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City slickers, Spanish kisses, failing cricketers – 10 things we learned in 2023

England endured a miserable cricket World Cup but Sarina Wiegman’s Lionesses came so close to glory in Australia and New Zealand.

Pa Sport Staff
Tuesday 26 December 2023 13:21 GMT
Manchester City’s European success came as the club faced more than 100 Premier League charges for alleged rule breaches (Nick Potts/PA)
Manchester City’s European success came as the club faced more than 100 Premier League charges for alleged rule breaches (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Manchester City achieved their holy grail of winning the Champions League in 2023 but did it against the backdrop of being hit with an unprecedented number of charges for alleged breaches of Premier League financial rules.

It was that kind of year in many ways. Spain made history by winning the Women’s World Cup, but immediately found themselves embroiled in a sexism scandal, while the unexpected success of England’s rugby team came with major setbacks for the cricketers.

Here the PA news agency looks at 10 things we learned in 2023.

Manchester City get the one they wanted

For all the Premier League titles won and records set, Pep Guardiola had openly acknowledged he needed to bring the Champions League trophy to Manchester City for his time at the Etihad Stadium to be considered a success.

And in June they did just that as Rodri’s second-half goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in Istanbul and see City emulate neighbours United by securing a treble, adding the Champions League to the Premier League and FA Cup trophies they had already lifted.

It was the trophy City had wanted more than any other during the more than decade-long overhaul under Sheikh Mansour’s ownership, and it was finally theirs.

Governance battles

City’s success came only a few months after they were hit with a stunning 115 charges by the Premier League for alleged breaches of financial regulations – a case that is expected to rumble on long into next year and beyond.

But when the Premier League imposed a 10-point penalty on Everton for a much lesser offence, many in football were shocked and there are now serious questions about how the Premier League handles not only City’s case but also possible charges against Chelsea, who self-reported their own breaches.

At a time when the Premier League is trying to show it does not need an independent regulator, the ramifications of how these cases play out could be huge.

LIV continues to rock golf

Jon Rahm’s December announcement that he was joining the LIV circuit showed that golf is still yet to figure out how to deal with the Saudi-backed start-up.

The joint announcement in June which saw the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV announce a framework for a merger to form a unified commercial entity was far from the end of the dispute and – as some players have said – might even make it easier for players to feel they can jump ship.

Rahm has been a critic of LIV in the past, but, following his Masters triumph and Europe’s Ryder Cup success, made the timing right for him. Where it leaves the rest of golf is unclear as we await further progress on talks between the rival tours.

World Cup woes leave questions for the ECB

England’s defence of their Cricket World Cup title could barely have gone much worse as they won only three of nine games in India, prompting yet more soul-searching.

The ECB’s decision to sideline its domestic 50-over competition in favour of The Hundred does not look good in this context, although how much impact it might actually have is unclear.

The bigger focus is perhaps on the ever-scrutinised schedule. England played half as many ODIs in the build-up to this World Cup than they did before winning in 2019, and most were against weak opposition.

Bitter disappointment for England Women

After the highs of their European Championship triumph, England went to the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand among the favourites but it was not to be.

Sarina Wiegman’s team overcame Lauren James’ red card to edge past Nigeria on penalties before seeing off Colombia and hosts Australia but, despite the heroics of Mary Earps in goal, Spain proved too strong in the final, with Olga Carmona scoring the only goal.

This month a 6-0 rout of Scotland was not enough for England to top their Nations League group as the Netherlands scored late to beat Belgium 4-0, denying Team GB a place at next summer’s Olympics in Paris.

A World Cup final overshadowed

Spain made history by beating England in the final in Sydney, lifting the World Cup trophy for the first time.

But their big moment became mired in controversy after Luis Rubiales, then president of the Spanish federation, kissed Jennifer Hermoso on the lips during the celebrations despite her obvious discomfort, and was also seen making obscene gestures.

Rubiales then refused to resign for several weeks as the controversy enveloped Spanish football, showing just how much more work lies ahead in changing attitudes.

Red Bull’s dominance is unprecedented

Red Bull completed the most dominant season ever seen in the history of Formula One in 2023 as Max Verstappen won 19 of the 22 races to leave everyone else in a separate competition.

While there is hope that a fresh season will offer fresh opportunities to their rivals, the sheer scale of their dominance brings its own issues.

With titles effectively secured long ago, Red Bull have already been able to work on the development of next year’s car – leaving everyone else to play catch up once more.

Bright spots for Borthwick

England went to the Rugby World Cup amid relatively low expectations on the back of home defeats to Scotland, France and Fiji during the course of 2023.

It was therefore a welcome surprise to see them not only get out of their group but see off Fiji in the quarter-final before pushing eventual champions South Africa all the way as they lost the semi-final 16-15.

While some experienced players will be retiring, it was a performance that offered hope for the future as exciting youngsters such as Henry Arundell emerged.

Sport continues to grapple with war

The International Olympic Committee has announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes who qualify for Paris 2024 will be allowed to compete as individuals next summer.

The IOC said the decision, quickly condemned by Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of the country, was about “respecting human rights”.

However, although the IOC has given the green light, many individual sporting governing bodies – not least World Athletics – have not changed their positions, meaning athletes in those events will remain ineligible.

The glacial pace of change at Old Trafford

It is more than a year since the Glazer family announced they would consider a sale or minority investment at Manchester United, offering fans hope that years of neglect could soon be coming to an end.

The deal for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to take a 25 per cent stake – one that would come with considerable control – is not the clean break most wanted, but it does at least offer hope of change, albeit one that is taking longer than expected with mooted timetables for completion having come and gone.

In the meantime, the team continues to lurch from mini-crisis to mini-crisis on the pitch, with Erik ten Hag’s side having been unable to build on the encouragement of last season. Will 2024 be the year real change finally comes to Old Trafford?

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