F1 revamp on agenda at ‘crucial’ strategy meeting

Past Strategy Group meetings, each billed as increasingly ‘crucial’, have rarely lived up to even modest expectations.

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“We might change the date of the next meeting. Possibly. I’m not sure. It’s not easy to get decisions made,” commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters when asked what might be achieved this time.

Leaving aside the 84-year-old’s cynicism, Formula One has major challenges to address including soaring costs, struggling teams, falling viewing figures in some regions and a failure to engage a younger audience.

Ferrari are among those to have called for a rules ‘revolution’ from 2017, with bigger, louder and more affordable engines in faster and more fearsome cars.

More immediately, there will be a vote on whether to increase the engine allocation for this season from four per driver back to the five they had last year — with some teams opposed.

The Strategy Group meeting at Biggin Hill in southern England includes six teams — Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Force India — as well as the governing FIA and commercial rights holder.

“Every meeting is crucial,” FIA president Jean Todt told Reuters at the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend.

“We know there are some things to assess. And I hope we will be able to have a good agenda and come with good proposals and decisions to submit to the F1 commission and then to the world council.

“I hate reacting to ‘this one says this, this one says that’,” he added when the various standpoints were put to him. “So we will have all the different stakeholders around the table and it will be a proper opportunity to speak about everything.

“A lot of work has been done, we have been doing some working groups, an enquiry with an external consultant, with the technical and sporting people, so I think we will have a quite clear situation to discuss about.”

The increased engine allocation proposal already looks doomed, however, with Mercedes-powered Williams and Force India against it on grounds of cost and a reluctance to help Renault-powered rivals Red Bull in the championship battle.

Red Bull and McLaren, whose partners Honda have also had reliability problems, are in favour.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)

AFC suspend general secretary Soosay

The AFC released a brief statement saying the Malaysian had been suspended while they investigate the media claims relating to a case dating back three years.

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“Asian Football Confederation General Secretary Dato’ Alex Soosay was today suspended by the AFC following media allegations which have recently surfaced concerning a case in 2012,” the statement said.

The AFC said deputy general secretary Windsor John would replace Soosay on an interim basis while the investigation was carried out.

Soosay was accused by a Malaysian newspaper of ordering some documents to be hidden during a review of AFC practices under former president Mohamed bin Hammam, who was later banned for life by FIFA for corruption.

Soosay has denied any allegations of wrongdoing and told Reuters earlier this month that he believed the case was closed.

But the AFC said on Wednesday that he had been suspended after they had seen and verified a video that was part of the investigation.

“A video statement conducted as part of a FIFA investigation was passed to media recently and the AFC has now been able to verify its authenticity, the AFC said.

The allegations first surfaced last month when the Malay Mail newspaper published a report claiming Soosay had asked another AFC official to “protect me”.

The newspaper said Soosay had made the request to AFC financial director Bryan Kuan Wee Hoong.

The Malay Mail said the video involved a conversation between Kuan and FIFA investigator Michael John Pride where the AFC official discussed a conversation he had with Soosay in 2012.

A former player, Soosay has held the position of AFC general secretary since 2008.

His role meant he worked closely with Qatari Bin Hammam, who was initially banned by football’s governing body for bribery ahead of the 2011 FIFA presidential elections in which he was standing against incumbent Sepp Blatter.

Bin Hammam eventually overturned the verdict after a lengthy court process only to be banned following a review of AFC accounts by FIFA who accused him of repeated violations of the ethics code during 2008-2011.

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by John O’Brien/Julian Linden)

Pakistan gunmen kill 43 on Karachi bus

Gunmen on motorcycles boarded a bus and opened fire on commuters in Pakistan’s volatile southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, killing at least 43, police said, in the latest attack directed against religious minorities this year.

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The pink bus was pockmarked with bullet holes and blood saturated the seats and dripped out of the doors on to the concrete.

“As the gunmen climbed on to the bus, one of them shouted, ‘Kill them all!’ Then they started indiscriminately firing at everyone they saw,” a wounded woman told a television channel by phone.

Police Superintendent Najib Khan told Reuters there were six gunmen and that all the passengers were Ismailis, a minority Shi’ite Muslim sect. Pakistan is mostly Sunni.

Militant group Jundullah, which has attacked Muslim minorities before, claimed responsibility.

The group has links with the Pakistani Taliban and pledged allegiance to Islamic State in November. “These killed people were Ismaili and we consider them kafir (non-Muslim).

We had four attackers. In the coming days we will attack Ismailis, Shi’ites and Christians,” spokesman Ahmed Marwat told Reuters. At least 43 people had been killed and 13 wounded, provincial police chief Ghulam Haider Jamali told media. Outside the hospital where the wounded were taken, and where the bus was parked, scores of grim-faced young men formed a human chain to block everyone but families and doctors.

Emails and Facebook posts on Ismaili pages encouraged the community not respond or say anything that might further endanger them. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he was saddened by the attack.

“This is a very patriotic and peaceful people who have always worked for the wellbeing of Pakistan,” he said.

“This is an attempt to spread divisions in the country.”

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Uzma Alkarim, a member of the Ismaili community, said the bus took commuters to work every day. The Ismailis had faced threats before, she said.

“Around six months ago, our community elders had alerted us to be careful because of security threats but things had calmed down recently,” she said.

English leaflets left in the bus were headlined “Advent of the Islamic State!” and used a derogatory Arabic word for Shi’ites, blaming them for “barbaric atrocities … in the Levant, Iraq and Yemen”.

The leaflets also blamed Shi’ites for a deadly sectarian attack in Rawalpindi, next to the capital Islamabad, and raged against extrajudicial killings by police.

In January, 60 people were killed when Jundullah bombed a Shi’ite mosque in the southern province of Sindh. The Taliban bombed another Shi’ite mosque in the northwest city of Peshawar weeks later.

Both the Taliban and Jundullah claimed the bombing of Wagah border crossing last year, which killed 57 people. Jundullah also claimed a church bombing that killed more than 80 people in Peshawar in 2013.

Many religious minorities blame the government for not doing enough to protect them. Police are underpaid, poorly equipped and poorly trained. Karachi, a megacity of 18 million that is Pakistan’s financial heart, is also under the responsibility of the paramilitary Rangers.

(Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud and Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Dallaglio says England right to turn back on Pietersen

As the fall-out over Kevin Pietersen’s failed bid to return to the international fold continues, Dallaglio offered his support to England’s new director of cricket and former Ashes-winning captain Andrew Strauss.

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“I think culture is really important in a team, particularly in a sport like cricket,” Dallaglio, 42, said on Wednesday at the Daily Telegraph Business of Sport event in London.

“These guys spend a huge amount of time together and trusting each other is very important.

“I know from my own experience both at club level with Wasps and with England that we spent an enormous amount of time putting together a culture and certain values and certain ways of behaving, both together and outside of the team environment.”

Dallaglio, a key member of the team that won the Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2003, said current England rugby coach Stuart Lancaster had been faced with dressing room issues when he took over but had worked hard to establish a new team ethos.

He said it was the way forward for English cricket.

“When Stuart took over he had to reconnect the players with their responsibilities and what it means to play for England,” said Dallaglio. “He had to relocate the moral compass of the team and the identity of the team, that was the first criteria.

“That took about 18 months, then he could start focussing on performance and we are seeing the benefit now.

Strauss said on Tuesday that Pietersen was not in his plans because of a complete breakdown of trust.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear the comments made yesterday about Pietersen,” added Dallaglio. “It’s a great shame because he has been a fantastic cricket player and scored lots of runs and still is, but the team should come before the individual.

“If England feel they can’t cope with Pietersen then that’s the decision they have made. People will disagree, but that’s the decision they have made and until that changes I think Kevin will be playing in the IPL.”

Pietersen, who has scored more than 8,000 test runs, was sacked by England last year following a number of incidents that culminated in the 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia during which he was accused of being disengaged from the team.

This year’s Ashes series starts on July 8 in Cardiff.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Six dead in Philadelphia train derailment

A passenger train has derailed and overturned in Philadelphia, killing at least six people and leaving a horrific scene of mangled metal and broken glass.

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Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said the death toll could rise from the derailment on the busy northeast US rail corridor as some of the 243 people on the train had not been accounted for.

Emergency personnel said 65 people were hurt after Tuesday night’s (Wednesday AEST) accident on the train heading from Washington to New York. Others walked away from the crash with light injuries.

The train’s seven train cars, including the engine car, were crushed, turned over on their side or upside down in the late evening disaster.

One was unrecognisable as a train car, as it lay on the ground in a ruined mass of metal.

As night fell, rescuers with torches gingerly scoured through the remains.

“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” Nutter told reporters. “I have never seen anything like this in my life.”

Officials declined to speculate on the cause of the incident, though some experts suggested the crash may have been caused due to a track defect or wheel failure.

Witnesses said the front of Amtrak Train 188 shook as it went into a turn, and the six cars behind it then went off the rails.

An estimated 243 people, including five crew members, were aboard the train when it crashed.

Nutter warned the casualty and injury estimates were only preliminary, hinting at the potential for a higher toll.

He also would not confirm whether all those aboard the train had been accounted for.

Hydraulic tools had to be used to remove passengers from some of the most badly damaged train cars, firefighters said.

“I’ve never seen anything so devastating. They are in pretty bad shape,” said Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, referring to the train cars.

“You can see they completely, completely derailed from the track, destroyed completely and they’ve been overturned completely.”

Passengers recalled the chaos of the derailment.

Former US Congressman Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, who was on the train, said he was sitting on a bench in the cafe car when the train began to topple.

“It went to my right, then to my left. Everyone who was on the left side of the car, where I was sitting, just got thrown completely over to the right side.”

Murphy said the train seemed to be going around 100-110km/h when it suddenly derailed and rolled. Passengers had to kick out a window to escape.

Another passenger, Jeremy Wladis, 51, was on the last car of the train when he felt the jolt. He said he saw “phones, laptops, everything flying,” the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper reported.

“There were women launched up in the luggage rack,” he said. “I don’t even know how they got there.”

The US Department of Homeland Security, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and along with Amtrak were involved in investigating the causes of the crash.