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Sport

Vikings and Wizards lock horns in West Wales Cup semi

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TONIGHT (March 26), Hakin United will take on rivals Merlins Bridge in the semi-final of the West Wales Cup at the Bridge Meadow stadium in Haverfordwest.

It will be the latest chapter in a long rivalry between the two clubs but with a place in the final up for grabs this one is going to be extra special.

Merlins Bridge won a thrilling game between the two sides earlier in the season 4-3 at the Racecourse but Hakin will be looking to exact some revenge for that defeat.

The Wizards are having a strong season with just one league defeat to their name, against leaders Monkton Swifts, and are also in the final of the Senior Cup, having also beat Hakin on their way.

Hakin United sit five points behind their opponents in the table after three defeats in their fourteen games so far.

It will be another exciting and close game between the two teams and one that is not to be missed.

The Vikings have been in five finals, winning it three times, including once in the 50s when it was called the Amateurs Cup.

Merlins Bridge have been in the semi-finals twice but have never reached the final and they will be hoping to make it third time lucky.

Route to the final

They began their run to the last four with a 1-0 win away to Kilvey Fords in October with Will Haworth grabbing the only goal to send them through to round 2.

The Wizards were again drawn away from home to last season’s beaten finalists Penlan Club but they again came back with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Joe Leahy.

In the third round Merlins Bridge played Monkton Swifts and two goals from Nathan Greene and another from Leahy gave them a 3-0 win.

Leahy and Greene were at it again in the fourth round as they both scored to earn the Wizards a 2-1 win over Swansea side Llandarcy.

Merlins Bridge were drawn at home to Plough Colts in the last eight and earned a 5-2 win with Adam Hawkins scoring twice and other goals from Leahy, Greene and Dai Davies.

Leahy and Greene have both been on the scoresheet in each round from the third round and Hakin will do well to keep these two quiet.

The Vikings played Llandeilo in the first round and came away with a 5-2 thanks to a hat trick from Cameron Thomas and other goals from Shane Walsh and Nicky Woodrow.

Woodrow then scored four for the Vikings in round 2 as he helped his side thrash Milford United 12-2. Justin Harding, Mark Jones and Ryan Wilson all scored twice in that game alongside others from Shane Walsh and Adam John.

Hakin played Morriston Town in the third round and earned a 3-0 win thanks to a Woodrow hat trick.

In the fourth round, Hakin needed extra time to get past St Josephs as two goals from Justin Harding and another from Walsh saw them through.

In the quarter final they were drawn against holders Goodwick United and came from behind to win 3-1 thanks to two goals from Woodrow and one from Ryan Wilson.

Justin Harding and Nicky Woodrow have both been in good scoring from in the Cup and they will likely prove a handful for the Bridge defence.

What they say

The Herald asked both camps for their thoughts on the game and here is what they had to say.

Hakin United manager Kristian Bennet said: “It’s going to be a battle! It is a big pitch and it will be a big occasion so it should be a cracker. The players are looking forward to it with it being one step from the Liberty.”

Merlins Bridge boss Matthew D’Ivry said: “It’s going to be a tough one, I have been with the club for fifteen years but we’ve never been in the West Wales final in that time. We’ve had a hell of a draw against Penlan, who were favourites, who we beat to zero, and we then beat Monkton, Kilvey and Llandarcy.

“It will be strange playing Hakin but we know their qualities but we are confident that if we perform to our capabilities no one in west Wales can beat us. The (Senior Cup semi-final) result will give us confidence but we will have to be careful of being over-confident.

“It’s massive for both clubs but I am confident our boys will give absolutely everything.”

The final will take place at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea on Tuesday, May 7.

News

England’s Euro 2024 semi-final victory captivates millions

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ENGLAND’S Euro 2024 semi-final victory over the Netherlands garnered a peak audience of 20.3 million on ITV, cementing its status as the most-watched television programme of the year. Broadcasters are now hopeful that Sunday night’s final against Spain will attract over 30 million viewers, surpassing the numbers that tuned in for England’s Euro 2020 final defeat.

The overnight viewing figures, provided by ratings agency Digital-i, do not account for the millions who streamed the match on ITVX or watched in public venues. The coverage of Euro 2024 in the UK is split between the BBC and ITV, with the channels alternating first choices for matches in each round. ITV executives celebrated Jordan Pickford’s crucial penalty save against Switzerland, which secured another high-profile England match and delivered a substantial advertising boost to the channel.

Both the BBC and ITV will broadcast the final, with approximately a fifth of viewers typically opting for ITV over the BBC. Euro 2024 has demonstrated the enduring appeal of live sports broadcasting, which continues to draw massive audiences, particularly when the events are free to watch. Even matches not involving home nations have attracted significant viewership, with the Spain v France semi-final on BBC One peaking at 11 million viewers.

The Euros are part of the UK’s “crown jewel” sporting events, which include the football World Cup, Wimbledon, and the Olympics, all mandated by law to be shown on free-to-air channels. In contrast, other sports have opted for the higher revenue available from pay TV channels, resulting in substantially lower audiences for international matches. The England and Wales cricket board successfully lobbied in the 2000s to keep England test matches off the free-to-air list. Consequently, Jimmy Anderson’s farewell match against the West Indies at Lords, broadcast behind a paywall on Sky, attracted a peak audience of only about 700,000 viewers.

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Crime

Welsh Snooker star Michael White jailed for assaulting partner

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A WELSH snooker star has been jailed after assaulting his then-partner. Michael White, 33, of Penshannel, Neath Abbey, assaulted the woman, causing actual bodily harm, on two separate occasions. The first incident occurred on February 12, 2022, and the second on December 10, 2022.

White pleaded guilty to the charges. A further charge of intentional strangulation on December 10 was directed to lie on file. White, whose snooker world ranking peaked at 15 in 2016, was sentenced at Swansea Crown Court on Thursday, July 11, 2024.

He received a total jail term of 36 months – 19 months for the first incident and a consecutive 17 months for the second. The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association has announced that White has been removed from the world ranking list and the World Snooker Tour with immediate effect.

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Politics

Culture secretary vows push to keep free-to-air Six Nations games

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WALES’ culture secretary vowed to make the case for keeping Wales’ Six Nations games on free-to-air TV to her Labour colleagues in the new UK Government.

Lesley Griffiths told the Senedd she will be seeking a meeting with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to discuss the issue.

Ms Griffiths said: “Making the Six Nations free-to-air ensures that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, can feel part of this shared experience.

“This inclusivity strengthens community bonds and fosters a sense of belonging.”

Responding to a debate on a Senedd culture committee report on broadcasting rights, the culture secretary said she would write to the UK Government by the end of this week.

Delyth Jewell chairs the culture committee, which held an inquiry on whether Wales’ matches should be added to Ofcom’s list of events that must be shown on terrestrial TV.

The Plaid Cymru politician said: “A perfect storm of market dynamics in broadcasting live sport has seen more and more events go behind a paywall.

“Public service broadcasters are facing significant budgetary constraints, be this from long-term cuts to the licence fee, or a downturn in the advertising market on broadcast television. Increasing production costs are compounding both these factors.

“The advent of global streaming services also means that the value of sports broadcasting rights has increased.”

The Welsh Rugby Union told the inquiry that moving matches to the protected list could have a devastating medium- and long-term impact on the whole game in Wales.

Media rights account for £20m of the WRU’s £90m total revenue, with the union calling for open competition to maximise income for the game.

Carolyn Thomas, the Labour MS for North Wales, recognised this tension but warned: “There is a real risk here that avoiding action will leave us dropping the ball. We must ensure future generations can connect with the game without having to shell out for the privilege.”

She added: “Let’s hope, with the new UK Labour Government, we will be in a safe pair of hands and we get protected, free-to-air Six Nations coverage over the line.”

Heledd Fychan called for matches to be broadcast on S4C, rather than having a Welsh viewing option on platforms such as Amazon Prime.

The Plaid Cymru MS, who represents South Wales Central, pointed out that Rhondda MP Chris Bryant has been appointed a junior DCMS minister as she urged Labour to act.

Samuel Kurtz raised concerns about the 8% interest rate the WRU is paying on an £18m coronavirus business interruption loan scheme from the Welsh Government.

Pointing out that the rate was fixed at 2% for English premiership sides, the Tory MS said: “I think that’s a financial constraint that’s hurting our professional clubs here in Wales.”

Caerphilly MS Hefin David joked that he has a lot in common with former PM Rishi Sunak – “as my dad wouldn’t let us have Sky either, and we had to listen to it on the radio”.

He called for a ‘Plan B’ for the hospitality industry if rugby goes behind a paywall, including a contractual clause to give small pubs and clubs a reduced pay-to-view subscription.

Dr David said he watches Wales matches at Gilfach workmen’s club, which pays £514 a month for Sky, as he raised concerns about venues having to buy multiple subscriptions..

“Well, Gilfach workies simply can’t afford that,” he said.

Alun Davies, a fellow Labour backbencher, said: “We need to address the real crisis in Welsh rugby and that is ensuring that the game exists for future generations, and I believe that exposure to the Six Nations championship is fundamental to that.”

The Blaenau Gwent MS raised the example of Glamorgan cricket.

He said: “It does raise fears within me that the more we take the game away from the screens, the more we take it away from our communities and from the people who enjoy watching the game, and the less it becomes our national sport.”

The culture committee’s inquiry was sparked after John Whittingdale, a Conservative former culture minister, left the door open last autumn while giving evidence.

Sir John told the meeting: “We’ve always said that if the Welsh Parliament argued very strongly that, for the good of sport in Wales, we needed to look again at the listed events, we would look at it, certainly. So, it’s not closed.’

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