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Southampton Confirm Serbian Cable-TV ?100m Takeover Deal

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Southampton have confirmed a Serbian-born cable television tycoon has completed a ?100m takeover of the club.

Sky News had reported on Tuesday afternoon that Dragan Solak, founder of United Group, has invested a chunk of his fortune in a controlling stake in the Saints, who sit 14th in the table, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

Southampton have now confirmed the deal which sees Sport Republic, a London-based investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry, acquire a controlling stake in the club.

The takeover brings an end to the majority ownership of Gao Jisheng, a Chinese businessman who bought an 80 per cent stake in the club in 2017.

Katharina Liebherr retains her 20 per cent minority shareholding.

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A club statement read: “Southampton Football Club can today confirm that Sport Republic has completed the acquisition of a controlling stake in Southampton Football Club.

“Sport Republic is an investment firm in the sports and entertainment industry. They have purchased the shareholding of the club held by Mr Gao and will work in partnership with Katharina Liebherr who retains her minority shareholding.

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“Everyone within the Southampton community would like to wish Mr Gao and his family well for their future.”

Mr Solak is understood to be behind a new holding company which will examine offers for clubs in other international leagues, replicating a strategy employed by the owners of Manchester City.

Rasmus Ankersen, the former Brentford co-director of football, and Henrik Kraft, a London-based investor and chairman of Sport Republic, are also involved in the Southampton takeover.

Solak said: “My partners and I have experience in long-term investments in the sports and entertainment industry and Sport Republic has been founded to combine this expertise and deliver something unique to the market.

“Southampton has so many of the qualities we have been looking for in a major sports organisation. It has a great management team, excellent talent development, talented teams playing attractive football and a dedicated fan base.

“We are delighted to be able to complete this acquisition as a first step towards execution of our investment strategy. Southampton will be a cornerstone of the organisation we plan to build.

Sport Republic: We won’t be starting any revolutions

Southampton is Sport Republic’s first acquisition and they are aiming to “build a portfolio of high-influence stakes in
football clubs and other sporting assets across the world”.

Kraft said: “We will be an active and engaged owner, but we will not be starting any revolutions.

Image: Southampton are 14th in the Premier League having won four games this season

“We were attracted to Southampton because it is already a well-run club that follows a clearly defined strategy.

“Southampton’s CEO Martin Semmens will continue to run the day-to-day operations of the club, and Sport Republic will be working closely with him and his team to help the club grow.

“The acquisition of Southampton is a great first step and we are very excited about the journey ahead.”

Southampton have been seeking a new owner for months.

Semmens said: “Over the last two years, together with the shareholders of our club, we have searched for the right partner to take the club forward. Today we have found the perfect solution for our club.

“Sport Republic are experienced investors, but also experienced within the world of elite professional sports. That combination is very hard to find, and we are thrilled to have reached an agreement that secures our short and long-term future.

“We are grateful for the support of Mr Gao and Katharina that allowed us to take our time, turn away the wrong options and ultimately find the right partner for the future of this great club, its fans, staff and the people of Southampton.

Image: Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl will be working under new ownership

“Today we welcome a new beginning with a new ownership group. We have found partners with ambition for the future, but with a clear understanding of what Southampton stands for and the direction we must go in now.”

It is the first deal to have been approved by the Premier League since a government-commissioned report by the former sports minister, Tracey Crouch, called for more rigorous scrutiny of club takeovers.

Her inquiry was initiated after the furious reaction to six English clubs’ decision to join a European Super League early last year.

It acquired additional impetus after the Premier League approved the takeover of Newcastle by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Magpies’ acquisition by one of the world’s wealthiest investors infuriated a number of Premier League clubs, triggering the resignation of the league’s chairman, Gary Hoffman.

Who is Dragan Solak?

Image: Serbian businessman Dragan Solak is the lead investor in the London-based investment firm Sport Republic

Solak is the founder and chairman of Serbian media group United Group, which began with an investment in a cable company but has grown into a major broadcaster, broadband and mobile company in southeast Europe.

United Media operates five national broadcasters and more than 50 pay-TV channels as well as a stable of newspapers, magazines and radio stations.

Solak has a number of other business interests, including motion picture production company VANS. A keen golfer, he is also chairman of Eligo, a Surrey-based company specialising in golf tourism.

Who is Rasmus Ankersen?

Image: Sport Republic was founded by former Brentford co-director of football Rasmus Ankersen

Ankersen serves as the chief executive of Sport Republic. The Dane has seven years of experience in football, having worked at both Brentford and Danish Super League side FC Midtjylland in recent years.

Ankersen joined Brentford in 2015 as co-director of football and was part of their success in earning promotion to the English top flight for the first time in 74 years. At the same time, he was executive chairman of Midtjylland during a period in which they won three Danish league titles and qualified for the group stages of the Champions League in 2020.

Brentford announced in mid-December that Ankersen would be leaving to set up Sport Republic.

Who is Henrik Kraft?

Sport Republic chairman Kraft has a background as an investor in a number of sports technology companies, and has previously been an investor in Solak’s United Group.

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Man City Women Sign Midfielder Blakstad From Rosenborg

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Manchester City have signed midfielder Julie Blakstad from Rosenborg for an undisclosed fee on Women’s Super League Deadline Day.

The Norwegian international has joined City on a two-and-a-half-year deal and will wear the No 41 shirt for the remainder of the season.

The 20-year-old, who is a versatile talent capable of playing in multiple positions, scored 17 goals in 35 appearances for Rosenborg after joining them in 2020.

Blakstad’s move to City will see her play outside of her homeland for the first time having starred for Ottestad, FL Fart and most recently Rosenborg.

She has represented Norway at Under-15, U16, U17, U19 and U23 level before being handed her debut for the senior side against Wales in October 2020.

Image: Blakstad will wear the No 41 shirt at Manchester City

Blakstad said in a club statement: “It’s amazing to be a Manchester City player and I can’t wait to get started.

“Everybody has been amazing so far, and I’m so excited to meet my team-mates. At this point in my career, it’s important to take a new step to develop myself further and I believe this is the best place for me to do that.

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“You only have to look at the club – the facilities, the staff and the players all have incredible dedication to achieve something big and I really want to be a part of that.”

City head coach Gareth Taylor added: “We’re delighted to welcome Julie to Manchester City.

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“At just 20 years old, she’s already proven what a talent she is for both club and country and she’s a player who will fit perfectly into our squad and ethos here at City.

“We’re very much looking forward to working with her over the coming years – she is an incredibly ambitious young player and we’re excited to help her develop and grow here in England.”

Follow Deadline Day with Sky Sports

The clock is ticking. Who will be on the move before the transfer window closes at 11pm on Monday January 31?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Rangers Sign Man Utd Winger Diallo on Loan

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Rangers have completed the signing of Amad Diallo on loan from Manchester United.

The 19-year-old winger joins the Scottish Premiership leaders until the end of the season, a year after he moved to Old Trafford.

Diallo was signed by Manchester United in a deal worth ?37.2m from Atalanta and has made nine appearances in all competitions, scoring one goal.

United believe this move will be good for his development, with Diallo understood to be a part of the Premier League club’s long-term plans.

Diallo could make his debut at Ross County, live on Sky Sports, and said: “I am delighted to join Rangers until the end of the season.

“It is fantastic for me at this stage of my career to have the opportunity to come to such a big club that is challenging on a number of fronts and will give me some excellent opportunities to test myself in many environments.

“I look forward to training with my teammates for the first-time tomorrow and to meeting the fans for the first time at Ross County on Saturday.”

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After Rangers’ win over Livingston manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst said he was hoping to be busy before deadline day

Manager, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, added: “I am really pleased to add Amad to our squad for the rest of the season.

“He is a player who I have been aware of for some time, and when the opportunity to sign him came up, we were very keen to make it happen.

“He will add a lot to our squad and provide even more competition for the players in the forward areas.”

Diallo’s arrival follows the news winger Ianis Hagi will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery in London.

Who is Amad Diallo?

Image: Diallo has made nine appearances for Manchester United and scored in the Europa League

Diallo was born in the Ivory Coast, before moving to Italy around the age of 10, joining Atalanta in 2015.

The youngster made his debut for Atalanta in 2019, becoming the youngest player – at 17 years and 109 days old – to score on his Serie A debut in their 7-1 thrashing of Udinese.

As a result, the Ivorian travelled with the Atalanta squad to Lisbon for their Champions League quarter-final defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.

The player impressed in training so much so that Papu Gomez likened him to a certain Lionel Messi.

“There are defenders in the first team that sometimes cannot stop him. To stop him in training, we have to kick him! He plays like Messi,” said Atalanta’s captain before Diallo moved to United.

Diallo was handed his Manchester United debut in a 4-0 win at Real Sociedad in the Europa League last February before going on to score his first goal for the club against AC Milan in the same competition a few weeks later.

What will Diallo bring to Rangers?

Sky Sports’ Dan Sansom:

“One of the most exciting young prospects in the game” is how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Diallo after signing him for Manchester United last year.

The 19-year-old may not have had much first-team experience before making the move to Old Trafford, but he quickly made a big impression.

Operating from both wings or in the No 10 role, Diallo will bring versatility and energy to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side.

Left-footed, he is most comfortable cutting in from the right but his ability to play multiple positions in the final third is one of his standout attributes.

At just 5ft 8in, his size is no obstacle. The Ivory Coast international boasts significant strength on the ball and a low centre of gravity, as well as an impressive dribbling ability and eye for the right pass.

Diallo is raw, but his fearlessness and enthusiasm could be key as Rangers chase a second consecutive Scottish Premiership title.

Follow the January transfer window with Sky Sports

The clock is ticking. Who will be on the move before the transfer window closes on Monday January 31?

Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumours in our dedicated Transfer Centre blog on Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.

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Vitali Klitschko: Don’t Show Weakness, Joshua

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Anthony Joshua would “show weakness” if he does not fight Oleksandr Usyk for a second time, Vitali Klitschko has warned.

Joshua triggered a clause for a rematch with Usyk after losing his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight championships but the fight has still not been finalised.

Tyson Fury’s call-out of Dillian Whyte is a clear indication that they are likely to meet next in a WBC title fight, paving the way for Joshua and Usyk to clash.

Image: Joshua was outpointed in an IBF, WBA and WBO title fight by Usyk

Joshua had previously denied reports he would accept ?15m to step away from his contracted rematch to allow Fury and Usyk to fight.

“It is his decision,” former heavyweight champion Klitschko told Sky News.

“But my personal opinion? If Joshua sidesteps in this moment, when the boxing audience expects a rematch and wants to see Joshua vs Usyk, it would show weakness.

“Joshua, don’t do that please.

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“As fighters, we fight not just for ourselves but for the audience. The audience decides. If the audience wants the fight, it must happen.

“If Joshua sidesteps, I am not sure that the interest in Joshua would be so big in the future.”

Image: Ukraine’s Vitali Klitschko and Andriy Shevchenko celebrate with Usyk

Vitali held the WBC belt while Wladimir Klitschko was IBF, WBA and WBO champion as the brothers from Ukraine dominated the generation of heavyweights prior to Joshua and Fury.

Wladimir was eventually beaten in world title fights by both Fury and Joshua.

But now Usyk, the Klitschkos’ compatriot, has brought some of the heavyweight gold back to Ukraine.

Vitali Klitschko added: “Everyone expects the rematch between Usyk and Joshua. Usyk is so strong or did Joshua make mistakes? Who is stronger? That question interests every boxing fan. Let’s receive an answer. That’s why this fight must happen.

“Huge fight. Right now, everybody doubts if Joshua is strong enough to fight Fury.

“He can give the answer in the Usyk fight.

“If Joshua beats Usyk there will be huge interest [in Joshua vs Fury]. It will be the main fight of the past 10 years.

“Joshua is a classic boxer, Fury is unorthodox. Both are punchers, both can decide the fight at any moment.

“Both are world-class fighters and can knock each other out at any second.”

Image: Vitali watched his brother Wladimir Klitschko lose to Tyson Fury and Joshua

Asked to predict the winner if Joshua faced Fury, Klitschko said: “No expert can expect the decision in fights, especially with heavyweights where one punch can decide.

“That is why boxing is so interesting.

“Heavyweight fighters are like gladiators and have huge attention from the whole world.”

Klitschko retired a decade ago with 45 wins in 47 fights but admitted to occasionally sizing up Joshua and Fury: “I am not active anymore. But sometimes I feel that, if I were younger and in shape, these would be a good fights.

“I know the key to both fighters.”

Sky Sports Boxing schedule

Sunday January 30 in Tulsa
Robson Conceicao vs Xavier Martinez – WBC super-featherweight title eliminator
Nico Ali Walsh

Saturday February 5 in Cardiff
Chris Eubank Jr vs Liam Williams
Claressa Shields vs Ema Kozin – IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles

Saturday February 19 in Manchester
Amir Khan vs Kell Brook
Natasha Jonas’ world title fight
Frazer Clarke’s pro debut

Saturday February 26 in Glasgow
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall – undisputed super-lightweight titles
Nick Campbell vs Jay McFarlane – Scottish heavyweight title

Saturday March 5 in Fresno
Jose Ramirez vs Jose Pedraza

Sunday March 20 in New York
Edgar Berlanga vs Steve Rolls
Keyshawn Davis
Xander Zayas

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