Inside Lines: Campaign to strip Israel of Under-21 event over racism campaign against racism


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The Independent Online

At the same time as Tottenham Hotspur players were again enduring appalling racist abuse in Italy on Thursday night, a protest group called Football Beyond Borders were holding a meeting in London calling for this summer's European Under-21 tournament in Israel to be moved, or boycotted.

The events were supposedly unconnected, though one irony is that the campaign is publicly backed by a former Spurs striker, the Mali-born Muslim Frédéric Kanouté, 35, who now plays in China.

Stuart Pearce's England team are due to play Israel in a group match on 11 June at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium where, according to FBB, "there is a supporters group who embody a political voice in Israeli society which is shaped by its Jewish fanaticism, aversion to Muslims and its penchant to treat Arabs and other ethnic minorities within the country as inferior". They add: "There is clearly a widespread belief that Israel should not be allowed to host the tournament, considering its shocking human rights record and its increasingly systematic discrimination of Palestinians."

While a full-blown demo march is planned in London for 24 May, Uefa's president, Michel Platini, insists the tournament will not be moved but is believed to have privately asked the English FA to be on standby to host it should the situation in Gaza deteriorate further.

Olympians strike gold

Jessica Ennis is hardly off the box these days. Not displaying her skills as the world's supreme all-round athlete but filling copious television commercial breaks by advertising a health-insurance company and a Spanish bank, among other things.

According to sports-business experts, Ennis's enduring appeal as the brightest star in the London 2012 Olympic galaxy will earn her at least £6 million on the road to Rio 2016. Which is why Ennis, named World Sportswoman of the Year at last week's Laureus Awards in Rio, can afford to pay her coach, Tony Minichiello, out of her own pocket now that he is no longer employed by UK Athletics.

Ennis is not alone in getting a lucrative commercial break. Mo Farah is hard on her heels, while the now-retired swimmer Rebecca Adlington is in the £20,000-a-time bracket as an after-dinner speaker. The boxing gold medallist Nicola Adams's ever-beaming features dominate buses nationwide, urging us to drink more milk. Gymnast Beth Tweddle and Adams's Olympic champion ring-mate Luke Campbell can put the champagne on ice after finishing first and third respectively in ITV's Dancing on Ice. Both reputedly collected six-figure sums, as did Britain's other gymnastics high-flyer Louis Smith, who took the top prize in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing last December.

Warren's counterpunch

Inside the ropes, boxing may be about hooks and crosses, but outside them it's more swings and roundabouts. This time last week Frank Warren had lost one star, George Groves, to Sky-backed rival Eddie Hearn and was about to witness another, world champion Ricky Burns, defecting to the same Matchroom stable.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday Warren vowed to hit back – and tomorrow he will confirm his BoxNation TV channel have not only secured substantial new funding but also the prized ring return of the world's No 1 fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, against Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas on 4 May.

Moreover, we hear a rapprochement with Amir Khan, may be imminent, with the former world light-welterweight champion's make-or-break homecoming bout against the Mexican Julio Diaz in Sheffield on 27 April also likely to be exclusively on BoxNation.

Meanwhile, Warren has issued a writ against Burns claiming £300,000 damages, almost half the Scot's total earnings under his promotion.