SPORTS AGENDA: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can count on a few home wins soon

SPORTS AGENDA: At least Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can count on a few home wins at his planned five-a-side pitch… while Liverpool’s humiliation at Villa Park triggered Premier League’s £14.95 pay-per-view grab

  • Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to build a five-a-side pitch at his Cheshire home
  • A clumsy video joke on Twitter was not received well by fans of the Hundred
  • The move to charge £14.95 for PL matches was triggered by Liverpool’s defeat

One might think that following a shocking start to the season, in which Manchester United have been lucky to pick up the three measly points they have, a football pitch would be the last thing manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to see when he arrives home.

However the Norwegian, who had Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk as his tenant until Solskjaer’s family moved back into the house he built 12 years ago, wants to build an all-weather, five-a-side surface at his Cheshire pad.

Solskjaer has told the local council that the new surface will be ‘incidental to the enjoyment’ of the mansion. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hoping to get a few home wins when he has a pitch installed at his pad

It is no wonder the Hundred is struggling to make an impact, given its woeful attempts at marketing. 

Last week, after a five-month hiatus, the delayed competition’s Twitter account started putting out content as part of an attempt to ‘restart the countdown’. 

What followed included a video with the heads of top players clumsily super-imposed on to drawings of the gaudy kits they will be wearing and some waffle about watching Homes Under the Hammer and eating too much bread during lockdown. 

This appeared to be an attempt at humour, but few of the account’s paltry 3,000 followers saw the funny side.

The Hundred’s Twitter account failed to lift the mood with its attempt at humour this week

Match viewing costs triggered by Liverpool defeat 

The highly controversial move to charge punters £14.95 to watch a Premier League live match — revealed by Sportsmail — was triggered by Aston Villa’s 7-2 dismantling of Liverpool, sources tell this column.

‘There was already annoyance among the clubs and a belief that matches were effectively being given away for free,’ they explained.

‘The Villa v Liverpool match — shown at 7.15pm on a Sunday as an extra — was the final straw. The fact Villa won 7-2 and everyone ended up talking about it all over the world tipped them over the edge.’

The move to charge punters £14.95 to watch games was triggered by Liverpool’s loss to Villa

‘Snap decision’ during United humiliation 

BBC Radio 5 Live landed a bonus when the Manchester United v Tottenham match at Old Trafford threw up the first big news story of the Premier League season — with United humiliated. You would have thought those in the production room would have been delighted, as serious cracks at one of the world’s biggest clubs began to open mid-broadcast.

However, to the bemusement of many, the decision was made to take listeners away from the thrashing to hear an update from Donald Trump’s doctor.

Insiders say it was a ‘snap decision’. Sports Agenda can think of a word that rhymes with snap which would better describe the move.

BBC Radio 5 Live listeners heard Trump’s doctor rather than Manchester United’s thrashing

Ineos pump up budget by £8m 

The medical tribunal of former Team Sky and British Cycling medic Richard Freeman has thrown up revelation after revelation.

One of those is that money was clearly no object in the pursuit of success. And it would appear that the hefty expenditure has accelerated in Team Sky’s first year as Team Ineos.

Annual figures show spending topped £50million in the first 12 months of industrialist Jim Ratcliffe’s ownership. Accounts for Tour Racing, which manages the world’s leading cycling team’s finances, show its budget went up by almost £8m — from £42.95m to £50.78m — after Sky ended their nine-year sponsorship.

Despite initial success — a first and second in the 2019 Tour de France — this year’s returns have been modest, with Egan Bernal withdrawing from last month’s Tour de France and Geraint Thomas forced to quit the Giro D’Italia after breaking his pelvis on the third stage.

Team Ineos’ budget went up by almost £8m after Sky ended their nine-year sponsorship

Eyebrows raised at BBC Sport email 

An email sent last week to BBC Sport staff raised eyebrows. The broadcaster, searching for youthful eyes and ears, urged recipients to help promote Saturday’s mixed martial arts event in Paris — the first time the sport had been aired by the broadcaster.

‘We would appreciate your help with promotion to get as many eyes as possible,’ it urged, adding MMA is ‘popular with a younger audience’.

One insider said: ‘It’s still a controversial sport, so to ask everyone to promote it was too much. There are many inside the building who think cage fighting should be banned, let alone shown on the BBC.’

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘It is standard practice for teams within BBC Sport to be asked to cross-promote content. While this was our first live coverage on iPlayer, MMA is already covered by the BBC online and on radio.’

Technical difficulties at Lancashire 

Despite being seven months into the pandemic, it would appear that some are still getting to grips with video conferencing. Last week’s Lancashire cricket AGM turned into a farce when it emerged that the Zoom account used by the Red Rose county would only allow 100 people on to the call.

‘I know we’ve lost members in recent years, but I’m pretty sure they must have expected more than 100 people to try to log on,’ said one frustrated follower. ‘Surrey managed to get 500 on theirs. The vast majority of those who wanted to take part could not.’

There were some Zoom call difficulties during Lancashire’s cricket AGM last week

Concerns over Wigan’s saviours 

Not everyone is happy that Wigan Athletic’s administrators have agreed a deal to save the club with Spanish-based potential owners. Concerns over the group’s suitability have been made to the EFL, who are aware of the background. 

This may well be another challenge of the owners and directors test with scrutiny, following recent disasters, intense. Sources disclose interested parties are monitoring the situation closely. 

More cost-cutting at the MCC 

Last week, this column disclosed that — in a miserly move — the MCC are set to bin the magazine they send to members. It would appear the cost-cutting measures do not end there, with redundancies said to be in the pipeline. This, after a controversial life membership scheme raised £23m. 




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