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U.S. fans at heart of growing Arsenal fan protests

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Arsenal fan websites in the United States are playing a pivotal role in a protest campaign against the club’s owners as a petition demanding change surpassed 100,000 signatures on Thursday, three days after launching.

Sixteen supporters’ groups, three from the U.S., came together to launch the “#WeCareDoYou” campaign in response to “poor leadership” from owner Stan Kroenke and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (KSE), declaring the Premier League club to be in need of “meaningful action” to “reinvigorate” it.

Supporters said they are unhappy with the fact that Arsenal face a third successive season in the Europa League, believe the atmosphere at their Emirates Stadium to be “soulless” and feel “marginalized” by the club’s owners.

Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, son of Stan, responded with an open letter “respectfully disagreeing” with the fans’ view of where the club is at and insisting he, his father and the club “want to win”.

This response did little to quash the unrest with signatories continuing to come from across the globe, and Michael Price, based in Philadelphia and founder of YouAreMyArsenal blog, said the club’s global fanbase has never been more united.

“100,000 drives the ante up. It goes beyond open letters being exchanged,” Price told Reuters. “The engagement has to evolve.

“This is global now, when the letter came out, we had signatures from all over the world.

“It shows that U.S. fans care just as much. We care just as much as someone who grew up in Islington (London). The only thing that is different is we cannot go to games every week, and we are so jealous of that.

“Before we had a very fractured fanbase. Some who were very unhappy about the way Arsene Wenger managed towards the end, some the way (manager) Unai Emery coached towards the end of the last year. Now we are unified, more than we have ever been.”

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Emery said this week Arsenal are lining up “three or four quality signings”, which may appease fans unhappy about the lack of player investment, but Price insisted new arrivals alone will not prevent further action.

“I think the club think it is about money, and we will see some big transfers come in,” he added. “People love it when clubs spend money, and they think it (the protests) will all go away.

“Some of the signatories will says ‘great, we have achieved what we wanted to do’, but for those of us in the 16 blogs that set it up, that is not enough.

“The leadership and vision, addressing European Super League concerns, the atmosphere at the stadium, the improvement of our commercial profile, these areas need to be addressed.”






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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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