Sport shorts: Arsenal support community in Covid-19 crisis and Lionel Messi is the world’s highest-paid footballer

Ten things from the world of sport on Tuesday 24 March

Arsenal play their home matches at the Emirates Stadium
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/Getty Images )

1. Arsenal launch Covid-19 support

Arsenal have announced a number of initiatives to support their local and international communities during the Covid-19 crisis.

The Premier League club’s Foundation will donate £100,000 to local charities and organisations supporting those in need while a further £50,000 has been redirected to Islington Giving’s Crisis Fund as part of the community response to the coronavirus pandemic.

From today the club will also make all Arsenal in the Community cars available to transport frontline NHS mental health workers. The cars, which are driven on a voluntary basis by Arsenal in the Community staff, will support NHS workers in delivering medication and emergency supplies.

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Managing director Vinai Venkatesham said: “Arsenal Football Club exists to make our fans proud and create a sense of community for people in Islington, across the UK and around the world.

“During these uncertain and unprecedented times, we will endeavour to ensure that remains the case.”

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2. Footballers revolt

The Daily Mirror leads on its back page with a story headlined “no fans… no way” in which it claims that players from “all levels are against games being resumed without any fans”.

The proposal was mooted last week by the Premier League and English Football League (EFL) as one way of finishing the season in the face of the coronavirus crisis, which has now become a national lockdown following the Prime Minister’s statement last night.

The Mirror says that the Premier League has “mapped out a plan to return behind closed doors as early as 2/3 May” in order to complete the remaining ten rounds of matches, and satisfy broadcasters who have paid “hundreds of millions in multi-billion pound TV contracts”.

The Mirror says that players are concerned first and foremost for their own wellbeing, and that of their families, but also feel it would be unfair on the fans to play behind closed doors.

3. Premiership Rugby aims to finish season

Another sport anxious to fulfil its television obligations is rugby union, reports The Times, with the paper claiming that Premiership Rugby “wants its competition to be the first sport back on television and is determined to finish this season”.

The RFU has shut down rugby in England until 20 April with nine rounds of the regular season and the play-offs remaining but Premiership Rugby (PRL) chief executive Darren Childs has declared his intention to complete the season come what may. He said: “If that means playing over the summer, then we will do that, as long as it is safe to do so.”

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4. Uefa finals to be played in June?

Uefa has postponed the finals of all this season’s major competitions but European football’s governing body remains optimistic that the Champions League and Europa League will be decided this summer.

BBC Sport reports that “it is still hoped to play the respective finals on 24 June and 27 June”, although to accomplish that task it may mean tinkering with the format of the tournaments.

Completing the outstanding round of 16 ties of the Champions League and Europa League is Uefa’s priority and then the quarter-finals and semi-finals could also be played over a single game, perhaps in a mini-tournament in the host city of Istanbul.

5. Messi is the world’s highest paid player...

A study by France Football magazine has revealed that Barcelona star Lionel Messi is the world’s highest-paid player.

The publication reports that Argentina captain Messi will have a total annual income this year of €131m (£121m) and that puts him top of the list ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

Juventus and Portugal star Ronaldo is second with €118m (£109m) while Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil forward Neymar is third with €95m (£87.8m).

Lionel Messi is captain of Barcelona and the Argentine national team

(Image credit: David Ramos/Getty Images)

6. ...but will he take a pay cut?

Despite bringing in potential earnings of £121m this year, the coronavirus pandemic could hit Lionel Messi hard in the pocket.

The Sun, citing Spanish newspaper Marca, reports that Barcelona are “locked in talks” with senior players - including Messi - to try and reduce their wage bill because of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

According to reports the Catalan giants’s annual wage bill of £438m is the highest in Europe and Messi earns a staggering £1.15m a week.

Marca said: “The Barcelona board are in discussions with the captains of the club over a possible reduction to the players’ salaries due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“One of the measures that was discussed at a board meeting on Wednesday was to discuss the possibility of a wage cut until the end of the season.

“The reaction from the players has been positive, but no agreement can currently be reached without knowing for how long official competitions will be suspended.”

7. F1: we will be ready to go racing again

Following yesterday’s postponement of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey has provided another update on the 2020 season.

He hopes that the revised calendar can feature 15 to 18 races and that the season will start in the summer.

Carey said: “We recognise there is significant potential for additional postponements in currently scheduled events, nonetheless we and our partners fully expect the season to start at some point this summer, with a revised calendar of between 15-18 races.”

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8. Real target Haaland and Mane

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane may look to boost his attacking options this summer.

According to reports Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Braut Haaland is Real’s primary target while Liverpool’s Sadio Mane is also being tipped to join the Spanish giants.

Former Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Sissoko said: “He has the characteristics that Zidane wants - he really rates him. I think Sadio Mane will go to Real Madrid.”

9. Golf courses closed

Following the UK government’s emergency measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus the BBC reports that golf courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will shut while Scotland has asked players to “refrain from golfing until further notice”.

England Golf said: “Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated policy of government which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency.”

10. Back pages: Olympics postponed to 2021

Most of the morning’s newspapers were united in declaring that the Olympic Games in Tokyo would not take place this summer and be rescheduled for 2021.

And today Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had agreed to a one-year delay.

Abe said: “I proposed to postpone for about a year and [IOC] president Thomas Bach responded with 100% agreement.”

Today’s back pages

Tokyo Olympics set for 2021 and football players ‘revolt’ against matches behind closed doors

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