Category Archives: Sports

Lukaku’s moving to Manchester United changes the transfer market

Lukaku's moving to Manchester United

For that last six month, everything indicated that Romelu Lukaku would be joining Chelsea. Then, surprisingly, last week Manchester United announced it had agreed upon a fee, rumored to be more than $120 million, for him. There are those who have claimed that United was playing a double game all of this time, that it was negotiating for Lukaku while using the process with Alvaro Morata as a smokescreen.

The truth is probably a little more pragmatic: United inquired about Lukaku a couple of months ago only to be told that negotiations with Chelsea were so far advanced that there was little point making a play for him. Last week, however, Lukaku’s agent, Mino Raiola, who has a good working relationship with both Jose Mourinho and United’s CEO Ed Woodward, revealed that the Chelsea deal had stalled and that United could step in.

Woodward has a name as a generous dealmaker; he is not avoid paying slightly over the odds to get a deal done. Everton and Raiola had, it appears, grown frustrated with the slow pace of negotiations with Chelsea. Lukaku may have liked the idea of finishing what he started at Chelsea, but the prospect of playing for Manchester United and earning more than $250,000 a week also seems to have been attractive.

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United, meanwhile, has not only got the striker it needed to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic in their team, but has also off-loaded Wayne Rooney. And even if it ends up subsidizing his wages at Everton, that signifies a significant saving. It may not totally be a coincidence either that in completing the deal, Mourinho ended up getting one over on each of the last two sides he managed, Chelsea and Real Madrid, and the deal will have ramifications for both.

Chelsea will need a striker. Aside of Lukaku, there may be three with a similar profile: Morata, Andrea Belotti and, the youngest and most expensive of them, Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe. Belotti, the 23-year-old Torino forward, is probably the best fit due to his aerial ability, but would probably cost over $100 million.

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This generates some issues. First, with Nemanja Matic, who had looked like joining United from Chelsea for around $50 million, but if relations between Chelsea and United get strained, it may be aborted. And then Real Madrid, who do not look well after holding out for more than $80 million for Morata. If they need to sell, perhaps to help finance a move for Mbappe, Chelsea might pick him up for a way smaller fee than expected not long ago.

Now, the obvious question: how does Lukaku fit in at Man U? He was second scorer in the Premier League last season with 25 goals. His count of 118 top-flight goals by the age of 24 (33 of them in Belgium) is remarkable. He is good in the air and quick on the ground, but his moving range is small. Some wonder if Lukaku occasionally goes missing, especially in big games, but it’s never easy with strikers to tell whether when that happens the fault is theirs or that of the players meant to pass them the ball. All those questions are for a month’s time.

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By now, though, Lukaku’s move to United dictates the remainder of the transfer market for some of the world’s biggest clubs.

Atthaya Thitikul becomes the youngest golf champion ever

The youngest golf champion ever

Atthaya Thitikul became the youngest winner on the Ladies European Tour last Sunday, after beating Ana Menendez from Mexico by two strokes at the Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club in Chinburi. Atthaya produced a level-par 72 on Sunday to finish the week on 5-under-par 283.

She began her fourth round one shot behind Menendez after posting rounds of 70, 71 and 70. The Mexican player dropped four shots on the front nine, however, handing Atthaya a two-shot lead at the turn after one birdie and two bogeys on her first nine holes.

She took up golf at the age of six, encouraged by her father, and just eight years later Thitikul is finding herself as the youngest winner of a professional golf tournament. With 14 years, four months and 19 days, Atthaya broke the preceding record of the formerly top-ranked Lydia Ko, who was 14 years and eight months when winning her first professional event at the New South Wales Open in 2012.

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”I’m so happy for my win this week and feel so proud of myself. I give this win to all Thais,” said Atthaya who got inspired by former Thai top-ranked player Ariya Jutanugarn.

”I was nervous at the first tee. But I didn’t think about the scores. I just focused on my shots and only on my caddie. I didn’t expect to win this tournament as I just came here to learn techniques from the pro players on the Ladies European.”

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She has already shown signs of her talent, though, leading up to her debut at a professional tournament, finishing as a runner up in the Queen Sirikit Cup in China, before going on to win the Taiwan amateur Open in June.

Despite this record-breaking victory, as an amateur player Thitikul was ineligible to collect her prize of €45,000 ($51,000), with second-placed Menendez taking home the money. Atthaya,  on her sides, has stated that she would not turn professional for a few years because she needs to gather more experience.

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The long youth of Federer

The long youth of Federer

Roger Federer is back in the second week at Wimbledon. The rest of the Big Four — Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal — have been right there with him. Like in the old days.

Boris Becker says: “I think one of those four men will hold up the trophy again.”

Federer is 35, father of four, and the only one battling a cold in the middle of an remarkably torrid English summer. He still sounded congested in the interviews after defeating Mischa Zverev in straight sets in the third round. But he improved, and defeated Grigor Dimitrov on Wimbledon’s so-called Manic Monday, the day all the men’s and women’s fourth-round singles matches are played in civilized haste.

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Federer has now played 99 singles matches at Wimbledon, and has won 89, more than any other man in the Open era. He has been able to adapt to the tennis of these days, fast-paced, with the power of the players and the equipment. Saturday and Monday matches were not quite full flights for him, but there were plenty of fine moments. Above all, he did an exemplary job of putting the ball again and again in an awkward position for his latest rivals — and that to the limit of his reach, the top of his leap, the tips of his toes.

Federer has proven his capability to learn new tennis tricks at an advanced age. Specially after coming back from knee surgery and a six-month layoff, the longest of his career, to win the Australian Open last January. He has already proved that he can drive his single-handed backhand with new commitment and find an antidote to Nadal, having beaten him three straight times on hardcourts this year.

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To win his eighth Wimbledon title, that would be the first since 2012, is going to demand plenty more agility and endurance. Now that has defeated Dimitrov, Federer will face Milos Raonic, a finalist here last year. Past that, Federer is likely to face Djokovic, who keeps showing signs of revival in his straight-sets victory over Ernests Gulbis on Saturday.

Federer is not a certain favorite, but he is certainly a crowd favorite. After his victory on Saturday, the usual crowd awaited him near Centre Court, camera phones at the ready. Is clear that the big moment of Federer seems still far from ending.

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Williams advances in Wimbledon

Williams advances in Wimbledon

Venus Williams, five-time Wimbledon champion, who last won the title at the All England Club in 2008, advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals by beating 19-year-old Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-2 on Monday, July 10th. She is playing at the grass-court major for the 20th time in her career.

Kerber, in the other hand, reached the Wimbledon final last year but lost to Serena Williams, was beaten by Garbine Muguruza on No. 2 Court, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. With this loss of her, either Simona Halep or Karolina Pliskova is going to take over as the top-ranked player after the tournament.

Williams is now facing French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the quarterfinals. The Latvian, a 20-year-old who won her first tour-level title at Roland Garros last month, has beaten fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-3, 7-6 (6) on Court 12. Ostapenko led 5-3 in the second set, but was broken and forced into a tiebreaker. She finally won by converting her eighth match point.

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This year’s French Open was the first time Ostapenko passes the third round at a major tournament before this. She was the first woman to win her debut tour-level title at a Grand Slam tournament since 1979. At Wimbledon, she is in the quarterfinals for the first time, although she won the girls’ title at the All England Club in 2014.

The second Monday at Wimbledon is perhaps the busiest day in tennis. All 16 fourth-round matches at the All England Club are played on the same day, a schedule that will leave only all eight male and all eight female quarterfinalists.

Andy Murray was on Centre Court against Benoit Paire, and Roger Federer will follow. On No. 1 Court, Johanna Konta was up first, followed by Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic is third.

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Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Magdalena Rybarikova also advanced to the quarterfinals. Kuznetsova, the seventh-seeded Russian is a two-time Grand Slam champion, was the first to finish her match on Monday after beating Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4. She is going to play in the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the fourth time. She has never advanced beyond that stage. She will face Muguruza in her attempt to reach semifinals.

Rybarikova, who beated Pliskova in the second round, also won over Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, and advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time. The former missed nearly seven months after last year’s Wimbledon because of injuries.

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Nonstop nature of soccer burn out

Nonstop nature of soccer burn out

The FC panel report claims that modern day players are being worn thin by soccer, which spans 10-11 months a year.

For example, some fans have a sort withdrawal after the end of England’s Premier League, lost without soccer around, until they recall that we just went over the Confederations Cup. And there’s the Gold Cup coming soon. And the U-21 European Championships, soon to be followed by U-20 World Cup and the U-17 European Championships. And there was Toulon. And the U-19 European Championship is also coming. And any fan, after little thought, can recall more. The point: does soccer even stop at all? And are fans and players alike running the risk of being burned out by its incessant pace?

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It was not always so. Even-numbered year tournaments aside, summers used to feel like a break.

Nothing of that this year, that has had a relentless pace, with no proper interlude. The media is overflowing with transfer speculation today, but as late as the 1980s, you’d be hard-pushed to find more than a few hundred words on soccer in the English national press during the month of July. And that was alright, as it made you to expect high for the real thing. There’s nothing similar now. For the most competitive leagues around the world, the gaps between local and international tournaments are getting shorter every year.

Why does this matter? Business is business, that is fair, but this has an impact is the physical and mental condition of those involved. We can agree that the style of modern soccer is faster than ever, players routinely rack up more than 10 kilometers of distance in every game, and the games come thick and fast. Professional soccer is exhausting, and if it never stops, those playing it never rest. And if they never rest, they run the risk of picking up injuries or sinking below their potential level.

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There’s also a mental price being paid, explicitly the accumulation of pressure. The knowledge that every slight blunder will be pored over by analysts. The fear that any attempt to play within themselves will be judge as laziness. The experience that tells them that supporters would turn on them in an instant, no matter what they’ve said in the past.

No one is crying for millionaires while they catch their breath.  However, this is not a question of producing sympathy, but one of maintaining performance levels in those we pay to entertain us. And we won’t get high performances if we run them into the ground. Unfortunately, this much-needed change is not coming soon – too much money is at stake. The future holds more fixtures and more travels, not less. What would make the game return to a more player-friendly pacing is yet to be discovered.

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The 10 biggest NFL free agents who remain unsigned

NFL free agents

Most of the NFL teams their free-agent shopping in March, or right after the draft when they figure out what holes still need to be filled. But sometimes an extra comes in June. And if a player is out of a job after July 4, it’s going to be extra hard to find one. However, a new revision of the list of available free agents shows some good players who are still looking for work –  even some potential Hall of Famers.

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Here, the biggest names still waiting for a contract:

QB Colin Kaepernick: It is doubtful he signs in any club. Once the Seattle Seahawks passed from him, that was it. The story about why he’s out of football being still young and coming off a decent season on a wretched team is widely known. However, if a team suffers a major injury in preseason, Kaepernick is clearly the best free-agent quarterback available.

RB DeAngelo Williams: After a not very successful venture on wrestling, he waits for a football job now. Williams has stated he still wants to play. A reunion with the Pittsburgh Steelers makes the most sense for everyone. At 34 years old, he’s still a reliable, productive veteran.

CB Darrelle Revis: His contractual situation is weird. His game was not the best last season, but he’s still better than a lot of cornerbacks who will be on 53-man rosters. Revis’ contract with the New York Jets has $6 million in offset language for 2017, so he essentially makes $6 million whether he plays or not this season- so a change requires someone offering him more than that amount. That’s unlikely.

WR Anquan Boldin: At 36, he might not be the Pro Bowler he once was, but he’s tough, smart, a respected leader and still had 67 catches and eight touchdowns with the Detroit Lions last season. Many teams would be smart to add him. As per recent declarations, there should be someone interested in hiring him soon.

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S Jairus Byrd: Three years ago, Byrd was worth $54 million to the New Orleans Saints in free agency. His time with them failed, and the 30-year-old hasn’t gotten another chance.

C Nick Mangold: Mangold was left to go by the New York Jets, and even though he’s 33 and coming off an injury-plagued season, he’s still one of the best centers of this generation, still one of the 32 best centers around.

CB Alterraun Verner: a Pro Bowl player with the Tennessee Titans in 2013,  then he signed a four-year deal worth almost $26 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. But he has been not able to become a factor since. He is 28 and is a good cornerback. Many teams can makes use of his skill.

TE Gary Barnidge: The 30-year-old, whose career highs were 13 catches, 242 yards and two touchdowns, had 79 catches, 1,043 yards, nine touchdowns and made a Pro Bowl for the Cleveland Browns. 2016 wasn’t as kind, though he still managed 612 yards. The rebuilding Browns cut Barnidge after drafting David Njoku in the first round. A team inneed at tight end could use him well as a short-term option.

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Lessons from Germany’s win over Chile

Lessons from Germany’s win over Chile in the Confederations Cup

South American tenacity met European composure. Age, therefore, was never going to concern these powerhouses during the tournament, as Chile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi and German counterpart Joachim Low have implemented teamwork as a way more important asset.

Germany, the almost-perfect machine with a squad age of 24 years old in average and without a star player, was the most impressive team in the tournament, most notably during its 4-1 domination of Mexico in the semifinal stage. They left nothing to chance.

Chile, the tournament king, who has won two in three years (2015’s Copa America and last year’s Copa America Centenario) was always going to be the decisive test. Not in vain this is the golden era for Chilean soccer. They were confident.

However, Germany not only achieved an impressive 1-0 victory, it did it under immense physical and mental pressure. That was an incredible achievement.

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Here are three lessons from the final and Germany’s performance in the Confederations Cup.

The Julian Draxler Effect

Despite his youth, Draxler has bags of experience, having made his international debut in 2012. This is where he is so valuable—a young German star with international know-how. A 23-year-old attacking mid-fielder who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, his vision and delivery elevated his teammates’ games. He was dangerous because his number one priority is to supply and create for his team. Despite the great players in the Cup, he got the Golden Ball with no arguments against.

Mental strength

Germany has always been a mentally strong team; that is the perfect match to their technicallity. No matter what happens along the game or how well the opposition starts, the focus and composure remains. This is no coincidence; it’s a trait that can be seen from youth soccer to the under-21 team (which won the European Championship last Friday) and its considered a national priority to succeed.

Low knew that the best way to beat Chile was to make the South Americans think they were in control due to possession. This was only a facade, as Germany waited for Pizzi’s men to make their own mistakes and counter-attack. He chose practicality over ideology.

Germany’s manager analyzes the opposition’s biggest weapon and looks how to erase it. In the case of Chile, that was pressure and possession, so Germany waited and perfected a counter-attacking plan by playing a deep midfield. Toward the end of the match, Chile’s players were so tired that they had run out of ideas; the Germans remained composed.

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The German Way

Germany’s system and the way it implements innovation and education with young players is so high that if anything, the country only recognizes how to create quality players. There is no ‘B team,’ just an association that breeds A talent.

Germany will always produce quality, but what takes it to another level is how Low’s 13-year project (he’s been a member of the national side since 2004) is a result of precise delivery—in training, game-day, off-days… it’s all the same. The premise for every player: perform like a professional; nothing else will matter.

The main lesson: star players might important, are only but one piece of the final project. At the end, that is what makes soccer so great: in order to achieve victory, you need 11 players, not one.

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Lionel Messi stays at Barcelona until 2021

Lionel Messi stays at Barcelona until 2021

FC Barcelona announced on July 5th that megastar Lionel Messi is signing a three-year contract extension with the titan of Spanish soccer, agreeing to remain at Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season. He had one year remaining on his current contract, but both sides wanted to ensure that the 30-year-old was staying with Barcelona for the remainder of his productive professional career.

“The Club is very happy with both the renewal and the commitment of Messi, the best player in history, who has played his full professional career at Barça and has led the team to an era of extraordinary success, the likes of which has never been seen in world football,” the team said in a statement.

Kaveh Solhekol, of Sky Sports, report that Messi will be making around $646,000 per week, or near to $33.6 million per year.

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Messi has been with Barcelona since he left his native Argentina at age 13. He played his first game with the senior team in 2004. Ever since, he has gone on to nearly unsurpassed success: a club-record of 507 goals in 583 games, four Champions League trophies, eight Spanish league titles and five Copa del Rey championships.

There is some risk to the deal, which reportedly contains a buyout clause worth 300 million euros: Messi will be 34 by the time his contract expires, and Barcelona was eclipsed by Real Madrid last season in La Liga play and fell in the Champions League quarterfinals for the second year in a row. However, the team doubled down on its stars, agreeing to new deals with Neymar, Luis Suarez and now Messi.

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“Maintaining the method, that’s the key,” Manchester City Coach Pep Guardiola, Barcelona’s manager from 2008 to 2012, told L’Esportiu when inquired on what the team needed to do to remain at the top of European club soccer. “I said that when I was here and we were winning. A day will come when lose and there will be doubts about the method. And those that are in charge will decide.”

Luis Enrique resigned as Barcelona’s coach after last season, replaced by Athletic Bilbao’s Ernesto Valverde. “Everyone can be relaxed [with Valverde’s appointment],” Guardiola said. “I think Barcelona need a coach like Ernesto. A squad like the one they have, which has won everything, needs a guy who wants them.”

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Tour de France: Chris Froome heading after stage five

Tour de France

Chris Froome took the yellow jersey from Sky teammate Geraint Thomas in the Tour de France, as Fabio Aru won stage five from Irishman Dan Martin at La Planche des Belles Filles. He crossed the line in third place ahead of BMC’s Richie Porte, but with Thomas getting 10th place, the Welshman surrendered the race lead he took in Saturday’s opening time trial in Dusseldorf.

Froome, a three time Tour winner, is now leading by 12 seconds from Thomas, with The Italian champion Aru up to third, 14 seconds back. This was his first winning career on this Tour de France stage.

With Aru on such a short time off yellow, the Italian will have seized leadership of the Astana team as co-captain Jakob Fuglsang faded badly on the impressive gradients late on this comparatively short but extremely sharp climb. This is barely the third time the Tour has gone to La Planche des Belles Filles – place of Froome’s first career Tour stage win in 2012. It’s worth noting, though, that on both times the man wearing yellow at the end of the day – Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Vincenzo Nibali in 2014 – was also wearing it in Paris at the end of the race.

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A powerful eight-man group including Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Edvard Boassan Hagen (Team Dimension Data) had broken clear almost immediately after the peloton left Vittel. BMC managed the gap, holding it at around three minutes, with a Team Sky pleased to sit on their wheels.

The break began to split on the category three Cote d’Esmoulieres, late in the stage as they shed deadwood, with only Gilbert, AG2R La Mondiale’s Jan Bakelants and Direct Energie’s Thomas Voeckler able to stay clear to the foothills of the final climb.

A bit further, after letting BMC to do most of the work, Sky moved to the front with a little over 10km to go and paced the pack up the climb. None responded when Aru started his move just before the gradients – which average 8.5 per cent over the course of the 5.9km climb – began to ease off slightly, and the Italian was quickly out of reach. It was not until the final few hundred meters, where the road ramped up to 20 per cent, that Martin burst clear and Froome rounded Porte to claim the last of the bonus seconds on offer.

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Stage five result:

  1. Fabio Aru (ITA/Astana) 3hrs 44mins 6secs
  2. Dan Martin (IRE/Quick-Step Floors) +16secs
  3. Chris Froome (GBR/Team Sky) +20secs
  4. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC Racing) +20secs
  5. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) +24secs
  6. Simon Yates (GBR/Orica-Scott) +26secs
  7. Rigoberto Uran (COL/Cannondale) +26secs
  8. Alberto Contador (SPA/Trek) +26secs
  9. Nairo Quintana (COL/Movistar) +34secs
  10. Geraint Thomas (GBR/Team Sky) +40secs

General classification after stage five:

  1. Chris Froome (GBR/Team Sky) 18hrs 38mins 59secs
  2. Geraint Thomas (GBR/Team Sky) +12secs
  3. Fabio Aru (ITA/Astana) +14secs
  4. Daniel Martin (IRE/Quick-Step Floors) +25secs
  5. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC Racing) +39secs
  6. Simon Yates (GBR/Orica-Scott) +43secs
  7. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) +47secs
  8. Alberto Contador (SPA/Trek) +52secs
  9. Nairo Quintana (COL/Movistar) +54secs
  10. Rafal Majka (POL/BORA) +1min 1secs

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Fox Sports Fires Jamie Horowitz

Fox Sports Fires Jamie Horowitz

21st Century Fox’s sports group fired a top executive, Jamie Horowitz, on Monday July 3rd, amidst an investigation into sexual harassment, a person briefed on the matter said.

“Everyone at Fox Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times,” Eric Shanks, president of Fox Sports, stated in an email to employees. “These values are non-negotiable.”

The company did not openly say why Mr. Horowitz had been fired, or what details the investigation had produced.

Mr. Horowitz oversaw sports programming, and his radical restructuring of the network caused extensive disquiet among its employees. He has hired the lawyer Patricia Glaser to represent him about his firing. A person acquainted with the situation said there were no legal claims against Mr. Horowitz or settlements made regarding accusations of sexual harassment.

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Daniel Petrocelli, a lawyer representing Fox Sports, issued a statement contradicting the assertions made by Ms. Glaser: “Mr. Horowitz’s termination was fully warranted and his lawyer’s accusations are ill-informed and misguided.”

The Los Angeles Times first reported that the company was investigating allegations of sexual harassment.

The immediate dismissal of Mr. Horowitz represents a significant departure from how 21st Century Fox has handled other cases. However, it a new setback for a company that has been whirling for a year from a sexual harassment scandal at Fox News.

On July 6, 2016, the previous Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed suit against Roger Ailes, the former chairman of the network. That provoked an internal investigation that found several women at Fox News who reported misconduct. Mr. Ailes was forced out of the network, with a $40 million exit package, and the company went on to reach settlements with at least six women who accused Mr. Ailes of sexual harassment. The company paid $20 million to settle the suit with Ms. Carlson. This was just the start.

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Women inside Fox News said that issues of harassment and intimidation at the network went beyond Mr. Ailes. Current and former Fox News employees have said that they feared making complaints to network executives or the human resources department. New reports and settlements had come since.

The ongoing scandal has been a financial and reputational hit for company. The corporation has disclosed that in the nine months leading up to March 31, it spent $45 million in costs tied to settlements of pending and potential lawsuits related to harassment accusations. That does not include the exit package for Mr. Ailes and the estimated $25 million payout for Mr. O’Reilly.

The scandal has come under focus on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, federal investigators have questioned the network’s financial practices. Last week, British regulators reviewing 21st Century Fox’s $15 billion deal to take full control of Sky, the European satellite giant, found that the company and its executives were “fit and proper,” despite finishing by saying that the sexual harassment scandal had grown to be “significant corporate failures.”

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