14-12-2018 Can women save Sumo? The crossroads facing Japan's national sport – video

The ancient Japanese ritual of Sumo is in crisis. Only last week, a Mongolian wrestler was forced to retire after assaulting a teammate – but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Years of controversy and scandal, coupled with the country's declining population, have greatly impacted the sport's ability to attract new talent. The Guardian visits Tokyo's Ryōgoku district, the birthplace of Sumo, to see how this iconic institution is adapting to life in the 21st century, and why - despite women being banned from the ring itself - young female fans are flocking to watch it like never beforeYokozuna, controversies and a 'Dump Truck': a sumo history – in pictures Continue reading...

14-12-2018 The Spin | Big Bash’s flipping bats recall stories of cunning ploys with tossed coins

When you look closely at the ritual, it begins to seem odd that cricket lets blind luck and ‘dynamical bias’ play such a large partWhen he was 14, Persi Diaconis packed a fresh deck of cards and a spare pair of socks into a knapsack and ran away from home to become a magician’s assistant. He spent the next few years as an apprentice with Dai Vernon, whose sleight of hand was so smart, so sharp, he even beat Harry Houdini, who famously claimed he could pick any magic trick on the third go, until Vernon fooled him seven times in a row.They used to call Vernon “the Professor”, and now they do Diaconis, too. Because that is what he is. The Mary V Sunseri professor of statistics and mathematics, to be exact, at Stanford, where he has been continuing his lifelong study of chance and probability. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Tottenham’s manager Pochettino tips his hat to ‘hard-working’ chairman Levy

• ‘Fantastic recognition’ deserved for work on stadium project• He needs to feel the love from fans and the club, manager addsMauricio Pochettino has told Tottenham fans that Daniel Levy deserves “fantastic recognition” for the club’s new stadium rather than being made a scapegoat for the delays, as he talked up the chairman’s other side and how badly he was suffering.Spurs hope to be playing in the ground by early February, although the timings look tight. They confirmed the latest delay on Wednesday when they said the Manchester United game scheduled for 13 January will be played at Wembley, their temporary home. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Soccer and soju: The football match that kicked off Korean peace

How a friendly chat on the sidelines opened the door for North and South Korea to start talking.

14-12-2018 Raptors complete sweep of Warriors without Leonard to fire NBA finals warning

Toronto beat Golden State 113-93 without their best playerRaptors beat Warriors in Oakland for first time since 2004Two teams tipped to meet again for NBA title next yearMinus their top player and with their coach still mourning his mother’s death two days earlier, the Toronto Raptors put an emphatic stamp on a season sweep of Golden State. They did it with the two-time defending NBA champion Warriors nearly at full strength, too, a very different scenario from when the teams played in Toronto less than two weeks ago. Kyle Lowry had 23 points and 12 assists to lead a balanced Toronto offense while leading scorer Kawhi Leonard sat out, and the Raptors dominated from the start in routing the Warriors 113-93 on Wednesday night. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Geraint Thomas has no regrets over new deal before Sky pulled team backing

• Tour de France winner confident new sponsor will be found• ‘It would be super-disappointing if this team was to stop’Geraint Thomas said he has no regrets in signing a new deal with Team Sky in September, despite being in “shock” when he learned Sky had pulled the plug on its sponsorship deal.This year’s Tour de France winner, who considered becoming team leader of the Polish team CCC before agreeing an improved £3.5m a year deal with Team Sky, is also confident Sir Dave Brailsford will find a sponsor to keep the team together in 2020, because they are one of the most successful in any sport. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Premier League: 10 things to look out for this weekend

A crunch clash at Anfield, depleted Palace and Huddersfield teams, and the start of a crucial run for FulhamIt is a marker of how far Manchester United have fallen to see that when Gary Neville set about choosing his combined XI for Liverpool and Manchester United on Monday Night Football, he included just three outfield United players. The only player he picked with conviction was Anthony Martial at left wing, admitting Eric Bailly would not be in if Joe Gomez was fit and laughing that his selection of Paul Pogba alongside Naby Keïta and Gini Wijnaldum was “just an opportunity to get a United player in”. Nobody would argue that Liverpool are the better side, and have been for a number of years, yet the past eight league meetings read W0, D3, L5 for the Merseyside club. Liverpool’s lack of ruthlessness against Napoli so nearly came back to bite them in the Champions League; they can ill afford the same profligacy against a José Mourinho side that is unlikely to be anything other than defensively minded. MB Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Chelsea condemn anti-Semitic chants in MOL Vidi game

Chelsea say fans who sang an anti-Semitic chant in the Europa League game with MOL Vidi have "shamed the club".

14-12-2018 Rob Cross: ‘After the world darts final it was like I’d hit rock-bottom’

The world No 2 darts player went from winning £7 in pubs to winning the PDC world championship within 18 months, but, he says, quick success ‘drained me’“Do you ever get these feelings that something’s going to happen?” Rob Cross asks with surprise in his voice. “You don’t know where they come from but you can feel that something’s going to happen. I had that feeling when I won the worlds. I had that feeling when I won the Challenge Tour. They’re like premonitions.”Cross shakes his head and smiles at the mysterious force of the past two years. His life has been transformed from being an electrician who won £7 after victory in a pub tournament, to becoming the world champion of darts 18 months later. Cross won £400,000 on 1 January 2018 when, in the PDC world championship final, he crushed his hero, Phil Taylor, at the end of his first year as a professional. Since then, Cross put on five stone in weight and was disconcerted when the lives of his wife and three children were threatened by a crank who was offended by his stunning rise. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Regular female-led football coverage ‘generations’ away, says Jacqui Oatley

• Broadcaster supports Women in Football’s #WhatIf campaign• Fewer than a third of 2018 major sport roles filled by womenThe sports broadcaster Jacqui Oatley has said it will take “a couple of generations” before women working in football as reporters, commentators and presenters is seen as normal.“When I was growing up I didn’t think it was an option to work in football,” said Oatley, who went on to become the first female commentator on Match of the Day. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 'Solari the stopgap with bigger name to come' - what is going on at Real Madrid?

The relatively unknown Santiago Solari has been placed in charge of Real Madrid - but he is not likely to be in the role for long, writes Andy West.

14-12-2018 Jimmy Gressier retains Euro U-23 Cross Country title but faceplants on finish line – video

Jimmy Gressier successfully defended his men’s under-23 European Cross Country title in the Netherlands on Sunday, but the runner’s failed celebration are likely what will be remembered best. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Wimbledon to expand after golf club members vote to sell for £65m

Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly are among those who will receive an £85,000 windfall from the salePiers Morgan, Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly, former cabinet secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, and the 754 other members of Wimbledon Park golf club have voted to sell their 120-year-old club to All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) for £65m.The golf club members voted 82% in favour of selling the 30-hectare (73-acre) golf club to the world famous Wimbledon tennis championship, which has fought a decade-long battle to expand the Grand Slam tournament on to the neighbouring golf club’s land. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Toughness and corporate nous saw Glenn carry out a tough job well | David Conn

FA’s departing chief executive will leave through the revolving door in May but with the ruling body in a stronger positionOn top of the congratulatory statistics with which the Football Association showered Martin Glenn when announcing he will stand down as the chief executive at the end of this season, is another, the most pertinent figure of all. Glenn’s decision, made just before Richard Scudamore takes his leave of the Premier League with his famous £5m thank-you card, means no fewer than six FA chief executives have gone or announced their departures during Scudamore’s single 19-year span.Glenn was 55 in 2015 when offered the dream/nightmare job in Wembley’s corridors, and is said to have told the then FA chairman, Greg Dyke, that he would not consider a 10-year stint. Dyke is said to have reassured him that the average survival expectancy was around two years. Scudamore, patrolling his territory, had a little to do with that; run-ins over the FA’s power as the governing body to rein in the Premier League’s commercialised domination contributed to the abrupt exits of the very able Adam Crozier and Ian Watmore. Continue reading...

14-12-2018 David Squires on … the mistreatment of Raheem Sterling

Our cartoonist on why it’s hard to exaggerate the vilification Raheem Sterling has been subjected to in recent yearsIf you like David’s cartoons, buy his book Goalless Draws Continue reading...

14-12-2018 Bradford City 4-4 Peterborough: Toney's brilliant half-way line goal in FA Cup replay

Ivan Toney scores a free-kick from the halfway line during Peterborough's thrilling FA Cup second round replay win over Bradford City.