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Europe Football International Sports United Kingdom

A Round-Up Of The 19/20 English Premiere League And A Look Towards The Season Starting September

The 2019/20 English Premiere League (EPL) finally drew its curtains on Sunday, 26 July 2020.

Spanning almost an entire year, the 28th season was the league’s longest ever, with an unprecedented 100-day hiatus enacted from March till mid-June.

After global sporting events had been put on an indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league subsequently drew up plans to safely reinstate the season, titled ‘Project Restart’. It officially began on 17 June 2020 behind closed doors but televised.

As its trophy was lifted by eventual champions Liverpool in a vacant Anfield stadium, we marvel at some of the accolades, statistics, and circumstances which made this a remarkable season throughout.

The Champions

Liverpool ended their 30 year hunt for a league title since 1990, and their first in the modern Premiere League era. Beyond the trophy, the Merseyside club boasts a treasure trove of impressive achievements throughout their dispatch.

The league leaders finished the season with a 99-point record, just a point shy of breaking Manchester City’s 2017/18 stronghold, but amassed a major 25-point lead during the season, the biggest ever obtained in English top-flight history. They’ve also pipped City to the most home wins in a row (21), outshining the blues (20) in their 2011-2012 season.

This Liverpool team are also the quickest to win the title in history, with 7 matches to spare, outing both Manchester outfits (5).

Lastly, they’ve also achieved a feat no other team has in any of Europe’s top leagues, boasting 79 points from their first 27 matches to be awarded the best league start ever, a stat befitting of the English and European champions.

The League

The hiatus and eventual restart was a welcome sight for some and saw a fall from grace for others.

Frank Lampard’s maiden season in-charge in the league saw him silence critics and steer Chelsea to a 4th place finish, meaning their position for Champions League football was deservedly secured ahead of their FA Cup final against Arsenal, which they eventually lost. The Gunners plundered for glory in the Cup as their only hopes for European competition, after finishing 8th under Mikel Arteta.

Level in points to Chelsea (but besting in goal difference) were 3rd placed Manchester United, who much enjoyed a spring in form as the only team left unbeaten since the restart (5W2D), with many attributing their success to January capture Bruno Fernandes.

The Red Devils, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, are also still in the mix for the Europa League trophy, which could see either Ole’s or Nuno’s side possibly come away with a Champions League position should either emerge as champions.

Pep Guardiola’s side finished 18 points behind Liverpool, and despite being runner-up’s, have drawn criticism from pundits and watchers for their unfamiliar erratic form throughout the season.

Leicester City’s hopes of obtaining a Champions League place after finishing 5th were dashed by Manchester City’s successful appeal to overturn their UEFA ban, and re-occupying a Champions League seat, which see the foxes competing in the Europa League instead, alongside José Mourinho’s 6th placed Tottenham Hotspur.

The Pandemic

The league adapted to a variety of changes which were put in place for the pandemic. ‘Project Restart’ saw teams train in social distancing groups of 5, with squads being segregated into allotted training schedules and divided segments of training grounds, with dedicated coaching staff for each session.

Stadiums were allowed a maximum of 300 people at any one time, which meant beyond squad members, club staff, and grounds caretakers, matches were played in front of a barren stadium void of chants and cheering.

An inevitable consequence of this meant home and away games did not replicate the same ambience and mental weight as status quo, but also that watchers of the game on television could opt between ‘simulated stadium ambient’ sounds of cheers, or simply hearing the players’ shouts and screams as they were.

FIFA also allowed a use of 5 substitutes instead of the usual 3, which addressed fitness concerns and workload on players post-restart. Dedicated “red zones”, such as dressing rooms and tunnel/technical areas, were enacted with specific health restrictions, which included barcode scanning and COVID-19 health questionnaires prior to entry.

It remains to be seen how the 2020/21 season, beginning in September will shape up to be and whether the plethora of measures will still be in place/policed, but many grey areas, like the non-policing and non-punishment of players for violating stipulations, as well as post-match embracing and celebrations, will be enforced, if at all.

Beginning 12 September 2020, the season will see West Bromwich Albion promoted, as well as Leeds United’s 16-year return, while Bournemouth, Watford, and Norwich City are relegated to the Championship.

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Asia Destinations Europe France Lifestyle Relaxation Singapore Spain United Kingdom

The Best Places to Relax in Any City (Other Than the Spa)

Did you know? National Relaxation Day is an internationally celebrated annual event, held every August 15th. The day was first founded in 1985, by an American fourth-grader, Sean Moeller. The intention is simple — to take a day off for yourself to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

Most of us live in a fast-paced, constant state of ‘doing’, but as the founder of this day suggests, it is important to find ways to relax and unwind from a busy lifestyle. So, in honour of National Relaxation Day, take a moment for yourself and explore the following places to let your hair down:

The park

With dozens of shades of green, fresh air, and a sense of expansion, parks top the list in terms of being ideal places for relaxation. Research has shown time and time again that there is a strong link between nature therapy and a decrease in physiological stress and immune function levels — because of our evolutionary history, it is thought that we are essentially adaptive to nature.

A recent study supports this, and shows that these stress-relieving benefits can easily be achieved in as little as 10-minutes. If you live in a concrete jungle, opt to take a stroll through the nearest park or spend a lazy afternoon picnicking with friends and family for the ultimate rejuvenation.

Hot picks

Some of the biggest cities in the world also feature the most stunning pockets of green —  from Hyde Park in London to Central Park in New York City. Indulge in an urban oasis — your body will thank you for it.

best-places-to-relax-city
Pixabay

The beach

If parks are not your thing, the beach is a fantastic alternative for outdoors relaxation. There’s a reason tropical vacations are in vogue — the mere visualisation of aquamarine waters and powder soft beaches can have a calming effect on the body.

Because beaches are often not centrally located, they’re best for the days you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. With no shortage of relaxation activities — ranging from getting that Vitamin D with friends to swimming and walking along the beachfront — it is easy to spend a whole day at this invigorating location.

Hot picks

While the Mediterranean cities in Europe (think Spain and Portugal) offer some of the coolest beaches in the world, Singapore comes a close second. Check out Sentosa Island in Singapore, for some of the island’s prettiest beaches.

The museum

Beyond being educational institutions of the arts, museums are also restorative sanctuaries of the mind and body. The beneficial effects of art on human health and well-being have long been documented, and art therapy is very much a trend.

A fascinating article by Psychology Today makes a strong case for museums as healing places, arguing that museums can provide the same revitalising effect as spending time in nature by offering the same characteristics that enable one to shift mental gears, and refocus attention in a less effortful way. Findings from a 2008 study showed that museum goers have reported benefits like restored attention, tranquility, and reflection, further corroborating the association between museum visits for leisure and stress reduction.

Hot picks

Home to the Renaissance, Europe is the best continent to visit for some of the most spectacular masterpieces of the world. Other than Le Louvre in France, check out The British Museum in England or The Uffizi Gallery in Italy for national collections that have withstood the test of time.

The library

Given that reading a book can help provide a welcome escape from routine and everyday demands, it makes sense to head to the one place where books are the ‘cells of life’. And in a world filled with distractions and white noise, the library provides a safe haven for those seeking absolute peace and quiet.

Cosy nooks offer the passing traveller comfortable corners to while away the afternoon, while a cornucopia of resources promise to entertain and inform. Individuals will face little difficulty in finding a new world to lose themselves in with columns of books and magazines to choose from. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce up to 68% of stress, and just 6-minutes of reading can reduce your heart rate and improve your overall state of being.

Hot picks

As with museums, Europe showcases some of the most beautiful libraries in the world due to the rebirth of the literary arts during the Renaissance. Trinity College Old Library in Ireland is one of the most magnificent of the lot, with dark mahogany arches and millions of rare manuscripts collated since 1712.

best-places-to-relax-city
Unsplash

A café

Often cosy and well-lit, cafés are great places to chill out in a city, be it for brunch or a mid-day break. For a lazy afternoon, bring along a book to read, or have an intimate setting with a couple of close friends or your date. If you run out of things to do, take up people watching — you’ll find that the conversations and interactions around you can be disarmingly familiar and pretty funny, usually unintentionally.

Hot picks

Korea and Japan feature some of the quirkiest and most Instagram-worthy cafés in Asia. Settle in with a cup of coffee or tea, and relish in a quiet afternoon amid a comfortable, affable ambience.

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Athletics Sports United Kingdom

Gay Olympian Tom Bosworth Suffers Homophobic Abuse from Athletics Volunteer

The 30-year old British race-walker was contacted by The Independent in their efforts to support the openly gay athlete, who has reported the abuse to the social media platform.

The abuser, who was an athletics volunteer that belongs in the same county, used a highly derogatory term that is often targeted against the gay community, saying “F**s aren’t welcome in athletics.”

Bosworth, who is an ambassador of Stonewall, a campaign that champions equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, condemned the attack in a series of messages on social media platform Twitter.

In a series of tweets, the Brit reported that this had not been the first incident of the sort, referring to the abuse and bullying he received in 2018 from an official in Yorkshire.

“I’ve once tweeted about an athletics official bully, and I was accused of being in the wrong,” Bosworth wrote.

“So I’m going cautiously but, I’ll call them an athletics volunteer, from the same county messaged to let me know, ‘f**s like me aren’t welcome within athletics’. 2020 fills me with hope.”

Bosworth added, “I’ve reported to the relevant social media platform. I get the impression they wouldn’t have the guts to say anything in person but will keep an eye out.

“I laughed (to myself) and blocked them. Won’t engage with that any more. I’m only in the mood to spread joy.”

UK Athletics confirmed that they were aware of the incident. Bosworth posted again after, thanking the support he’s received on the platform, as well as from the governing body.

“On this occasion I decided not to take it further. Any repeat, that won’t be the case. I’m confident in my own skin and will protect those who aren’t.”

Bosworth won silver in the 20km race walk at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. His second stint at the Olympics would have been at Tokyo 2020, having finished sixth in the 20km final at the previous Olympics, Rio 2016.

Earlier this year, Bosworth also set back-to-back British records for the 5km and 10km race walks, just days prior to the announcement that Britain’s lockdown would begin.

“We’d just got so much right through the winter. All the hard work was kind of perfect and it all ground to a halt,” Bosworth told the BBC.

“I’m not going to lie, I took the dog for a walk, had a little cry to myself in the field. Thankfully no one else was around.”

“I threw the ball for the dog and went home and said ‘ok, athletes adapt’. I know how I got myself in this shape, and I know I can do it again next year.”

As one of the few openly gay athletes, Bosworth is often queried on his thoughts about the LGBTQ+ movements and conversations surrounding since his coming out in 2015. He proposed to his fiancé on Copacabana Beach during the Rio Olympics.

“I don’t feel like we’ve moved on at all, if I’m honest, unfortunately. It opened my eyes to a real world that I didn’t know anything about — LGBT inclusion in sport, and the lack of representation there.”

“It’s more ‘how do we make it a norm’, make it comfortable for people to live openly, rather than have to come out.”

“I never realised how big of a deal coming out publicly as a sportsman was until it happened. That became clear to me over the years, just how few LGB people are in sport, let alone LGBT, and reaching out to the rest of the community is going to come even further down the line before that becomes the norm or just commonplace.”

“So it’s disappointing – it’s changing really slowly though.”

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Athletics Sports United Kingdom

Public Races in the UK Gear Up After Being Given the Green Light

On 11 July 2020, the UK government deemed that physical activity participation events were to be resumed, with sport facilities and public pools being allowed to operate from 25 July. With many global sporting events around the world opening shop, it seems like the industry was rife with speculation about what the running and race scene would look like in 2020.

Since then, Run Britain and United Kingdom Athletics have announced their guidelines on fielding running events — race organisers and competitors are required to complete COVID-19 risk assessments at every step of the race, from formulation, to participation, to post-race responsibility.

Below are what some of the new guidelines look like:

Before the race

It is not mandatory for event organisers to test and screen the participating contingent prior to the event, with pre-event disclaimers explicitly stating that runners should withdraw and not partake in races whatsoever should they have been feeling unwell 14 days prior to the event.

A standard of these competitions, race packs are advised to include numbers and timing chips that can be accessed digitally, so as to mitigate any time spent physically in race registration, a sight that is usually packed prior to events. In a bid to minimise queues and face to face queries, all sources and modes of communication and types of information should be relayed to runners before commencement.

Other things that organisers should keep in mind are social distancing at any point before and after the race, with public transport being a main area of concern. At any point, organisers must also note places that might spur possible sites of congregation, such as bag drops or customer information services, and seek to mitigate this from happening by social distancing.

During the race

The guidelines state, ‘Organisers must design start line procedures such that the density of participants at the start line is within social distancing guidelines. This can be achieved by:

  • Maximising the space available at the start line and the time available for participants to cross the start line.
  • Clear messaging to participants to follow start line protocols (e.g., seeding by predicted time).
  • Reducing the dwell time before the start to an absolute minimum. Move participants more rapidly to the start line.
  • Modelling the start “release” time. This would include lengthening the release time to allow social distancing to be maintained throughout the course and have a buffer built in to reduce the flow rate and compensate for compression on the course due to emergency access, pedestrian crossings, incidents, etc.

In the guidelines, it is noted that race pacers should ostensibly be removed, and overtaking during the race is also another concern of which education and solutions must be provided to runners so as to overtake safely whilst social distancing.

Participants of the race are also advised to be responsible for their own hydrating and nutritional needs, instead of relying on the organisers for such consumptions. Should there be stations of these purposes, beverages and food must be sealed, instead of the standard offering of cups, and should be picked up by runners — and not handed to them — to minimise contact.

At the finish line

Accordingly, runners must be dismissed and dispersed from their respective finishing lines soonest, limiting any areas of contact and ‘unnecessary touch points’, like the physical gifting of medals. Unless urgent medical attention is required for a particular runner, no one person should be allowed to loiter near the finish lines, especially in terms of sitting down or lying on the ground.

Hand sanitisers and hand washing stations must be provided. Race helpers and volunteers must be wearing ample personal protection equipment (PPE) in maximising their defense, and organisers must provide proof and plans of providing aid to runners who exhibit symptoms during the event.

Lastly, that those who were hospitalised due to COVID-19 should undergo a form of health screening prior to taking part in an event.

The screening should be led by a doctor with specialist training in sports medicine; however other doctors who are competent to make decisions on the participants’ fitness to compete, and to decide any appropriate investigations that might be required, are allowed to do so.

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Culture Events London United Kingdom

You Can Get a ‘Women in Esports’ Scholarship at University of Roehampton

Most industries still aren’t free of gender biases and the esports sector is no exception. The University of Roehampton in London is on a mission to fill more competitive esports seats with women, and it’ll do so by offering a ‘Women in Esports’ Scholarship from September 2020.

This windfall is a result of the work of Roehampton Esports, which is the university’s esports department. The scholarship programme entails four scholarships to first-year students, worth up to £1,500.

More than the financial edge that students will receive, they will also be entitled to a dedicated mentorship scheme and serve as a nexus between students and senior industry professionals. As a result, students will enjoy numerous opportunities and activities that can fast-track their esports career.

At its crux, the programme will hone the next generation of female esports professionals, while increasing diversity and inclusion in the esports game industry. The scholarship is the first of its kind in Europe.

“We are proud to be engaged and at the forefront of developing talent for an exciting and emerging industry like esports. Diversity and inclusion are values held to the highest regard at the University of Roehampton and the scholarship is another example of how we implement this into the experience of students and the extra-curricular activities available to them,” said Professor Anna Gough-Yates, Provost, University of Roehampton, in a release.

The University of Roehampton has also secured the collaboration of landmark esports organisations to support the programme and to enhance what it has to offer. These specially curated partnerships will thus operate within the framework of the new esports scholarship.

These organisations include Women in Games, the National University Esports League (NUEL), Cat Collective, Special Effect, and London Esports. These organisations bring industry-level training to the table and will also enhance recipients’ scholarship opportunities by offering work placements.

In one such collaboration with Women in Games, Roehampton University will host weekly esports sessions with women-only, along with other networking opportunities that will be created for recipients and other attending women in esports.

Welcoming the collaboration, Women in Games CEO Marie-Claire Isaaman described the scholarship to be “a very positive move to encourage further diversity and inclusion in esports”.

With the collaboration, Roehampton University will be one of Women in Games’ first Educational Ambassadors.

While there are privileges and educational material that scholars are entitled to, just about any student can be a part of the vibrant esports environment in Roehampton University. Students will all have access to the Roehampton Esports Arena, which is a space in the university’s campus that is dedicated to esports.

University of Roehampton

Apart from boasting esports gear and computers with games, the space will also feature elements that focus on building sustainable gaming habits.

The days of sports scholarships being reserved only for the athletically gifted and the physically elite have far surpassed our time. Where there is a smaller requirement for physical capabilities, esports players need a conclusively different set of talents, with quick fingers and instantaneous reflexes merely scraping the tip of the iceberg.

That also leaves esports athletes prone to different risks. While a fractured knee might not harm the career of a professional esports player as much, game addiction and nerve health issues like carpal tunnel syndrome are equally potent considerations.

It is part of what will be tackled with the university’s collaboration with esports performance company G-Science. The company will work with the Roehampton University on building a “healthy gaming” programme that focuses on the mental health of students, as well as their physical well-being.

Applications for the London-based university’s ‘Women in Esports’ scholarship have already opened, and only a lucky four students will be able to clinch it. The deadline to apply for the first round of scholarships is on 1st September 2020.

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Football International Sports United Kingdom

Man Utd and Chelsea secure Champions League spots, Aston Villa stays on

Manchester United and Chelsea fans can now breathe a collective sigh of relief as both teams secured a spot in the next season of Champion’s League after a chaotic finish to the EPL season. Manchester United and Chelsea both have 66 points, finishing on the third and fourth spots respectively.

Manchester United won 2-0 in a match against Leicester City through goals by Bruno Fernandes and Jesse Lingard, cementing their third-place finish in the league. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes his team needs to get “stronger, fitter, and more robust” for the challenges of the Champions League next season.

In the meantime, Chelsea secured a comfortable 2-0 win over Wolverhampton. This resulted in a fourth-place finish above Leicester City and bagging the final Champions League spot. 

Good news for Leicester as they will go on to play in the Europa League next season alongside Tottenham Hotspurs, who drew 1-1 at Crystal Palace. This earned them a spot in the sixth place — above Wolves on goal difference.

Widely considered as one of the most decorated managers — Jose Mourinho, who now manages Leicester City took over the reins when the club was lagging behind in 14th place. Nonetheless, he remained optimistic in making a return to the Europa League one year after Spurs were in a Champions League final.

“Of course everybody that one day plays Champions League doesn’t want to go back and play Europa League but that was the only thing possible after such a difficult season for the club, for the players and also for myself,” Mourinho told the Associated Press.

“But arriving 14th and handling things is not bad at all. I am quite happy next season we play in Europa League. It’s just a question to motivate ourselves for that competition and try to motivate the fans to support us to do something beautiful.”

On relegation news, Aston Villa survived to fight for another day as they held on for an exciting 1-1 draw at West Hams. They scored in the 84th minute only to let in an easy goal a minute later. Fortunately, they managed to hold on to the draw till the last whistle. In a bittersweet moment, Captain Jack Grealish scored Villa’s goal in what could be his last goal for the club.

Bournemouth, on the other hand, was not so lucky.  Even though they had an arguably good match as they beat Everton, 3-1, it was not enough as they ended up one point behind Villa. Watford was also relegated after losing 3-2 at Arsenal.

Not only did Manchester City scored an impressive 100 goals this season, they also had a convincing win, beating an already demoted Norwich 5-0 win over last-place and already-demoted Norwich. This game also marked what will be the last in the Premier League for David Silva after playing 10 years with City. 

This season’s champions Liverpool ended their impressive run on a high note with a 3-1 win at Newcastle and as if that’s not enough, the team finished on a club-record 99 points.

On other EPL match news, Southampton won over Sheffield United 3-1, with Danny Ings scoring his 22nd goal of the season. In a battle over the season’s Golden Boot, he was one behind Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.

Burnley’s unfortunate losing streak since their first home defeat since New Year’s Day continued after losing 2-1 to Brighton and Hove Albion. Burnley ended the season in 10th place on 54 points while Brighton, who was almost on the brink of relegation, finished the season in 15th place.

Any hopes of Brentford’s returning to English Premiership for the first time in more than 70 years were dashed when Andre Ayew’s well-executed goal got Swansea City a 1-0 win in their Championship play-off semi-final first leg at their Liberty Stadium.

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Football Sports United Kingdom

Football In The Time of Corona

The electrifying atmosphere filled with chants and uplifting vibes is what makes live football matches a treat to watch. Sadly, ever since the UK has been hit by COVID-19, all football matches have been held under close doors much to the dismay of EPL fans.

The EPL has also taken a financial hit of almost £1 billion (S$1.76 billion) as a result of empty stadiums and reduced commercial contracts. Not all hopes are lost fortunately as there will be changes in the coming 2020 – 2021 season. 

Thankfully, things are set to improve in the upcoming season. Even though matches will no longer be held behind closed doors, the entire 2020 – 2021 season will be played in reduced capacity stadiums and crowd sizes. However, a senior UK government health official has warned that these could be further affected if chanting is proven to increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Crowds are returning to sporting events in England, which include a cricket friendly at The Oval and the World Snooker Championship happening the week after. Professor James Calder, who chaired the cross-sport working group with the UK government and health officials on the return to sport, has told BBC Sport that sports events are highly unlikely to have full capacity crowds this year.

He shared that he would be very surprised to see a full-capacity stadium back this year. Only with a vaccine and a high take-up rate of that vaccine would make the stadiums brimming with die-hard fans once again. He was, however, open to the possibilities of teams playing in front of reduced crowd size.

Professor Calder has collaborated with various sporting bodies on the different phases of protocols that enable a return to sporting events from lockdown a possibility. He has since lauded the teams’ collaborative effort which resulted in an earlier than expected resumption of sporting events.

He also revealed that experiments are currently underway to determine if droplet spread is increased by chanting and singing — a staple in EPL matches, and therefore a greater risk of coronavirus transmission. 

“We need to know, actually, does it matter if you’re shouting, how far will those droplets spread?” he said. 

“At a football or a rugby match, the fans are going to be shouting and chanting and singing, I hope, and we need to be sure that the people in front of them are as safe as possible.”

“Now if there is no massive droplet spread, well OK, we can keep within the social distancing that we’ve put down for, say, the Crucible and The Oval. But if it is a problem, then we need to rethink the social distancing within the stadium, and that becomes very difficult,” he elaborates further. 

That being said, Professor Calder believed more information is needed before we see smaller crowds where chanting is common, such as football and rugby matches.

He also pointed out that it would be easier to see women’s sport bounce back faster to nearer a normal capacity than men’s football because venues are not often sold out.

“We can actually promote these sports far more easily and actually get a fanbase going, so I think it’s an opportunity for sports to change the way they are looking at things.” he continued. 

Most recently, Surrey’s two-day friendly against Middlesex at the Oval garnered 1,000 attendees while the same number will be able to watch the second day of Warwickshire’s pre-season derby with Worcestershire on Tuesday.

There are more trials scheduled for this weekend when the ECB’s four-day Bob Willis Trophy begins with 2,500 spectators allowed to attend each day at The Oval and Edgbaston.