Players and clubs threatened with ban if they join European Super League

Fifa and all six of football’s continental confederations have issued an emphatic joint rejection of any moves towards major clubs forming a breakaway European Super League, saying such a venture would not be ratified by any governing body. The statement, made by the presidents of Fifa and Uefa, Gianni Infantino and Aleksander Ceferin, and those of the other five international confederations, says that because none of them would endorse such a league, any players and clubs that did participate in it would effectively be football outlaws.“In light of recent media speculation about the creation of a closed European ‘Super League’ by some European clubs, Fifa and the six confederations … once again would like to reiterate and strongly emphasise that such a competition would not be recognised by either Fifa or the respective confederation,” the joint statement said.“Any club or player involved in such a competition would as a consequence not be allowed to participate in any competition organised by Fifa or their respective confederation.”Few major European clubs have professed any interest in a breakaway super league, because they are engaged in discussions with Uefa about expanding the Champions League format in 2024, when the agreed football calendar ends. There have nevertheless been reports that the bank JP Morgan had been asked to examine the financial possibilities of a “European Premier League”, a project said to have been initiated by Real Madrid. Then at the end of October the outgoing president of Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, dropped the bombshell in his final speech that, he said, the club had “accepted a proposal to participate in a future European Super League”.Manchester United and Liverpool were reported to be among potential participants in the breakaway but they have distanced themselves from it. Ed Woodward, United’s vice-chairman, told a fans’ forum in November that he is “focused on … the strengthening of existing Uefa club competitions”.Some reports suggested that Fifa, which is revamping its Club World Cup format, was supporting a move to back a European Super League, although Fifa sources said they were baffled by that and knew nothing about the initiative.Now they have made their opposition explicit, in an effort to ensure that all clubs remain within football’s official governing body structures.

Newham to keep Eat for Free school meals scheme after outcry

One of the UK’s most deprived boroughs has abandoned controversial proposals to axe its pioneering universal free school meals scheme after an outcry from local families, campaigners, MPs and headteachers.
The Guardian reported in December that Newham council’s Eat for Free scheme, which benefited up to 14,000 local children annually and saved families about £500 a year for each child in food costs, was under threat because of funding cuts.
The east London borough has now announced the £6m-a-year scheme – that guarantees all primary school pupils aged from three to 11 years of age a free dinner during term time, regardless of household income – will remain in place.
“We have listened to local families and know how important Eat for Free is. Despite the central government cuts and the economic costs of Covid-19, I am delighted to confirm that Eat for Free will remain,” said the Newham mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz.

Local MPs and school leaders had praised the scheme as “life-changing” and said they feared the impact the proposed cut would have on the health and educational development of thousands of children, especially during the pandemic.
Welcoming the decision, local MPs Stephen Timms and Lyn Brown, and London assembly member Unmesh Desai said in a letter to Fiaz the scheme was needed more than ever. “We are proud that Newham will continue to set a positive moral and political example of excellence, especially in the context of stretched finances.”
Newham has been required to make £250m of funding cuts over the past decade, and in common with many other councils it has been forced to look at closing or shrinking “non-core” services that it has no legal duty to provide.
Newham had put forward a range of options to save £2m a year from the Eat for Free scheme, including charging parents up to £1.42 a day for school meals. It is understood council officials are examining draft budgets to see where those savings can now be found.
Under the government’s national scheme for England, all primary school pupils from reception to year 2 receive free school meals. Newham extends that offer to years 3 to 6. It is one of just four such council schemes in England, alongside the London boroughs of Islington, Southwark and Tower Hamlets.
Half of all children in Newham live in poverty, making it the second poorest borough in England after Tower Hamlets. Hunger is a growing problem in the borough during the pandemic, and just under a quarter of Newham’s children are food insecure, meaning they regularly miss meals or go hungry.

England's third lockdown sees 'no evidence of decline' in Covid rates, study says

Medics take a patient from an ambulance into the Royal London hospital in London on January 19, 2021.
TOLGA AKMEN | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — A third national lockdown in England appears to have had little impact on the rising rate of coronavirus infections, according to the findings of a major study, with “no evidence of decline” in the prevalence of the virus during the first 10 days of tougher restrictions.
The closely-watched REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, warned that health services would remain under “extreme pressure” and the cumulative number of deaths would increase rapidly unless the prevalence of the virus in the community was reduced substantially.

The findings of the preprint report, published Thursday by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, come shortly after the U.K. recorded another all-time high of coronavirus deaths.
Government figures released on Wednesday showed an additional 1,820 people had died within 28 days of a positive Covid test. To date, the U.K. has recorded 3.5 million coronavirus cases, with 93,290 deaths.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a media briefing on coronavirus (COVID-19) at Downing Street on January 15, 2021 in London, England.
Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the latest figures were “appalling” and warned: “There are still tough weeks to come.”
Johnson imposed lockdown measures in England on Jan. 5, instructing people to “stay at home” as most schools, bars and restaurants were ordered to close. It is expected the strict public health measures will remain in place until at least mid-February.

What were the main findings?

The REACT-1 study tests nose and throat swabs from between 120,000 to 180,000 people in the community in England at approximately monthly intervals. The latest results mostly covered a period from Jan. 6 to Jan. 15.

The study compared the results with swabs collected between Nov. 13 to Nov. 24 and those taken between Nov. 25 and Dec. 3.
Researchers found 1,962 positives from 142,909 swabs taken over the January period. It means 1.58% of people tested had Covid on a weighted average.
This represents a more than 50% increase in prevalence rates since the study’s mid-December results and is the highest recorded by REACT-1 since it started in May 2020.
Prevalence from Jan. 6 to Jan. 15 was highest in London, the study said, with 1 in 36 people infected, more than double the rate of the previous REACT-1 results.

A man wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 walks in London.
May James | SOPA Images | LightRocket via Getty Images

Infections had also more than doubled in the southeast of England, east of England and West Midlands when compared to the findings published in early December.
“Our data are showing worrying suggestions of a recent uptick in infections which we will continue to monitor closely,” Professor Paul Elliott, director of the program at Imperial, said in a statement.
“We all have a part to play in preventing this situation from worsening and must do our best to stay at home wherever possible,” he added.
The U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care said the full impact of lockdown measures would not yet be reflected in the prevalence figures reported in the REACT-1 study.
“These findings show why we must not let down our guard over the weeks to come,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
“It is absolutely paramount that everyone plays their part to bring down infections. This means staying at home and only going out where absolutely necessary, reducing contact with others and maintaining social distancing,” Hancock said.

'You just can’t get everything you want': Bernie Sanders' mittens not for sale

Bernie Sanders’ mittens may have become the unexpected must-have fashion accessory of Joe Biden’s inauguration, but those hoping to steal the Vermont senator’s look are in for a disappointment. The teacher who made them and gave them to Sanders says she has none for sale.The mittens that sparked hundreds of internet memes were made from repurposed sweaters and recycled plastic by Jen Ellis, a 42-year-old second grade teacher who lives in Essex Junction, Vermont, just outside of Burlington, where Sanders was mayor in the 1980s.“I don’t have any mittens to sell. I don’t really do it a lot any more. I’m flattered that they want them, but there are lots of people on Etsy who sell them and hopefully people will get some business from them. But I’m not going to quit my day job,” Ellis told the Jewish Insider in an interview on Wednesday night.She explained that the demand had been overwhelming. “I am a second grade teacher, and I’m a mom, and all that keeps me really busy. There’s no possible way I could make 6,000 pairs of mittens, and every time I go into my email, another several hundred people have emailed me.”She went on to say: “I hate to disappoint people, but the mittens, they’re one-of-a-kind and they’re unique and sometimes in this world, you just can’t get everything you want.”“It’s been unexpected,” she said of their sudden social media fame. “He must really like them if he chose to wear them.”Ellis said she was not a regular social media user, and had struggled to remember the login for her Twitter account.Asked about his outfit, Sanders told CBS News in an interview after the ceremony: “In Vermont, we dress warm – we know something about the cold. We’re not so concerned about good fashion. We want to keep warm. And that’s what I did today.”Sanders’ outfit rapidly became an internet meme. He was Photoshopped into historic photographs, comic panels and the subway, while sitting, arms folded, wrapped up warm against the DC winter weather, wearing that spectacular pair of mittens. Indeed, #BerniesMittens became one of the trending hashtags of the inauguration.There was also political speculation about what might be fuelling the senator’s mood.And this appears to be true.Meme veterans also noted that Sanders was wearing the same practical and sturdy coat that had become internet-famous in a video where he had appealed for financial support at the end of 2019.The truth is, we have an excellent chance to win the primary and beat Trump.But the only way we can do that is if we have the sufficient financial resources.So I am asking you today to contribute to our campaign before the FEC deadline:— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 30, 2019
Since that post, the picture has appeared repeatedly on social media, with the caption replaced to say: “I am once again asking …” followed by a joking topical reference.An earlier photo from the day, picturing Sanders carrying a folder of documents, also caused a stir on social media when director Rian Johnson responded to a fan who had superimposed the label “Knives Out 2 script” on to the folder. Johnson jokingly suggested he had given a draft script of the keenly anticipated potential sequel to 2019’s surprise hit movie Knives Out – but had heard nothing back yet.