More stories

  • in

    Rishi Sunak delays announcing football shake-up after bombshell leak to The Sun

    RISHI Sunak has delayed announcing his footie shake-up after we blew the lid on the plans last week.The PM was due to unveil the overhaul this week but has now kicked it back a fortnight following the bombshell leak to the Sun.
    Rishi Sunak has delayed announcing his footie shake-up after we blew the lid on the plansCredit: Alamy
    Our report revealed plans for a new regulator to block takeovers from dodgy owners while giving fans a greater say in the running of clubs.
    Teams would also be banned from joining breakaway competitions like the European Super League.
    And Premier League clubs would be forced to give more money to struggling lower league sides.
    Insiders admitted the delay was to let the dust settle after the leak so the PM can announce the Football White Paper with fanfare.
    Read More on Rishi Sunak
    But Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “We urgently need proper football regulation.
    “Bury has already collapsed.
    “Many other clubs have been pushed to the brink.”
    Downing Street said it’s “not uncommon for timings to move on certain policies”.
    Most read in Football More

  • in

    I’m Britain’s oldest football ref – I’ve taken charge of 5,000 matches and I’ve no plans to hang up my whistle

    BRITAIN’S oldest football referee Frank Foster has no plans to blow full-time on his hobby — at 89.The energetic great-grandad aims to carry on officiating well into his 90s before he hangs up his whistle for good.
    Frank Foster, 89, is the UK oldest referee and aims to carry on officiating well into his 90s before he hangs up his whistle for goodCredit: SWNS
    Frank has taken charge of more than 5,000 football games over his careerCredit: SWNS
    So far, he has taken charge of more than 5,000 men’s, women’s and children’s games during a 43-year career and he still refs three times a week.
    Frank, who turned out as a player for Bamford FC in Derbys in his younger years, took up coaching and refereeing after a knee injury forced him out of the game.
    He passed his referee’s exam in 1980, scoring 98 per cent.
    He said: “I just love being a ref — whether it’s girls’ football, women’s, boys’ or men’s, I’m the same.
    READ MORE FOOTBALL NEWS
    “I love the game but you’ve got to play by the rules, so no diving or dissent. I don’t accept trouble, even from spectators.
    “When I talk to the players before the match, I tell them to play to the whistle and all that jazz.
    “I tell them to not get into altercations and that I’ll sort it out because if you retaliate, then it’s even worse.”
    Frank, of Sheffield, ­officiates for the ­Sheffield and Hallamshire FA.
    Most read in Football
    The Sheffield United supporter says people occasionally comment on his age after matches, but not often.
    During his playing career, Frank turned out as a player for Bamford FC in DerbyshireCredit: SWNS
    He added: “There has been times when I’m leaving the field and someone comes up to me and asks how old I am.
    “I ask them how old they think I am. They might say 67 but I’ll always say, ‘Spot on’. I don’t think about my age and I’ll be a referee until I can’t keep up.
    “I might eventually need a moped at half-time but I’ll always keep doing it!”
    On being strict with rowdy supporters, he said: “One time I sent a chap away and he asked how far I wanted him to walk.
    “I told him that if he sees a No5 bus then he should get on.” More

  • in

    Inside Wrexham revolution where footie fans buy beer by suitcase load and bucket hats sell out – thanks to Ryan Reynolds

    DRIVING into football’s unlikely new hotbed, you are greeted with 3ft-high letters on a pub roof reminiscent of the famous Hollywood sign – but this time reading “Wrexham”.The grey skies above the Grey-hound Inn and the bitter wind blowing off the Welsh mountains, however, are hardly Californian.
    Wrexham beat  Coventry 4-3 in previous round of FA CupCredit: Getty
    Wrexham co-owner Ryan Reynolds’ reaction as he celebrates the equalising goal against Sheffield UnitedCredit: Rex
    The Grey-hound Inn is hardly Californian but Reynolds has helped transform the fortunes of this North Wales former coal and steel cityCredit: .
    Even so, celebrity glitter has helped transform the fortunes of this North Wales former coal and steel city that’s had its fair share of hardship.
    The dozens queuing for FA Cup tickets in Wrexham AFC’s car park are quick to credit American actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney — who bought the club in 2021 — for the transformation.
    Ryan, best known for his starring role in the Deadpool films, was at the club last week with daughter James, eight, to watch his non-league side’s dramatic FA Cup clash against Sheffield United.
    And it seems the club have had a similarly transformative effect on the Hollywood star.
    READ MORE ON Wrexham
    He was pictured celebrating with fans as Wrexham looked to have pulled off a shock win against a team who sit second in the Championship, three leagues above them.
    It was not to be as a last-second equaliser saw the game end 3-3, prompting Ryan to later tweet it was “one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen”.
    His wife Blake Lively, who stars in Gossip Girl, posted a snap of Ryan with his head in his hands and added: “I bought ESPN+ today. Just to watch my husband experience crippling anxiety live. Worth it.”
    ‘On the up’
    Talking to me outside the ground, fan Les Buxton, 66, a retired Royal Navy submariner, said: “When I heard two Hollywood stars were taking over the club I thought it was pie in the sky.
    Most read in Football
    “The club was on its knees but they’ve come in and they’ve turned the place around. I sit below Rob and Ryan in the stands and can see what this club means to them.
    “They’ve taken the town to their hearts, as well as the football club.”
    Wrexham, with a population of around 62,000, was once a heavy industry powerhouse. Its coalfield boasted 38 pits and employed 18,000 people at its peak.
    Fans queue for tickets for the next game in the FA Cup against Sheffield United at Wrexham Football clubCredit: .
    Mark, pictured, and Vaughan Roberts, managing directors of brewery Wrexham Lager, say sales of their beer have risen ‘exponentially’Credit: .
    In 1864 a football club was formed, making it the third oldest professional side in the world, and it was soon a cornerstone of the working-class city.
    A stalwart of lower-division football, its league high watermark was 15th in the old Second Division (now the Championship) in 1979.
    As Welsh Cup winners, there were European competition nights, with celebrated victories at its atmospheric Racecourse Ground against Antwerp and Porto.
    The last local coal mine, Bersham, closed in 1986 with the loss of 700 jobs. And the city and its proud football club went into decline.
    Retired building manager Graham Roberts, 74, who watched his first Dragons game 60 years ago, told me: “My father was a steel worker and my grandfather a miner.
    “Every family had someone that was a miner. When the pits closed, the town struggled, and so did the football club.”
    In 2004 the club went into administration with massive debts and was given notice to quit the Racecourse Ground by its former owner so it could be sold as a retail site.
    In 2008, after 87 years, the club was relegated from the Football League, with its Kop stand dilapidated.
    It had hit rock bottom, then stayed there. It would take a fan buy-out to save it from going under.
    Then came a twist that could have been written in Hollywood. And in a way, it was.
    Actors Ryan and Rob, who stars in US sitcom It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, bought the club, injecting glamour and £2million.
    Their ownership saga was filmed for documentary series Welcome To Wrexham — screened on Disney+ — which turned the Dragons into one of the best-known clubs in the world.
    At the Chevron Clothing shop in the High Street, manager Jamie Powis said: ‘Since Rob and Ryan came in it’s gone through the roof for us’Credit: .
    Ex-steel worker Alan Hughes, 61, said of the new owners: ‘I think they genuinely love the club and the city’Credit: .
    Kit sponsor Ifor Williams Trailers, based nearby, was joined by multinational heavyweights TikTok and Expedia as backers.
    Fans from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US have flocked to the city, giving a boost to local commerce and business.
    In December Ryan and Rob met the King and Queen at the Racecourse Ground after visiting Wrexham to celebrate it gaining city status.
    At her constituency office, local MP Sarah Atherton told me: “Wrexham is on the up and football has been a catalyst. The global reach of Disney has helped. It’s fantastic, there’s a real buzz around the town.”
    THEIR HONOURS

    1977/78: Third Division champions
    1976: European Cup Winners’ Cup quarter-finalists
    1974, 1978, 1997: FA Cup quarter-finalists
    1961, 1978: League Cup quarter-finalists
    2005: Football League Trophy
    2013: FA Trophy
    Welsh Cup: Won 23 times
    Welsh Premier Cup: Won 5 times

    A giant industrial estate on the edge of Wrexham — soon to be Europe’s biggest — announced a further 56-acre development last month, citing the “feelgood factor” engendered by the football club.
    Tim Knowles, managing director of FI Real Estate Management, which has invested more than £136million at the site, said of the Hollywood connection: “It’s supercharged Wrexham.
    “It’s so exciting. Wrexham is a great place and we know we can attract major tenants which will create more jobs.”
    At the Chevron Clothing shop in the High Street, manager Jamie Powis said: “Since Rob and Ryan came in it’s gone through the roof for us.
    “Our themed bucket hats have completely sold out and we’ve been selling T-shirts to America.”
    ‘Down-to-earth guys’
    Jamie, 49, who sells hoodies emblazoned with Ryan’s face for £45, added: “We had a couple over from Texas last week to see the game but it was sold out.
    Local MP Sarah Atherton revealed: ‘Wrexham is on the up and football has been a catalyst. The global reach of Disney has helped’Credit: .
    Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought the club in 2021 for the transformationCredit: PA
    “They ended up watching it in a pub by the ground instead.”
    At the Cross Foxes pub nearby, landlady Joanne Mee said Ryan has popped in for a game of darts.
    She told me: “We just let him get on with it. He was playing darts with a friend.
    “Since Rob and Ryan took over we’ve had a massive improvement in sales and foot traffic. I think the documentary has boosted tourism.
    “We get lots of Americans coming in, drinking shots and pints.
    “The atmosphere on match day is fantastic.”
    Just up the road, Ahmet Karakaya and Zico Yunus run the Central Kebab And Pizza House, and say match days are “crazy”.
    Ahmet, originally from Turkey, said: “Before the football and after the football the fans love a kebab.
    “It’s the busiest I’ve known in my five years working here. Wrexham is booming.”
    Locals say the Hollywood pair are approachable and genuine, giving cash to a number of good causes.
    In August 2021 they donated £20,000 for four-year-old Aria Hodgkiss to have treatment for a rare brain cancer.
    Last month Ryan gave £1,600 to local indoor football team FC United of Wrexham’s under-12 boys’ side to pay for new kit.
    Mark and Vaughan Roberts, managing directors of brewery Wrexham Lager, say sales of their beer have risen “exponentially”, spurred on by the city’s Hollywood connection.
    With a picture of their great-grandfather, Wrexham and Wales footballer Jack Jones staring down from their city-centre office wall, Mark, 62, says that the celebrity pair have “brought a new lease of life to the city”.
    He adds: “We get tourists from all over because of the documentary series. The furthest was from New Zealand.
    “They take beer home in their suitcases and some of our branded merchandise.”
    Wrexham Lager’s Pride Of The Celts was first brewed in 1882, making it Britain’s oldest.
    It was served on the Titanic — prompting Mark’s joke, “It went down well”. The firm now sponsors a stand at the Racecourse Ground.
    Actor Rob has visited the brewery and Mark’s brother Vaughan, 59, said: “The club was kept alive by the fans and attendance was down to around 4,000 diehards.
    “What Ryan and Rob have done for the city is amazing but they’re just normal, down-to-earth guys. I’ve never heard a bad word said about them.”
    The celebrity pair have clearly won over the city but they have found escaping the National League — England’s fifth tier — tough.
    There’s just one automatic promotion place and last season Wrexham lost to Grimsby in a play-off semi-final.
    Tomorrow evening the Dragons, who beat Coventry in the previous round of the FA Cup, head to Bramall Lane for their replay against Sheffield United.
    In the queue for tickets, the hum of mechanical diggers can be heard as work continues for a new 5,500-capacity Kop stand.
    It’s heady days for the fans. But after so much heartache in previous years, are they worried the Hollywood duo will quit if ratings slump?
    Ex-steel worker Alan Hughes, 61, said: “If they left we would be on a sound footing but I don’t think they will. I think they genuinely love the club and the city.”
    Rob has said that he and Ryan are “in this for the rest of our lives”, while Ryan said recently: “It has been the greatest experience of my entire life.
    “I love it because it’s a project that’s going to be multi-decades. The part I find most gratifying is the support from the community outside the club.”
    Also queuing for his cup ticket, technician John Michael, 49, said: “The club has been totally reborn.
    “Ryan and Rob have brought jobs to the town and got the whole place buzzing.
    Read More on The Sun
    “Kids are now proudly walking around the city in their Wrexham strips, even if their parents support Liverpool or Manchester United.
    “Ryan and Rob have really changed people’s lives. How could you walk away from that?”
    WHY DID ACTORS BUY IT?
    WREXHAM fans can thank Netflix – not Disney – for their Hollywood takeover.
    Rob, 45, got the idea to buy a team while watching the platform’s documentary Sunderland ’Til I Die.
    He needed a wealthy entrepreneur to join him and Deadpool actor Ryan said yes even though the two men had never met.
    They were just text friends before becoming business partners. The pair made a list of clubs they might be able to afford and in November 2020 chose Wrexham because of its 158-year history.
    Ryan, 46, said “the thing that really hooked me” was “getting involved in the community around that club and growing that”.
    Another key factor was British actor Humphrey Ker, 40, who got Rob into football while working with him on It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
    He is now executive director at Wrexham, helping to oversee the day-to-day running of the club. More

  • in

    Man Utd stars don’t want Mason Greenwood back this season after charges dropped

    MANCHESTER United stars do not want Mason Greenwood in the dressing room this season — because they fear it will disrupt their progress.The striker, 21, has been told he no longer faces charges of attempted rape, ABH and coercive and controlling behaviour.
    Greenwood is suspended on £100,000-a-week pay and not eligible to train or playCredit: AFP
    Sponsors of United have refused to comment on whether they would like to see Greenwood sackedCredit: Reuters
    United bosses are still investigating his behaviour after images and audio were posted online by his alleged victim.
    While that continues, Greenwood is suspended on £100,000-a-week pay and not eligible to train or play.
    He last played in January 2022.
    A source said: “The players are open to him returning to the team but the scrutiny could be massively distracting.
    READ MORE FOOTBALL NEWS
    “The dressing room is the happiest it has been for ages and no one wants to rock the boat.”
    Greenwood last played for United in January 2022 and has a contract with the club until 2025.
    Sponsors of United have refused to comment on whether they would like to see Greenwood sacked. More

  • in

    Footie ace Jermain Defoe ‘serious’ with new girlfriend after introducing her to his mum

    FORMER footballer Jermain Defoe’s new girlfriend Alisha LeMay has already formed a winning partnership — with his mum.Defoe, 40, and model Alisha, 31, were seen with his mum Sandra, below, outside her shop in Waltham Abbey, Essex.
    Jermain Defoe was snapped with his new girlfriend Alisha LeMayCredit: UniquePictures.co.uk
    The pair were seen with his mum Sandra outside her shop in EssexCredit: UniquePictures.co.uk
    A source said: ‘It must be serious if Jermain has introduced her to Sandra’Credit: UniquePictures.co.uk
    A source said: “It must be serious if Jermain has introduced her to Sandra.
    “The pair are extremely close and her opinion matters a lot to him.”
    The Sun on Sunday revealed last month that Defoe was with Alisha following his split from wife Donna Tierney, 40, after four months of marriage.
    Their Cliveden House marriage ceremony, featured in OK! magazine, was thrown into doubt after we revealed there was no official marriage registration.
    Read More on Jermain Defoe
    A beaming Alisha, wearing a green puffer jacket, shared a joke with Sandra from Defoe’s Land Rover.
    They have been seen enjoying a number of dates near her Essex home and she has known him as a friend for several years.
    Defoe has always credited Sandra’s strict parenting with setting him on the road to a successful football career.
    Defoe’s dad, Jimmy Defoe, died aged just 47 in 2012
    Most read in Football
    Defoe split from wife Donna Tierney after four months of marriageCredit: instagram
    Defoe always credited Sandra’s parenting with his successful football careerCredit: Reuters More

  • in

    Mason Greenwood eyes drastic move to restart his football career if Manchester United choose to sack star

    MASON Greenwood is eyeing a football career in China if Manchester United sack him over sex attack claims.The club launched a probe on Thursday when prosecutors dropped the charges against him because 12 witnesses refused to cooperate.
    Mason Greenwood is eyeing a football career in China if Manchester United sack him over sex attack claimsCredit: EPA
    The club launched a probe on Thursday when prosecutors dropped the charges against him because 12 witnesses refused to cooperateCredit: PA
    Sources say Greenwood has now “begrudgingly” accepted United’s stance, which gives the club more time to assess whether his alleged conduct has crossed a line.
    But after being suspended by the club last year, Greenwood told pals he had no intention of playing for United again.
    A source said: “At the time he was adamant he didn’t want to put on the red shirt again.
    “He felt like the club didn’t stand by him.
    Read More on Mason Greenwood
    “He said he would be happy to go and play in China as long as that meant he was getting paid well and was playing.
    “His view may have softened over the last few months, but he was not happy at all.”
    Other sources suggest Greenwood would struggle emotionally with abuse from opposition fans if he played again in England.
    The 21-year-old was charged with attempted rape, ABH and coercive and controlling behaviour.
    Most read in Football
    He was arrested in January 2022 and suspended by the club after images and audio were posted on social media alleging he had abused a woman.
    Yesterday, his alleged victim’s father said outside the family’s home: “We are just absorbing it all. The bail was only lifted yesterday.
    “We are just relieved to get on with our lives and for our daughter.
    “She is OK but it has been very stressful.” More

  • in

    Newcastle United’s £45m signing Anthony Gordon could face jail after being caught driving just two days into a road ban

    NEWCASTLE United’s £45million signing Anthony Gordon could face jail after driving just two days into a road ban.The star, 21, got a six-month disqualification on Monday for twice failing to disclose details of the driver of his car.
    Anthony Gordon was photographed behind the wheel of his £100k Mercedes G-Wagon on Wednesday – days after being banned from the roadCredit: BackGrid
    Wearing a black puffer jacket and with his unmistakable bleached blond hair, Gordon was seen clambering out of the driver’s sideCredit: BackGrid
    Gordon joined Newcastle from Prem strugglers Everton on SundayCredit: Getty
    But on Wednesday he was pictured driving his £100,000 black Mercedes G-Wagon with his girlfriend Annie Keating.
    Gordon, who joined from Prem strugglers Everton on Sunday, shamelessly parked in daylight outside the Hilton hotel in Gateshead’s busy town centre.
    Wearing a black puffer jacket and with his unmistakable bleached blond hair, Gordon was seen clambering out of the driver’s side before going inside.
    Flouting a road ban can mean up to six months’ jail.
    READ MORE ON ANTHONY GORDON
    A source said: “What a way to start his Newcastle spell.
    “He could face prison.”
    He was banned after offences linked to parking and speeding raps last year.
    Girlfriend Annie Keating drove the star to training on FridayCredit: NNP
    Yesterday, he was dropped off and picked up at training by his girlfriend.
    Most read in Football
    Northumbria Police said: “As is standard practice, we wouldn’t confirm or deny the identity of anyone who may or may not be part of a police investigation and who has not been charged with a criminal offence.”
    Newcastle United have been contacted for comment. More

  • in

    From an ex-teacher whose man signed for £106m to celebrity ace’s model girlfriend – the glam WAGS of the transfer window

    FROM a Polish twerking champion to a Portuguese soap star, meet the Wags who will be adding an extra dash of glamour to the Premier League.With the World Cup interrupting the football season, the January transfer window was busier than usual – and will see a host of new faces hit our shores.
    The transfer window has given us some glamorous new Wags such as Margarida CorceiroCredit: magui_corceiro/instagram
    A football insider said: “A lot of talent has been arriving in the Premier League – both on and off the field.”
    Here, Michael Hamilton and Grace Macaskill meet the stunning women who will be cheering their partners on from the stands.
    Angelina Zabarnyi & Illia Zabarnyi
    Angelina Zabarnyi is studying philosophy at Kyiv UniversityCredit: https://www.instagram.com/angelinarr_/?hl=en
    BRAINY Angelina is the partner of Illia, 20, one of the Ukraine national team’s youngest players, who is headed to Bournemouth.
    Angelina is studying philosophy at Kyiv University but also runs her own business helping people grow their social media profile.
    read more on wags
    Illia Zabarnyi, from Ukraine, is headed to BournemouthCredit: Getty
    She is fiercely proud of her country’s fight against Russia, stating “Glory to Ukraine” on her Instagram bio.
    The couple have been dating for three years and got engaged last year.
    Fanny Neguesha & Mario Lemina
    Fanny Neguesha used to date Man City bad boy Mario BalotelliCredit: BackGrid
    WOLVES moved quickly to snap up ex-Southampton and midfielder Mario, 29, from Nice in France for an undisclosed fee.
    And his model partner, Fanny, 32, will be familiar to footie fans – she used to date Man City bad boy Mario Balotelli.
    Most read in Football
    Fanny is now dating Mario Lemina who has been snapped up by WolvesCredit: Getty
    The couple, who have been together since 2017, have a son and a daughter, who feature in their glamorous social media snaps.
    Fanny previously attempted a music career, releasing pop singles in 2016.
    Margarida Corceiro & Joao Felix
    Margarida Corceiro has appeared on Portugal’s version of Strictly Come DancingCredit: magui_corceiro/instagram
    A SOAP star in her native Portugal, Margarida, 20, has also appeared on her country’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.
    She has been dating Felix, 23, who signed on loan to Chelsea from Spain’s Atletico Madrid, since 2019 after the pair met on social media.
    Joao Felix has signed on loan to Chelsea from Spain’s Atletico MadridCredit: Getty
    Mia Regan & Romeo Beckham
    Mia Regan is a model, working with brands including Balmain, Gucci and VogueCredit: The Mega Agency
    SON of former England captain David, 20-year-old Romeo joined Brentford on loan from Inter Miami as he bids to follow in his famous dad’s footsteps.
    His girlfriend Mia, 20, from Chippenham, near Bath, has her own flourishing career as a model, working with brands including Balmain, Gucci and Vogue.
    Romeo Beckham has joined Brentford on loan from Inter MiamiCredit: Getty
    Valentina Cervantes & Enzo Fernandez
    Valentina Cervantes is a former English teacher
    ARGENTINIAN Enzo, 22, became the Premier League’s most expensive signing ever when he transferred to Chelsea from Portugal’s Benfica for £106million.
    He will be joined in West London by girlfriend Valentina, 22, who gave up her career as an English teacher to travel the world with him.
    Enzo Fernandez became the Premier League’s most expensive signing ever when he transferred to Chelsea from Portugal’s Benfica for £106millionCredit: Getty
    The couple began dating in 2019 and had daughter Olivia the next year.
    Claudia Kowalczyk & Jakub Kiwior
    Claudia Kowalczyk won the Queen of Twerking competition in Germany in 2017Credit: Instagram / @claudia.redheaded_babe
    STUNNING Claudia, who is reportedly engaged to Arsenal’s new Polish defender Jakub, 22, won the Queen of Twerking competition in Germany in 2017.
    The 30-year-old Pole also leads dance workshops around the world – as well as posting raunchy snaps and videos on Instagram.
    Jakub Kiwior, from Poland, has signed to ArsenalCredit: Getty
    Noa Van Der Bij & Cody Gakpo
    Noa Van Der Bij is a model who also works as a booker for agency Cachet ModelsCredit: @noavdbij
    DUTCH model Noa has seen her Instagram followers more than double, from 17,000 to 35,000, since hotshot Cody, 23, joined Liverpool from Netherlands outfit PSV Eindhoven at the beginning of January.
    Noa, 23, also works as a booker for agency Cachet Models.
    Cody Gakpo joined Liverpool from Netherlands outfit PSV EindhovenCredit: Getty
    Katja Kuhne & Marcel Sabitzer
    Katja Kuhne rose to fame in the German version of reality show The BachelorCredit: Refer to Caption
    LEGGY Katja rose to fame in the German version of reality show The Bachelor.
    At 37, Ukrainian Katja is nine years older than Austrian Marcel, 28, who joined Manchester United on loan from Germany’s Bayern Munich.
    Read More on The Sun
    The couple have daughter Mary Lou, born in 2019.
    Katja, who was born in Kherson, is raising funds for her country following Russia’s invasion.
    Marcel Sabitzer joined Manchester United on loan from Germany’s Bayern MunichCredit: Getty More