HICKS & GILLETT GET DALLAS BACKING

Jerry Jones, the billionaire Texan who owns the Dallas Cowboys, and who has invested 1.2 billion US dollars in the club’s new stadium, insisted to The Daily Telegraph that British soccer fans in clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool should show patience towards American owners and shareholders.

However, Jones said he had never contemplated buying an English Premiership club as his friends have done.

The battle for Old Trafford took a new twist in the last 48 hours as global investment bank Nomura has agreed to advise on a potential acquisition of the club by the Red Knights Group.

Nomura will work closely with the Red Knights, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and other potential investors to “coordinate and formulate the proposal to be put to the Glazer family”.

The Nomura team will be led by Guy Dawson and Andrew McNaught, both of whom advised the Board of Manchester United plc when the club was sold to the Glazer family in 2005.

This comes in the wake of more unrest from fans at Manchester United over the Glazer family’s handling of the club.

“No [never intended to buy an English football club]. Not that I want to sound like it is not interesting and good, but I have only one interest, and I wanted it to be the perception of everyone, that all that interests me is the Cowboys. I am very hands on here, I’m even accused of coaching the team at times, but what has happened is that I have invested myself fully in this and I will be in it until I drop.”

“The stadium is a tool, and yes we want world class soccer to come here – the World Cup, the best teams in South America, and the best teams in Europe.”

“But I’m not comfortable being involved, unless I’m there and involved with the grass roots. This is a serious business in terms of all the people that are dependuing on you – especially the fans. And let me say this – I don’t feel like I own the Cowboys. You can own a piece of land, a house or a business. You can’t own the Dallas Cowboys. The fans own Dallas Cowboys. But what you can do, with ownership, is that you can run beyond where you would have gone otherwise. That’s what has transferred itself here.”

BECKENBAUER CALLS FOR RULE CHANGES

German legend Franz Beckenbauer yesterday urged that the rules of soccer to be left as they are, warts and all, because refereeing errors can be part of the sport’s charm.

“Leave football as simple and as clear as it is, together with all its mistakes,” Beckenbauer, a member of the executive committee of FIFA, the sport’s governing body, told the German daily Bild.

The comments followed some radical proposals made on Tuesday by Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal.

But Beckenbauer, 64, a World Cup winner for West Germany both as player and coach, said that even with different camera angles, off-side decisions can be so tight that “at the end of the day only a human being has to decide.”

He conceded, however, that another official behind the goal line might help.

FANS PROTEST IN SOUTH AFRICA

South African township residents barricaded roads in Soweto on Wednesday, the latest in a series of protests over living conditions that have hit the country less than 100 days before the soccer World Cup.

Police said about 1,000 people demanding housing demonstrated in the township near Johannesburg, blocking roads with large rocks close to the venue for the opening and final game of the tournament.

“Police went to the scene and they talked to the crowd and they dispersed,” police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said. “The police are keeping an eye on the situation.”

Poor shanty town residents have burnt tyres and buildings and police have responded with rubber bullets and water cannons in protests over the past year, in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era.

Protests in Soweto during apartheid made it a symbol of resistance to white minority rule.

A policeman was shot last week and scores of people arrested when protests turned violent in several Johannesburg townships.

The protests have spread. This week, they reached the capital Pretoria, where demonstrators demanding better housing, schools, roads and sewage systems threatened to disrupt the World Cup, which starts in June.

HEDGE FUND IN FOR PORTSMOUTH?

Portsmouth Football Club, the English soccer team that just weeks ago seemed doomed, may have a new life, thanks in part to a New York hedge fund.

The unidentified fund is reportedly behind a £30 million bid for the troubled and debt-ridden team, which went into administration last week. Real-estate millionaire and former reality television show star Rob Lloyd is fronting the potential offer, meeting yesterday with fan groups at the team’s home, Fratton Park.

The hedge fund is joined in the bid by another “major investor,” said to be Old Mutual.

Portsmouth administrator Andrew Andronikou said he has still not heard from Lloyd. That could change today, as Lloyd said he hopes to begin negotiations on the team’s future.

Portsmouth is near-certain to be relegated to the lower Championship league next year. The team is already in last place, and will have nine points—the equivalent of three wins—deducted for going into administration. The team has only five wins this season, and is unlikely to win its sixth today against sixth-place Liverpool Football Club.

United look to Youth

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has said he may not add any more players to his squad this summer.

Ferguson has already signed Mexico’s Javier Hernandez from Guadalajara and defender Chris Smalling from Fulham.

A host of other signings were expected, particularly after chief executive David Gill indicated funds are available to his manager.

“There may be one signing but it’s not easy in the present climate. The market is very difficult,” said Ferguson.

Speaking alongside Gill at a press conference in New York to promote United’s four-game North American tour this summer, Ferguson added: “The structure of our squad is good in terms of ages, the balance, the numbers and there’s a lot of good young players.

Gill added: “The Premier League is bringing in squad limits next year of 25 but there will be unlimited under-21s and other rules and we’ll be taking all that into consideration.”

Ferguson revealed he would not be replacing goalkeeper Ben Foster, instead promoting England Under-21 international Ben Amos, who had been set to be loaned, to the first-team squad alongside Edwin Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak.

NIKE & PSG IN THE DOCK

Sports equipment maker Nike and French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain faced trial in Paris on Monday on charges of hiding payments to attract top players, including Nicolas Anelka and Gabriel Heinze.

Two former presidents of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), one of France’s richest clubs with famous fans such as President Nicolas Sarkozy, and several agents are also on trial over the alleged attempt to avoid French employment taxes.

Prosecutors say agents, sponsors and club officials partly hid payments for some 20 transfers from 1998 to 2005, including those of Heinze, who joined PSG from Spanish club Valladolid in 2001, and Anelka, who came from Real Madrid in 2000.

Nike is accused of helping to hide payments through sponsorship contracts with players such as Brazil’s Ronaldinho, sometimes with the use of coupons and house purchases in the names of the Directors.

The players themselves are not among the accused. If found guilty, the accused could be asked to pay back millions of euros that were allegedly withheld from tax and social security authorities, as the actual payments were larger than the ones declared.

A lawyer for the group said there was nothing unusual in the deals.

“Do you think the fact that Ronaldinho wears Nike boots is no advantage for Nike? Isn’t it normal to pay for that?” lawyer Olivier Metzner said. “That happens in every country of the world. We did it in Paris, like everywhere else and we only have problems in Paris.”

French magistrates stumbled over the suspect payments some years ago after investigating salary of one player. They are not accusing any of the defendants of personal enrichment.

CITY MAKE TORRES NO.1 TARGET

Manchester City are willing to pay any price to sign Liverpool striker, Fernando Torres.

Torres’s future at Anfield remains shrouded in uncertainty with Christian Purslow, the club’s managing director, holding extensive talks with the 26-year-old striker and the manager, Roy Hodgson, but conceding he can do no more to convince the striker to stay.

Chelsea and Barcelona have been linked with the former Atlético Madrid captain but may struggle to meet Liverpool’s £70m valuation.

City’s hopes of signing Torres were believed to have ended when they failed to qualify for the Champions League last season but Mancini, who is also interested in Mario Balotelli of Internazionale and Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko, insists the prospect of Torres making a sensational switch from Anfield to Eastlands is not over and is willing to better the £32.5m record fee City spent to sign Robinho from Real Madrid.

The City manager, who has taken his summer spending to £78m with the £18.9m arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov from Lazio, said: “Torres is one of the best strikers in Europe and is already playing in the Premier League for three years and knows it very well. But it depends on his situation – his price and whether he wants to come.

“There are two or three strikers that we could go for, but it is the same situation as it is with James Milner. First there is the price and then it depends if the players want to change team. Until today, Liverpool haven’t bought many players.”

City officials have indicated the club has more chance of signing Balotelli and Dzeko than Torres, with the lack of Champions League football on offer still a determining factor despite their ability to fund a deal and to offer players £200,000-a-week.

The Spanish striker has stressed that money will not be the over-riding motivation as he considers his future at Liverpool this summer but, nevertheless, confirmation of City’s interest will further unsettle Anfield officials as they attempt to persuade their prized asset to stay.

Torres is settled in Liverpool but disillusioned with the club’s failure to secure new investment having been told a takeover was imminent when he signed a new four-year contract worth £110,000-a-week last August. His insistence that Liverpool require “four or five” top-class signings to compete for honours next season is unlikely to materialise and Purslow has spent several days attempting to pacify the striker.

Hodgson confirmed at the weekend: “I made it clear from my point of view that I’m really looking forward to working with him and I believe he’s a key, key figure at the club. I obviously want him to be a part of the team we’re trying to build here and I can only hope he’ll buy into what the club is offering him. I don’t think there are any worries with him in terms of me personally or what we’re doing. I think the concerns go back once again to the time before I came to the club.”

CLUBS NAME 25 MAN SQUAD

English Premier League clubs have named their 25-man squads for the new season. Manchester United have included injury-plagued midfielder Owen Hargreaves, while striker Roque Santa Cruz makes Manchester City’s roster.

Stoke have omitted forward Mamady Sidibe, who snapped an Achilles tendon.

Arsenal have not listed any Englishmen but Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere are among the English under-21 contingent.

Michael Kightly has also been left out of Wolves’ squad for the first half of the season because of knee problems. Santa Cruz figures in City manager Roberto Mancini’s 25-man Premier League squad, despite much speculation that the Paraguayan striker would not.

Santa Cruz joins up with Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Jo in a fearsome array of firepower which will be at Mancini’s disposal.

The new Premier League rule required clubs to name a squad of 25 senior players by 1700 BST, 1 September, with only players under the age of 21 allowed to supplement that line-up until January.

The Premier League says the new rules are designed to increase the number of young “home-grown” players in the Premier League, with a long-term aim of giving more options to the England manager.

HIDDINK COMMITTED TO TURKEY

Guus Hiddink has said that he will not be joining Chelsea and will be staying loyal to Turkey. Hiddink is contracted to Turkey until the end of Euro 2012 but could leave this autumn if they fail to qualify.

“He is focusing on his job and he likes what he is doing,” said Cees van Nieuwenhuizen.

“Once [Turkey’s European Championships campaign] is finished, he will start thinking about his future.”

On Sunday, Chelsea sacked Carlo Ancelotti after he ended his second season at the club without a trophy.

They finished as runners-up in the Premier League after Manchester United clinched their 19th title, lost to United in the Champions League quarter-finals, and also missed out in the FA Cup and League Cup.

BOLTON AND BLACKPOOL DRAW

Bolton managed to to come from two goals behind to draw with Blackpool. Defender Ian Evatt headed the visitors ahead in the first half from a precise Elliot Grandin corner.

Luke Varney headed another Grandin corner into the Bolton net to make it 2-0 just before the hour.

But Martin Petrov pulled one back with a delightful volley and Mark Davies rescued the home side with a calm side-foot finish a minute from time.

Before the match, Blackpool manager Ian Holloway had spoken of his admiration for Owen Coyle, who has turned Bolton into attack-minded entertainers this season.

Indeed, with 26 goals from 14 matches, Wanderers came into the game unbeaten in November and with a goal tally bettered by only four Premier League sides.