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• Club confirms arrest by Staffordshire police
• Striker bailed pending further inquiries
The Stoke City striker Ricardo Fuller has been arrested by police in connection with an incident at a Hanley nightclub.
The 30-year-old, who had played for Stoke in their 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, was arrested on suspicion of assault. Officers were called to the JFK nightclub, in Trinity Street, at 1am on Sunday. Fuller has since been bailed, pending further inquiries.
A Staffordshire police spokesman said: “At 1am on Sunday an incident occurred at JFK nightclub in Trinity Street, following which a 30-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of assault. He has been bailed, pending further inquiries.”
A club statement said: “The club can confirm that Fuller was arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning following an incident in a nightclub in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. We will be making no further comment at this time.”
• No Stoke supporters involved
• Twenty-five year-old arrested
A man injured during yesterday’s Premier League match at Stoke City has died in hospital.
The 30-year-old fan is thought to have been hit on the head with a bin. He was found unconscious and taken to hospital where he died in the early hours this morning.
The incident happened in the Blackburn Rovers section of the ground and police say no Stoke supporters were involved.
“The circumstances are being fully investigated,” said a police spokesman. “A 25-year-old man remains in custody and is helping police with their inquiries.”
The man was found by police just after 4pm yesterday in the Britannia Stadium’s south stand where the travelling Blackburn supporters were seated.
Police said the man was treated at the scene for a head injury and cardiac arrest.
Chief Inspector Adrian Roberts, match commander at the game, said there were more than 1,300 Blackburn supporters at the game, which Stoke won 3-0.
• Financial Times reports HMRC investigation
• Premier League finance director to discuss issue with clubs
The Premier League is aiming to broker a deal with tax authorities in order to protect players and clubs from the loss of up to £100m in taxes, according to today’s Financial Times.
HM Revenue & Customs was reported to be investigating deals between clubs and image rights companies set up by players. These companies are often based offshore and are therefore out of reach of tax officials.
Experts said the Revenue was missing out on £100m in tax because of such deals. The Financial Times reported that Javed Khan, the Premier League’s finance director, would discuss the issue with the league’s 20 clubs this week.
The Premier League told the Financial Times: “We are in discussions with HMRC. All players have some degree of image rights attached to them. It is legitimate to have some element of image rights, but HMRC would query the level that some have attached to them.”
According to the report, Jeff Millington of Begbies Traynor, a former Revenue manager who initiated its investigation into image rights, said: “The Revenue’s legal opinion is robust. The evidence they see is quite favourable to the Revenue. When you consider the amount of tax at risk, the Revenue isn’t going to do a deal.”
The Revenue said: “The government remains committed to ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax and that the minority who seek not to do so should not succeed.”
Today’s tittle-tattle couldn’t be more pleased for Phillipsinho
Another day, another litany of increasingly tedious, half-baked accounts of one highly paid footballer’s loyalty and questionable moral fortitude. Will we ever tire of it? Will it ever end? Apparently not, for Marouane Chamakh, a Rumour Mill staple since last summer, has announced that, contrary to anything he may have said or not said last week, the week before that, or in any of the preceding months, he would rather go to Arsenal than Liverpool.
It is well documented that the Bordeaux and Morocco striker is a free agent at the end of this season and is looking for a lucrative move, but despite reports that he had already promised his services to Liverpool, Chamakh said over the weekend that: “My choice is to join a Premier League club. If I had a choice I would go to Arsenal.”
Of course there’s always the possibility that this preference was aired between Liverpool’s win over Everton and Arsenal’s mullering at the hands of Chelsea, a window in which Chamakh would have had time to reflect on the violent shoeing he could look forward to receiving on the occasion of his first Merseyside derby, before deciding that he’d rather go somewhere where such violence is frowned upon, unless you happen to be dishing it out. If that’s the case, Chamakh may well have changed his mind in the wake of seeing Arsenal get humbled by Chelsea, a state of affairs that means we may not have heard the last of the Chamakh saga. Wherever he ends up, he’d better be good.
In Spain, Sport claims that Cesc Fábregas will pile the hurt on Arsenal fans by moving to Barcelona during the summer, despite his manager’s craven attempts to keep him at the Emirates by writing increasingly large numbers on a piece of paper and sliding it across the table for his orchestra conductor to consider. Sport has declared that “economic issues” are not particularly high on Fábregas’s list of priorities and that he’d like to move to the Camp Nou in the summer for a fee of €50m with a “minimum of fuss”. That looks increasingly unlikely as this morning’s edition of AS has claimed that Real Madrid are also interested in getting the player to ink a deal.
However Sport suggests the Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez is realistic over the move and knows he is unlikely to lure the Arsenal captain to the Bernabéu.
Whichever Spanish giant fails to sign Fábregas could console themselves and appease their fans by snapping up Bryan Hughes, the 33-year-old midfielder who has had his contract paid up by Hull City and is now a free agent on trial with Middlesbrough. James Vaughan also looks set to drop a division in his search for first-team football. The Everton striker, who is an England Under-21 international and the Premier League’s youngest ever goalscorer, could be on his way back to Derby County, for whom he made two appearances during a month-long loan spell last year.
• ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 14,’ says NFLPA director
• League wants players to take 18% cut in wages
The NFL Players Association’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, strongly believes there will be no NFL season in 2011, claiming that team owners had positioned themselves for a lockout by securing, among other things, television deals that he said would pay them up to $5bn (£3.2bn) regardless of whether any games were actually played.
The 2010 season is already set to be played without a salary cap after the owners opted out of the existing collective bargaining agreement, but in 2011 there will be no season unless a new deal is reached.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 14,” said Smith when asked how likely he felt a 2011 lockout to be. Smith said the NFL’s latest offer proposed to reduce the players’ share of the league’s applied revenues from about 59% to 41%.
“They’re asking us to give 18% [of existing salaries] back. My question is why?” added Smith. “I keep coming back to an economic model in America that is unparalleled. And that makes it incredibly difficult to then come to players and say, ‘On average, each of you needs to take a $340,000 pay cut to save the National Football League.’ Tough sell. Tough sell.”
Smith reiterated claims he has made before about teams experiencing a fivefold increase in value over the past 15 years, and once again appealed for the owners to make their financial records public so that the players could have a better understanding of what the margins actually are. Perhaps his most pointed assertion, however, was that teams had renegotiated existing TV deals so that broadcasters would continue to pay for rights to games even if none were being played.
“Has any one of the prior deals included $5bn to not play football?” Smith asked. “The answer’s no.”
The NFLPA president, Kevin Mawae, attempted to paint a more positive picture, saying: “I really and truly in my heart believe we’ll get a deal done. But there’s going to have to be some give and some take and not just taking from one side all the way.”
The NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, added: “You don’t make money by shutting down your business. The idea that the owners want to lock out and not play football is absolutely not the case. That’s just not good for anybody.”
Goodell will have a further opportunity to respond to Smith’s claims at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference later today. Yesterday, however, Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice-president, pointed out that the Green Bay Packers, the only team whose audited financial records have been made available to players, had experienced a 40% fall in profits.
“In most businesses, that would be a serious cause for concern,” said Pash. “It would indicate a serious issue that has to be dealt with. You look at your single largest expense, which is player costs.”
The NFLPA, meanwhile, has advised players to save 25% of their salary next season to give themselves some security in the event of a lockout.
Stylish goalkeeper whose England career included a disastrous defeat to Hungary
Had his international career as England’s goalkeeper stopped at the beginning of the 1953-54 season, Gil Merrick, who has died aged 88, would doubtless be remembered as the stylish, commanding player so long admired between the posts for Birmingham City. Alas, he was destined to run into the Hungarians, conceding six goals at Wembley in November 1953 – according to the England manager, Walter Winterbottom, Merrick “had a nightmare” – and another seven in Budapest, the following May. Still, Merrick remained as England’s keeper when the party flew on to the World Cup finals in Switzerland in 1954, where another uneasy game – conceding four goals against Uruguay in the quarter-final – proved to be the final cap he would win.
Born in Sparkhill, Birmingham, Merrick supported the city team, rather than Aston Villa, as a boy and he signed as a professional with them in August 1939. He spent the second world war in the army. Returning to Birmingham City, he helped them to win the Second Division championship in the 1947-48 season and was again in goal when, having been relegated, they won it in 1954-55.
In 1956 – the year that Birmingham City finished sixth in the First Division – he figured in their FA Cup final team, which lost 3-1 to Manchester City at Wembley, the match in which his opposite number, Bert Trautmann, continued to play despite breaking a bone in his neck. Merrick made 485 league appearances for Birmingham City until 1960, when he retired as a player and went into management.
Standing 6ft 1ins tall, weighing more than 13 stone, and elegantly moustached, Merrick was an imposing figure. He took his goalkeeping very seriously, making a careful study of his potential opponents. “If I studied a player’s run-up and action,” he would reflect, after saving a fierce right-footed shot from Portsmouth’s Duggie Reid, “in kicking the ball, rather than waiting for the ball in flight and depending on quickness of the eye to make a save, I should have a better chance of going the right way.”
The first of Merrick’s 23 England caps came in 1951 at Wembley. He could scarcely be saddled with all the blame for England’s later debacle against Hungary, their first ever defeat on home soil by a team from outside the British Isles. Defensive weaknesses had been evident some weeks earlier in the same stadium, when a patchwork Rest of Europe team scored four times and deserved better than a 4-4 draw. Two of their goals were scored by a player Merrick particularly admired, the powerful Hungarian exile Ladislao Kubala.
From almost the outset of the game against Hungary, Merrick was something of a sitting duck. His defence was totally baffled by the deep-lying Hungarian centre-forward, Nándor Hidegkuti. Barely 90 seconds of the game had elapsed when Hidegkuti, with a clever feint, caused the English centre-half Harry Johnston – who failed to get to grips with him throughout the match – to leave a space in the defensive line, through which he crashed a fierce right-footer past Merrick.
A flood of goals followed. “That was something special, no doubt about that,” Merrick would recall. “Everybody was so very fast. I think the first was a shambles. We never knew who to mark. Harry Johnston, as we walked off 4-2 down [at half-time], said, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here. I haven’t had a kick’, and he hadn’t, because Hidegkuti had moved back 20 yards and left Harry marking nobody. In some ways it was a privilege to play against them. I don’t think there was a better side to teach us how to play football. We’d never seen anything like it. We never had a ghost of a chance at all… The two wingers could catch pigeons. Poor Alf [Ramsey, the right-back] didn’t know which way to turn, because the little left-winger was going by him like a train.”
Seven more goals whizzed past Merrick in Budapest, but with Billy Wright moving from wing-half to centre-half, the defence tightened up in the World Cup in Switzerland, until in the quarter-finals the opposition was Uruguay, holders of the trophy, the 7-0 conquerors of Scotland in the first stages. Merrick, thought one commentator, “had lost his nerve completely after the two Hungarian defeats. England’s new backs, Ron Staniforth and Roger Byrne, had not had time to build up any understanding with their goalkeeper or with each other.”
In Basle, it was 1-1 when England fell behind to a goal by Uruguay’s famous roving centre-half and captain, Obdulio Varela. “The agility of Beara [Yugoslavia’s keeper] or Grosics [Hungary’s],” considered the commentator, “might have saved that goal.” Uruguay’s third goal saw Merrick widely criticised – too slow, it was reported, to get down to a shot by Juan Schiaffino.
Dropped by England, Merrick would play for another six years for Birmingham City. Before he retired, he published an autobiography, somewhat challengingly titled, I See It All. He managed Birmingham City from 1960 to 1964, becoming runners-up in the Fairs Cup in 1960-61 and leading the side to win the 1963 League Cup over Aston Villa. Although they were never greatly successful in the First Division under Merrick, the club at least escaped relegation.
In the 70s, he would have a spell managing non-league Bromsgrove Rovers, but his name will always be associated with Birmingham City. Last year, the Railway stand at St Andrew’s was renamed in his honour.
He is survived by his wife, Ivy, a daughter, Jill, and a son, Neil, from a previous marriage.
• Gilbert Harold ‘Gil’ Merrick, footballer, born 26 January 1922; died 3 February 2010