In Brief

Sport shorts: National League clubs vote to end season and Roger Federer wants the ATP and WTA tours to merge

Ten things from the world of sport on Wednesday 22 April

1. NL clubs vote to end season

Clubs in English football’s National League have voted to end the season immediately because of the coronavirus.

The three highest non-league divisions in England - the National League, National League North and National League South - were suspended on 16 March and following a vote almost 90% of clubs have decided to end the campaign early. 

National League CEO Michael Tattersall said: “At a time when the entire country is wrestling with the devastating impact of Covid-19, the cancellation of the remaining normal season matches brings a degree of certainty to our clubs coping with the business implications of the virus.” 

The options concerning promotion and relegation “remain under careful and timely consideration”.

2. O’Neill leaves Northern Ireland role

Michael O’Neill’s eight-year spell as Northern Ireland manager is over after announcing he is to solely focus on his role as Stoke City boss.

He took over at Stoke in November and was to continue managing Northern Ireland until the end of the Euro 2020 qualification process. However, with the play-off against Bosnia & Herzegovina now likely to be pushed back until October, and the main tournament now next year, he has stepped aside early. 

O’Neill said: “It was important to leave the association and team in the strongest possible shape in order to not only have the best chance of qualifying for Euro 2021, but allow the new manager time to build upon the success that we have had during my eight-year tenure.”

3. Amnesty warning over Saudi human rights

The proposed takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium of buyers including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has been criticised by Amnesty International and one of the Premier League’s broadcast partners, beIN Sports.

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen wrote in a letter to the Premier League: “The coronavirus crisis has already thrown a spotlight on football and its need to treat players and staff fairly, and now there’s a danger that the pandemic could obscure the need for a cool, measured and genuinely ethical decision over this Newcastle deal. All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different.”

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4. Magpies want Mauricio 

While Amnesty International has written to the Premier League to express its concern about the proposed takeover of Newcastle, the Daily Star and the Daily Mirror are more interested in the possibility that Mauricio Pochettino could be the Magpies’ next boss. 

Apparently the Saudis are “confident” that they will be given the go ahead to buy the Magpies from Mike Ashley for £300m, and the man they want at the helm is the former Tottenham gaffer. 

5. Back pages: Spurs duo say sorry 

“You clowns” is the headline on the back page of the Daily Mail as the paper takes Tottenham’s Serge Aurier and Moussa Sissoko to task for what they call a flouting of the social distancing rules.

The Mail reports that Aurier and Sissoko uploaded footage of them doing some shuttle runs before deleting the clip a short while later. 

By then the damage had been done and the two players issued an apology: “We wish to apologise for not setting the right example here. We recognise that as professional footballers we have a responsibility to be role models, particularly during this uncertain period that everyone around the world is facing.”

Roger Federer has been ruled out of the 2020 French Open grand slam

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

6. Federer: ATP and WTA should merge 

Roger Federer wants to see a merger of the men’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).

The Swiss, a 20-time grand slam champion, said on Twitter: “I am picturing a merger between the WTA and ATP. I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the two governing bodies [ATP and WTA] that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours. 

“It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time. These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with two weakened bodies or one stronger body.”

7. Ricciardo supports F1 races without fans

Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo would support plans for the Formula 1 season to start with races held behind closed doors. 

Speaking on the Sky Sports F1 Vodcast the Australian said: “There’s obviously a push for a season to happen with the right circumstances. If that means some of it, or the start of it, is behind closed doors - from my side, so be it. Of course, with a crowd it’s nice, but if we can still race without, I’ll take that any day.”

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8. Gronk to reunite with Brady in Tampa Bay 

Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will come out of retirement to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. NFL.com reports that the 30-year-old will reunite with quarterback Tom Brady after the Pats and Bucs made a trade. 

9. Women’s Euros set for 2022

Uefa is set to postpone the 2021 Women’s European Championships until 2022. With the men’s Euro 2020 now taking place in 2021, this means the women’s tournament in England will also be rescheduled for 6-31 July 2022.

10. Chelsea offered Coutinho

Sky Sports reports that Barcelona have offered Chelsea the chance to sign Philippe Coutinho. In 2018 the Brazilian playmaker left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £145m deal but has been on loan at Bayern Munich this season.

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