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Russia awarded 3-0 win after crowd trouble in Montenegro

“The CEDB has decided to declare the above-mentioned match as forfeited,” UEFA said in a statement on its website.

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“As a consequence, the Football Association of Montenegro (FSCG) is deemed to have lost the game 3-0.”

Montenegro have also been ordered to play their next two home matches behind closed doors and were fined 50,000 euros (36,285 pounds).

“All things considered, the UEFA decision is what we expected and we will not appeal it,” Montenegrin Football Association general secretary Momir Djurdjevac was quoted as saying by daily Vijesti.

“In the upcoming period, our priority is to reinstate a good atmosphere on the terraces so that the national team can enjoy the home support they deserve from the true fans.

“The game against Austria will be a real test of our ability to do that, as will all the following home matches in (2018 World Cup) qualifying.”  

Russia were fined 25,000 euros for the “improper conduct of (their) supporters”.

The game was first delayed by 33 minutes when Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hit on the head by a flare thrown from the Montenegro section of the ground soon after kickoff.

He had to come off and was taken to hospital suffering from burns.

Midway through the second half a scuffle ensued between players near the touchline and Russia midfielder Dmitri Kombarov was hit by a missile, prompting the referee to abandon the game.

“The punishment handed down to Montenegro is down to the letter of the law,” Vyacheslav Koloskov, honorary president of the Russian Football Union, told the TASS news agency.

“This is exactly how I thought things would pan out. The most important thing is the technical defeat has been awarded. Our side can be happy.”

Koloskov also confirmed that Russia would not appeal against the fine they were handed.

“During the current climate, 25,000 euros is a significant amount for the Russian Football Union,” he said.

“On the other hand, it is a minimal fine. I don’t think anyone from our side will launch a protest.”

A 3-0 victory for Russia kept them third in Group G on eight points, five behind leaders Austria. Montenegro stayed fourth on five points.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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Scott sacrifices baby time for Masters build-up

That sacrifice should reap dividends with a strong performance at Augusta National this week, according to his instructor Brad Malone.

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“Adam’s preparation has been excellent and everything looks good, as far as a coach goes,” Malone told Reuters on the eve of the tournament on Wednesday as he walked a practice round with the 2013 champion.

“He’s so comfortable with the golf course and his rhythm is looking nice. Now it’s just a matter of letting it flow.”

Scott’s wife Marie gave birth to daughter Bo on Feb. 15 and the family was reunited only last week when mother and baby finally arrived at their Bahamas home after staying in Australia to complete their immunization requirements.

Scott, meanwhile, played three tournaments on the PGA Tour where he experimented with a regular-length putter. After missing several short putts, he had little hesitation in reverting to the long 48-inch broomstick putter which he used to win at Augusta National two years ago.

“It (the short putter) had to perform incredibly well for him to continue using it while the long putter is still legal,” Malone said, referring to the ban on anchoring a long putter against a player’s chest that starts next year.

“It was a common sense decision. A lot of things he liked with the short putter but now is not the time to play around. There is no point disadvantaging yourself.

“Last year he was number one on tour putting from three feet and third outside 25 feet. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Scott, 34, does not have the distraction of returning to Augusta this year as defending champion, though Malone says that was not a problem last year, when the Australian tied for 14th.

“Adam is very good at focusing on the task, whatever that may be. He’s got a good level of concentration.

“The only difference between this year and last is that this year he didn’t have to prepare the menu for the champions dinner.”

(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)

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Rory and Tiger command the Masters spotlight

Northern Irish world number one McIlroy is gunning for his third consecutive victory in a major, and a first green jacket at the spiritual home of the American game, to complete a full set of all four of golf’s blue riband events.

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Four-times champion Woods, meanwhile, only decided last week to compete at Augusta National after struggling badly in his two tournament starts this season, but has looked a very different and relaxed player during practise over the past three days.

“Everyone is just curious to see how he comes back,” McIlroy said earlier this week about Woods’ return to competition after a two-month absence from the PGA Tour while retooling his swing.

“I don’t think you should ever underestimate him. He’s done things on the golf course that are pretty special. As a golf fan in general, I’m interested to see how he does.”

Woods posted the highest score of his professional career, an 11-over 82, to miss the cut at the Phoenix Open in January, and withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open the following week after 11 holes because of tightness in his back.

The former world number one, who claimed the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 U.S. Open, said he would not return to competition until his game was “tournament-ready” and many pundits believe he is suffering from the chipping ‘yips’.

However, last Friday he finally announced his decision to play in this week’s Masters.

“I feel like my game is finally ready to compete at this level, the highest level,” said Woods, who won the most recent of his four green jackets at Augusta National 10 years ago.

“There’s no other tournament in the world like this, and to come back to a place that I’ve had so many great memories at and so many great times in my life, it’s always special.”

GRAND SLAM BID

McIlroy, who tied for eighth at last year’s Masters, arrives at Augusta National looking to become the seventh career grand slam winner following Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen.

“I’ve got a chance to do something very few players in this game have done before so that adds a little bit of spice to it,” said the 25-year-old, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, the PGA Championship (in 2012 and 2014) and the British Open (2014).

Though McIlroy is the pre-tournament favourite, the possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to likely winners after Sunday’s final round.

The last eight editions have produced seven different champions, with reigning champion Bubba Watson the only ‘repeat’ winner after earning his first green jacket in 2012.

“To win it three times would be remarkable,” the American left-hander said of his bid to join the likes of Sam Snead, Gary Player and Phil Mickelson by becoming the sixth triple champion at Augusta.

“I never thought I would win it twice, so I can’t believe that we are talking about it … three times. Pretty wild and pretty crazy stuff.”

Other contenders include Australia’s Adam Scott, the 2013 champion who has reverted to his long putter to cope with Augusta’s notoriously tricky greens, and Americans Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker, who have been in red-hot form in recent weeks.

Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson heads the European challenge with players from that continent bidding this week to end a 15-year title drought at the Masters.

“There’s a lot of guys who would rightly be in the real conversation — Rory, Dustin (Johnson), Jordan, Adam, Jason (Day) and Phil (Mickelson),’ said Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion.

“Bubba is always one of the clear favourites here. And if Tiger plays like he can, he’s going to be one of the favourites. That adds intrigue to the story, too. This has to be one of the best build-ups to any tournament ever.”

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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Downton leaves role as ECB managing director

Former England wicketkeeper Downton, 58, took over the role in February, 2014 following the team’s 5-0 defeat in the Ashes series in Australia.

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Downton oversaw the decision to sack controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen and his departure will lead to increased speculation that the gifted right-hander could be recalled to the England side.

He also made the decision to fire Alastair Cook as one-day captain in December and the team endured a dismal World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this year, failing to get through the group stage.

“The England Cricket Department needs to deliver performance at the highest level and our structure needs to be accountable for reaching the standards we aspire to,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said in a statement.

A new leadership position focussed on performance will be created.

“The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world-class performance is at the heart of everything we do,” Harrison said before paying tribute to Downton’s achievements.

“Paul is a man of great integrity who has worked extremely hard to make a difference at the ECB,” Harrison added.

“He joined at a very difficult time, but under his leadership the test team have made significant strides. We thank him for his hard work, drive and determination and wish him every success for the future.”

Downton also appointed Peter Moores as England coach and he is under pressure following the poor World Cup as the team prepare for the first of three tests against West Indies starting in Antigua on Monday before home series against New Zealand and Australia.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond, editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters feels growing Payne as Augusta looks to future

But in recent years, the club that did not admit its first woman member until 2012 has displayed progressive vision and long-range planning as it focuses its considerable resources and efforts on growing the game around the world and expanding the club’s boundaries at home.

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Augusta National has helped develop and promote the Asia-Pacific and Latin America Amateur Championships, with the winners earning a spot in the year’s first major.

A Drive, Chip and Putt competition designed to bring more children into the sport was staged at Augusta last weekend and the winners received their trophies from past Masters champions, while the club has earmarked a reported $40 million (27 million pounds) to purchase nearly 100 homes as part of elaborate expansion plans.

“We have been working very hard, trying to do our best to positively address the mandate of continuous improvement established by beloved cofounders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts,” Augusta chairman Billy Payne told reporters during his annual press conference on Wednesday.

“Doing the best we can do, now includes a growing emphasis on our efforts to help others grow the game.”

Payne, who oversaw the running of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, took over from Hootie Johnson as club chairman in 2006.

He has shepherded Augusta National into a new era, welcoming Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as the first women members, as well as developing a social media and digital media presence, while also expanding the Masters global television coverage.

Built on tradition, Augusta and its members have on occasion still found it difficult to let go of the past.

When the iconic Eisenhower Tree, which guarded the 17th fairway, was felled by an ice storm last year the club went into mourning.

But the Eisenhower Tree, named after the U.S. president who was an Augusta member and, legend has it, routinely hit his ball into the tree, will live on, as Payne proudly noted on Wednesday when he said the stately pine has been successfully cloned.

“As we try hard to contribute to the future health of the game, so, too, must we appropriately remember the past,” said Payne. “I am pleased to announce that we have been successful, so far, in preserving this famous tree’s genetics.

“What you now see are three surviving, and so far thriving results, of two successful grafts and one seedling of the Eisenhower Tree.

“Not surprisingly they have become some of our most loved and cherished possessions here.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

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Jakarta still eyeing April execution date

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran could be executed this month if Indonesian authorities can find a date they consider suitable.

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Indonesia’s Attorney-General HM Prasetyo has said the Asia-Africa Conference, to be held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 18-24, is a consideration in the timing of the executions, which have been in the planning for months.

Mr Prasetyo on Tuesday said it wouldn’t be polite to send drug offenders from various countries – including the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana – to the firing squad during the international event, “even if it is legal”.

On Wednesday, his spokesman Tony Spontana told AAP authorities were still looking for a date in April “if there are no obstacles”.

Jakarta is waiting for all prisoners in line for execution to exhaust their legal avenues.

Two of the prisoners have applied for Supreme Court judicial reviews, a process Mr Prasetyo has ordered be expedited.

It’s understood their applications are not yet before the judges, who took only five days to process their last application from a death row prisoner, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso.

Mr Spontana told Indonesian news website detik广西桑拿, : “We are still looking for a ‘good day’ in the month of April for carrying out the executions”.

“We’re considering waiting for the Asia Africa Conference, it wouldn’t be ethical if it was at the same time as the Asia Africa Conference.”

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran will this week lodge a fresh legal challenge with the constitutional court, but Mr Prasetyo has said their administrative court action – which failed on Monday – was their last chance.

“We will no longer wait,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The Australians, who were arrested in 2005 over the Bali Nine heroin smuggling bid, are being held on Nusakambangan island, where Indonesia plans to execute them and eight others as part of its tough stance against drug offenders.

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Charles and Camilla mark 10-year milestone

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are set to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

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Charles and Camilla married in a civil ceremony at the Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005, after a relationship that spanned nearly 35 years.

The Prince and the Duchess are spending their Tin wedding anniversary on Thursday privately at Birkhall – a retreat on the Balmoral estate in Scotland where they honeymooned and spent their first wedding anniversary.

Camilla Parker Bowles became a signed-up member of royal family as she said her vows, emerging with a wedding band of Welsh gold on her finger, a future king and husband on her arm and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall as her title.

Ten years on from when the Prince married his former mistress, Camilla’s role within the Royal Family has changed significantly.

In the 90s, she was dubbed a marriage wrecker and the “other woman” – held responsible for the breakdown of Charles’s relationship to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Now the Duchess regally appears at the Prince’s side at the State Opening of Parliament and takes her place on the Buckingham Palace balcony for royal celebrations.

When Camilla married Charles, aides insisted she did not want to be known as Queen when the Prince acceded to the throne, but intended to be known as Princess Consort instead.

But according to some legal experts, unless there is change in the law, Camilla will technically become Queen when Charles is King – no matter what she decides to call herself.

At the time of her engagement to the Prince in 2005, a poll showed that only seven per cent of people believed Camilla should one day be Queen.

A new YouGov poll has found that 10 years later, 49 per cent of the British public now back her becoming queen consort when Charles becomes king.

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Feral cats pose growing threat in Tasmania

Researchers in Tasmania are striving to find a way to save the state’s small native animals from a growing feral cat population.

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The introduced feline has already contributed to the loss of some species on mainland Australia, including a class of the eastern bettong, but it’s not too late for the island state, says Matt Appleby, an ecologist with Bush Heritage.

“Feral cats and foxes have been in high numbers on the mainland for some years and the chance of reversing their impact has passed,” Dr Appleby told AAP on Wednesday.

“But in Tasmania there is still hope that we can prevent it reaching that level.”

Along with a team of PhD students from the University of Tasmania, Dr Appleby and colleagues from Greening Australia are monitoring native animals across the state’s midlands to try to gauge the threats to their environment.

“For a lot of Tasmanian native species … the population trajectory is not good and in some cases we think they are on the way out,” he said.

“Cat numbers have risen quite dramatically and that will only have a negative effect.

“It could only be a matter of a number of years and these (species) could be on our threatened species (list).”

Feral cats feast on a range of animals up to 5kg, which means bettongs, bandicoots and quolls are among their targets.

With Tasmanian devil numbers declining due to a contagious facial tumour, the cat population has blossomed.

“Devils have played a really critical role in suppressing the cat numbers in the past and it will be a long time before we get their population in the wild back up to good numbers,” Dr Appleby said.

The three-year study will assess the impact of agriculture on native species, with Dr Appleby suggesting that areas of open and fragmented vegetation can make it easier for feral cats to prey on animals.

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Australian Aid groups ‘forced to break promises to world’s poor’

Australian aid groups say the country’s international reputation is being trashed as they inform donor-countries that they are closing programmes due to budget cuts.

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In December, the federal government announced a cut of $1 billion to the aid budget, which represents 20 per cent of aid spending. Aid projects funded by government but delivered by non-government providers such as World Vision and Plan face closure or downgrading.

Last month Foreign Minister Julie Bishop fought off further attempts by senior government figures to cut the aid budget.

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello told SBS that the cuts undermined the government’s aid goals and had a huge impact on people in need.

“We have had to cut $5 million in programmes and will close in Senegal around child-protection programmes. In Lebanon were are making ‘Sophie’s Choice’ decisions between cutting health or education or child protection. It is simply devastating to ring national directors and tell them this,” Reverend Costello said.

“The really sad thing is we are breaking promises to the world’s poorest because really promises have been broken here to us. A billion dollars cut from the aid programme means we are all impacted.”

World Vision Australia has informed donors and today made public cuts confirmed to projects in Kenya, Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, India and Laos. Decision on funding of domestic violence, education and health programmes in East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Island will be confirmed over the next week.

Plan International told SBS it would be cutting back the “Action for Children” project in Ethiopia that was due to reach more than 4000 children this year.

Plan is also reducing an “Empowering Families” programme in Cambodia. In a statement, Plan said: “We had been hoping to extend this project, but can now only maintain where we are. That means we will not reach the anticipated 8,500 families – around 45,000 people – we had been planning to reach. We will continue to work with families we have already reached in the coming financial year, after which the project is essentially finished for us.”

Plan is also cutting its Cambodian vocation training programme.

Reverend Costello says it was a sad day for Australian aid.

“This is harsh. It is not who we are. It really begs the question of what sort of nation we are now when we can do this,” he said.

“In our near neighbourhood, PNG, East Timor, Vanuatu we will be making cuts to programmes that get girls educated, gender programmes that give them priority, having to choose between those programme and health programmes that are life-saving. It is an awful, awful choice.”

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Navy launches inquiry into suicides

The navy has launched a top-level inquiry into a cluster of suicides by past and serving sailors from Perth naval base HMAS Stirling, some linked to the drug ice.

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Assistant defence minister Stuart Robert said he was extremely concerned and called navy chief Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and asked him to launch the investigation.

It will be conducted by a navy rear admiral and the navy’s senior warrant officer, who will examine the issues of suicide and allegations of rampant drug use at Stirling.

They’ll report back to Vice Admiral Barrett and the government.

“That’s a fairly significant review,” Mr Robert told ABC television.

He said Defence knew exactly how many serving members had taken their own lives – 106 in the past 15 years – but had little knowledge of those who had committed suicide after leaving the forces.

Mr Robert said Defence’s policy of mandatory drug testing meant 25 per cent of all sailors could expect to be tested without notice, which picks up around 11 sailors a year.

“We have certainly noticed that the drug of choice has slowly changed to ice,” he said.

Mr Robert said all evidence indicated the drug testing was rigorous and could not be gamed.

ABC reported on Tuesday that five serving and former sailors from HMAS Stirling had taken their own lives in the period 2011-12 while another died of a drug overdose.

All were associated with a culture of hard drinking and consumption of the drug ice.

ABC reported on Wednesday there had been at least nine suicides of Stirling sailors over the past four years.

The biggest dealer at Stirling was said to be a chief petty officer who purchased drugs cheaply while deployed in Asia.

One sailor named only as Brendan told the ABC drug use at Stirling was rampant and regarded as perfectly normal – “expected, almost”.

He said drugs such as ecstasy and amphetamines were popular because they didn’t remain in the body long enough to be detected in random drug tests.

“It’s not thought of from within as a rife or rampant culture – it’s just normal,” he said.

Another former sailor Paul Papalia, now a state Labor MP, said Western Australia had twice the national rate of methamphetamine use.

“HMAS Stirling is right in the middle of that,” he said.

“The figures of use of methamphetamine and subsequent suicides at HMAS Stirling are staggering and very disturbing.”

Mr Papalia said there needed to be an inquiry.

Despite the revelations, prime minister Tony Abbott said family members can trust Defence.

“I think everyone who has a family member in the military can be confident that their people are being as well looked after as possible,” Mr Abbott said on Wednesday.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.