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  1. Your stories of grassroots refereeing: #bbcsportsday
  2. Coutinho signs new five-year deal with Liverpool
  3. Reds play Southampton tonight in EFL Cup semi-final second leg

Live Reporting

By Libby Dawes and Matt Parratt

All times stated are UK

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Thank you for your company today and a special thanks to all those who submitted their tales, good and bad, of grassroots refereeing. You've kept us very busy indeed.

We will be back at the same time tomorrow to keep you updated with Thursday's developments but before that, a reminder that we have live text and radio commentary from tonight's EFL Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Southampton here.


Liverpool v Southampton

Estcourt signs first pro contract

Wales midfielder Charlie Estcourt has signed her first professional contract with English top-flight team Reading.  

The 18-year-old is a product of the Women's Super League One club's John Madejski Academy college programme.

Read the rest of the report here.

Charlie Estcourt
The FA

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Chris: It's about how you treat the players before, during and after the game. I tell both teams before the game that I'm probably going to give some decisions that they don't agree with, and that I'm not doing it to annoy them, it's my take on the incident. I think it makes the players realise that I'm only human too!

Ethan: A couple of months back I, being 16 at the time was told by a PARENT to meet him in the car park after a game in which he had to be sent off. 

Jack Smith: As an 18-year-old referee, there's no better way to put abusive parents and managers in their place than by laughing. As soon as they realise they aren't intimidating they soon become quick to praise the job you do.

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

'Mourinho has done a great job'

Man United: Sir Alex Ferguson praises Mourinho progress

Manchester United are making progress under Jose Mourinho and are "unlucky" not to be challenging Chelsea, says former manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson, 75, stepped down in 2013 but retains close ties to Old Trafford and attends most games.

"I think he has done a great job," said the Scot in an exclusive interview with BBC Sport.

"You can see he has got to grips with the club.

"The team is playing really well and he has been very unlucky. He has had six 1-1 draws and in every game he has battered the opposition.

"If they hadn't had all these draws, they would be there challenging Chelsea. That is the unfortunate part but he is going to have to live with that."

bbc-coverageWatch Konta v Williams highlights

Australian Open

Switch on BBC Two right now and you can watch highlights from today's Australian Open matches, including Britain's Johanna Konta v Serena Williams.

It was a cracker.

Serena Williams
See, even Serena's excited...

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Craig Birchenough: I was reffing a U15s match on Sunday Afternoon. I gave a last minute penalty to the away side. Home team manager threw the linesman's flag at me and called me a disgrace. Had to be taken back to changing rooms by away team manager. Stopped reffing after this match.

Sam Watt: Third match of refereeing career, got lambasted by one manager for the whole game with even his 13-year-old captain apologising for his behaviour. I'm a better referee because of it...

Steve Faulkner: Playing Sunday league, was punched in the stomach off the ball. Ref saw it, marched over and said 'get up he didn't punch you that hard'.

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

Worcester appoint Gold as director

Premiership strugglers Worcester have appointed Gary Gold as director of rugby.

Gold has previously had spells with London Irish, Newcastle, Bath and as an assistant coach with South Africa.

He joins initially until the end of the season, working above head coach Carl Hogg. 

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Phil Wheeler: I've been physically attacked, two of my sons have taken it up recently and one of them nearly abandoned an under-12s game because three coaches stepped onto the pitch to berate him during the game. I worry someone will be killed, but nothing will change in this country until the attitude towards refs changes.

David Farnworth: I was verbally insulted, sworn at and threatened and even driven at by a 4x4 car in the car park after I abandoned a game when the opposing coach shouted at his players to break the opponents' legs. Later on as a parent I saw 13-14 year-old teams kick and punch opposing teams with no sanction from the referee as he seemed too scared.

David Crowe: I have been a referee for 35 years, and in that time have only felt threatened once. Sunday league games are usually the most difficult, but I have found if you treat the players with respect you usually get it back.

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

On this day...


In 2013, Andy Murray reached the Australian Open final by beating Roger Federer 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 in the semi-final.

Andy Murray of Great Britain
Getty Images

Get Involved - your grassroots refereeing tales


Andy Uttley, via email: Years ago playing in the Craven League 5th division our manager played in goal as we were short of players. The referee was a young kid, I think he was only 16, in his first season as a ref.

He came in for a torrent of abuse from our manager/keeper after giving a corner instead of a goal kick. He calmly walked up to our man, right up to him and advised him to shut his mouth or he would be off. He never made another sound!

We want to hear your stories of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

  • Are you an amateur ref and had a bad experience on the pitch from abusive players? 
  • Are you a player and have had a match officiated by a brilliant ref? 

We are all ears. Your story may be used in a special BBC Sport report on the topic. 

Let us know using this Contact Us form, using #bbcsportsday or on our Facebook page.

Cricket: Lancashire all-rounder Smith retires

Lancashire all-rounder Tom Smith has announced his retirement at the age of 31 after a series of injury problems.  

Tom Smith
Getty Images

Smith was named captain of the Red Rose for the 2015 season, but only skippered the team in one game after being told he needed back surgery.

The injury kept him out for 13 months but he came back to feature in the final months of last season, only for back problems to return.

It's very sad and a tough decision to come to. Following some medical advice from the specialist and thinking about the long term future it has come because of injury.

Tom Smith

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Anon: I've been bitten by a player after sending them off. Verbal abuse, shouting from the sidelines - referees can only give what they see, from the angle they see it.

Jonathan Almond: I started refereeing at 17 and was doing quite well for a few years with no real trouble abuse, then two years ago there were a few matches where I was abused throughout the matches. The last game I ever refereed I was threatened to be stabbed, didn't collect my match fee and left straight after the final whistle. Never again.

Sean: I've been refereeing both youth and men's football for four years now, and never had any issues. Players show frustrations every now and again but have never in any way used foul or abusive language. The problems I have seen stem from the referees themselves not being good enough.     

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

Breathe easy, Ireland fans...

Six Nations

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt expects fly-half Jonathan Sexton to be fit for the Six Nations opener away to Scotland on 4 February.

Sexton suffered a calf injury during Leinster's 24-24 European Champions Cup draw away to Castres on Friday.

"There's not a lot of damage there, nothing's showing up that's overly significant," said Schmidt.

Jonny Sexton
Getty Images

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Nigel Rothband: Having to give up playing with a knee injury in my 20s I took up refereeing and have refereed in the same league for more than 30 years. There has been the occasional abuse over those years but on the whole it has been a brilliant and fulfilling experience. Unable to play, I have gained so much pleasure from contributing to games and still being involved in the game I love.

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

On this day...

Horse Racing

2008: Kieren Fallon was banned from racing for 18 months by France Galop after testing positive for a banned substance following a race at Deauville in August 2007.

Kieren Fallon
Getty Images

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Joe Craven, via email: I am a grassroots referee. I get offered a fight almost every week by players in my game. I have even been offered fights by coaches of junior teams after making decisions that did not go their team's way. 

It is disgraceful to act this way to a teenager who is simply doing it for a small match fee and to give something back to the game.

We want to hear your stories of grassroots refereeing...

  • Are you an amateur ref and had a bad experience on the pitch from abusive players? 
  • Are you a player and have had a match officiated by a brilliant ref? 

We are all ears. Your story may be used in a special BBC Sport report on the topic. 

Let us know using this Contact Us form, using #bbcsportsday or on our Facebook page.

'F1 needs evolution, not revolution'

"Make F1 great again." 

Not the latest political rallying cry. No. But it is broadly what Ross Brawn has been tasked with doing following the $8bn takeover of the sport.

Is this the end of boost-button "gimmicks", fragile tyres and what many see as a power imbalance among the top teams? 

Brawn - the sport's new managing director - is keeping his cards close to his chest but says "evolution, not revolution" is the key.

Listen to the full clip below and read more here.

Brawn says that change is needed throughout the whole of F1.

Happy birthday to...

David Ginola (football) - The former France, Newcastle, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Everton winger, born 1967.

Xavi (football) - The former Barcelona and Spain playmaker, currently with Al Sadd, born 1980.

Francis Jeffers (football) - The former Everton and Arsenal striker, most recently with Accrington, born 1981.

Robinho (football) - The former Manchester City, AC Milan and Brazil forward, currently with Atletico Mineiro, born 1984.

Xavi Hernandez
Getty Images

Federer v Nadal 'most important final ever'

Australian Open

We're still only at the semi-final stage, but that's not stopped Andy Roddick from suggesting that a Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal showdown at the Australian Open could be the final of ALL finals.

Nadal progressed this morning with a straight sets victory against Milos Raonic, while Federer swept aside Andy Murray's conqueror Mischa Zverev earlier in the week.

Roddick told BBC Radio 5 live that a victory for either Federer (17 Grand Slams to his name) and Rafa (just 14) would make it one of the most important finals "possibly in Grand Slam history".

Does he have a point? Listen to the full clip here.

Andy Roddick on a potential Australian Open final between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.

Alfeton manager to leave for Premier League role

Nicky Law

Alfreton Town manager Nicky Law will leave the club next month after almost a decade at the National League North side.

The 55-year-old former Grimsby and Bradford boss has accepted a role as Premier League Burnley's head of national recruitment for under 17-23s.

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Ewan: As a 17-year-old referee, I wouldn't always put all the blame on the players... at adult level, if you make a decision, generally it is accepted. At youth football, you can't make a decision without angering parents on the sidelines, who are trying to live through their kids. 

I've been to observe new referees in their first game, and I've seen parents threaten to break his wrist for showing a card! Youth football, and particularly parent supporters, are becoming the issue, and something definitely needs to change!

We want to hear your stories of grassroots refereeing...

Let us know using this Contact Us form, using #bbcsportsday or on our Facebook page.

Storey and Cundy in GB para-cycling squad


Rio Paralympic gold medallists Sarah Storey and Jody Cundy have been named in the Great Britain Para-cycling squad for 2017.

The team will compete in both track and road World Championships this year. 

The 23-strong squad does not include dual-sport star Kadeena Cox, who has had her UK Sport funding suspended while she takes part in the Channel 4 winter sports show The Jump.

See the full squad here.

Sarah Storey
Getty Images

Watford sign Argentine forward Zarate

Fiorentina forward Mauro Zarate
Getty Images

Watford have signed Argentine forward Mauro Zarate on a two-and-a-half-year contract from Italian club Fiorentina.

The 29-year-old returns to the Premier League after previous spells with West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers and Birmingham City.

Zarate's former clubs also include Inter Milan and Lazio.

Watford, who signed Everton midfielder Tom Cleverley on loan earlier this month, are 14th in the table, eight points above the relegation zone.

Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


Mike Coen: The VAST majority of players are perfectly fine... I don't see how calling a strike can help. The main pain will be felt by those 99% of recreational footballers who never cause us problems!

Justin Furlough: There is a lack of officials for all sports in the US. It's hard to hire officials if they think it's more trouble than worth.

James Murgatroyd: Most important of all is reffing with a smile on your face and talking to the players on the same level. If you make yourself a human being in the eyes of the players and one of them decides to be an idiot, his/her own teammates will normally side with you.

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

Ayr use historic 'fourth sub' in cup

Michael Rose and Nicky Devlin
SNS Group Bill Murray

Ayr United's Scottish Cup win over Queen's Park featured the tournament's first use of a fourth substitute in extra-time.

Read more here.

It will not damage his reputation - Black

Roger Black

Former British Olympic athlete on BBC Radio 5 live

Nesta Carter and Usain Bolt
Getty Images

Usain Bolt losing one of his gold medals takes the shine off the achievement. We have been celebrating the 'triple triple' since the last Olympics. 

From winning nine gold medals and now it is eight, it doesn't have the same ring - double treble plus two? It will be really frustrating for him to have a medal taken away because of a team-mate.

You can only account for yourself, you can not account for your team-mates.

We know it has nothing to do with Usain Bolt but it will not damage his reputation but it will affect it, take shine off it and he won’t be a happy man.

But when I heard stories like this, a part of me does celebrate. With retrospective testing, athletes who dope can never sleep peacefully. It has to be the strongest deterrent the sport now has. Even when athletes retire they can still have their medals taken away - that is a really good deterrent.

My fault we can't score pens - Jokanovic

When your team has had seven of its last nine spot-kicks saved or missed, there's only one thing a manager can do really. Cop for it.

Fair play to Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic for doing just that after Chris Martin's failure from 12 yards in Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at Reading.

"I changed the taker five times and the only one who scored a goal is Chris," Jokanovic told BBC Radio London.

"It is not a lottery. We will think what is best for us and try and find a better solution."

Slavisa Jokanovic
Getty Images

Watford sign Zarate from Fiorentina


View more on twitter

More to follow...

I feared ban would end England career - Hartley

Dylan Hartley, fresh from being confirmed as England's captain for the Six Nations and beyond, has said he feared his recent ban would cost him his international career.

The Northampton hooker was banned for six weeks for striking during an incident involving Leinster flanker Sean O'Brien in December.

Asked about the impact on his England role, he told BBC Sport: "I did think that maybe that was it, but again, a conversation with Eddie [Jones], a very clear and direct conversation, and I know where I stand."

He added: "That walk off the field is never a quick moment. It seems to drag on for quite a while... I understand I could have jeopardised a lot."

Dylan Hartley
Getty Images

Bolt loses 'triple triple' following team-mate Carter's doping violation


Usain Bolt
Getty Images

Usain Bolt will have to hand back one of his nine Olympic gold medals after Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter tested positive for a banned substance.

Carter was part of the Jamaican quartet that won the 4x100m in Beijing in 2008.

His was one of 454 selected doping samples retested by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last year, and has been found to contain the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

Bolt, 30, completed an unprecedented 'triple triple' in Rio last summer.

He won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay to add to his successes in the same events in 2008 and 2012.

Carter, 31, was also part of the squad that won the relay in London five years ago.

France centre agrees Tigers switch

Leicester have agreed to sign France centre Maxime Mermoz from Toulon until the end of the season, subject to French Rugby Federation approval.

Mermoz, who had previously been linked with a move to Bath, has made 11 appearances in the Top 14 this season.

Maxime Mermoz
Getty Images

Worcester sign Scotland prop

Worcester have signed Scotland prop Ryan Grant from Glasgow Warriors.  

Brive claimed they had signed the 31-year-old, who was part of the 2013 Lions squad, on loan earlier this month but a move never happened.

Ryan Grant
Getty Images

Villa sign Iceland midfielder Bjarnason

We mentioned it earlier (11:51), now it's official. 

Aston Villa have signed Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason from FC Basel on a three-and-a-half-year deal.

The 28-year-old, who scored Iceland's first goal of their Euro 2016 campaign, joins for an undisclosed fee.

It follows the signing of full-back James Bree from Barnsley on a four-and-a-half year deal for what the Tykes called a "substantial fee".

More about those signings here.

Birkir Bjarnason
Getty Images

BreakingBolt must hand back Beijing Olympic gold


Get Involved


Get Involved - Your grassroots refereeing tales


David Saunders: The quickest way to stop this kind of abuse is to clamp down on it from the top. Every time a player shouts at a ref it’s a yellow card, red if he’s using abusive language. Then managers and players from professional to amateur will see that you can’t get away with it.

Aaron Softley: I refereed semi-professionally in Australia before switching to amateur football in England. The level of abuse and disrespect referees recieve in England compared to Australia is disgraceful!

Harrison Thompson: I started reffing this season at 19 years old and decided to make the jump straight into the adult leagues. Have had no major abuse so far, all of the minor comments seem to be down to frustration at decisions not going their way!

Keep your stories coming in of grassroots refereeing, good and bad...

Use this Contact Us form, #bbcsportsday or our Facebook page.

And people say footballers are prima donnas...


Aaannnddddd that is what we call 'a U-turn'


Stan Collymore
Getty Images

So at 11:52, we posted this:

Former Nottingham Forest striker Stan Collymore says he would like to take a role as sporting director at the troubled club. 

And now, at 14:00: 

Former Nottingham Forest striker Stan Collymore says he is no longer interested in a role as sporting director at the Championship club.

Collymore, 46, expressed an interest in the role at a meeting with Forest owner Fawaz Al Hasawi on Tuesday.

But after "time to reflect" on the meeting and feedback from fans, he has now "withdrawn from any involvement".

He had said: "I'm not convinced change will happen quickly or thoroughly enough under Fawaz's ownership."

On this day...


In 1995, Manchester United striker Eric Cantona kung-fu kicked a fan after being sent off in a match at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace. The Frenchman was suspended for nine months, fined £20,000 and ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service.

Eric Cantona
Getty Images