking to replicate their good form in Europe which saw them get to the last 16 of last seasons Europa League competition, where they were knocked out by German side Bayer Leverkusen.

EN4 Sports Podcast – 24th September 2020

On today’s EN4 Sports Podcast, David Hogg, Alex Grant and Jake Grey discuss tonight’s Europa League matches. Aberdeen’s tricky tie in Portugal, Motherwell’s trip to Israel and the possibility of another European slip-up as the face Riga in Latvia.

As well as that, the boys discuss Rangers’ statement after Steven Gerrard was charged for his comments after the Dundee United match a few weeks ago and they cast an eye forward to another action pack weekend of Scottish Premiership football.

 

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Music: Desert Brawl by Vans in Japan from YouTube Audio Library

Edinburgh Napier Knights gear up for return to action amidst COVID-19

 

A new university term has brought with it a new set of risks and none perhaps pose more of a risk than the return of university sports.

In order to ensure there is continued survival and under strict regulations from the Scottish Government, University level sports is gearing up for a return to action.

One such team is the Edinburgh Napier Knights, Edinburgh Napier University’s American football team led by their Head Coach and University lecturer Peter Laird.

One of the many new rules in place ahead of the return of the football season is that clubs must train members of the team and coaching staff to be ‘COVID officers’ whilst current restrictions limit the team to equipment free practices.

“Each sport has to be answerable to the national governing body. So, for instance, the restrictions on American football, and what we’re allowed to do involves, we can’t wear equipment just yet. We’re also only allowed to have a maximum of 20 players on one half of a field”, commented Mr Laird.

Mr Laird further explained that the lack of equipment has the potential to somewhat limit the sport’s appeal.

“There is no equipment, which is partially some of the attraction for people to come along and try it out. They want to put the helmet on and the shoulder pads and feel what it’s like.”

The latest government guidance on COVID-19, states: “Organised outdoor contact sports such as rugby can re-start for people of all ages. For outdoor coaching sessions, there is a limit of 30 on the total number of people who can be coached at any one time.”

Despite having to contend with so many new restrictions Mr Laird feels it is vital that the season, even if it looks a little different, goes ahead in order to ensure the team’s continued survival for years to come.

“My biggest concern going into this year is that if we do nothing, the club just slowly starts to fade away and die, you have to reboot the whole thing a year from now, if things are back to normal. So I’d rather have something.”

With old restrictions now being reintroduced, the Napier Knights, much like many other sports teams both at university level and beyond continue to be left in a state of limbo unsure as to what the future may bring.

Jerome looking to make up for lost time in Varsity match

Edinburgh Napier Knights’ linebacker Mac Jerome has said that he has extra motivation for this weekend’s annual Varsity match, having missed the previous three years through injury.

The annual game, which takes place on Super Bowl Sunday, sees the Knights take on University of Edinburgh Predators at Meggetland Stadium after facing Glasgow University in the previous two years.

Jerome is looking to make up for lost time in this year’s clash.

He said: “I played it [Varsity] in my first year, I started and got injured in that game. I was actually stretchered off the field, and then I was injured for the next year, and last year’s game was cancelled. I’m looking to go out with a bang.”

“I can’t wait for it; it’s probably our biggest game of the season, so it’s something I’m always looking forward to. This game is almost separate from the rest of the league season. This is the game that we want to win.”

The Knights have faced off against Glasgow opposition in the previous two years (Credit: Robert Anderson)

Jerome also explained that the local rivalry will add an extra spice to the match.

“It’s definitely feistier,” the linebacker said, “We will play with more aggression, but we will have to treat it the same as any other game.”

This year is the ninth time that the MacKenzie’s Challenge trophy has been up for grabs, and Knights’ head coach Pete Laird has seen the event grow significantly during his years in charge of the side.

“We’ve attracted bigger crowds, bigger sponsors, the bar area is taking off and we have all sorts of teams and societies wanting to get involved.”

 

While the result is obviously important, the opportunity to give the sport more exposure is not lost on the coach.

“The Varsity game itself has two purposes: one is to promote the team, but the other is to give American Football a bit of a shop window.

“We appreciate most people’s exposure to the sport is through the NFL highlights and the Super Bowl, and to get people along to a real game and give them a game day experience is one of our main aims.”

All eyes may be on Miami for Sunday night’s big game between Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, but the Edinburgh players will have only one focus.

How Rally Mexico could define the 2019 WRC

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Ott Tanak is on the verge of World Rally dominance (Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing)

Ott Tanak is a man in impeccable form at the moment. The Estonian star leads the World Rally Championship for the first time in his career, and depending on his performance on round three, this could just be the start of his dominance.

Rally Mexico is up next for the WRC circus. Held on roads high up in the mountains, the gravel event poses a completely unique challenge for the crews as the high altitude saps significant power from the engines.

It’s also the first gravel rally of the year – the surface the majority of the season is run on – which means the true pecking order will begin to be established after the winter madness of Monte-Carlo and Sweden.

Toyota driver Tanak heads into the stages first on the road after winning in Sweden last month, which means he will face the worst of the conditions as he sweeps away the loose gravel from the stages for those behind.

Tanak’s chief rivals, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Citroen’s six-time and defending world champion Sebastien Ogier, start second and third on the road this weekend, making them favourites to win and claw points away from Tanak.

However such a suggestion is to belittle the confidence Tanak oozes right now. Rally Mexico could be a real turning point in the Estonian’s relatively short career.

Nobody is expecting a Tanak victory for two key reasons: he is sweeping the gravel which he has never had to do in his career, and his Toyota Yaris has been prone to suffering engine issues on the Mexican stages in previous years.

However Tanak is in his absolute prime and right now he is the out-and-out fastest man in the World Rally Championship.

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Tanak has won more stages than anybody else this season (Credit: McKlein)

If anybody is capable of overturning the odds, it is Tanak. The graphic above shows the control the Estonian can have over his rivals.

Since last summer he has been almost untouchable. He has won four of the last seven rallies on all three surfaces (tarmac, gravel and snow) and is almost guaranteed to be winning multiple events as the season progresses if he maintains this form.

A win in Mexico would be devastating for his rivals. It would move him into at least a 14 point lead in the championship, but more than that it would leave Tanak with limited chinks in his armour.

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Tanak has a seven point championship lead over Neuville (Credit: Toyota Gazoo Racing)

World champion Ogier is busy adapting to his Citroen C3 after moving from M-Sport Ford last season, while Neuville is pushing the maximum out of his Hyundai i20 that isn’t looking quite as competitive as the Toyota Yaris.

If Tanak can win on a rally where he is seemingly at his weakest, ultimately the only thing stopping him thereafter would be himself.

The World Rally Championship has enjoyed some scintillating championship battles over the last two years, but the 2019 race could be over before it has even begun if Tanak is standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday.

The first proper stage of Rally Mexico, El Chocolate, starts at 16:18 UK time this afternoon. Stages will be live on BT Sport throughout the weekend.

Citroen’s Esapekka Lappi currently leads the rally after last night’s 0.7-mile city centre stage.

Cockerill: Tough match against Benetton a must win

 

Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Richard Cockerill has labelled Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 match against Benetton as a must win.

Cockerill’s squad travel to Italy where they face second placed Benetton in Conference B with Edinburgh hot on their heels, four points behind in fourth.

A win at the weekend for the Scottish side would bring them one step closer to the Pro14 play-offs.

Cockerill spoke about how important a positive result would be over the weekend. He said: “It’s huge for us in the context of the conference. We have had a couple of defeats in the last three games.

“It’s going to be a very tough day but we need to go there and win. The reality is we need to win and we can’t hide away from that.”

The last time the two sides met was in September last year where Edinburgh scraped a narrow 31-30 victory. Benetton are currently the third best form team in the tournament behind only Leinster and Munster.

However, Cockerill believes that there is the opportunity for another high-scoring game. He added: “They are a good side but teams create opportunities against them.”

Centre Mark Bennett, knows that the days of disregarding Italian opposition are long in the past. He said: “We can’t take them for granted. They are a top, top side.

“We need to go into this one rearing to go. We all know how big a game this is for the club.”

Edinburgh are coming off the back of a disappointing 17-19 home loss against Cardiff Blues. This was the first defeat at BT Murrayfield for Edinburgh since April 2018 but Bennett insists that team morale is still high.

He added: “We have won eight out of our last 10 games. We’re in great form.

“We’re full of confidence. We have a great team and we have to just go for it.”

Equine flu brings horse racing world to standstill

The British Horseracing Authority has banned all races in the UK after an outbreak of equine influenza.

The ban has effected Musselburgh Races, which was set to host a fixture on Sunday with eight races and a £160,000 prize – the biggest ever prize pot at The Races.

Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said:

“We are naturally disappointed at losing our richest jumps racing fixture this weekend (Sunday 10 Feb) but the racing community is working together to minimise the spread of equine influenza and the decision by the BHA to cancel racing is without doubt the correct one.

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The £160,000 prize fixture will not be going ahead on Sunday. (Credit: Ryan Traynor)

“The industry does prepare for scenarios such as these and I am confident that the stringent procedures which are in place across the UK will ensure that racing is back and up running as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Vaccinated horses typically have mild short lasting symptoms, but this new strain is effecting vaccinated animals. The BHA said that the disease was typically not serious:

“Symptoms may include a raised temperature, a cough and nasal discharge. It is highly contagious. Humans are not at risk from the virus, though can spread the virus on clothes and equipment.”

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All the horses are in quarantine and the stables are deserted. (Credit: Ryan Traynor)

“All of the trainers who had runners at the fixtures at Wolverhampton, Ludlow and Ayr this week have been informed that their yards have been placed under a temporary hold which means that they will not be able to make any declarations until their horses have been tested and cleared.”

Symptoms typically take three days to appear which means that the full extent of the problem won’t be known until Sunday.

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The prestigious race course will lose betting revenue because of the cancellation of Sunday’s event. The BHA say they are sympathetic, but must impose the ban. (Credit: Ryan Traynor)

Bill Farnsworth hoped that the disruption to Musselburgh would be minimal:

“A decision will be taken on Monday by the BHA as to when racing will resume, and if our next meeting scheduled for Wednesday (13 Feb) goes ahead as planned, there will be free admission for all.”

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The disease is airborne, but not harmful to humans. (Credit: Ryan Traynor)

The BHA only makes decisions on race horses but encourages all horse owners to seek professional advice and to get their horses vaccinated if they have concerns.

 

Hugh McIlvanney dies aged 84

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Hugh McIlvanney at the Football Writers’ Association Gala Tribute Dinner in 2018. (Photo credit: Football Writers’ Association via Facebook)

Scottish sports journalist Hugh McIlvanney has died at the age of 84, after a battle with cancer.

McIlvanney, widely considered to be one of Britain’s greatest sports journalists, was born in Kilmarnock and began his journalism career with local newspaper The Kilmarnock Standard, after leaving high school. He then went on to work long term for The Observer and The Sunday Times, for 30 and 23 years respectively.

McIlvanney was known for his football and boxing reports, especially the 1966 FIFA World Cup where England recorded their famous victory and the 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Muhammad Ali & George Foreman, possibly the most famous boxing match in the world. He claimed the greatest ‘scoop’ he had was when he found himself in Ali’s villa, hours after the fight in Zaire.

Due to his illustrious career, McIlvanney formed close and personal relationships with some of the most successful football managers to come from Scotland: Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie even asked McIlvanney for help with producing his autobiography – Managing My Life.

Despite witnessing some of the most famous events in sporting history, McIlvanney had to write about some heartbreaking events, including the death of his friend Stein who sadly suffered a heart attack at the conclusion of a 1985 Scotland vs Wales match, for qualification to the 1986 World Cup. He was also present at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, where 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and subsequently murdered by a terror group. McIlvanney also reported on the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

When McIlvanney decided to retire in 2016 after a 60 year career, Muhammad Ali was one of the first to pay tribute to the great man. Ali said: “His words were a window to the lives, the courage, the struggles and the triumphs of the great champions of his time. He has contributed richly to the fabric of our sport”.

McIlvanney was awarded an OBE in 1996 for services to journalism, given the Lifetime Achievement Award by The Scottish Press Awards in 2004, and is currently the only sports writer to be voted Journalist of the Year. McIlvanney also became the first journalist to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, just two years ago, with an induction to the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Although he started his career in Scotland, McIlvanney was respected across the world – evidenced by the sheer amount of tributes pouring in. Former England star Gary Lineker tweeted: “Very sorry to hear that Hugh McIlvanney has died. Truly one of the greatest sports’ writers of all time”.

Former Aberdeen keeper – turned journalist – David Preece also paid his respects: “There are writers you will read whatever they write. Hugh McIlvanney was one of those writers”.

Former BT Sport commentator Derek Rae called McIlvanney “Scotland’s most gifted journalist’.

In a tribute to Hugh McIlvanney’s work, The Guardian has selected six of his best articles. The Rumble in the Jungle and The Thriller in Manila feature top of the list, and it comes as no surprise. Not only were they two of the greatest boxing matches to date, the way McIlvanney writes about the events makes you feel as though you were actually there. Also on the list; the 1966 World Cup Final, Celtic’s 1967 European Cup win in Lisbon, boxer Johnny Owen’s tragic last fight and the aftermath of Matt Busby’s retirement.

New England Patriots to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII

New England Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 3rd, after each winning their penultimate matches in the AFC and NFC Championships, respectively. 

Each game was a classic in their own right with both contests going to Overtime – the first time in NFL history that this has happened. The Rams overcame the New Orleans Saints to win 23-26 in a finish that was marred by controversy, whilst The Patriots were able to edge out the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in what was a thrilling match.

Click here to see highlights of Patriots vs Chiefs.

Here in the UK, there is certainly a big appetite for American Football as the UK is the NFL’s third largest market with an estimated 13 million followers. The London games which take place in October has been a growing success year on year. Here in Scotland, before they discontinued in 2004, the Scottish Claymores received average audience attendances of over 11’000 per game. This matched the average attendances at most SPL games. 

Super Bowl LIII should be a fascinating contest and spectacle. This year’s half-time show is to be performed by Los Angeles pop rock band, Maroon 5, who will be joined by Travis Scott and Big Boi after the initial appointment drew a public backlash. 

The Patriots head into this as slight favourites in which will be their third consecutive year in the Super Bowl. For The Rams this will be their fourth Super Bowl in their entire history and have won it only once. These teams met in Super Bowl 36 where the Patriots were victorious. Will this year’s outcome be the same?

The game will be broadcast on BBC and Sky Sports, respectively.

Check this preview below to find out the key players and game predictions.

 

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