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Spain’s La Liga sets global goals

Lionel Messi in action Image copyright Getty Images

Spain’s La Liga is taking games to North America, but that high-profile move is only the tip of the iceberg as it looks to challenge England’s Premier League as the world’s pre-eminent football league.

In staging competitive matches in the US and Canada over 15 years, La Liga is the first of Europe’s big five leagues to pledge to stage a game overseas.

La Liga has asked the Spanish FA to play the Girona v Barcelona match next January at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, in what league president Javier Tebas has called a “groundbreaking agreement”.

Initially the players’ union and fan groups were both vehemently opposed, although the fans have now been appeased after it was agreed that Girona season ticket holders would be compensated.

Fans United says the venture will “bring Spanish football and La Liga closer to fans in the US – one of the countries with the most fans of La Liga teams – [and] represents a unique opportunity to connect and serve these fans, who face a huge challenge every day to follow their teams”.

However, after talks between La Liga and the Spanish footballers’ union (AFE), players still say they have a level of “discomfort” about the proposals and say they will have the final say on whether the match goes ahead.

‘Entertainment provider’

The North American venture is all part of a wider push that has quietly been taking place over the past couple of years.

“We are building our global brand… moving forwards and changing from being a football regulator into an entertainment provider,” says Joris Evers, global communications officer for La Liga.

La Liga has opened various offices recently – including in Dubai, India, China, Singapore, South Africa, Nigeria, the US and Mexico.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Girona are set to contest an all-Catalan match with Barcelona in the US

There has also been the formation of the La Liga Global Network initiative, hiring 44 people around the world to be “business scouts” on La Liga’s behalf.

“They are looking to discover new markets, to make sure we know about different markets, to look for opportunities and also to be aware of potential threats,” says Mr Evers, the Dutchman who rose to prominence as the man who helped promote the then-fledgling Netflix to the world.

“We are working to further penetrate those markets that look promising.”

Support service

Mr Evers says: “The role the delegates have is unique, as every potential market – Hungary, Chile, Costa Rica, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia – is different. Their roles cover business development – things like opening academies, securing sponsorship, TV deals – and also being a resource on the ground for our clubs.”

He says if a club such as Girona wants to investigate a new market such as India, they can come to La Liga, which will work with them to help with things such as marketing and sponsorship opportunities in the country.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Javier Tebas has sought to put La Liga clubs on an even financial keel

That level of support is only possible because the organisation has gone from being a 45-person outfit to one employing 400 people around the world, with experts being bought in from outside sport, for example from the banking, health and digital media sectors.

It is all part of a turnaround initiated by Javier Tebas when he took over the reins at La Liga five years ago.

Since then he has brought some order to the chaotic financial situation that many clubs had found themselves in, with club spending, for example on players, tied to the economic performance of the club.

Transfer restrictions

In 2015 La Liga TV rights were sold collectively for the first time. Prior to that clubs sold their own individual rights, something which benefited Real Madrid and Barcelona, but not the majority of teams.

“There was a huge increase for the clubs in terms of TV rights money, particularly for the smaller clubs – but the bigger clubs got more money too,” says Mr Evers.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The collective sale of TV rights has benefited both small and large clubs

“That was the final key to helping smaller teams get back to financial health, as the television revenues allow for more investment.”

He says there is now more interest from financial investors to get involved in the Spanish game.

“Before, clubs could only get short-term financial credit,” he says. “Now investors are willing to lend for longer, and at better rates.”

Tim Bridge, Spanish football expert at Deloitte, agrees that a few years ago Spanish football was in a financial mess.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption For years La Liga was the only major European league where TV rights were sold on a club-by-club basis

“Clubs across the top two leagues were in administration, and many were in debt to public authorities such as the taxman,” he says.

“When Javier Tebas came in he had those two pressing tasks; to clear up the financial situation at clubs and reforming the existing TV deals towards a collective model.

“Spanish clubs have to submit budgets in advance, if they can’t meet their liabilities then they are placed under a transfer embargo, and other restrictions.”

Digital developments

Mr Bridge says another important development has been investing in the actual look and presentation of La Liga’s television product.

“TV centralisation has ensured more eyeballs around the world,” says Mr Bridge.

“La Liga clubs are also utilising something called ‘digital billboard replacement’. These are perimeter advertising boards in the stadium – but which have a digital overlay facility, allowing for different advertisements to be seen in different TV territories simultaneously.

Image copyright Supponor
Image caption The digital pitchside ads (bottom) are different from those seen in the stadium (top)

“So, in each different TV market around the world the live action will show local advertising on the billboards, rather than those being seen in the stadium at the actual match in Spain.

“It enables local sponsor partners to maximise their investment in La Liga in their own territories.”

‘Taking risk’

Mr Bridge says La Liga wants to be at the forefront of the next wave of sporting development over the coming decade.

“The overseas concept is one that has a lot to merit it, if you look at the Spanish clubs’ pre-season tours and the large numbers of attendees, then the place to take overseas games had to be North America.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Barcelona and Real Madrid both have tens of thousands of fans in the US

“And if you are looking to build new fan bases, the way to build awareness is through a competitive match.

“They are willing to take the risk, as they obviously believe the game is going to become even more significant globally in future.”

But he says one major challenge remains, namely getting more clubs competing for the league title. Real Madrid and Barcelona have won all but one of the last 14 titles.

“The reason the Premier League is so successful is that on any given day any team can beat any other one, that does not happen enough at present in La Liga.”

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Detective Chief Inspector Steve Ray has protected heads of state and government in his work as a close protection officer.

He lists communication and negotiation as key skills for the job, as well as the ability to work in a team.

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Switzerland considers tighter rules on sustainable ‘fair food’

A busy cheese stall at a farmers' market is perused by several ladies
Image caption Local, high-quality food is already popular – but will the Swiss pay more for ethical farming?

Switzerland is going to the polls on Sunday, in not one but two votes which campaigners say will promote ethical and sustainable food.

The votes follow scandals in the last few years over horse meat in lasagne and the destruction of rain forests to make way for palm oil and cattle ranching.

And they reflect growing consumer interest – not just in Switzerland but across Europe – in where food comes from and how it is produced.

Why two votes, and what’s the difference?

Switzerland’s system of direct democracy means campaigners simply have to gather 100,000 signatures to ensure a nationwide vote on a political issue.

The first proposal, called “fair food”, wants more government support for sustainable, animal friendly products – and more detailed labelling so consumers know what they are getting.

It also calls for a crackdown on food waste, and for imports to meet Swiss standards on workers’ conditions, environmental safety, and animal welfare.

This would mean Swiss inspectors checking foreign food producers for compliance.

The second, called “food sovereignty” goes even further, calling for much greater state support for local family farms, for higher tariffs on food imports, and for foreign produce that does not meet Swiss standards to be banned.

What do farmers say?

Many Swiss farmers support the proposals.

The price of milk has been falling, and an average of 1,000 Swiss farms a year are closing, many of them traditional alpine dairy farms.

Kilian Baumann, who has switched to organic beef on the farm that has been in his family for over a century, believes the future of agriculture lies in local family farming.

Image caption Kilian Baumann is one of those who has switched to organic farming

“I think things need to change in the food industry, we are making too many mistakes, in sustainability and with animal welfare,” he says.

Ulrike Minkner, who has also abandoned dairy for organic beef, agrees. “We’re not against trade,” she says.

“This is about defending good food and good standards in Switzerland and abroad.”

Other farmers are sceptical.

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Switzerland already has high environmental and animal welfare laws. Member of parliament for the right wing Swiss People’s Party Marcel Dettling – who is also a farmer – thinks the proposals could actually be damaging.

“We farmers will lose. These proposals will force Switzerland’s environmental standards on to foreign producers,” he says. “So in the long run, we will lose our unique selling point: organic, environmentally sustainable produce, and we will create more competition from abroad.”

What about consumers?

Again, opinions are divided.

The market share for organic “fair” produce is growing in Switzerland, where around 10% of all farms, or 14% of farmland, is now organic.

Many consumers say they want more diversity in organic produce, and more information about the food they buy. And not just in supermarkets – but in restaurants, where the origin and production conditions of food can be hard to discover.

Surveys show consumers are prepared to pay up to 20% more for local, organic meat, but that does not mean cost is not a concern.

Switzerland’s biggest retailers have warned that approving the measures on fair food and food sustainability will inevitably lead to higher prices – in a country where food is already very expensive.

So what is going to happen?

First opinion polls gave both proposals support of 70% or more. But advice from the government is that some of the measures are unnecessary. They say animal welfare which is already strictly controlled, and other measures – such as setting Swiss standards for foreign food producers – are unenforceable.

That is having an effect on public opinion.

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Concerns about cost are also a factor, and the latest polls show “yes” and “no” voters are neck-and-neck.

If voters do say yes, the government will have to implement measures which would give Switzerland the most rigorous food standards in Europe and might, if tariffs on foreign imports are implemented, put it in violation of its international trade agreements.

If voters say no, there will be relief from retailers and politicians.

But that is likely to be temporary: plans for future votes on food standards are already in the pipeline.

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Reports of frauds on the elderly are ‘tip of iceberg’

Picture of woman in front of a computer Image copyright PA

Fraudsters scammed nearly 49,000 older people across the UK in the past year, equivalent to almost six reports every hour, a BBC investigation has found.

The total number of reports has nearly doubled in the past three years, 5 live Investigates has learned.

But one expert said the true number of elderly victims was likely to be in the millions.

Police said more victims were coming forward but admitted they were the “tip of the iceberg”.

Among those to have been repeatedly scammed is a farmer in his 80s from Norfolk, who has lost £450,000 over six years after fraudsters convinced him he had won £1.5m in a lottery.

His daughter-in-law, who asked not to be named, said: “They said all he had to do was send them an administration fee, it started small about £300 and then he should receive the money.

“But they didn’t stop at that, obviously he didn’t get his money and they kept ringing.

“It’s gone out of all proportion since that initial contact.”

Police and trading standards officers in Norfolk have been involved in his case but his family believes he is now “addicted” to his pursuit of a big-money payout and is still trying to send money.

“I think the scammers are absolutely evil,” she said.

“But they are also very clever in how they do it and they make it sound very plausible, so much so that it sucked him in and probably hundreds of other people.”

The 5 live Investigates team asked Action Fraud, the UK police’s cyber-crime reporting centre, for a breakdown of the five most common types of frauds affecting older people reported to them over the past three years. It revealed:

  • in 2016-17 there were 40,487 frauds affecting people aged over 60 reported and 48,981 last year – equivalent to nearly six crimes every hour
  • this was up from 25,659 reports in 2015-16
  • last year 1,140 victims were aged over 90 and 13 were over 100

But Prof Keith Brown, of Bournemouth University, an expert who studies scams, claimed these reports represented as few as 5% of the true total.

“It’s hugely under-reported – we’re talking about millions of victims,” he said.

“If this were burglary or street crime there would be a huge outcry, but it’s hidden behind closed doors.

“Over the next few years this will become the next big scandal like the dawning realisation of the scale of child abuse.”


How to report a scam

If you suspect you’ve been a victim of a scam you can visit the Action Fraud website.

Action Fraud can also be contacted by calling 0300 123 2040.


During 2017-18 so-called advanced fee frauds, which include victims being told they have won a lottery but must pay a fee to receive the prize, were the most common scams, with almost 20,000 cases – including 370 victims aged over 90.

Computer software service fraud, in which victims are told their computer has been compromised by a virus, was the second most common crime with more than 12,300 cases last year.

Prof Brown warned fraud costs UK consumers an estimated £10bn a year in losses, up from an estimated £4-6bn annually in 2016.

He added: “We’re getting better at blocking mail scams coming through the post and the call blocking technology is improving, so increasingly fraudsters will turn to targeting their victims online.”

Lara Xenoudakis, temporary detective chief inspector with the City of London Police, said more victims may be aware they can turn to Action Fraud for help but admitted the cases they saw did not represent the scale of the problem.

“Fraud is still very under-reported, the figures are only the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“People are embarrassed to report, they feel ashamed to have become a victim… there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Fraudsters are so experienced now and so believable, it is very easy to become a victim and it could happen to anybody.”


5 live Investigates is on BBC Radio 5 Live, 23 September at 11:00BST – catch up on BBC iPlayer Radio.

Have you got something you want investigating? We want to hear from you. Email us.

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Abhilash Tomy: Rescue mission to reach injured Indian sailor

Abhilash Tomy's Thuriya leaves Les Sables d'Olonne, France on 1 July 2018 at the start of the Golden Globe race Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Thuriya set sail from France at the start of July on the round-the-world race

An international rescue team is trying to reach a seriously injured Indian sailor who is taking part in the Golden Globe round-the-world race.

Solo yachtsman Abhilash Tomy is stranded 3,200km (2,000 miles) off the coast of Western Australia.

His yacht Thuriya had its mast broken during a severe storm in the Indian Ocean.

He managed to send a message saying he has a severe back injury and is immobilised, unable to eat or drink.

The storm whipped up 70-knot winds and 14-metre (45ft) waves, which twice knocked down the yacht of Dutchman Mark Slats.

Most of the 18 competitors in the race were further north and avoided the worst of the storm, organisers said.

An Irish race competitor, Gregor McGuckin, whose own yacht was damaged in the storm, has set up a temporary rig and is attempting to cover the 150km (90 miles) separating him from Tomy’s position.

A French fishing vessel is also in the area, but could take several days to reach the scene.

An Australian Air Force plane is due to overfly the area. and assess the Thuriya’s seaworthiness.

Race organisers said Tomy was “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat…. as far from help as you can possibly be”.

“The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilash Tomy,” the organisers said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Abhilash Tomy has already sailed round the world once in 2013

The 39-year-old Indian Navy commander is communicating using a texting unit, after his satellite phone was broken.

On Saturday, he sent a message, saying: “Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat … Sat phone down.”

Tomy has a spare satellite phone in an emergency bag, but he is unable to reach it at present.

The Golden Globe race involves a single-handed circumnavigation of the globe – a distance of 30,000 miles – without using modern technology, except for satellite communications, Competitors started from France on 1 July.

In 2013, Tomy became the first Indian to sail around the world.

The Thuriya is a replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhail, winner of the first Golden Globe Race in 1968.

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Tiger Woods: leads Tour Championship by three shots in FedEx Cup play-offs

Tiger Woods’ last tournament victory was the Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013
Tour Championship third-round leaderboard (US unless stated)
-12 T Woods; -9 J Rose (Eng), R McIlroy (NI); -6 K Stanley, J Rahm (Spa); -5 T Finau, B Horschel, A Wise, P Casey (Eng)
Selected others: -4 J Thomas, D Johnson; -2 T Fleetwood (Eng); +2 B DeChambeau; +11 P Mickelson

Tiger Woods is one round away from his first victory in five years, after six birdies in his first seven holes to lead the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

The American, who led overnight with Justin Rose, is three shots clear on 12 under par after his five-under 65.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who shot four under, is level with world number one Rose on nine under.

England’s Rose, two under on Saturday, would take the FedEx Cup title with victory in the season-ending event.

A high finish could be enough, with American Bryson DeChambeau, the current points leader, struggling on two over.

The Tour Championship is the last of four FedEx Cup play-off events that determine the season-long champion on the PGA Tour, with a $10m (£7.6m) bonus on offer.

Woods’ last victory came 1,875 days ago in August 2013 when he won the Bridgestone Invitational.

The 14-time major winner, who is part of the US team for next week’s Ryder Cup, has won 54 of 57 PGA Tour events when holding the 54-hole lead.

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Anthony Joshua stops Alexander Povetkin to retain world heavyweight titles

Anthony Joshua recorded his 22nd career win against Alexander Povetkin

Anthony Joshua delivered a stunning finish to stop a game Alexander Povetkin and retain his world heavyweight titles at Wembley Stadium.

The IBF, WBO and WBA champion, criticised in some quarters for failing to finalise a deal with the division’s other high-profile names, responded emphatically with a seventh-round stoppage of the Russian, who had never been beaten inside the distance.

After an early chess match in which Joshua suffered a bloodied nose before cutting his rival, the Briton grew in confidence and a savage right hand followed by a left hook began an onslaught which would prove telling.

Another right-left combination downed Povetkin, who somehow made the count, only to stagger into a left hook which saw him slump into the ropes, leaving referee Steve Gray with no option but to intervene.

Roars poured down to ringside as the rain had all day, with Joshua’s corner ecstatic and rightly so. His display showcased poise, intellect and power, sending a message to the heavyweight division that the champion will take some stopping.

I got my knockout streak back – Joshua

Joshua has now won 21 of his professional fights by knockout

Joshua, who had been suffering from flu during his preparations and had a problem with his right hand before the fight, paid tribute to his opponent.

“Povetkin is a very tough challenger, he proved that with good left hooks and counter punches,” he said.

“I came in here to have fun, and give it my best. I knew he was strong to the head but weak to the body. I was just mixing it up.

“It could have been seven, maybe nine, maybe 12 rounds to get him out of there, but the ultimate aim was to be victorious.

“And I got my knockout streak back,” added Joshua, who was taken to 12 rounds for the first time in his previous fight against New Zealand’s Joseph Parker in Cardiff in April.

Joshua back in limelight after Fury v Wilder announcement

Less than 24 hours after WBC champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury confirmed their 1 December fight, Joshua snatched the heavyweight limelight back his way.

He will be back at Wembley on 13 April and whoever steps in with him next will face questions as to how they thwart the champion after a display like this.

His last outing here was a see-saw encounter with Wladimir Klitschko. On that night, he came of age, setting new levels of excitement and expectation.

Joshua’s nose was bleeding at the end of the first round after Povetkin caught him with a powerful shot

The Joshua name now carries such weight that the likes of Povetkin – the 2004 Olympic super-heavyweight champion and a mandatory challenger who had lost just once in 35 outings previously – was arguably overlooked by the masses.

But, crucially, not by Joshua’s team. There had been rumblings, even before the fight was signed, that those around him saw Povetkin – who has twice failed doping tests – as a significant risk. The challenger’s experience, low centre of gravity and sleight of foot, despite his 39 years, were live threats.

After landing a solid left hook on the bell in the first round, Povetkin clearly had Joshua’s attention but by the fourth, the Briton had dropped his lead hand, showing confidence in his judgement of distance against a man known for leaping in with shots from obscure angles.

He slipped a shot in the fourth to drive an uppercut home, drawing groans ringside. With Povetkin cut above his left eye in the fifth, a Joshua right hook found the temple. Then the Russian winged a left hook home in the sixth and he chased his man, sensing vulnerability.

The pair tapped gloves to start the seventh, a sign respect was flowing. But Joshua broke the challenger’s heart. From a position of calm, he erupted into life in the middle of the ring, with a corking right hand sending Povetkin backwards and a left hook flowing seamlessly off the back of it.

Moments later, with Povetkin limp against the ropes, it was over – another step in a remarkable career.

With 22 professional bouts under their belts, Wladimir Klitschko, Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson were still chasing a world title. Joshua, by contrast, has now defended his six times.

‘The most impressive display of Joshua’s career’ – analysis

BBC Sport boxing correspondent Mike Costello: “It was a brilliantly placed and timed right hand. He was getting the measure of Povetkin in the early rounds. Unlike Carlos Takam and Parker – Joshua’s last two opponents – Povetkin was here to win.

“I think the quality of opponent, for all Povetkin has done, for me, the way he was beaten makes it the most impressive display of Joshua’s career.”

BBC Radio 5 live boxing expert Steve Bunce: “It was a cracking right hand. I don’t think Joshua was hurt or stung at all and that’s an achievement. He was moving great, throwing different shots, so it was controlled and he didn’t waste anything.”

Who’s next?

Joshua posed with fans after his victory

There will be some who continue to demand a stellar name. Povetkin’s failed to sell Wembley out, with around 70,000 turning out on a sodden day.

But the Russian – only beaten by Klitschko in the past – is now a glowing name on Joshua’s record.

Taking on the likes of Fury or Wilder next makes sense from a boxing perspective but outside of the ring is a different matter. Negotiations with Wilder have proven tedious, while Fury will need to beat the American in December to be able to face Joshua as soon as April.

Dillian Whyte – already beaten by Joshua but much improved since – appears the most likely candidate at this stage. His own fine form and a long-standing rivalry will be easy sells for Eddie Hearn, who promotes both men.

“My number one choice would be Wilder,” said Joshua. “All I want to fight is serious challengers. If Dillian wants to fight here he is also more than welcome.”

Heavyweights will continue to call Joshua’s name. The type of pay day that comes with a man who has sold more than 300,000 tickets in four fights is a jackpot draw.

After this destructive victory, though, rivals will know they are stepping in with a man who is getting better.

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