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Homosexuality in football: Three players speaking to FA about coming out, says MP

Three players are in contact with the Football Association about coming out as gay, according to MP John Nicolson.

He made the comments during a Department of Culture, Media and Sport hearing into homophobia in sport.

In October, FA chairman Greg Clarke told MPs that Premier League players would suffer “significant abuse” if they chose to reveal they are gay.

Speaking to Nicolson, sports minister Tracey Crouch said “there has never been a better time” to come out.

She told MPs that Clarke’s comments were “incredibly disappointing” and “strange”, adding: “If someone were to decide to come out, they should feel like they are being supported by the authorities and that any abuse would be tackled.”

In response, Nicolson said that Clarke had been invited back to present an action plan to MPs, because it was “not good enough” to say an openly gay player would suffer abuse.

“I understand three players are in talks with the FA about coming out and they haven’t done so yet,” said Scottish National Party MP Nicolson. “It’s good to know that you’re encouraging people to come out.”

Justin Fashanu became the first player in England to come out as gay in 1990, but took his own life aged 37 in 1998. No male professional player has come out while playing in England since.

Former Germany and Aston Villa player Thomas Hitzlsperger became the first player with Premier League experience to publicly reveal his homosexuality, in January 2014, after he had finished playing in England.

Former England women’s captain Casey Stoney was the first active footballer to come out in England since Fashanu, in February 2014.

In October, a BBC Radio 5 live study found that 82% of football supporterswould have no issue with their club signing a gay player.

However, 8% of fans said they would stop watching their team.

Take part in our new Premier League Predictor game, which allows you to create leagues with friends._92952957_thomashitzlsperger

Dylan Hartley: England captain backed by RFU boss Ian Ritchie

_92952340_gettyimages-516572920Hooker Hartley, 30, will find out on Wednesday if he will be available for the Six Nations next year after he was sent off for the third time in his career while playing for Northampton.

In total, Hartley has served 54 weeks of suspension during his career.

“I think Dylan’s got credit in the bank,” Ritchie told BBC Sport.

“I think most people would say it’s been a fantastic year. We’ve had 13 wins out of 13 and Dylan has made a huge contribution and he should be allowed to continue that.”

Former England head coach Stuart Lancaster dropped Hartley from his 2015 World Cup squad after the player headbutted Saracens’ Jamie George.

But he was reinstated as captain when Eddie Jones succeeded Lancaster in November 2015, and England remain unbeaten under the Australian.

Hartley returned to his club in October, following the autumn internationals, and came on as a replacement in Friday’s 37-10 defeat by Leinster in the European Champions Cup.

But after only six minutes on the pitch he was shown a red card for a swinging arm on Sean O’Brien and will now appear at an independent hearing to find out his punishment.

“Obviously it’s disappointing when he gets sent off but we’ll wait and see what happens,” RFU chief executive Ritchie added.

“If he’s eligible to be in contention for the Six Nations then it’s a matter for Eddie.

“He’s been a great leader and his performances on the pitch, and the way he’s helped Eddie with the team… I think he’s done a fantastic job.

“Ever since Dylan’s been involved in the set-up, he has been the perfect ambassador on and off the pitch.”

Rugby ‘isn’t going soft’_92953476_gettyimages-629097066

On the same weekend as Hartley’s card, Wasps’ Kurtley Beale was sin-binned for a high tackle on Connacht’s Niyi Adeolokun – a decision which prompted Wasps director of rugby Dai Young to call officiating “a bit of a joke”.

In response to Young’s comments, Ritchie said: “We need to look at high tackles and we need to be aware that concussion is a major challenge for the game.

“It’s right that World Rugby have increased some of the tariffs in those disciplinary matters. I don’t think it’s going soft but those areas around the head we should be rigorous about.”

Hartley’s club Northampton Saints have been under scrutiny after an incident involving Wales wing George North.

TV replays appeared to show North lying motionless after a fall in Saints’ recent game with Leicester, but he returned to play after passing a pitch-side assessment.

A concussion review group has now been formed to investigate the handling of the case and RFU boss Ritchie said: “They will come to a conclusion by the end of the week and we should learn lessons from that, where there are ones to learn.

“Concussion is definitely a big challenge. We have to address it head on.”

NFL: London to host four International Series games in 2017

_92060381_landon_collins_apThe Miami Dolphins will play the New Orleans Saints in one of those contests as part of the NFL’s International Series.

There will be two games staged at Wembley and two at Twickenham Stadium.

London hosts four games in 2017, one more than in 2016 and the most it has ever hosted.

NFL fixtures in London in 2017
Wembley Stadium
Sunday, 24 September or Sunday, 1 October 2017 Baltimore Ravens @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 24 September or Sunday, 1 October 2017 New Orleans Saints @ Miami Dolphins
Twickenham Stadium
Sunday, 22 October or Sunday, 29 October 2017 Minnesota Vikings @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, 22 October or Sunday, 29 October 2017 Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

The New York Giants became the first side to win at Twickenham in October when they beat the Los Angeles Rams 17-10.

Meanwhile, at Wembley, the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts 30-27 and the Washington Redskins tied 27-27 with the Cincinnati Bengals.

London hosted its first NFL game in 2007 and the NFL says there has been “accelerated growth” in audience figures since then. It says the UK has a fan base of more than 13 million people.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is facing a major new financial crisis linked to Rio 2016.

BBC Sport has learned $3.7m (£2.9m) of travel grants owed by the Rio 2016 organising committee to national Paralympic bodies are two weeks late.

Several smaller countries took out loans to send teams to Brazil – which the IPC covered with emergency funds.

The IPC is now thought to be considering legal action against the Rio 2016 organising committee.

The Rio Paralympics went ahead in September, but only after budget cuts to venues, the workforce and transport caused by recession and extra spending on the Olympics.

An initial instalment of delayed grants covering the costs for athletes and officials was paid.

But the second payment is now overdue, risking another blow to the legacy of South America’s first Games.

“We’re hugely disappointed that the second instalment of the travel grants, just like the first set, have not been paid on time by Rio 2016 and are urgently seeking a resolution to this issue from all parties concerned,” IPC spokesman Craig Spence said.

“The IPC has stepped in to keep these smaller NPCs [national Paralympic committees] afloat.

“The longer this situation goes on, the more likely it is that other NPCs come forward asking for financial support from the IPC.”

Rio 2016 officials are understood to have told the IPC that they cannot pay because they themselves are owed money from the city authorities.

Furthermore, their accounts have been frozen by a court following a lawsuit filed by two suppliers who say they have not been paid.

The IPC has now sent a letter to Rio mayor Eduardo Paes asking for his help.

In August Paes secured an additional £36m of funding and £24m in sponsorship from state-run companies after an injunction was lifted that had blocked further state aid for the Paralympics

“Overnight we have sent a letter to Rio mayor Paes, who was hugely supportive of the Paralympic Games, asking him to step in and intervene” Spence said_90852622_deodoro_getty

By Jamie Strickland BBC Sport 11 Dec From the sectionFootball 101 Share this page Dimitri Payet scored direct from a free-kick in the Premier League for the third time Dimitri Payet scored direct from a free-kick in the Premier League for the third time Goals by Dimitri Payet and Michail Antonio exposed Liverpool’s defensive frailties again as West Ham climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a hard-fought draw at Anfield. After conceding four in last weekend’s loss at Bournemouth, Liverpool shipped two avoidable first-half goals on their way to ceding more ground to Chelsea and Arsenal in the title race. Adam Lallana’s smart low finish had put Liverpool ahead inside five minutes but the visitors were level before the half-hour when goalkeeper Loris Karius – at fault for Bournemouth’s winner a week ago – failed to deal with Payet’s saveable 25-yard free-kick. ADVERTISEMENT Karius was less culpable for West Ham’s second scored by Antonio, but it was a scruffy goal that did not reflect well on a Liverpool backline that has now conceded 20 goals in 15 league games – the worst record among the teams in the top six. But errors were not the sole preserve of the Liverpool defence, and a big mistake by West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph, dropping a cross into the path of Divock Origi, gifted Liverpool the equaliser. Randolph made amends with a quite stunning late save to keep out Jordan Henderson’s equally sublime strike as West Ham held on for a point that sees them climb to 17th. Reaction to all of Sunday’s Premier League matches Karius under scrutiny again Until recently Liverpool’s new goalkeeper had largely gone under the radar since joining from manager Jurgen Klopp’s former club Mainz in the summer. ‘Keep your mouth shut’, Phil Neville tells Liverpool’s Loris Karius After missing the start of the season with a broken hand, Karius was installed as Klopp’s number one at the end of September, replacing Simon Mignolet. The German had a relatively untroubled time of it in his first nine games, although small mistakes were in evidence – but nothing as high-profile as the injury-time spill that allowed Nathan Ake to score Bournemouth’s winner last time out. And the pressure is sure to intensify on the 23-year-old after his part in West Ham’s opener, with Payet’s free-kick nicely struck but much too central to be considered unstoppable. West Ham’s second goal was also avoidable from Liverpool’s perspective. Havard Nordtveit’s hopeful drilled pass from his own half struck the head of the retreating Henderson, deflecting the ball high into the air and wrong-footing Reds centre-back Joel Matip, allowing Antonio in. The West Ham man might not have had the chance to score had Karius been further advanced in his area, but nothing should be taken away from the finish, a cute poke with the outside of his boot that just had enough force to cross the line. Liverpool lack killer instinct Liverpool v West Ham touch map Liverpool recorded 59 touches in the opposition box, their most in a Premier League game this season (left graphic). West Ham (right) had just five touches in the Liverpool area Liverpool are the top scorers in the Premier League with 37 goals in 15 games, so it is perhaps uncharitable to point the finger at their forward line after this blip. Yet for all their possession – 68% – they managed just three shots on target in the whole match, with two of those coming from West Ham errors. The visitors were guilty of snoozing for Liverpool’s opener as Sadio Mane picked up the ball in the middle of the park and made unchecked progress to the left wing. His cross arrived at the feet of Lallana, who had time to control and finish under zero pressure from a static West Ham defence. Their second was also a gift, Mane’s cross inexplicably squirming out of Randolph’s gloves and landing perfectly for Origi to score for a fourth successive game in all competitions – the first Liverpool player to do so since Daniel Sturridge in February 2014. Mane was at the heart of everything good Liverpool did in attack, playing a part in an intricate passing move that ended with a blocked Henderson shot, and then twisting and turning on the edge of the area to create an opening for Georginio Wijnaldum that flew wide. Wijnaldum also failed to get enough curl on his shot when advancing on goal down the left channel, while Roberto Firmino was guilty of missing the target after good approach play. Indeed Liverpool’s only other shot on target was Henderson’s superb long-distance strike, which was reminiscent of his stunning winner against Chelsea in September but met on this occasion by the right hand of the flying Randolph. Man of the match – Sadio Mane (Liverpool) Sadio Mane Liverpool will be frustrated at failing to pick up all three points but that was in no way down to a lack of effort on the part of Sadio Mane, who provided the assist for both goals and could have had a hand in more had his team-mates been more clinical Antonio finds his feet – match stats Watford are the only side in the top half of the table to have conceded more goals (26) than Liverpool (20). West Ham have scored five goals in their past two league games at Anfield – as many as they did in their previous 20. Michail Antonio scored his seventh Premier League goal of the season, but his first that wasn’t a header. His last non-headed goal was at Stoke on the last day of last season. The Hammers have now lost a league-high 12 points from leading positions in the Premier League this season. ‘The goals could have been avoided’ – reaction Lack of ‘offensive options’ frustrates Klopp Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “We tried everything. One West Ham goal was a free-kick and one was lucky. They were 2-1 up and we had some great offensive situations and should have had more. We tried everything. We were often in the box, a lot of situations. “It felt like the whole time we were were in their box. We needed a bit of luck. A draw doesn’t feel too good, doesn’t feel too bad. “The goals could have been avoided. For the first goal – don’t make the foul, don’t lose the ball. The second goal was unlucky. Joel Matip had a fantastic game and in this moment he couldn’t clear the ball. Loris Karius was surprised and it was too late. “Should Karius have saved the free-kick? For this I have to see it again – I only saw it in the match.” West Ham boss Slaven Bilic: “We showed a great reaction after they were one up. In the first half we were very good. “I wasn’t happy with the second half because I expected us to be better on the ball. In the end, well done for the players.” On Darren Randolph’s mistake: “It’s the nature of their job – when they make a mistake it is obvious. He made a mistake but after and before he showed real quality and he was crucial for us in moments when they had a chance or two.” Bilic happy with ‘great point’ for Hammers What’s next? It’s a quick turnaround for these clubs with a round of midweek Premier League fixtures to come. Both teams are in back action at 19:45 GMT on Wednesday as Liverpool travel to Middlesbrough and West Ham host Burnley. Line-ups Match Stats Live Text Home TeamLiverpoolAway TeamWest Ham Possession Home68%Away32% Shots Home18Away7.

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Europa League draw: Man Utd face Saint-Etienne, Spurs meet Gent

_92934797_mourinhoManchester United will face French side Saint-Etienne in the Europa League last 32, while Tottenham Hotspur meet Belgian team Gent.

United midfielder Paul Pogba is set to face older brother Florentin, who plays for the eighth-placed Ligue 1 side.

Spurs have never met Gent, who finished third in the Belgian top-flight last season, in a competitive fixture.

United’s first leg will be played on Wednesday, 15 February, while Spurs play the following day.

The Red Devils will play on Wednesday because Saint-Etienne’s neighbours Lyon are also playing at home in the Europe League that week.

Both return legs will be played on Thursday, 23 February.

The two Premier League clubs could not be drawn together as teams from the same nation are kept apart.

Tottenham, along with the other seeded teams, will be at home in the second leg.

Spurs were seeded after dropping down from the Champions League, while United were unseeded after finishing second in Group A.

But Jose Mourinho’s side are still favourites to win the competition with most bookmakers.

The Europa League final will be held at Stockholm’s Friends Arena on 24 May.

Pogba versus Pogba

_92937927_pogba
Saint-Etienne defender Florentin Pogba posted this split picture of himself and his brother Paul, along with the caption: Pogba (v) Pogba

Manchester United’s tie with Saint-Etienne will see Paul Pogba face his older brother Florentin, 26.

“It’s nice, it’s a nice thing,” said Mourinho. “Paul will be laughing, and for sure his brother will also be laughing.

“I think it’s nice, it’s happened in the history of football a few times and it’s nice.”

After a group stage that involved a 3,000 mile round trip to Odessa in Ukraine, Mourinho also welcomed a tie that is much closer to home.

“The good thing is the travel,” he added. “We were very unlucky in the group stage, now we go to France.”

Full draw

Athletic Bilbao (Spain) v Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus)

Legia Warsaw (Poland) v Ajax (Netherlands)

Anderlecht (Belgium) v Zenit St Petersburg (Russia)

Astra Giurgiu (Romania) v Genk (Belgium)

Manchester United (England) v Saint-Etienne (France)

Villarreal (Spain) v Roma (Italy)

Ludogorets (Bulgaria) v FC Copenhagen (Denmark)

Celta Vigo (Spain) v Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)

Olympiakos (Greece) v Osmanlispor (Turkey)

Gent (Belgium) v Tottenham Hotspur (England)

Rostov (Russia) v Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)

Krasnodar (Russia) v Fenerbahce (Turkey)

Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) v Fiorentina (Italy)

AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) v Lyon (France)

Hapoel Beer Sheva (Israel) v Besiktas (Turkey)

PAOK (Greece) v Schalke (Germany)

Man Utd have hosted Saint-Etienne before – in Plymouth…

Don’t worry, you have read that headline correctly.

Manchester United have only met Saint-Etienne twice before – in a two-legged European Cup Winners’ Cup tie in 1977-78.

And the Red Devils were ordered to play the second leg in Plymouth after the first leg in France was marred by violence involving United supporters.

The English side were kicked out of the competition by Uefa but were reinstated on appeal and told to play their home game outside Manchester.

Bizarrely they chose the Devon city, winning 2-0 to go through 3-1 on aggregate.

United fancy playing the French

  • Manchester United have lost just one of their last 16 matches against French opposition, winning nine and drawing six
  • United’s former Paris St-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 14 goals in 13 games against St Etienne – his favourite opponent in all competitions
  • Tottenham have played Belgian opponents eight times in Europe – remaining unbeaten at home (W3 D1) but winless away (D2 L2)
  • A new Europa League winner will be crowned for the first time since 2013 after Sevilla, triumphant in each of the past three seasons, progressed to the Champions League last 16
  • French side Lyon are unbeaten in their last six European meetings with Dutch teams, winning two and drawing four
  • German team Schalke have won five out of six European games against Greek sides, drawing the other
  • In their previous seven meetings with Italian sides, German team Borussia Monchengladbach have drawn five (winning one and losing one)