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Nebraska fires athletic director after 5 years

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Nebraska has fired athletic director Shawn Eichorst, citing his failure to improve ”on-field performance” by the Cornhuskers.

Chancellor Ronnie Green announced the move Thursday. Eichorst joined Nebraska in October 2012, and has about $1.7 million remaining on a contract that runs through June 2019.

Green praised Eichorst but says his ”efforts have not translated into on-field performance. Green says winning ”can and often does happen in concert with well-run, quality college programs.”

Eichorst and football coach Mike Riley have been under increased scrutiny with the continued mediocrity of the program. Eichorst hired Riley in 2014, replacing Bo Pelini.

Riley is just 16-13 at Nebraska, a school that has won five national championships, went to bowl games every year from 1969-2003 but has not won a conference title since 1999. The Huskers are off to a second 1-2 start in three seasons.


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Philip Rivers on 0-2 start: ‘There’s no worry or concern’

Sep 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) reacts during the first quarter against the Dolphins at StubHub Center.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in 10 seasons, the Los Angeles Chargers find themselves with a 0-2 record heading into Week 3. It’s been an especially frustrating start to the campaign given that the Chargers have not received much support in their new home of Los Angeles and have lost the two games by a combined five points.

The savvy veteran that he is, quarterback Philip Rivers doesn’t seem to be too concerned over this slow start to the season.

“We have 14 games left, and I just know the years we have been on runs,” Rivers said Wednesday, via the Associated Press. “We were 3-1 one year and went to 3-2 and then won 11 in a row. Shoot, what were we, 13-3? We were 2-3 out here and then won 11 in a row. And we were 5-5 the championship year that we went to the championship game and won six in a row.”

Of course, Rivers is talking about the 2009 season when the then San Diego Chargers started 2-3 only to finish the year with 11 consecutive wins.

It’s most definitely a positive attitude to have. But LaDainian Tomlinson and Shawne Merriman aren’t walking through that door anytime soon. Despite this, Rivers most definitely remains upbeat.

“There’s no worry or concern,” Rivers continued “There is an urgency, but the guys still have a heck of a positive outlook.”

The issue here more than their inability to close out games is the Chargers exist in an AFC West with two legitimate Super Bowl contenders in the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. Heck, the Denver Broncos appear improved with what looks to be a dominating defense. Going up against the aforementioned Chiefs at home on Sunday, this is almost a must-win game for Los Angeles.

Not only is it two games back of the other three teams in the division, a total of three percent of the teams to start a season 0-3 since 1980 have gone on to make the playoffs. Rivers might be confident, but it’s time for the team to show said confidence on the field itself.


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Eddie Jones to name most of his Lions in England squad for autumn series | Sport

Eddie Jones will on Friday reignite the debate over player welfare by naming the vast majority of his British & Irish Lions stars in a 33-man England squad for next week’s training camp in Oxford. Jones had indicated he might rest some senior Lions for the forthcoming autumn series but it is now understood most will be involved at some stage during November.

Virtually all the Premiership-based Lions are already back in action for their clubs and key men such as Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje, who played prominent roles in the summer drawn series against New Zealand, will have precious little scope for a lengthy break next year, when England are due to play a best-of-three series in South Africa in June and four further autumn Tests at Twickenham in the build-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Several high-profile figures have expressed concern at the proposal to extend the domestic season until the end of June from 2019-20 but last season’s Premiership-winning coach, Rob Baxter, insisted on Thursday that the country’s top players are not overworked and dismissed talk of the top clubs failing to protect their biggest assets as “codswallop.”

Baxter, whose Lions wing Jack Nowell is set to be among those included in Jones’s squad, believes some of the public pronouncements on player welfare ignore just how carefully today’s professionals are managed, particularly at more successful clubs. “It’s not something we suddenly sit here and make up,” stressed Baxter, whose table-topping Exeter team face Wasps on Sunday in a repeat of last season’s final. “From my perspective the management of your playing squad is something you do constantly. We spend a lot of time and money on dedicated, high-quality scientific work at Exeter University doing this properly, not just pulling things out of thin air as seems to have been happening in recent weeks.

“Good clubs manage their players every day. You don’t suddenly say ‘Oh, there’s a Lions tour, there are England games.’ That’s codswallop, it doesn’t work like that. Jack Nowell is a perfect example. He had his second Premiership start for us last season on Christmas Eve. Even if you include the Lions tour that’s not a huge season’s loading. Is there a mental issue with the intensity of some of the big games he was involved in? Of course there is. But you manage that differently by giving guys breaks during the season. It sometimes surprises me when I read things. If clubs run things in different ways and players feel overloaded they’ll feel overloaded and they’ll make comments. We look at it totally differently.”

Exeter made sure most of their players had three clear weeks away from the club during the actual season last year. “It isn’t something that just changes when there’s a Lions or England tour,” said Baxter. “The hardest issue I have with Jack is keeping him off a rugby field. I know there are reports of other players at other clubs saying differently but I don’t have an issue standing in the dressing room going: ‘Which guys want to play?’ When I phone players to tell them they’ve been left out, none of them say: ‘That’s okay, I fancied a rest.’ Most of them are livid.”

Baxter also cited the example of England’s Luke Cowan-Dickie, who had knee surgery in the summer, missed the June tour to Argentina and is still two months away from full fitness, in effect ruling him of England’s November Tests. The injury is apparently similar to the one that ultimately forced Alex Corbisiero to retire prematurely but Baxter is confident the 24-year-old will make a full recovery. “He’s got an injury that’s going to take a decent bit of management. It’s similar to what Alex Corbisiero had … if it doesn’t heal properly it becomes an ongoing issue. We’re determined to make sure it becomes a one-off injury.”

With Jack Yeandle and Phil Dollman the latest Chiefs players nursing injuries before the Wasps game and Dave Ewers not expected back before late November, there can be no disputing professional rugby’s attrition rate. Manu Tuilagi remains the most prominent name on England’s injury list, with George Kruis, Tommy Taylor, Dan Robson, Sam Jones, Nick Schonert, Piers Francis and Danny Cipriani also currently hors de combat.


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Jaguars looking for another big game from ‘Mr. London’ Allen Hurns vs. Ravens


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Allen Hurns has an overseas highlight reel better than all of his Jacksonville Jaguars teammates. It has to be among the best in the NFL, too.

The fourth-year receiver has made the play of the day in each of his last two games at iconic Wembley Stadium.

There was the diving, 31-yard touchdown catch that beat Buffalo 34-31 in 2015 and then a 42-yard catch-and-run that turned out to be the difference in a 30-27 victory against Indianapolis last year.

His efforts even earned him the nickname “Mr. London.”

“As far as having that name, it doesn’t do anything for me,” Hurns said Wednesday. “I always have positive vibes every time I step out there on that field. It doesn’t mean anything different to me going over to London.

“I just treat it as another opportunity to showcase what I’m capable of.”

Hurns is getting plenty of chances these days, especially with No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson out for the season with a knee injury.

Throughout training camp and the preseason, it looked like Hurns would have a diminished role and play primarily in the slot. There was even talk about the former Miami standout being on the trading block.

“I never doubted myself,” he said. “No matter what happens throughout with the organization, if it’s the fans or people in house, whatever it is, I never lost that motivation or that confidence in myself.

“At the end of the end of the day, it is kind of crazy just hearing the talk because you don’t know. It can be true; it may not. At the end of the day, you never really know.”

Hurns eventually called his agent, who insisted there was no truth to the trade rumors.

Probably a good thing, too. Once Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, Hurns was back in the starting lineup.

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Now, he’s headed across the pond in hopes of another memorable moment at Wembley.

“He tends to come up with big plays in London,” quarterback Blake Bortles said. “Hopefully that keeps happening.”

No one should be surprised if it does.

Hurns has 159 receptions for 2,309 yards and 20 touchdowns in three-plus seasons. His 1,031-yard, 10-touchdown campaign in 2015 earned him a four-year, $40.6 million contract extension that included $16 million guaranteed.

All of Hurns’ guaranteed money will be paid by the end of this year, so staying in Jacksonville is probably contingent on staying healthy — he missed five games in 2016 — and having another solid season.

There are few better places for Hurns to state his case than London.

His diving reception against the Bills was as artful as it was athletic. Bortles scrambled out of the pocket and rolled left and floated a pass toward the front pylon. Hurns came across the field, totally stretched out and managed to maintain control of the ball and get an elbow down before sliding out of bounds at the goal line.

Hurns said it remains the best catch of his career.

Bortles called it his favorite, too.

The one against the Colts wasn’t too shabby, either. Hurns turned a 5-yard out into a huge gain when he made one defender miss on slippery grass and then juked four more on his way to the end zone.

Team executive Tony Khan, owner Shad Khan’s son, gave Hurns the “Mr. London” moniker afterward.

“When I step out there on the field, I just make plays,” Hurns said.


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Ezekiel Elliott’s attorney speculates on NFL’s motivation for legal battle

As the Ezekiel Elliott suspension case continues to weave its way through the legal system, the attorney for the Dallas Cowboys running back stated his belief the NFL is using his client as an example.

In short, the six-game suspension — and the protracted legal maneuvers that continue — is being used to demonstrate the NFL’s diligent commitment to better addressing domestic violence issues in the league.

Thomas Melsheimer, Elliott’s attorney, recently appeared on KTCK 96.7 FM/1310AM The Ticket and discussed the ongoing legal process involving the second-year Cowboys running back.

Lewis asked Melsheimer during the interview if the NFL is using the Elliott case as a “CYA moment” in light of its previous failings in cases involving Ray Rice and Greg Hardy, among others.

“I think it’s very reasonable to make that assumption,” Melsheimer responded, as transcribed by The Dallas Morning News. “Obviously the league had a black eye with some of these previous incidents. They were accused of being too soft on this, or showing favoritism, or ignoring issues.

“Look, as a society we’ve ignored domestic violence issues. We haven’t put those at the kind of priority that they deserve to have.

“Certainly I think the NFL’s motivation was in some sense was laudatory to try to make sure they’re taking a tough stand on domestic violence. On the other hand, you have to do it the right way or, frankly, you set everything back.”

Melsheimer also addressed what appears to be a meandering appeals process and where the case goes from here. Melsheimer suggested the NFL could conceivably take the case all the way to the Supreme Court should it fail in front of the 5th Circuit Court to get Elliott’s suspension reinstated. He declined to say how far the Elliott legal team would take the case should it lose at this step.

That said, Melsheimer believes regardless of things play out in the courts in the near future, he would put “ultimate resolution of this pretty far down the road.”

In other words, it’s a distinct possibility the Elliott case will proceed similar to Tom Brady’s protracted legal battle.


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David Lappartient reaps wind of change blowing through cycling | William Fotheringham | Sport

“A political machine,” wrote the respected French journalist Jean-François Quénet of his fellow countryman David Lappartient, a man who, it seems, has never lost an election, rising seamlessly through French local and two-wheeled politics to simultaneously hold positions of power in the Morbihan region of Brittany and world cycling. His victory over the incumbent Brian Cookson in the UCI presidential election on Thursday is, just the latest in a long list of political triumphs.

However, the scale by which he drubbed the Lancastrian – 37 votes to eight – points to a massive backlash against the former British Cycling head, who was elected in 2013 on a wave of disgust against the previous administration amid hopes of renewal. At the time Cookson came across as the technocrat who was needed to restore calm, order and integrity, but he has come under pressure from many sides over issues as diverse as the World Tour calendar, the UCI’s campaign against technological fraud and women’s racing. All of these were buttons Lappartient could press.

Speaking immediately after the vote, one insider put Cookson’s defeat down to an anti-British backlash based on European gut feeling: too much Team Sky dominance, too many British Tour wins, too much UK influence. That is a simplistic view. However, the run of scandals involving Team Sky and British Cycling seemed to have knocked the guts out of the Cookson presidency in the last 18 months, with Cookson’s supervisory role at the head of the British governing body under question.

Certain elements of the Cookson record stand up. Intriguingly, this was pointed out on the morning of the election by the French sports daily l’Equipe, which might have been expected to throw its patriotic might behind its home candidate. Anti-doping has been strengthened – night doping controls, the rule that two anti-doping cases in 12 months leads to a team being suspended – and made more independent, while the rules on therapeutic use exemptions have been tightened.

Olympic track cycling has – against the trend of the Pat McQuaid years – been rebalanced with the return of the Madison, this time for both men and women. The president’s salary is now made public. There are new, high-profile events on the women’s calendar – Amstel Gold, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Ovo Women’s Tour. The UCI’s financial position has improved. The Cycling Independent Reform Commission report looks, with hindsight, like an honest, forensic attempt to grapple with the problems of cycling’s past and the UCI’s role.

Against a less-skilled political operator, Cookson might well have won on a record of “more of the same” but a continuity message does not make for an inspiring campaign, which in turn is a sign of an administration running out of energy. Critically, Lappartient won over the Russian power-broker Igor Makarov; he worked on the all-important European delegates at the European Cycling Union conference earlier this year. In contrast, there has been a bizarre lack of interest within British Cycling concerning the European road championships, considering they are being run in Glasgow next year.

The UCI will always attract criticism, much of it merited. There were obvious issues around rider safety, the chaotic introduction of disc brakes, the way in which the Astana team were placed in special measures and then taken out of them. The World Tour still looks far from coherent and its rapid expansion seems to lack rhyme or reason. But some criticism is not merited: the lacklustre world championship in Qatar last year was a product of the previous administration – McQuaid’s legacy, if you will – and this year’s title series in Bergen, the first to be awarded under Cookson, looks set to be a humdinger. Innsbruck next year is more than appetising.

Cookson’s administration did not move far enough and it did not move fast enough, and the president frequently seemed defensive and bogged down in detail. Whether he could have moved further or faster is open to debate; he would argue he was constrained in certain areas – anti-doping, women’s cycling – by his desire to keep in step with the bodies he felt he had to take along with him.

Hence, his UCI made solid noises about TUEs, tramadol and cortisone, and the inception of a minimum wage for women professional cyclists, but it found reasons not to do these things. The inertia might have had a rational basis but sometimes radical measures are the only answer. Lappartient wants a tramadol ban and a tightening up on cortisone along MPCC guidelines; delivering them will be the issue.

The final blow for Cookson probably came with a report on French television into technological fraud at the start of September. There has still been only one case of technological fraud and very little hard evidence it is widespread but the report did more than enough to suggest the UCI is not coming to grips with a threatening issue, questioning the UCI’s reliance on its current system for testing. The UCI denied the allegations but they remain hanging nonetheless.

The delegates in Norway responded to a candidate with more overt passion, greater behind-the-scenes political skills, relative youth and the ability to touch the necessary buttons. There is something of Emmanuel Macron about Lappartient, not least in his ability to leap seamlessly forward from a previous administration’s travails to forge his own path. But as Cookson has found in the last four years, it is one thing to promise much, another to make it happen in the face of the myriad vested interests that interweave cycling. That is the issue that now faces cycling’s fresh-faced new president.


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Lots on the line for Cowboys, Cardinals


GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s been a month since the Arizona Cardinals have played a football game in their own stadium and they can’t wait to finally be on their field. Given the scrutiny he’s been under recently, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is probably happy to be playing at University of Phoenix Stadium, too.

In a game that could swing either team’s early-season fortunes in the right or the wrong direction, the Cardinals (1-1) and the Cowboys (1-1) will meet here on Monday Night Football with a lot on the line for a Week 3 game.

For Elliott, the Cowboys’ second-year star already mired in controversy as he awaits word on the stay of his six-game suspension stemming from domestic-abuse allegations, it’s a chance for redemption inside his own locker room after his efforts were called into question during Dallas’ humbling 42-17 loss last Sunday in Denver.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn’t pleased with Elliott’s hustle or competitiveness when the tailback showed zero-to-little interest in turning into a defensive player following two Dak Prescott interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and one during which Elliott turned away from the play with his hand on his hips.

“One of the things we preach to our team on both sides of the ball when there is a turnover, everybody is involved,” Garrett said. “If you’re an offensive player, become a defensive player on a fumble or an interception. Zeke is one of the most natural competitors I’ve ever been around. He loves to play. He loves to practice. I think we’ve seen that through his first year playing.

“Those two plays were not indicative of the kind of competitor that he was and we have to get that addressed.”

Elliott had more carries (nine) than rushing yards (eight) in the rout against the Broncos, but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn’t see a player that suddenly has lost his way or forgot how to break tackles and squirt through holes.

“No. I saw a team that got behind then, obviously, you’ve got to start throwing it,” Arians said. “That changes everything when you’re down.”

The Cardinals are just happy to be home after playing each of their first two games on the road and three of their past four overall, including the preseason, in an Eastern time zone. They lost their opener at Detroit 35-21 before rebounding on the road last week in overtime at Indianapolis, 16-13. They played their final two preseason games in Atlanta and Houston, respectively.

“Yeah, that was a long ago,” quarterback Carson Palmer said of getting to play at home. “It seemed longer than that, too, but it’s just good that we finally get a chance to play in front of our home crowd, on our grass. They’ll be a bunch of Cowboys fans there, I’m sure, but it’s been a long four weeks, no doubt.”

Offensively, Arizona and Dallas rank 12th and 13th in the league in total average yards per game at 348.5 and 330.0, respectively. Both teams are averaging under 100 yards rushing — 84.5 by the Cowboys and just 64.0 by the Cardinals.

The Broncos held Dallas to just 268 total yards in Week 2, swallowing up the run game and getting a multitude of hits on Prescott. Arians was asked if Phoenix can use Denver’s defense as a blueprint for success Monday night against the Cowboys.

“Well, if I could have Von Miller, I’d be happy,” Arians said, referring to Denver’s disruptive outside linebacker. “He’s special. We’ve got a pretty good one, too, (in Chandler Jones), so yeah, it’s a copycat league. But you can’t change what you do. They have some unique stuff that they run that you have to be very aware for. Hopefully, our matchups are pretty solid.”

If the Cardinals stack the box to try and contain Elliott, the Cowboys will have to rely on Prescott beating Arizona to the outside and that could prove difficult since their best receiver, Dez Bryant, will be shadowed throughout the game by All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson.

According to Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders, Bryant tends to struggle when facing elite corners.

“Dez, to me, is one of the best receivers in the game,” Sanders said on the NFL Network’s postgame show this past Sunday. “But this is the streets talk. When Dez plays against a dog, he has to hunt. And the last few times Dez has gone against a real, pure dominant corner, they haven’t gotten the ball to him or he hasn’t made his catches or he hasn’t had productivity.

“I don’t know where the inconsistency with he and Dak (is), but you don’t see this with (Steelers receiver) Antonio Brown. You don’t see this with (Falcons receiver) Julio Jones. … If you’re not getting productivity out of Ezekiel like you didn’t (against Denver), Dez has to come up. He has to win the one-on-ones and he and Dak have to get on the same page.”

The Cardinals could turn to their second new starting running back in two weeks since losing star David Johnson to a left wrist injury in Week 1 at Detroit. Kerwynn Williams was the starter against the Colts last week and it appears Arians will turn to veteran Chris Johnson as the bell cow in Week 3 against the Cowboys.

Both teams have injury issues. Besides losing their best player in Johnson, Arizona is expected to be without starting left tackle D.J. Humphries (sprained MCL) and speedy wide receiver John Brown (quadriceps). Dallas, meanwhile, has several issues at cornerback, where Chido Awuzie (hamstring) and Nolan Carroll (concussion) are hurting and Orlando Scandrick is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured bone in his hand.

The Cowboys are banged up elsewhere, too, but it’s their pride and ego that were wounded the most during the rout at the hands of the Broncos.

“I’ve never judged a team or a player off of one bad performance,” Palmer said. “This is a very, very good group that’s coming off a tough loss on the road and they’re getting to play on Monday Night Football. We’ll be ready.”


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NFL Scout: Saquon Barkley better than Ezekiel Elliott

Could Penn State Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley be better than Ezekiel Elliott?
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a ton of buzz surrounding Penn State running back Saquon Barkley since the 2017 college football season started. Some already view the junior as the Heisman Trophy favorite. Others conclude he’s simply the best player in the nation.

Likely to enter the 2018 NFL Draft after this season, one anonymous NFL scout is going on record to indicate that Barkley is a better pro prospect than current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

“Saquon Barkley is better than Zeke, he’s faster than Zeke and has more twitch,” the scout said, via Yahoo! Sports. “Saquon Barkley is a different guy with an extra gear. He’ll never get caught from behind. Zeke doesn’t get caught often, but he can.”

That’s some mighty high praise, especially considering Elliott was the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and is coming off a rookie season that saw him put up nearly 2,000 total yards and 16 touchdowns.

Though, there’s absolutely no reason to believe Barkley can’t dominate at the NFL level. Through three games this season, the Nittany Lion stud has gained 548 total yards of offense and five touchdowns. He’s averaging 8.1 yards per rush and has tallied 11 catches for a whopping 241 yards.

It will be interesting to see if Barkley is able to dominate at this same level against Big Ten competition moving forward on the season.

But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him follow in the lines of Elliott and Leonard Fournette, both of whom are recent top-five picks from the running back position.


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Martin Glenn’s next step after sacking Mark Sampson should be to resign | Barney Ronay | Football

The FA chief executive, Martin Glenn, has acted decisively – if confusingly and belatedly – in dismissing Mark Sampson from his post as manager of the England women’s team.

Glenn’s next step should be to offer his own resignation. Again this should be done promptly, and with an acceptance that the public expects more from the governing body of its national sport than bungled attempts at spin and reputation management, or moral principles that appear to bend with the weather vane of bad publicity.

There is at least a note of gender equality here. The male monopoly on FA executive bungling has been decisively shattered. In a moment of glorious egalitarianism the women’s game has claimed its first scandal-ridden managerial sacking and now has a shot at the top job, too. Welcome to the new world. Take a seat. And sorry about the smell.

It is important to keep a clear head on the two distinct waves of Sampson-related turbulence buffeting the FA. First up is the ongoing Eni Aluko matter, a muddle of allegations and denial that has branched out from the original complaint of racially loaded language into the wider issue of the FA’s botched attempts to manage the situation.

Second we now have Sampson’s dismissal, apparently as a result of allegations contained within an FA human resources dossier. In a startling coincidence these allegations have only this moment become apparent to Glenn, the organisation’s chief executive, who finds himself shocked to discover such details outlined in a formal report on his own organisation’s headed notepaper.

The FA is adamant Sampson has been sacked because of point two; and that point two is entirely unrelated to point one. One is a safeguarding issue wrapped up in an internal FA review. The other is a race issue wrapped up in an internal FA review. So. Completely different then.

In the real world it is blindingly obvious the two are intimately related. In claiming otherwise the FA’s chief executive is not only taking the public for fools but treating important and heartfelt points of principle with crisis-management contempt.

The events that have led us here are at least becoming clearer. The details will grow more lurid over the next few days as the background to Sampson’s original safeguarding investigation – aspects of which appear to have been an open secret within the women’s game – is subjected to an old-fashioned muck-raking.

Still, though, Sampson’s allies will point out that his sacking makes little sense now. An FA investigation of these issues has already deemed him a suitable person to work as manager of the England women’s team. The allegations were first trailed in 2013 at the time of Sampson’s hiring. The details that so appalled the previously unappalled Glenn were part of a formal complaint in 2014 and subject of a year-long inquiry.

At the end of which Glenn’s own position on this is simply unconvincing. He admits he was made aware of the existence of Sampson’s FA safeguarding report in October 2015, five months after he took up his post. He chose not to read its details, citing in his defence notions of employee confidentiality. Needless to say this confidentiality was instantly waived this week as the tide of publicity turned against Sampson and finding a reason to sack him became a more expedient course.

There are obvious holes in this version of events. The FA’s fundamental role is the administration of a sport where issues of safeguarding are paramount. Why on earth would its chief executive chose not to read a report flagging concerns about behaviour of the manager of the England women’s team around women?

Would Glenn have also thought it inappropriate to read up on the details if a similar investigation had been conducted into, say, Roy Hodgson or Ray Lewington? If so he would have fallen equally short in his duty of care.

In reality it is almost inconceivable that senior FA figures would not have already known something of the detail of the Sampson dossier. If not Glenn himself, surely one of his senior lieutenants – Dan Ashworth, for example, is a friend of Sampson – should have made it their business to know.

But then it seems fairly clear what has really changed. The parliamentary investigation into the Eluko matter is unlikely to be as sympathetic as the FA’s own QC-led “independent inquiry”. Heavy weather is brewing. The sums have changed. The bad PR of keeping Sampson now outweighs the bad PR of losing him. Time, then, to shift positions, to adopt a frown of pious integrity and speak of the FA’s terrible shock at the details contained in its own inquiry that no one of any importance could have known about before now.

At the end of which you could make a case the FA’s CEO should resign on the Lady Bracknell principle of administrative bungling. One shambolically mishandled FA managerial dismissal is unfortunate. Two in the space of a year, taking in the panicky departure of Sam Allardyce last September, starts to look like top-down incompetence.

Yet this is something more. A failure to oversee and protect the women’s game right up to the highest representative level is a betrayal not only of the players under the care of the England head coach but those at every level below.

The FA’s original 1903 articles of incorporation state its objective is to promote the game and to “protect it from abuses”. This is a pastoral organisation, there to promote the national sport and to nourish – no laughter at the back – the national wellbeing, to encourage participation and enjoyment and good practice. The inability to do so here, the failure to set the highest levels of integrity and scrutiny in dealing with issues around women’s sport should be a source of shame to all involved.

What next then? Glenn may well end up falling on his sword. But the FA’s problems are less easily untangled, just as the sheer volume of otherwise high-achieving executives to have left their posts in muddled circumstances is startling in itself.

English football’s governing body has enjoyed a painful, confused transition from stodgy, blazered conservatism to a gimmicky plc-style vehicle run like a cross between an advertising agency and a cash-drenched travelling theme park. Throughout which the confusion of basic roles and intentions continues, with the sense of the FA as just another commercial organisation blinded by the thrill of the spectacle, drunk on the possibilities of football’s wild frontier, a place where behind the gloss and the fizz pretty much anything goes.

The Sampson affair is a case in point. The FA has given the impression it sees this as a PR game to be won, a business of reputation management rather than hard points of principle and the obligation to set a cloudless example. At the centre of which one thing seems clear. If Sampson’s behaviour really does merit his dismissal it seems inconceivable a chief executive who chose not to review his own safeguarding report should be allowed to remain in charge.


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Heavyweight champ Parker hits the road to boost profile

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Fresh from getting his chest waxed and boasting a slick new haircut, heavyweight champion Joseph Parker arrived in a tailored two-piece suit for a final news conference before the second defense of his WBO belt.

The New Zealander certainly looks the part outside the ring going into Saturday’s fight against Hughie Fury in Manchester.

What is still unknown is how he shapes up inside it.

In a bid to strengthen his ”brand” and gain exposure in the boxing world, the 25-year-old Parker is hitting the road after fighting in his native country for 12 of his last 13 bouts.

Britain is his first stop. The plan is to beat Fury, the 23-year-old cousin of former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, to improve his record to 24-0 and potentially set up a showdown with WBA and IBF champion Anthony Joshua.

”I feel like the UK is where the heavyweight scene is at, at the moment,” Parker said on Thursday at Old Trafford, home of storied soccer team Manchester United. ”We want to be a part of it. We feel it’s important to come here and make a statement.”

Question marks remain over New Zealand’s first heavyweight champion, though. His trainer, Kevin Barry, acknowledged that Parker was not at his best in his last two fights – the victory on points over Andy Ruiz Jr. that earned him the WBO strap and then an underwhelming first successful defense of the belt against Razvan Cojanu, also on points, in May.

He dreams of becoming as well-known as the All Blacks rugby team but he still has a low profile outside New Zealand and the WBO belt is still regarded as the flimsiest of the heavyweight titles. The fight against Fury is even going under the radar in Britain, with only 5,000 tickets sold for the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena. YouTube – rather than a TV broadcaster – is showing it.

It’s time for Parker to send a message to the rest of the heavyweight division.

”We know the size of this challenge,” Barry said. ”We have an opportunity, here in our first fight in the UK, to look spectacular.”

Given Fury has a reputation for being as unpredictable and awkward to fight as his more illustrious cousin, that won’t be easy.

Not only that, Fury hasn’t fought in around 18 months while he battled to overcome an energy-sapping skin condition that has affected him throughout his professional career. Fury, who is unbeaten in 20 fights, says he is feeling ”100 percent” for the first time as a boxer, so neither fighter really knows what to expect.

The fight is also being staged in Fury’s home city, after the original fight – scheduled to take place in Auckland in May – was canceled owing to a back injury sustained by Fury.

”He is a very difficult opponent,” Barry said. ”He is an opponent a lot of people don’t want to fight. We sat down as a team and said to Joe, `Do you want to fight Hughie Fury?’ And he said, `I want to fight the best fight there is for me in the UK at the moment.’

”We have planned on coming here for the past 12-to-18 months. We think Hughie brings the biggest challenge to us.”

The build-up has been light on trash talk, with Parker living up to his image of being clean-cut and courteous.

”I know it’s the wrong sport for a good guy, but everyone is his friend,” Parker’s mother, Sala, told The Associated Press. ”Joe has no enemy in the entire world. His opponents are his best friends.”

Still, Parker said there were doubts over Fury’s power and his chin, and he felt he saw ”fear in his eyes” as they went face to face for the cameras.

”He took a big gulp,” Parker said. ”I thought, `He’s scared.”’

Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80


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