Outside the Box: Fab five now Euro members but moneybags City miss cut

Never mind the so-called and surely outmoded "Big Four" of English football. According to the European Clubs Association, the umbrella organisation that succeeded and expanded more than tenfold the G14 group, England now has a Big Five and a Not-Quite-As-Big Five.

In the new ECA membership cycle established for the next two years, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham are the fab five granted full membership while the less predictable associate members are Aston Villa, Everton, Manchester City, Fulham and Newcastle. That gives the Premier League 10 members out of the total of 197, more than Spain (seven) or Italy (eight), strength in depth that may or may not be reflected in the forthcoming European campaigns. Meanwhile, the ECA president, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge of Bayern Munich, is flexing the organisation's muscles on two issues: demanding greater compensation for clubs whose players are injured on international duty and promising to "intervene" – whatever that means – in Fifa's international calendar, which upset many clubs with its date for friendly matches last month just as the domestic season was getting under way in most western European countries.



Chaotic Croydon cancel Cup

Chaos at Croydon Athletic, the club owned by alleged cricket fixer Mazhar Majeed, whose startlingly quick rise through the divisions was charted in this space last week. Following Majeed's arrest, financial uncertainty has forced Croydon to cancel three fixtures and withdraw from the FA Cup, in which they were due to play Kingstonian today. Croydon's manager Tim O'Shea and his assistant Neil Smith have both resigned, confirming that wages were not paid for August; players are asking for their contracts to be cancelled; and the Ryman League are urgently investigating whether the club can continue under new owners, if any can be found. A little schadenfreude from other Ryman clubs left in Croydon's wake these past few seasons would be understandable; many find it hard to credit O'Shea's claims that the wages they offered were "nothing out of the ordinary". Majeed has boasted that he used the club to launder money, and the former chairman Dean Fisher was sent to prison last month for defrauding his employers of more than half a million pounds, some of which went to the club.



Make Dean's a treble

If you've got to go, then go with a hat-trick. The former Hull City hero Dean Windass did just that on what he insists was a farewell appearance for Barton Town in a 3-1 win over Yorkshire Amateur in the Northern Counties East League; the competition where it all began for him with North Ferriby two decades ago. Last season he was one of the 54 (!) players who appeared in the colours of ill-fated Darlington as they dropped out of the Football League. A year on, at 41, he was still good enough to beat goalkeeper Jordan Yorath – the son of former Leeds and Wales manager Terry – three times, modestly suggesting: "Some things never change, do they?"



Sponsorship deal to relish

And finally... There are sports sponsorships that look a good fit and others that seem distinctly odd. Burger King's deal with La Liga, announced last week, surely falls into the latter category. Deft and delicate tiki-tak football meets the 733-calorie Whopper? Come on...

s.tongue@independent.co.uk

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