Headingley: One of ten venues chasing England games Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur has warned the current number of international grounds in England is “unsustainable”.
The six traditional Test grounds have been joined in recent years by Hampshire’s Rose Bowl, Glamorgan’s SWALEC Stadium and Durham’s Emirates ICG Stadium, while Bristol has one-day international status and Taunton is close to being handed the same.
As a result the battle for matches – especially the most desirable mid-summer Tests and higher-profile limited-overs games – is increasingly intense.
And Arthur, speaking after rain washed out day one of England’s second Test against New Zealand at Headingley without a ball being bowled, believes the current model is close to breaking point.
“Now there’s a huge bidding process with 10, soon to be 11, international grounds it’s unsustainable really,” he said.
“There’s a finite amount of international cricket in this country, to spread it among 11 international grounds and expect all those grounds to be at the same level as the top international grounds around the world, that’s not going to work.
“We’re all after a sustainable game of cricket at club, county and international level, we have to work together to get that balance.
“You don’t want clubs bankrupting themselves just to stage matches.
Clubs are asked to improve the fabric of the grounds, so you need positive cash-flow in order to do that.
“It used to be a rota basis.
You could set business plans according to when you knew you would miss out on a particular Test match.
On an eight-year programme you knew what you would be getting but now there is a huge bidding process.” Disparity Arthur also addressed the difference between the heaving crowds that are a feature of Lord’s and The Oval and the relative struggle to fill more northerly stadiums such as his own.
He admitted such a disparity existed but cautioned against favouring grounds in the south, purely on a monetary basis.
“It’s important to understand that not everybody has the spending capacity of those people that live in the south-east of the country,” he said.
“That has to be factored in by the major match group when they’re allocating matches.
There’s a finite amount of money that you can charge out in the provinces.
“One of the best things that happened to football was when Wembley was being rebuilt because for a period of time they took England games around the country and more people were able to watch and connect.
“That’s a unique factor of international cricket…it does get taken around.
“My understanding is that the major match group are looking at extra factors rather than pounds shilling and pence.
They have a greater responsibility rather than just awarding matches to those people who provide the most money.”
Stuart Lancaster: five-year plan for England Stuart Lancaster will attempt to ensure England are one of the two top-ranked nations in world rugby in time for the 2015 World Cup after the RFU revealed their new five-year strategic plan.
The ambitious target is one of the cornerstones of the plan, which also includes the ambition of delivering “the most inspiring World Cup ever”.
But there was a change in emphasis from previous strategic plans, with the RFU not targeting a specific number of Six Nations championships and Grand Slams to be won between now and 2017.
Head coach Lancaster welcomed that change, arguing winning titles is only one way of measuring performance.
He also stated that the target of being ranked in the top two by 2015 is in line with his own pre-World Cup development plan.
“I said from the outset that was our objective,” said Lancaster.
“We want to be in a position come the end of the New Zealand tour (in 2014) and going into the autumn internationals and the Six Nations in 2015 that we are up there with the best.
“To do that we have to win consistently.
It is a considerable challenge but if you want to be realistic about winning a big competition you have to have that consistency.
“It is a plan that encompasses the whole of the RFU and gets people to understand broadly what the objectives are, without becoming absolutely (specific) because that then becomes the barometer that I am measured against and there are other barometers for performance.”
Matt Giteau makes some hard yards for Toulon Toulon remain on course for a Heineken Cup and French league double after beating Toulouse 24-9 in the first Top 14 semi-final in Nantes.
Toulon will now face either Clermont or Castres in the final at the Stade de France on June 1.
The defending champions ensured the clash was a highly entertain spectacle, throwing the ball around like a hot potato in the classic Toulousain tradition, but in the end it was Toulon’s more pragmatic approach that prevailed.
Toulon led 8-6 at the break thanks to a try from ex-Springbok Danie Rossouw, before a late score from English full-back Delon Armitage sealed victory for the newly-crowned European champions.
These teams played out a try-less final this time last year, but it took just two minutes for Rossouw to find is way over the whitewash after a pinpoint kick-pass from former Toulouse stalwart Frederic Michalak.
A weak scrum cost Toulon the Top 14 title a year ago and they were dealt two heavy blows before kick-off with the last-minutes withdrawals of props Carl Hayman and Gethin Jenkins, both due to calf injuries.
And it was a scrum penalty that gave Toulouse their first points via the boot of Luke McAlister.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked his first three-pointer to restore the five-point gap only to see McAlister reply in kind on the half-hour mark.
Controversy RCT would hold a two-point lead until the break thanks to a controversial TMO decision to deny Toulouse a try for an apparent forward pass.
Toulouse moved ahead early in the second period when Census Johnston got the better of Andrew Sheridan at scrum time and McAlister hit the target from the kicking tee.
The English prop would soon have his revenge however as the next penalty went against Johnston and Wilkinson could put Toulon back in front at 11-9.
Wilkinson landed a crucial blow just after the hour mark with a trademark drop goal to give his team a bit of breathing room.
The pressure began to tell as unforced errors put a stick in the spokes of Toulouse’s expansive gameplan.
A knock-on from McAlister gave Toulon a scrum from which they claimed another penalty which Wilkinson landed from long range.
Again Toulouse would pay the price for pushing their attacking intention too far as Gurthro Steenkamp coughed up a loose pass, handing Armitage the opportinuty to race home to secure the win for Toulon.
Alize Cornet: Though to the final in front of her home fans Alize Cornet and Lucie Hradecka both came through tough three-setters to book a date in the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
Home favourite Cornet was pushed hard by Eugenie Bouchard before securing a 7-5, 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 victory in the French tournament.
The clash between the third seed and the Canadian teenager was very evenly match but Cornet came through on the big points, claiming six breaks of serve to her opponent’s three.
She also saved six points in the final set.
Hradecka, meanwhile, fought back from a terrible first set to record a 1-6 6-3 6-1 win against Flavia Pennetta.
Italy’s Pennetta made the much brighter start but collapsed in the deciding set, in which she was broken four times and won just five points on her serve.
Jurgen Klopp: As light-hearted as ever in pre-match build-up Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp believes his side will be lucky if they manage to get to Wembley in time for kick off in the Champions League final.
Both Dortmund and Bayern Munich experienced difficulty navigating rush hour London traffic to reach the stadium for the final training session.
It was not what they hoped for and in Klopp’s case, he was particularly perplexed as Dortmund were supposed to be getting a police escort.
“We had three motorcycles next to us but are they not allowed to use their blue lights?” said Klopp.
“It would be very useful tomorrow.
We were supposed to be training in the morning but given this awful traffic I am not so sure.
“If someone knows a policeman please ask him if he could put the lights on.” As ever with Klopp it seems, a smile was not far from his face.
The light-hearted approach could be a major advantage for Dortmund on Saturday given their underdog status.
In fairness to the 45-year-old, he would much prefer to be at Wembley for the first all-German Champions League final than at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, where Manchester United and Chelsea did battle in the all-English affair five years ago.
“Moscow was good but doesn’t have Wembley’s tradition,” he said.
“This is a special game, the biggest cup in the world between two teams from the same country.
It is the perfect place against the perfect opponent.
“If this has been my only final and I die in 60 years, it won’t have been so bad.” Although Dortmund have an impressive record against Bayern over the last couple of years, Klopp understands why his opponents start favourites.
With their four European Cup wins and 23 Bundesliga titles, Munich are one of the game’s true giants, with a history that endures no matter what short-term problems are encountered and a wallet that allows them to buy the very best.
In Dortmund’s case that means Mario Gotze, who will miss Saturday’s game with a groin injury and, in all probability, star striker Robert Lewandowski.
“They are not going to get any worse are they?” said key defender Matt Hummels, who has shrugged off a foot injury.
“Not if they keep taking our players.
“Tomorrow we need to show those who would like to go to Munich that they will be missing out on something.” There is a reason Dortmund will not break the bank to keep hold of their best players and why they are susceptible to raids from richer rivals, as happened at the end of last season when Shinji Kagawa left for Manchester United.
It is that in 2005, just eight years after their only Champions League success, they almost went bust and Klopp knows such a near-catastrophe will not be allowed to happen again.
“The club could have ended as a fiasco,” he said.
“The stadium might have been turned into a monument.
“Instead, it has risen from the ashes.
“Football is a religion in Dortmund.
Bayern may have won a lot of fans and a lot of trophies because of the incredible number of good decisions they have made.
But now there is another story.
Along has come another club that is pretty good as well.
“We do have money to get good players.
But there are other clubs who can spend more money.
“We have to take a different position.” Such is the impact Klopp has made following back-to-back titles and a surge to the Champions League final – that saw them emerge unbeaten from four encounters with Real Madrid and prove themselves superior to Manchester City – he could become a target for Europe’s elite as well.
For now though, he is wrapped up in the Dortmund dream.
“What we have grown in the last five years has been amazing,” he said, recalling his arrival from Mainz after Dortmund’s worst league campaign in two decades.
“It could only have been done at this club.
“That is why things are so emotional for us, compared to other places where success is normal.”
Just 18 overs were bowled on the third day of Durham’s LV= County Championship match against Middlesex at Chester-le-Street, during which time the hosts moved on to 89-1 in their second innings to lead by 152.
Play began at 4.15pm in gloomy light and five overs later they were off again as further rain prevented a resumption until a further hour had been lost.
There were still 20 overs to be bowled, but after 13 umpires George Sharp and Martin Bodenham decided the light was too poor to continue and play was abandoned.
By 6.30pm conditions were better than they had been all day.
Durham resumed on 37-0 with Mark Stoneman on 31 and he reached 50 for the fifth time in his last seven championship innings before falling to the next ball.
James Harris appeared to stifle his lbw appeal, but Sharp’s finger was already raised.
Harris went close to bowling Keaton Jennings on 16 with a ball which moved sharply into the left-hander and passed just over his off stump.
Otherwise the former South Africa Under-19 captain looked untroubled in reaching 28 not out, while Scott Borthwick was unbeaten on 11.
Rachel Yankey: England international will be key for Arsenal Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Arsenal Ladies and Bristol Academy Women battle it out on Sunday as they bid to lift the prestigious FA Women’s Cup trophy.
The Gunners are the strong favourites in the competition having won 11 of their previous 12 FA Women’s Cup finals.
However, Bristol will be no pushovers, with the Vixens proving to be one of the surprise packages in this season’s FAWSL and currently top of the table with the usually dominant Arsenal struggling early on.
Sunday’s final also marks a repeat of the 2011 showpiece in which Arsenal ran out 2-0 winners at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena with goals coming from Julie Fleeting and Kim Little as Bristol admitted the occasion got to some of their players.
The sides have already met this season, just last weekend in fact, and again Shelley Kerr’s Arsenal came out on top after winning 4-2 in their Continental Cup encounter.
However, Bristol rested several big players, particularly sensational Spanish duo Laura del Rio and Natalia Sanchon, as their youngsters battled valiantly against the Gunners.
Manager Mark Sampson will be hopeful of being able to team up his ‘female Michu’ Sanchon with del Rio, who has been struggling with a hamstring injury and is a doubt for the game.
Following their impressive start to their 2013 league campaign, the Academy are in confident mood going into the final at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium with the ultimate prize being a trophy the club have never won before.
But the Gunners are no strangers to the competition and, with the likes of PFA Player of the Year Kim Little in their arsenal, the side are a force to be reckoned with.
Experience will also be a key factor in the game with Arsenal having that steady presence of the left-footed Rachel Yankey, who boasts well over 100 appearances for England.
The 33-year-old has already lifted the FA Cup once before and has several other accolades spanning an impressive career.
Her role could prove pivotal for Arsenal.
Overall, both sides have enjoyed strong performances on the road to the final so it will be a case of who will be able to rise to the big occasion and does not let it get to them.
The final kicks-off at 3pm.
Andrea Agathangelou: completed his maiden century for Lancashire against Hampshire Only 25 overs were possible at the Ageas Bowl but long enough for Lancashire’s Cypriot-South African batsman Andrea Agathangelou to complete his maiden century for his adopted county.
The 23-year-old made the most of his unexpected opportunity after replacing Simon Katich, who was hit on the head in the warm-up, moving from his overnight 93 to 121 before being run out by Danny Briggs from square leg.
Thanks to the newcomer, Lancashire’s last two wickets added 113 as he and Glen Chapple added 43 for the ninth before a further 70 with last man Simon Kerrigan to frustrate Hampshire, who had been on top for most of the first day.
Lancashire resumed in gloomy, wet conditions at the start of the second day at 252-9 in the 82nd over and James Tomlinson and David Balcombe, who had taken seven of the wickets, found the last pair in no mood to surrender.
Agathangelou needed 20 balls to move to three figures and he dominated the last wicket stand as Kerrigan offered solid, uncompromising support.
Recovery Together they put on a further 43 runs in 17 overs before Agathangelou was stranded by Briggs’ throw but by then Lancashire had fully recovered from a disappointing 182-8 eight after winning the toss.
Balcombe overcame a horrific start in which he conceded 21 from his first three balls of the match to finish with 5-104 but Lancashire had held out for an extra 80 minutes in the process of regaining the initiative.
Kerrigan was unbeaten with 14 at the fall of the last wicket but his part in 22 overs of defiance left Hampshire with an awkward half-hour’s batting before lunch.
Hampshire lost captain Jimmy Adams in the fourth over, leg before to an inswinger from Kyle Hogg.
Michael Carberry and Liam Dawson took Hampshire through to 7-1 from eight overs at lunch, but then came the rain.
Umpires Nigel Cowley and Martin Saggers waited until 5pm before calling off play for the day but they were left with no alternative in the squally showers.
Disclaimer battles back to get the better of Contributer Disclaimer (13/8) got the better of Contributer (1/2 favourite) in what turned out to be a match race for the Listed Casco EBF Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood.
Only three runners were declared for the contest in which winning connections took home 22,684, but it was an interesting race despite the disappointing turn out.
Tom Queally made the running on Disclaimer with Ryan Moore tracking the pace in his slipstream and the latter made his move in the straight by taking it up on Contributer with two furlongs to go.
It looked like he’d go on and land the odds when going almost a length clear but Disclaimer battled to regain the initiative and won going away.
The winning jockey told Racing UK: “Being a two-runner race it’s difficult to evaluate the form, but he showed a likeable attitude.
“I gave him a flick and he responded immediately.
You can’t get too carried away with the form, but at the same time he hasn’t done anything wrong this season.”
David De Gea: Manchester United goalkeeper has no wish to move Sky Bet Football Betting Retrieving latest Sky Bet odds Football Betting 10 Free Bet Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea insists he is not thinking about a move away from Old Trafford.
The Spaniard initially struggled to settle at United following his arrival from Atletico Madrid in 2011 but has since established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in England.
De Gea was named in the Premier League team of the season after United’s title success but has been linked with a move back to Spain.
With Barcelona set to sell Victor Valdes this summer – possibly to Monaco – De Gea has been mentioned as a possible target.
But he said: “That would be very difficult.
I am very happy at United.
Things are going really well, better every day.
I am very happy.” Meanwhile, De Gea hopes striker Wayne Rooney can sort his future out after telling outgoing United manager Sir Alex Ferguson he a move.
De Gea added on El Larguero: “He looks fine to me, happy.
We do not know if he will go, but we hope he stays.
He is a very important player for us.”