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SPORTS AGENDA: Manchester United fail European test after press pass was handed to fanzine writer

An unsightly affair took place before Manchester United’s Europa League quarter-final with Copenhagen, which ended up with both UEFA and the Football Writers’ Association involved in what became an international incident.

UEFA rules around games behind-closed-doors state that each club is allocated 10 spaces for written media, with no more than one to be given to the club’s in-house media. With demand high and 20 requests, United subsequently turned down applications from The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent.

However, when it emerged that a writer for Abu Dhabi-based The National, who just happens to edit a United fanzine, was handed one of the precious passes, questions were asked. 

Karen Shotbolt, United’s head of football communications, blamed UEFA, claiming that the governing body had carried out a ballot to decide who was given accreditation.

That prompted the FWA to get in touch with UEFA, who insisted no such ballot had taken place and that it was down to the clubs to decide who got the passes.

Not a great look, to say the least.

Greece has been the word for a number of Premier League footballers who were in Spain and facing quarantine upon their arrival back in the UK. 

Sources have disclosed that a number of top-flight players, holidaying in the Balearics and Canary Islands, organised flights to Greece at the end of their stays and from there flew back to Britain, avoiding the need to self-isolate for 14 days had they jetted back directly from Spain. 

Former Take That star Robbie Williams is the man behind League Two Port Vale’s headache-triggering new look, which looks more like a chequered flag than a football kit.

Some wondered where on earth he took his inspiration from, however, a look at Williams’s first picture in the Stoke Sentinel, provides a clue. It shows the youngster wearing a Sergio Tacchini tracksuit top that just happens to closely resemble what the Valiants’ players will be forced to wear in the forthcoming season.

Premier League clubs are taking different approaches to selling match tickets for next season, which is proving a logistical nightmare given uncertainty over when and how many fans will be allowed in.

While some clubs such as Crystal Palace and West Ham have opted to sell season tickets with a pledge to refund supporters for games they cannot attend, others are planning to hold ballots for tickets ahead of every game and then sell them on an individual basis.

Outgoing ECB chairman Colin Graves caused amusement at his final meeting with the county chief executives, which was held virtually last week. 

The 72-year-old Yorkshireman signed off with a warning to the counties to avoid getting into debt and to maintain a high level of cash reserves, which was seen as ironic given the ECB’s own reserves have almost halved over the last five years.

Spare a thought for nine family and friends of former footballer Stephen Darby who were due on Monday morning to set off on a 350-mile, six-day cycle to every club he played for – starting at Swindon and ending at Bradford City.

The gruelling trip has been organised by motor neurone disease sufferer Stephen’s elder brother Kevin, who will also be taking part in the challenge, with funds raised going to the Darby Rimmer Foundation. Darby, who started his career at Liverpool, saw his career cut short in 2018 following his diagnosis at the age of 29.

There is considerable annoyance among those who were made redundant or not had fixed-term annual contracts renewed by media powerhouse IMG that the company’s Premier League Productions branch has advertised externally to fill a range of new roles for the 2020-21 season.

It is felt that positions including assistant producer and content service planner should have first been offered to those who are now out of work.

IMG insiders say that the cuts were made because of uncertainty around the pandemic and that a clearer picture for the coming season meant they could make the roles available.

They added that those made redundant can apply and that, as part of a fair process, the posts were made public with those best suited likely to be successful applicants.

A jaw-dropping tweet from talent agent Melissa Chappell to mark the 50th birthday of her former client, Alan Shearer last week. 

‘Loyal, faithful, generous, funny, kind, honest… you are none of these things but Happy Birthday anyway,’ she posted.

The message prompted a response from one user who told Chappell to remind him never to upset her. ‘Nothing wrong with the truth! Well from my POV (point of view) anyway,’ Chappell added for good measure. 

There is a furore at the Rugby Football Union after it emerged that the strategy and insight team, which carried out the review that resulted in proposals to make 139 staff redundant, has increased in size. 

Outraged insiders say that the department is now bigger than its equivalent at the Football Association.

Only last month, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney confirmed the cull, as the body looks to cope with £107million in lost revenues. Nearly a quarter of RFU staff could lose their jobs.

EFL clubs and players have asked their Premier League counterparts to support them in any strike action if they fail to have the salary cap overturned. 

The EFL and PFA have decided to hold talks over the salary cap and EFL clubs want the Premier League’s millionaires to support them. 

EFL clubs also fear it will take at least three months for the salary cap to be overturned if they win their fight against the proposals.

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