Maldini urges Milan to take Champions League chance as Rossoneri evoke past European glories

By Sports Desk March 09, 2023

Paolo Maldini has urged Milan to make the most of their Champions League run after conjuring memories of the great Rossoneri sides he represented.

After last month's 1-0 win at home to Tottenham, Wednesday's goalless draw on the road was enough to help Milan into the competition's quarter-finals for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

Milan endured a run of seven campaigns without Champions League football prior to returning to the competition last season – a far cry from the success of Maldini's playing days.

The technical director, who helped Milan win five European crowns as a player, was delighted to see the Rossoneri's current crop record a notable continental win of their own.

"You suffer more as a director, but your focus is different. When you're older, you're able to manage things better," he told Milan's media channels.

"I once again felt those goosebumps that were provided by the great Milan teams of the past, because it was a real achievement. I have to say that the lads deserved it. 

"For some of them it was their first experience at this level, and the fans deserved it, who were there even in the bad times. 

"Obviously, we can't think that we're a stable fixture in the last eight, that certainly isn't the case yet.

"However, now that we're here, we'll go for it, because you need to take these opportunities when you get them."

No Serie A team reached the Champions League quarter-finals last term, but with both Inter and Napoli ahead at the midway point of their respective last-16 ties against Porto and Eintracht Frankfurt, this season is shaping up to be more successful for Italian clubs.

Asked if he had any preference regarding Milan's next opponents, Maldini said: "I'd prefer to avoid an Italian team, but if all three make it through, I'll be happy for Italian football.

"At this point, we'll get whoever we get. Right now, we can't think that we're at the level of Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Real Madrid – the current European champions.

"However, if we're drawn with one of these teams, we'll go for it."

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    Proud Lilywhites, Tottenham’s official LGBTQI+ supporters’ group, has changed lives and the law since its inception a decade ago, and has no plans to call it a day any time soon.

    Tuesday marks the organisation’s 10th anniversary and co-founder Chris Paouros acknowledged an early aim was to “put ourselves out of business” by improving equality in football and changing homophobic attitudes.

    The achievements of the group include helping a member seek asylum in the UK and contributing towards the Chelsea rent boy chant being deemed a homophobic hate crime, with this past month full of activities to celebrate their milestone.

    Recent men’s and women’s matches with Wolves and Aston Villa respectively were dedicated to Proud Lilywhites’ 10th anniversary with the club’s 62,850-seater stadium lit up in rainbow colours and again on February 15 when a celebration event was held at the ground, with first-teamers Ben Davies and Ellie Brazil in attendance.

    “Walking down the High Road (before Wolves), I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt,” Paouros told the PA news agency.

    “I come from Seven Sisters way and seeing the stadium saying celebrating 10 years of Proud Lilywhites, it almost took my breath away and I feel emotion now talking about it.

    “We just made up this thing 10 years ago and thought this is a good idea!

    “As a LGBTQI+ fan, you don’t always feel football is for you. And I always say that feeling when the ball is about to hit the back of the net and everyone rises in unison, you don’t get that anywhere else. For that reason I don’t want to deny that for anybody.”

    Proud Lilywhites’ celebration event was attended by several key allies with Spurs’ executive director Donna-Maria Cullen, Troy Townsend of Kick It Out, Women in Football’s Jo Tongue and Olympic gold-medallist Helen Richardson-Walsh all addressing the three-figure audience, while symbolically Ledley King was also present.

    Ex-Tottenham captain King has supported the group since the beginning after being in its first ever photo ahead of a Europa League clash with Dnipro on February, 27 2014.

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    A post shared by Tottenham Hotspur (@spursofficial)

    The wheels in motion for Proud Lilywhites started weeks before that launch event at the Dnipro fixture when Paouros and five others held a meeting at White Hart Lane with then-supporters’ liaison officer Jonathan Waite to set out the group’s formation.

    In the Bill Nicholson Suite, Proud Lilywhites declared its three key principles would be community, education and campaigning and with it the pathway to changing lives and the law had been set.

    Later that year Proud Lilywhites put up its rainbow-coloured flag at White Hart Lane for the first time, which has been the catalyst for fans like group co-chair Lee Johnson to give football a second chance.

    Paouros added: “When we first put a flag up at White Hart Lane, there was a huge hoo-ha about it.

    “Now it is a permanent fixture and people are proud of it. You can say it is just a symbol to say you are inclusive, but actually that flag has brought so many people back to the game.”

    The homophobic rent boy chant – aimed at Chelsea, their players and fans – had forced Johnson away from football, but the Crown Prosecution Service in 2022 recognised it as a homophobic hate crime after Proud Lilywhites alongside Chelsea Pride co-chair Tracy Brown gathered evidence through victim impact statements to ensure the law was changed.

    Proud Lilywhites also works alongside Kick It Out to provide fan education, but a real source of pride revolves around helping a now-committee member to be granted asylum in the UK.

    “One of our members, she is a committee member now, was seeking asylum in this country for persecution for her sexual orientation,” Paouros explained.

    “And as you know if you seek asylum, you have to prove it and how on earth do you prove your sexual orientation? It is unthinkable.

    “However, in 2016 or 2017, we did a stall before the north London derby where we made rainbow rock sweets, talked about Proud Lilywhites. She helped and it was photographed.

    “So, that evidence of helping with the stall along with a letter we wrote supporting her case meant she was granted asylum and it is one case, but I am really proud of that.”

    There are countless other examples of Proud Lilywhites’ impact with the group recently singled out for praise by Angharad ‘Haz’ James upon her departure from the women’s team, while Ashleigh Neville described it as “amazing” earlier this month.

    Proud Lilywhites has twice been recognised at the Football v Homophobia awards and was the fourth LGBTQI+ football group to form in England. Now it is one of more than 50 linked to the Pride in Football network, which it helped form.

    However, the group’s work is far from over with homophobic abuse targeted at Proud Lilywhites on social media earlier this month, which means a one-time assertion no longer rings true.

    “We’ve always said we want to put ourselves out of business and not be in a position where we’re doing this forever, but Donna (Cullen) said, ‘Do you really? Because look at all these people who love being part of this group’. There is something in that because it’s about how you bring people together to feel a sense of community,” Paouros conceded.

    “Last year we saw an increase in homophobic chanting and abuse in professional football.

    “So, we need to encourage a culture of reporting that doesn’t feel like people being grassed up.

    “While we are not safe on our phones, not safe on our streets and while football can sometimes send us signals that we don’t belong, the Proud Lilywhites remains a beacon for the positive change fans can make alongside committed clubs like Spurs to ensure football really is for everyone.”

  • Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board Bayern Munich appoint former RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl to board

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    The 50-year-old – who came through the Bayern youth ranks and made one senior appearance – will start his new role with the Bundesliga champions on March 1 and has signed a contract until June 2027.

    Former Germany Under-21 defender Eberl went on to have spells at Bochum and Greuther Furth before signing with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he later moved into coaching and then became director of sport.

    Eberl moved to a similar position at RB Leipzig in December 2022, but was relieved of his duties at the club just nine months later.

    “I spent my entire childhood and youth at FC Bayern and in Munich, so it’s something special for me to return in a new role to the club where it all began,” Eberl said on the Bayern Munich website.

    “The job as board member for sport is a great challenge, which I will approach with a lot of respect and humility, but with even more anticipation.

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    Bayern announced the club’s executive board would consist of three positions from July 1 – a chief executive, a chief financial and sales officer as well as a board member for sport, which will be Eberl’s role.

  • Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case Everton 10-point deduction cut to six but club still face further financial case

    Everton are up to 15th in the Premier League after their penalty for breaching the competition’s financial rules was reduced to six points on appeal, but they face the threat of further sanction with a second case still to be heard.

    An independent appeal board set aside the 10-point sanction originally imposed by a commission in November for breaching league profitability and sustainability rules (PSR), with the new reduced penalty lifting the Toffees’ points tally from 21 to 25.

    Everton said they were “satisfied” the appeal had resulted in a reduction in the points penalty, but the club are not wholly out of the woods and could have a further points sanction imposed in relation to a second PSR complaint which was laid on January 15.

    That one has to be completely concluded before June 1 – the date when promoted clubs receive their Premier League ‘shares’.

    It is also unclear whether the club may face compensation claims related to the first PSR breach. A ruling published at the time of the original 10-point penalty said five clubs – Burnley, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham Forest and Southampton – had 28 days from written receipt of a copy of the decision against Everton to pursue a claim.

    None of those clubs confirmed whether they had pursued a claim when contacted by the PA news agency last week. One of them, Forest, have had a PSR complaint lodged against them since the original sanction was issued against Everton.

    The reduced six-point penalty for Everton relates to breaching PSR in the assessment period up to the 2021-22 season. The appeal board rejected seven grounds for mitigation put forward by Everton but did find the original commission made legal errors.

    The first of those was in relation to club representations to the Premier League in August 2022 over stadium debt, which the original commission said were “less than frank”.

    While the appeal board found these representations were “materially wrong”, it accepted that it had never been the Premier League’s case that this was anything other than an innocent mistake by Everton.

    Similarly, the appeal board said a breach of Premier League rule B.15, which requires clubs to act in utmost good faith, was never part of the original complaint against the club.

    “The first time rule B.15 appeared was in the commission’s decision,” the appeal board ruling stated.

    The appeal board also found it was wrong of the commission not to take into account available benchmarks for sanction, such as EFL guidelines.

    The appeal board revealed it considered other possible sanctions, such as a fine or a ban on registering players, but concluded a points deduction was warranted.

    “The unfair advantage achieved by a breach may include a financial advantage over other clubs, but it is most immediately a sporting advantage and consequently the sanction for breach can legitimately focus on sporting disadvantage,” the appeal board decision said.

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    Everton released a statement following the publication of the revised sanction.

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    “The club is also particularly pleased with the appeal board’s decision to overturn the original commission’s finding that the club failed to act in utmost good faith.

    “That decision, along with reducing the points deduction, was an incredibly important point of principle for the club on appeal. The club, therefore, feels vindicated in pursuing its appeal.”

    The club said they remain fully committed to co-operating with the Premier League in respect of the second complaint, which relates to a PSR breach in the assessment period up to the end of the 2022-23 season.

    If clubs breach PSRs in consecutive seasons, they can provide evidence and make submissions to the independent commission hearing their case that any crossover should be treated as a mitigating factor.

    Labour MP Ian Byrne, who tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons in response to the initial 10-point deduction, wrote on X: “I was proud to be able to take the fight against Everton’s disproportionate & unfair penalty to Parliament and am pleased to see their points deduction reduced today.”

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