Saracens have named lawyer Neil Golding as their new chairman as they look to recover from the salary cap scandal.
The club were deducted 35 points and fined £5.36m after an inquiry into business dealings between ex-chairman Nigel Wray and some Sarries players.
Wray retired after guiding the club to five Premiership and three European titles, but they are now bottom of the table following November’s ruling.
“I recognise I am joining at a time of significant change,” Golding said.
“We, as a board, are strongly committed to introducing new robust processes and working together with other Premiership Rugby Limited stakeholders in the best interests of Saracens and English rugby.”
Saracens said Golding’s “immediate priority” would be to “lead and oversee new governance measures including steps to ensure regulatory compliance.”
Wray first invested in the club in 1995 and reclaimed full control in April 2018 by buying back a 50% stake sold to South African firm Remgro.
On Monday interim chief executive Edward Griffiths said the Saracens squad could be dismantled for the club to comply with salary cap rules this season.
Griffiths is leading a “scoping exercise” as the first step in making the club “whiter than white”, and has not ruled out the possibility of letting star players go.
The London side are bottom of the Premiership on -7 points, 18 points behind 11th-placed Leicester.
Millions of commuters will have to pay an average of 2.7% more for train tickets from today.
The rise, announced by industry body the Rail Delivery Group in November, is lower than the 3.1% increase at the start of last year.
Train companies say it is the third year in a row that average fares have been held below RPI – the inflation measure on which rises are based.
But many commuters face an increase of more than £100 for annual passes.
In Wales, fares have bucked the trend of rising prices in England and Scotland, with an average fall of 1% this year.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was committed to “putting passengers first”, by funding trials for flexible fares, for example.
He said he planned to tackle the “fragmented” system and had begun the process to end the franchise for the rail service Northern, whose performance was “completely unacceptable”.
A final decision on the Northern franchise is expected in a “matter of weeks”, according to BBC transport correspondent Tom Burridge, as passengers said they would be “very happy” to see it end.
Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast that the fare increases enabled investment in the railways that would yield improvements. “You can judge me on this at the end of the year,” he said.
“These changes are going to take time but I think people will see things moving in the right direction.”
But Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Andy McDonald, said the rise showed passengers were “once again paying more for less under the Tories”.
Independent watchdog Transport Focus says fewer than half of train journeys (47%) are rated as satisfactory value for money by passengers.
The watchdog’s director, David Sidebottom, said: “After a year of pretty poor performance in some areas, passengers just want a consistent day-to-day service they can rely on and a better chance of getting a seat.”
He encouraged passengers to claim compensation for eligible delays in order to “offset” the cost of fare rises.
Some annual passes go up by more than £100
£132Reading to London. Total £4,736
£118Gloucester to Birmingham. Total £4,356
£116Glasgow to Edinburgh. Total £4,200
However, Robert Nisbet, director of nations and regions for Rail Delivery Group, said rail companies were investing in improving journeys while holding fare increases below inflation.
He said 2020 will see 1,000 extra weekly services and 1,000 more carriages added to Britain’s rail fleet.
“There is a record level of investment going into the railway at the moment,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“For people who do suffer from poor punctuality in areas of the country, that could be for a variety of different reasons, we apologise. We are looking at trying to make punctuality much better across the board,” he said.
Official statistics show that just over one in three trains failed to arrive on time in July, August and September 2019, although that figure was an improvement on the previous year.
About 40% of annual rail price rises are regulated by governments in England, Scotland and Wales. They are pegged to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation measure for the previous July. Other fare rises are decided by train companies.
RPI inflation was 2.8% last year.
But RPI inflation is generally higher than the most widely watched measure of inflation, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).
Passenger groups have repeatedly called for the system to be changed since RPI inflation was abandoned by the UK Statistics Authority as a national statistic in 2013.
Emily Yates, a freelance writer from Brighton who co-founded the Association of British Commuters, said the annual rises feel like “Groundhog Day” and a “complete charade”.
“Every year, we ask for a fares freeze, the government says no, and the rail industry defends the decision,” she said.
Protests will be held against the fare increase on Thursday, including a demonstration outside London King’s Cross station.
The rallies come as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) releases research suggesting fares have risen by twice as much as wages in the last 10 years.
The TUC said someone earning an average salary in the UK would have to spend 16% of their wages for a season ticket from Chelmsford to London (£511 a month), but similar commutes would cost 2% of the average salary in France, and 4% in Germany and Belgium.
England’s Eoin Morgan, Jason Roy, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran have all earned six-figure contracts in the Indian Premier League’s player auction.
Morgan, who led England to World Cup success in 2019, was auctioned for £563,000 to Kolkata Knight Riders, who are expected to name him as captain.
Kolkata also made Australia’s Pat Cummins (£1.7m) the most expensive overseas player in IPL history.
Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer remain with Rajasthan Royals.
The England trio were not part of the auction after the franchise opted to retain them from last season’s squad. Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali were also retained by Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively.
Jason Roy and Chris Woakes both went to Delhi Capitals for their base price of £161,000, while Sam Curran was bought by Chennai Super Kings for £590,000.
Curran was released from his £800,000 contract by Kings XI Punjab after his debut season in 2019 despite taking a match-winning hat-trick in one game.
Knight Riders pin their hopes on pace of Cummins
Cummins, 26, is number one in the ICC Test bowling rankings and his pace and accuracy marked him out as a standout player in the auction.
Delhi and the Royal Challengers were both in for him, before the Knight Riders made their move.
At £1.7m, Cummins is the fourth costliest player in IPL auction history and the most expensive overseas signing, marginally surpassing the fee commanded by Stokes in 2017.
Only Yuvraj Singh in 2014 and 2015 and Gautam Gambhir (2011) have gone for more.
Other big money foreign purchases included Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who joined Kings XI Punjab for £1.15m.
Chris Morris, who was omitted from South Africa’s Test squad for the forthcoming series with England, was bought by Bangalore for £1.1m, along with Australia one-day captain Aaron Finch for £473,000.
West Indies duo Sheldon Cottrell and Shimron Hetmyer were also popular and will make their IPL debuts. Left-arm bowler Cottrell was a £914,000 purchase for Kings XI, and Hetmyer will play alongside Roy and Woakes for Delhi after they signed him for £833,000.
Among those who went unsold were South Africa’s Dale Steyn and New Zealand’s Tim Southee.
The 2020 edition, which begins in April, will be the 13th season of the IPL, which was won in 2019 by Mumbai Indians.
|IPL auction 2020 top earner|
|Pat Cummins||Australia||£1.7m||Kolkata Knight Riders|
|Glenn Maxwell||Australia||£1.15m||Kings XI Punjab|
|Chris Morris||South Africa||£1.1m||Royal Challengers Bangalore|
|Sheldon Cottrell||West Indies||£914,000||Kings XI Punjab|
|Nathan Coulter-Nile||Australia||£863,000||Mumbai Indians|
The rumour parakeets arrived in the UK when rock star Jimi Hendrix released a pair in London’s Carnaby Street in the swinging 60s has finally been scotched.
They also didn’t escape across the country during the wrap party for the movie The African Queen, in 1951.
In fact, reported sightings from the 1860s have been uncovered, Goldsmiths and Queen Mary universities say.
Intentional releases may have also been encouraged in 1929-1931 and 1952 when fatal “parrot fever” hit the headlines.
The bright green non-native ring-necked parakeets now thrive across the UK.
Originally from Africa, it has become a successful invasive species in 34 countries on five continents, the study’s lead author, the late Steven Le Comber, says.
As well as the rumour from the Bogart and Hepburn classic, in 1951, another suggests that a flock kept at Syon Park escaped when a plane crashed through the aviary roof, in the 1970s.
However, the researchers found their spread across the UK is more mundanely down to repeated intentional releases and not to do with publicity stunts.
Numerous sensational accounts of human deaths due to psittacosis infections from birds were published in 1929.
And in 1932, the Middlesex County Times reported parakeets had been spotted in Epping Forest, with the paper blaming the “parrot disease scare” of 1931 for the observations in the wild.
“Scary” health stories often prompt a strong public reaction, said Sarah Elizabeth Cox, postgraduate history student at Goldsmiths.
“If you were told you were at risk being near one, it would be much easier to let it out the window than to destroy it,” she said.
This latest study used geographic profiling, a statistical technique originally developed in criminology to prioritise large lists of suspects in cases of serial crime, to analyse spatial patterns of parakeet sightings.
When applied to biological data, the model can identify the origin sites of diseases or introduction sites of invasive, non-native species.
None of the “suspect sites” connected to origin myths showed up prominently in the geoprofile of more than 5,000 unique records dating from 1968 – 2018.
By 1961, birds were a more popular pets than cats and dogs in the UK, with 11 million birds in captivity, of various species, and it seems obvious there would be an increase in escapes, researchers said.
Three men who say they were framed by a detective decades ago have had their cases quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Winston Trew, Sterling Christie and George Griffiths were part of a group known as the Oval Four.
They spent eight months in jail for assaulting a police officer and attempted theft.
The men, who belonged to a political organisation representing black people in London, have waited 47 years to have their convictions overturned.
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England trio Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje and Billy Vunipola will play for the first time since the World Cup final on Friday after being named in Saracens’ squad to face Bath in the Premiership.
All three are set to start for Sarries, who are bottom after their 35-point deduction for breaching the salary cap.
England team-mate Jamie George is also named in the Saracens XV for the first time since the World Cup in Japan.
Bath name Tom Homer at full-back in the absence of the injured Anthony Watson.
Flanker Sam Underhill returns to make his second Bath appearance since England’s defeat by South Africa on 2 November, after missing last weekend’s European Champions Cup defeat at Harlequins.
For Saracens, the return to full strength could hint at where their priorities will lie this season following the sanction handed to them in early November.
Mark McCall’s side, Premiership champions in both of the two previous seasons, are 26 points adrift at the bottom of the table after four rounds of fixtures.
Four weeks on from the disappointment of the 32-12 defeat by the Springboks, all eight of Sarries’ England players that featured in Yokohama, as well as South Africa prop Vincent Koch, will be back on club duty.
Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Wright, Roberts, McConnochie; Priestland, Chudley; Obano, Dunn, Stuart, McNally, Stooke, Bayliss, Underhill, Louw (capt).
Replacements: Walker, Boyce, Judge, Garvey, Davies, Cook, Burns.
Saracens: Daly; Maitland, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Lewington; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, George, Lamositele, Skelton, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Singleton, Barrington, Koch, Isiekwe, Earl, Spencer, Manu Vunipola, Tompkins.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has announced he is to join forces with ticket resellers Twickets in a bid to beat touts.
The theatrical grandee, whose LW playhouses include The London Palladium and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, hopes the move will bring consumer-friendly ticket resale to the West End.
Fans have often been charged over the odds on secondary ticketing platforms.
The new system means unwanted tickets bought at the box office can be resold for no more than the original price.
Twickets will also add a fee of 10% to 13% of the face value.
Rebecca Kane Burton, CEO at LW Theatres said: “We continue to strive to not only offer our customers an incredible experience, but also help them when things don’t go to plan.
“Providing a safe, secure and easy way to resell tickets is best practice and yet another step LW Theatres is taking to innovate and improve theatre-going.”
Lord Lloyd-Webber has produced best-selling and long-running musicals including Cats and Jesus Christ Supsterstar.
Twickets launched in 2015 as a more ethical ticketing company, helping fans get into concerts by the likes of Adele and Arctic Monkeys, but this is their first official tie-in with a UK theatre group.
“The UK is in the midst of a market shift away from rip-off secondary ticketing platforms and towards capped consumer-friendly resale services,” said Twickets’ founder Richard Davies.
“I am proud Twickets is at the forefront of this change, and delighted we can extend our service to theatre lovers via this groundbreaking partnership with LW Theatres.”
The partnership will not stop touts from putting tickets on other ticket resale sites, but intends to give theatregoers a trusted option for trading unwanted tickets at a fair price.
The move comes after the West End production of Hamilton scrapped a paperless ticketing scheme intended to combat unauthorised resale.
Producers argued that increased customer awareness and action against sites like Viagogo meant they could reintroduce a “more open” system, including printed paper tickets.
Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, two of the biggest West End hits in recent years, say tickets that are re-sold will be cancelled.
Music stars including Adele, Little Mix and The Spice Girls also teamed up with Twickets as the official ticket reseller for their last tours.
A jewel thief who beat two elderly people to death in their own homes has been convicted of their murders two decades on.
Michael Weir fatally attacked 78-year-old Leonard Harris and Rose Seferian, 83, in 1998, the Old Bailey was told.
The original investigation missed clues to the killer but DNA testing linked Weir to the London attacks after 20 years, the court heard.
Weir, 52, of Hackney, had denied two counts of murder.
Prosecutor Tom Little QC told the jury the “defenceless pensioners” had been struck repeatedly and knocked to the ground then left for dead.
Weir was originally found guilty of murdering Mr Harris by an Old Bailey jury in July 1999, but his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2000 on a technicality.
He was retried under the so-called double jeopardy law when new forensic evidence came to light, and prosecutors believe Weir is “the first convicted man to be convicted twice”.
Trial judge Mrs Justice McGowan told the jury they had made “legal history”.
On 28 January 1998, Weir broke into Mr Harris’s flat in East Finchley, north London, leaving him with serious head injuries.
The pensioner was found by an estate agent while his wife, who suffered from dementia, was left badly injured on a bedroom floor.
An 18-carat gold Zenith watch Mr Harris had taken from a German soldier during the Second World War and his gold ring were missing.
Three days after the attack, police found a palm print on the bedroom door but missed the match to the defendant at the time, because a comparative print was not the best quality, the court heard.
On 5 March, Weir violently attacked Ms Seferian in her bedroom when she was at home on her own.
He stole jewellery including a gold wedding ring with her husband’s initials and the date of their marriage engraved on it, a diamond solitaire gold ring, and a silver diamond ring, as well as cash.
Sentencing was adjourned until a date to be fixed.
Harlequins and England scrum-half Danny Care says Saracens should be forced to play in the Championship for the length of time they broke the salary cap.
Saracens face being docked 35 points and fined £5.36m after an inquiry into business dealings between owner Nigel Wray and some of the club’s players.
Premiership Rugby say Saracens were breaking the cap for three seasons.
“Stick them in the Championship for that long and see if their players stay and want to play for them,” said Care.
He told the BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast that Saracens, who have a host of star names from England as well as Wales’ Liam Williams, Scotland’s Sean Maitland and South Africa’s Vincent Koch on their books, had long been suspected of acting outside the rules.
“I hopefully speak for every other player in the Premiership, I know for everyone at Harlequins, that everyone kind of knows this has been going on for years and no-one’s ever been able to say anything about it,” said Care.
“In a one-on-one game we know we can challenge them, we know we can beat them on our day, but when you’ve got that much class, that much international experience, throughout the whole season you know in the long run you’re going up against a team that, let’s face it, have been cheating.”
‘It affects people’s lives’
Care was a member of the Harlequins side that were crowned Premiership champions in 2012, an achievement he says was “one of the greatest moments of my life”.
But he believes people within the sport may have had their livelihoods affected because of the dominance of Saracens, who have won the title four times since 2015 and have also lifted the European Champions Cup three times.
“People lose their jobs because they’re not performing well enough because everyone’s saying ‘why aren’t we as good as Saracens?’,” said Care.
“It comes out that that’s happening because they’re cheating. Well it’s not just the hear and now, it affects people’s lives, it affects people’s families, and that’s why so many players have been so annoyed.
“Over the years that it has been swept under the carpet, there was another one previously that got brushed aside, this one has finally come out and finally some justice is being done, although £5m to Nigel Wray won’t even touch the sides.”