Euro 2024 Qualifying Campaign Finished

This week sees the end of the Euro 2024 Qualifying fixtures as England progress comfortably through to the Euros topping their qualifying group and unbeaten in all eight games. England will make the trip to Germany next summer along with 19 other sides who have also secured their place alongside the hosts, while the remaining three places are yet to be secured. Teams alongside England already qualified include hosts Germany, France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands to name a few. But who will reign supreme in the German Capital next summer?

Draws against Ukraine and North Macedonia were the only points dropped in England’s qualifying campaign as they marched through comfortably, and we are guaranteed to see them playing on the continent in June.

After a torrid 2022 Summer that saw England win no games in the UEFA Nations League including a 4-0 defeat at home to Hungary, it was looking very bleak for Southgate ahead of the World Cup. However, a respectable tournament saw them get to the quarter-finals where they were narrowly beaten by an inform France side.

After being unbeaten since then, things are looking up for the England manager with the prospect of triumph looming large at Euro 2024. With that said, the criticism for his ‘boring’ style of football is still very prominent and the calls for his sacking are very real. However, if he can deliver a European trophy at the second time of asking, surely all doubts will be forgotten about?

What about the other sides in the competition? As Scotland qualify for their second consecutive European trophy, there is excitement amongst Scots to see just how far ‘The Tartan Army’ will go after an impressive qualifying campaign. With only one defeat and a famous victory over Spain they look stronger than ever. It raises the question, could Scotland be the dark horses in Germany in 2024?

Unsurprisingly, France are the favourites for the championship in 2024, after an agonising World Cup Final defeat to Argentina last year. In what has been described as one of the best World Cup Finals ever, a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes of football ended with a penalty shootout as Gonzalo Montiel scored the deciding spot-kick to finish what was a fairytale World Cup for Lionel Messi. The Blues will be desperate to make amends and become the champions of the continent once again.

Wembley Pitchview restaurant

International Football Hospitality

Holders Italy have qualified, just, after a draw with Ukraine, going through as runner’s-up in the qualifying group. It hasn’t been all plain-sailing for the Italians after breaking English hearts two years ago with no World Cup qualification in 2022 and only four wins in the qualifying stages for the Euros this year. If they want to retain their title, manager Luciano Spalletti will have to turn their subpar performances around. One thing is for sure, you must never write off the Italians.

After another World Cup in 2022 that saw the Germans fail to make it out of the group, they will be determined to change the narrative in front of a home crowd at the Euros in 2024.

Their last major trophy came in 2014 when they were victorious in the World Cup Final courtesy of an extra-time goal via Mario Gotze to see off Argentina. Aside from that, their last Euro success was in 1996 when they beat Czech Republic to become Champions of Europe. Can they use the home support to their advantage?

Ten wins for Portugal, scoring 36 goals and conceding 2, they certainly can’t be ignored. The questions over whether starman Cristiano Ronaldo will play in Germany still remain. Currently, at 38 years old it will be impressive if he can remain their talisman next summer, however, it appears that the former Manchester United star is not letting up in this competition with 10 goals and 2 assists in the qualifiers. Can he steer Portugal to another European Championship?

Twenty-four teams, one European trophy and one winner. Going into an international tournament it’s always difficult to tell who will come out as champions, however, there are definitely some clear-cut favourites who stand out amongst the rest of the crop.

Will Southgate’s England be able to finally win that trophy that we have come so close to in the last 6 years? Want to see England live in their Euro preparations, why not watch them live from Wembley in the best seats in the house with Engage.

March 2024
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NFL Season Reaches Halfway Point

This weekend marks the halfway stage of the NFL main season and there are already some early contenders who are looking to challenge for the famous Super Bowl title.

In the American Football Conference (AFC) the Jaguars, the Ravens, the Chiefs and the Dolphins all lead the way in their respective divisions while in the National Football Conference (NFC) the Eagles, the 49ers, the Lions and Saints top their divisions. With some unsurprising names at the top of each division, who will go all the way and be crowned with one of the most prestigious sporting titles in the world.

As expected, both the Panthers and the Cardinals have struggled to get their season up and running. With only three wins between them and rock bottom of their respective divisions, it has been a pretty bleak showing for both teams. With that said, their victories have come over teams playing well compared with their corresponding leagues.

The Cardinals managed to see off the Cowboys 28-16 with the Dallas side sitting 2nd in NFC East as well as victory over the Falcons who sit third in NFC South. Meanwhile, the Panthers narrowly beat the Texans 15-13 as the Houston based side sat 2nd in AFC South. With both teams pulling off shock results, can we see them have an improved second half the season and climb up their respective divisions?

At the other end of the divisions, there have been some expected candidates leading the early charge. Philadelphia Eagles find themselves with only one defeat in nine as they top the NFC East. That lone defeat came from the Jets as they present a fairly subpar season so far by the New York side’s standards. One of the favourites going into the season, the Eagles have not disappointed as they look to go one better than runner’s up last time out.

Similarly, the Kansas City Chiefs have also emerged as early leaders, unsurprisingly being the favourites to clinch the title for the second season in a row. With Patrick Mahomes on form this season once again, he will be keen to secure the MVP title for the second season in a row. However, it won’t be easy for the Chiefs as they will be up against it with the other sides all gunning to knock them off their perch.

Somewhat of a surprise contender this season, the Jacksonville Jaguars find themselves sitting pretty at the top of AFC South having only lost 3 games.

The Jaguars have been a team to be feared this season, only coming up short to the Texans and the Chiefs before Sunday. Having never won a Super Bowl, they will be very keen to make history this season and build on their strong start to the Regular Season. With that said, they suffered a heavy defeat to the 49ers as they were beaten 34-3 in a thrashing in front of a home crowd on Sunday. They’ll be looking to bounce back quickly if they are to have any chance of fighting for the title.

The Jags also managed two victories in London this season, both at Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in another memorable edition of NFL London.

The Jacksonville side will be travelling to London once again in 2024 to play at Wembley Stadium and you can watch it live from the best seats in the house with Engage Hospitality.

Horse Racing Jump Season 2023/24

With the winter months closing in, for horse racing fans that marks the return of one thing. Jump Season. That’s right National Hunt racing is back and it will bring the return of some of the biggest horse racing festivals this country has to offer. From Cheltenham to Aintree, trainers from all over the UK and Ireland will be bringing their fastest horses in the hope that they can win some of the UK’s most prestigious meetings.

So what meetings will there be?

The first big festival of the 2023/24 season will be Cheltenham Festival held from the 12th March until the 15th March 2024. With four days of scintillating races, the non-stop action will have fanatics on the edge of their seats all week.

Fancy watching it in hospitality? Engage Hospitality offer a package for each of the four days where you can dine in the presence of some of the sport’s greats while watching the racing from the VIP suite. An incredible atmosphere with a large Irish support party as well as other horse-racing lovers travelling from all over Britain to join the celebrations of one of the most anticipated events in the racing calendar.

The second big festival, and arguably the biggest of them all, the Grand National at Aintree. A three day event with the main race falling on the Saturday afternoon. This year’s event will take place from the 11th April until the 13th April and will see ‘The World’s Greatest Steeplechase’ as millions will tune in to watch.

With Engage Hospitality’s multiple packages on sale, you will find yourself spoilt for choice. Engage are offering hospitality including the Tiger Roll Suite the Horse and Groom both with views of the parade ring and the Sunloch Restaurant with views of the iconic racecourse.

Grand National Horse

What about this season’s favourites?

Now if you’re planning on attending any of these memorable meetings this Jump Season you’ll want to know which horses to keep an eye on. Here are just a few who you might want to consider putting your money towards.

First up is one of the star novice hurdlers from last season, Inthepocket. Trained by Henry de Bromhead, Inthepocket had his big win last season at Aintree as he was victorious over Olly Murphy’s Strong Leader in the Grade 1 Top Novices’ Hurdle. He will certainly be one to watch throughout the season and could be a contender at both Cheltenham and once again Aintree.

Of course, you can’t dismiss the 2023 Grand National winner Corach Rambler as a favourite once again for this season. Piloted by Derek Fox, it was a three length victory for Corach Rambler over Vanillier. Trainer Lucinda Russell said she was likely to aim him once again at the Grand National this season and was confident that he would be able to turn his early season poor form around by April.

As mentioned last year’s runner-up Vanillier could be another contender for the Grand National. Gavin Cromwell will be determined to avenge his heartbreak from last season and will hope for a victory in this year’s event. It remains to be seen who will be jockey for Vanillier again this year, however, if it is to be Sean Flanagan, he will be just as keen as Cromwell to go one better than 2023.

Martin Brassil’s Fastorslow is another favourite for both the Grand National and Cheltenham festivals. The seven year old horse boasts an impressive 2023 with a 5th place, 2nd place and a victory at Punchestown. The horse was also runner up to Corach Rambler in the Cheltenham Old in a field of 23 runners. Brassil will be determined to beat Lucinda Russell’s horse at both events this season.

You can’t have a favourites list without including Constitution Hill. Described as one of the best hurdlers of all time, Constitution Hill is unbeaten throughout his hurdling career. After winning the 2023 Champion Hurdle, there is no doubt he has cemented his position in the argument as one of the greats. With that said, trainer Nicky Henderson knows he needs to add the Gold Cup to his collection to be considered as one of the best, however, it’s safe to say he will be one to watch throughout the 2023/24 season.

So there you have it, a wonderful prospect of some exciting racing on show in Spring 2024. Treat yourself and spend it with Engage Hospitality and witness the most iconic races from the luxury of the best seats in the house.

Is Novak Djokovic the best ever?

There is much debate amongst tennis fans about who is the best to ever play the game. There’s plenty of names in contention for the top spot including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras and, a blast from the past, Rod Laver. But probably one of the most prominent figures of tennis in the last ten years and certainly a man who has more than earned his right to be in this conversation, Serbian great Novak Djokovic.

So, who really is the best ever?

There is no doubt that all of these players have treated us to some spectacular tennis over the years, often battling it out against one another for the chance to win a Grand Slam. With only Nadal and Djokovic still playing, are they able to cement their position as greats in the sport, maybe even the greatest?

It’s only right to begin the conversation with Rod Laver, a man whose career started before many of the others were born. The Australian legend was ranked number one in the world for seven straight years between 1964 and 1970 as his career was one full of success. Nicknamed ‘Rocket’ he won a whopping 200 career titles with 11 Grand Slam Singles Titles and 9 Pro Slam Singles Titles, making him easily a contender for the greatest to have ever played tennis.

Next up, another man who retired over 20 years ago, Pete Sampras. The American picked up an incredible $43 million dollars in prize money throughout his career as well as a respectable 14 Grand Slam Singles Titles. Retiring in 2002, he is widely regarded as one of the tennis greats.

His career finished on a high after the US open when he defeated rival Andre Agassi. However, his place in the argument for one of the greats is disputed due to his preference for hard courts and grass. Should he have dominated across all surfaces to be eligible for the conversation?

A rival of Djokovic, Roger Federer’s reign in tennis was a magnificent one to say the least. In a career spanning over 24 years, the Swiss is one of the most well renowned to play the game with 103 career titles and 20 Grand Slam Singles Titles.

Even at the age of 40, he was still playing at the highest level and challenging for titles. His last appearance in a Grand Slam final was in 2019 when he was beaten by Djokovic at Wimbledon. A remarkable career that was played at such a high level for so long.

Tennis Hospitality

Rafael Nadal is another man from Djokovic’s era and like Federer he has been around for quite some time. The Spaniard continues into the later stages of his career at the age of 37, however, with 22 Grand Slam Singles Titles it has been an impressive one. Known as the ‘King of the Clay’ in 2022 he won a record 14th French Open title.

During a time that may mark the beginning of a new era for tennis as Nadal, Djokovic and others bring their careers to a close, we can certainly be grateful that Rafael Nadal treated us to some of the best tennis the world has seen.

But can anyone surpass Novak Djokovic? As the Serbian reaches his late thirties, he is still winning Grand Slams for fun. In the final Grand Slam of the 2023 season at the US open, Djokovic secured a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam Singles Title. He also won 3 out of the four Grand Slams in 2023 at the age of 36, only losing out at Wimbledon to Spaniard and possible successor Carlos Alcaraz.

The most Grand Slams ever by a male tennis player and the possibility for even more, it’s very difficult to argue that Djokovic is anything other than the greatest tennis player ever.

So what do you think? Is Novak Djokovic the best to play the game or is there someone else who has proven himself over the Serbian? No matter what your opinion is, Djokovic’s legacy and impact on the sport will live on for years to come even after his career ends.

December 2023
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The New 2024/25 Champions League Structure

For the third time this season Champions League Group Stage football is back underway as the best sides in Europe battle it out in the hope of finding themselves playing knockout football. This season has already produced some shock results, notably involving English sides including victory for Galatasary at Old Trafford, Newcastle thrashing PSG as well as a shock defeat in France for Arsenal.

However, next season the Champions League will be changing from how we know it with more teams, more games and a whole new format.

That’s right, in the 2024/25 season the Champions League will be undergoing some structural changes. Currently the competition hosts 32 teams but it will be increasing to 36 teams next season in one big league. The 36 teams will be divided into four pots of nine with each pot ordered 1 to 4 with each side’s coefficient for example, pot 1 will hold the winners of the Champions League as well as eight teams with the best coefficients.

Fans can expect more fixtures as well with each club drawn to play two teams from each pot. This will include four home games and four away games as sides will come up against eight different teams in the group stages rather than playing each side twice. It also allows for teams to be drawn against two other sides in their pot meaning the bigger sides will play some of the other bigger sides before the knockout stages.

The view from the Evolution hospitality suite at Old Trafford Stadium as the stadium begins to fill ahead of a Manchester United home fixture

UEFA Champions League Hospitality

From the final table, the top eight will go through to the round of 16 while positions 9 to 24 will be involved in a playoff. Teams from positions 25 to 36 will be eliminated from European competition; there will be no drop down to the Europa League. There will be only one knockout-round draw for the round of 16 onwards with the route a team takes depending on how high the side finishes in the league.

So what’s the reason for this change? The change creates more revenue for sides competing in the Champions League as well as the possibility for more exciting matches. It will also enable fans to see an extra 64 Champions League games next season totalling 189 rather than 125 games while being able to see their own team play two extra games in the group stage. Not to mention, the chance for opponents to play teams of a similar skill-level.

It is an opportunity for the big teams to excel while also giving a chance to the smaller teams while increasing the stature of one of the biggest competitions in world football.

So where do the other four teams come from? Two places will be awarded to the best performing leagues in the current season for example, this would have been Liverpool and Atlanta if the format was in place last season. One place will be awarded to the third placed team from the league that is ranked fifth in the UEFA coefficient and the other placed will be awarded through the qualifying path for champions.

So what do you think? Are you impressed with the new system or do you just want to stick with the old? Football fans around the world will be hoping that it’s a system that will produce thrilling matches as well as a good chance to see their respective teams progress through the tournament. It will be interesting to see how it will pan out and whether or not it is a good move by UEFA.

Want to see the best teams in Europe in action? Watch it live from the best seats in the house with Engage Hospitality.

How will the 2024 F1 Grid line up?

The 2023 Formula 1 season has been an interesting one to say the least. With eighteen races down and only five more to go, we can now start thinking about the 2024 season after Max Verstappen clinched his third consecutive Driver’s Championship in Qatar. The Dutchman has dominated all season but can he repeat his astonishing form in 2024? And what other changes might we see on the F1 grid next season?

After a season of Red Bull dominance, it will be the same pair that take their place on the grid in 2024 as both Verstappen and Sergio Perez are confirmed to race again next year. Red Bull’s closest rivals this season, Mercedes, once again confirm that the British pairing of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will be battling it out to see if they have any chance of regaining the top spot for the first time since 2021.

After a relatively disappointing 2022 season, Hamilton has, so-far, had an improved 2023 season currently sitting in 3rd place in the Driver’s standings. With that said, the Briton still hasn’t won since 2021 and unless he can find that form that we were so used to seeing two years ago, could his time at the top be petering out?

The majority of seats are confirmed in the 2024 F1 paddock, however, it remains to be seen who Alex Albon will be paired up with as Williams are yet to confirm who their number 2 driver will be next season. With American driver Logan Sargent yet to impress, it remains to be seen whether or not he will secure his seat for next season’s championship.

Williams’ team principal James Vowles has said he is willing to wait until the end of the season to reach a conclusion on Sargent’s future with the team. The F1 rookie has had a tough season so far and there are plenty of candidates who could potentially take his place including Liam Lawson, Mick Schumacher and F2 2022 champion Felipe Drugovich. Not to mention the possibility of the Indycar drivers making the transition to F1 including Colton Herta, Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward.

It will be interesting to see how Sargent will respond at the US Grand Prix this weekend as he fights for his seat in front of a home crowd.

F1 Austria Grand Prix Paddock Club

Formula 1 2024 Hospitality

An astonishing 1.8 second pitstop saw a new world record for McLaren in Qatar as they announced that they were sticking with Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris for another season, although not without any drama.

After being frustrated with performance in early 2023, it caused transfer rumours to fly but after an upgrade, Norris made his commitment to the team for the 2024 season. Piastri has also had his contract extended after being signed from Alpine in 2022, dousing out the hopes of any McLaren Indycar drivers making an easy move to F1.

Elsewhere, although there may be no retirements towards the end of the 2023 season, Lewis Hamilton (38), Fernando Alonso (42) and Nico Hulkenburg (36) are all nearing the end of their careers and it remains to be seen whether they will pull the plug on their motorsport futures at the end of 2024. With Hamilton’s contract spanning until 2025 and Alonso on a multi-year deal with Aston Martin, we are unlikely to see the pair leave the grid in 2024.

However, Hulkenburg’s contract with Haas will run out in 2024 meaning we could see the German’s time as a regular face in F1 come to an end?

Perhaps it is too early to make predictions for next season, what with this year’s campaign not even wrapped up. However, it is without doubt that all eyes will be on Max Verstappen and Red Bull examining whether the Dutchman can keep up his magnificent individual form alongside the frightening Red Bull dominance, having only lost one race so far in 2023. Or will we see more fight from Ferrari and Mercedes in 2024? Perhaps with another year’s experience for McLaren’s youngsters we may see them battling it out at the top of the standings.

If any other team is to stand a chance of battling for the top spot in the Constructors Championship, they have to work out how to beat Red Bull first. If you want to see how the F1 grid in 2024 will line up live, check out Engage Hospitality to watch it from the best seats in the house.

Has influencer boxing got the professionals ‘on the ropes’?

On the 28th October, Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou will take to the ring as the ‘Gypsy King’ will look for yet another win in his undefeated career.

Fury is the favourite to beat Ngannou as the WBC heavyweight champion while Ngannou is making the switch from MMA to take on one of boxing’s greats. It will be Fury’s first fight since December 2022 which is a considerable gap (however not unheard of in boxing); is the reason for this to make way for less competitive boxing?

Two weeks before Fury squares up to Ngannou in Saudi Arabia, another boxing fight will be taking place. A boxing fight with arguably less skill, less meaning but perhaps more viewers.

Tyson’s half-brother, Tommy Fury, most famously known for his stint on ITV’s Love Island, will take on YouTube star KSI at Manchester Arena with fans of both celebrities getting very excited for the prospect. With less professional fights and the mainstream media also bringing a lot of attention to these influencer fights, are we seeing a change of direction for boxing as we know it?

Influencer boxing has grown rapidly in the last 3-4 years as it has attracted more and more fans. KSI, or his real name Olajide Olatunji, has been at the forefront of many of the famous influencer fights and can be argued to be the pioneer of this craze when he fought fellow YouTuber Joe Weller back in 2018.

A few months later, KSI took on American YouTuber Logan Paul in a fight that was described as the ‘biggest event in internet history’ and pulled in an estimated £150 million with two million people paying to watch it. Will we see a similar outcome this weekend?

Tommy Fury has not been outside of the amateur boxing limelight either. Back in February of this year he took on brother of Logan Paul, Jake Paul, in a fight that attracted 800,000 PPV buys. Compare this to Tyson’s last fight against Derek Chisora where 500,000 PPV were sold.

Boxing Hospitality

So are these boxing matches attracting new audiences to the sport who want to watch their favourite influencers, or is professional boxing, specifically heavyweight in this case, in a slow demise?

It can be argued that a lot of heavyweight boxing has made way for the influencer boxing. According to Boxing Social, Mike Tyson criticised many heavyweight boxers for not wanting to fight each other in reference to the lack of recent fights exclaiming ‘they just need to fight’.

With that said, there are still plans of a Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk fight with the date yet to be confirmed as well as Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder rumours. So is it actually fizzling out or are there just less fights due to the increased athletic demands and the difficulty in getting fit for events?

It is with no doubt that the popularity in influencer boxing has risen in recent years, but is it necessarily a bad thing? Well it could even attract a wider range of audience to tune into professional boxing. With new fights being announced regularly such as Fury vs Osyk, there are still plenty of professional heavyweight battles that will keep the die-hard boxing fans satisfied.

Want to watch Fury vs Osyk live? Check out Engage Hospitality for the best seats in the house.

Who will be the breakout star of the 2023-24 NBA season?

The start of the 2023-24 NBA regular season is fast approaching with basketball fans preparing for the start of the new campaign with a fascinating double header.

First up the Denver Nuggets will take on the Los Angeles Lakers while over in San Francisco the Golden State Warriors play host to the Phoenix Suns. There will be plenty of teams who will be battling it out for the famous Larry O’Brien trophy until April, but who will be the breakout players in the NBA this season?

A big season ahead for Nikola Jovic and the NBA champions

There are plenty of players who could step up and make a big difference for their side this season. The Denver Nuggets will be looking to repeat their triumph next season as they are the odds-on favourites for the title once again after coming out on top last term with much of their success owed to Nikola Jovic.

With many describing him as the best basketball player in the world at the moment, Jovic took the league by storm averaging 24.5 points per game as well as 9.8 assists per game. If the Nuggets would like any chance of retaining the Championship, they will be relying on Jovic to come up with the goods.

The Nuggets won’t have it easy with the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks expected to push them all the way. The Bucks will flaunt Giannis Antetokounmpo as the forward averaged an astonishing 31.1 points per game last season, while the Celtics boast starman Jayson Tatum. Referred to as ‘The Problem’ by LeBron James, he was another player who averaged more than 30 points last season and both players will be assets to their sides if they are to challenge the Nuggets this year.

Runners up in 2023, Miami Heat find themselves as 7th favourites according to the bookies and they will be keen to make the NBA final once again. Tyler Herro will be a key player for the side averaging over 20 points per game for the second season in a row. If they are to have any chance of getting revenge on the Nuggets, he will have to be firing on all cylinders.

The Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy on show at the NBA Global Games Series
Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy at the Global Games Series

Who will have the biggest impact from the 2023-24 NBA draft?

So what about the new players who have been picked in the draft? Thompson twins Amen and Ausar were the fourth and fifth picks, with the latter being scooped up by the Pistons while Amen will also begin playing professionally with the Rockets. They are also the first brothers in NBA draft history to be selected together in the top 5.

Third to be picked was Scoot Henderson by the Blazers. At only 19, Henderson promises to be a great prospect for the Portland side after impressing in the NBA G League over the last couple of seasons.

The Hornets were the second to pick as they selected Brandon Miller, who will make his debut in professional basketball playing in the NBA. An exciting but challenging task for the youngster, questions will be asked about whether he will be able to carry on his impressive form from his collegiate years, which included an Alabama Freshman-Record scoring 41 points in one game.

Finally, it was Victor Wembanyama who took the top spot as the first draft pick when the San Antonio Spurs snapped up the Frenchman who is widely considered one of the greatest basketball prospects of his generation. It was the first time a French player has ever been picked in the first overall draft pick and only the second time it has been a European player.

His breakthrough season last year playing for Metropolitans 92 gave NBA fans a real taste of what he will be like. He averaged an impressive 21.6 points per game across the season as well as 10.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks leading the Pro A League in each category. Can he be the standout player for the Spurs and guide them to the NBA playoffs?

A lot to ponder for any basketball fans ahead of a very exciting 2023-24 NBA season in store for us. Enquire today with Engage to experience the Brooklyn Nets take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in premium hospitality at the Accor Arena in Paris this upcoming season.

Fans spectate at The O2 Arena during the NBA London Game in 2018

Watch the NBA Paris Game in VIP hospitality

UEFA Champions League: A memorable away day in Milan

Every year the UEFA Champions League produces magical moments and stories for fans across the continent. Last week marked Newcastle United’s return to Europe’s pinnacle competition, giving fans who travelled to Milan memories that will last a lifetime…

A European trip 20 years in the making

The last time Newcastle fans made the trip to Italy for a European competition was in 2003. That day they were up against Inter Milan in a game that finished 2-2 with The Magpies’ goals coming from none other than Alan Shearer. It was a memorable night for many Geordies as 12,000 of them took over the stands of the San Siro.

Unfortunately it’s been roller coaster for fans from the North East since, with controversial ownership and heartbreaking relegations that made nights like that one in Milan feel like a distant memory.

That was until Eddie Howe gave fans something to believe in once again last season. A fast start in the Premier League turned the unimaginable into a reality for Newcastle fans: a top four finish and the return of Champions League football to tyneside.

So fast-forward twenty years and Newcastle are unbelievably back in Milan to face European giants AC Milan in their first fixture of this year’s Champions League campaign. 4000 Geordies and I were there to take it all in.

Arriving in Milan, I felt nerves similar to the League Cup final. I hopped onto the metro to the Navigli Canal where a sea of black and white shirts greeted me. Flags from across the North East lined the waterway, while chants of ‘Anthony’ interrupted the peaceful Italian streets in tribute to the English winger.

Gates at Newcastle United's St James Park

2023/24 UEFA Champions League Hospitality

Only 12 o’clock but the Geordies were already in good voice and by the time we reached the local bars they were already running low on beer (it was probably a good thing it was an early kick off!)

If you were a local, you picked a bad day to come down to the canal especially if you were a delivery driver. As the DPD vans slowly made its way through the crowds numerous Newcastle fans reached in to sound the horn as others labelled the van with Newcastle branded stickers.

On the other hand, if you were a rower going down the water you were met with a wall of noise cheering you on while one fan even jumping in to race the boats. It’s safe to say he lost, both the race and probably 50 euros in the form of a fine!

It was agreed that all Newcastle fans travel to the ground at 4pm so that we travel in numbers and in plenty of time for kickoff. After drinking the pubs of Milan dry, we set off to the famous San Siro.

4000 Geordies jumping about on the metro was never going to end well and right enough after only a couple of stops, the metro came to an abrupt halt. Off the train, out of the station where we were greeted by a police escort to take us the rest of the way to the ground.

Experiencing the history of Milan’s San Siro

After what felt like a marathon of walking, the magnificent San Siro Stadium came into view. No other ground I’ve ever visited compares to this historic monument in European football.

Having made it in, we found out how away fans feel when they come to St James’ Park as we climbed the never-ending spiral to the away section with views over the city. Eventually, the players came out to the famous Champions League anthem, nerves and excitement filled the away end with the passionate cries of ‘Howay Lads’ interrupting the iconic music.

The game kicked off and as expected we were under the cosh; chances galore for Milan but they couldn’t seem to find a way to score thanks to some good Newcastle defending. It remained that way for much of the game until one last attack from Newcastle, nearly saw a Sean Longstaff last minute winner but it was tipped over the bar by the Milan keeper. I can only imagine the pandemonium that goal would have caused in the away end and back home in the pubs.

It ended in a 0-0 draw but more importantly a point away at the San Siro. A point that any Newcastle fan would have taken before kickoff and a point on Eddie Howe’s Champions League debut as a manager. So with our heads held high the Toon Army made their way back to the Navigli Canal much to the dismay of the pub owners who had only just restocked their beer!

And so the trip was over but what a few days it had been for us fans. Although I write this in a random French airport, on 4 hours of sleep and the possibility that I may miss the last train back from Edinburgh, it is still the best trip I have ever been on. Seeing my team on Europe’s biggest stage in one of the most iconic stadiums in World Football, I couldn’t be prouder to be a Geordie.

Who will be 2024’s NFL MVP?

The weekend marked the return of the much anticipated NFL season with 16 games to keep American Football fans entertained. The Super Bowl 2023 Champions kicked off a bumper weekend of action as Kansas City Chiefs played host to Detroit Lions.

However, it wasn’t all plain-sailing for the Chiefs as they saw themselves open their campaign with defeat to the Lions in a close affair. The Lions won 21-20 as 2023 Champions saw their hopes of defending their title take a small blow. Patrick Mahomes, 2023’s MVP, found even his best efforts weren’t enough to get his side over the line.

The quarterback scored two touchdowns as well as passing for 226 yards but it wasn’t enough for the Chiefs. In fact, it was David Montgomery, in his first season for the Lions after moving from Chicago Bear, who was the difference between the sides squeezing through the defensive line to score the deciding touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Chiefs, who are unsurprisingly favourites to win the 2024 Super Bowl, will be keen to get back to winning ways as they travel to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars in order to give themselves the best chance of defending their title.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia Eagles saw off the Patriots in a close-fought encounter while Brock Purdy steered San Franciso 49ers to a comfortable victory over the Steelers. The Niners The Buffalo Bills got their season off to a disappointing start as they were beaten by New York Jets. The Jets won the game 22-16 after finishing bottom of the table in the East division last season.

It’s hard to say at this stage who will win the Superbowl but there will be plenty of competition from other sides including the Cowboys with an emphatic 40-0 victory over the Giants with two touchdowns courtesy of Tony Pollard. There are plenty of teams who are hoping to be in with a chance of making it to Nevada.


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So who will be the MVP?

Not only will Patrick Mahomes be keen to steer his side towards glory once again, he will also be hoping to retain his status as MVP (most valuable player) after being crowned last year. However, it won’t be easy with many hoping to knock him off the top spot including Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagavailoa.

After Jalen Hurts finished a heartbreaking second place in MVP voting last season, he will be hoping to claim the individual title for the Eagles for the first time since Norm Van Brocklin in 1960. Meanwhile teammates Tagavailoa and Herbert will hope they can both carry their side to victory while being the pivotal player in the Dolphins lineup.

Four time MVP winner Aaron Rodgers is out for the season as the New York Jets quarterback suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Widely considered as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, now 40 years old, his remaining playing days in the NFL could be in doubt.

Joe Burrow and Josh Allen will also look to challenge as they hope to help their team’s have a successful campaign. Burrow will be looking to become only the third MVP in Cincinnati Bengals’ history, while Josh Allen will battle it out for the Bills in an effort for the Championship as well.

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