Before the billionaires and oligarchs, the unlikely story of football’s first foreign owner

Way before international money flooded in, the first American owner in English soccer came to the rescue of a dying club.

Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers.

This international spending spree started when Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea FC in 2003, but the largely forgotten first step toward today’s globalized era occurred way back in 1984. Football clubs were traditionally owned by local businessmen until California lawyer Bruce Osterman bought Tranmere Rovers, a proud but impoverished team in the unemployment-lashed north of England. It was the beginning of a new era — but you wouldn’t have known it at the time.

“The game as a whole was at its nadir,” remembers Mark Palios, a former footballer turned businessman who played for Tranmere in those dark days of the 1980s. “Gates were low, there was hooliganism, there was a complete lack of investment. It was a sick industry.”

What followed is more than a quirky footnote in sporting history — it’s a story of conflict between passion and business that any fan of any team in any country will recognize. Palios played an unexpected secret role in the ensuing drama, only to face a horribly familiar crisis threatening the club three decades later.

Mark Palios played for Tranmere in the 1970s and 1980s, taking an unexpected role in the drama behind the scenes — before returning to the club 30 years later.

Former Tranmere player Ken Bracewell was coaching a professional team in San Francisco in the early 1980s when he was approached by attorney and keen amateur goalkeeper Bruce Osterman. The glamour had faded from The National American Soccer League’s 1970s heyday, so Bracewell was surprised when Osterman wanted more than a chat about soccer teams — he wanted to buy one.

Why would a Californian lawyer want to invest in an impoverished sports team on the far side of the Atlantic?

“I was young and it seemed like a good idea,” says Osterman, now in his late 70s. “I had some extra money as I’d done well in my law practice,” he remembers in his unhurried California drawl over the phone from his home near San Francisco. “Tranmere was in real trouble so it was a number to purchase the team that I could afford.”

Tranmere chairman Bruce Osterman filmed at Prenton Park for a TV documentary.

Tranmere’s stadium Prenton Park is only a brief ferry ride away from footballing titans Liverpool and Everton, but in 1984 it might as well have been on a different planet. Barely clinging to professional status at the wrong end of the English leagues, with no money and plummeting attendances, Tranmere had special permission to hold matches on Friday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons so locals wouldn’t disappear to watch the team’s more glamorous neighbors.

“Tranmere will never compete with Liverpool and Everton,” one of the club’s managers later said. “They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere as a deadly submarine.”

In 1984 Tranmere was about to emulate a submarine in the worst possible way: by going under.

Osterman took advantage of the strife and a disastrously weak pound to buy the club, installing Ken Bracewell in charge. “I relied on Kenny for the day-to-day things,” Osterman recalls, “because frankly what the hell did I know?”

Bruce Osterman (crouching third from left, wearing glasses), lines up with a team of sports journalists playing a friendly at Prenton Park in August 1986. Eagle-eyed fans might recognize the chap on the far left: popular TV and radio pundit Ray Stubbs, who played and worked at Tranmere.

Today’s game is full of players, managers and owners from other countries. In the 1980s it was more insular. English clubs were banned from European competition throughout the second half of the 1980s, foreign players like Tottenham’s Argentine duo Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were still a novelty, and there wouldn’t be a foreign manager until Jozef Vengloš arrived from Czechoslovakia to join Aston Villa in 1990.

Having staved off the club’s short-term woes, Bruce Osterman showed up at Tranmere for a few weeks at a time, a few times a year. There was occasionally a language barrier with the distinctive Merseyside accent. “I used to go to sportsman’s dinners for people who had shares in the club, and I was usually the brunt of the after-dinner comedian,” Osterman remembers. “I know he was speaking English but I couldn’t understand a word!” Osterman’s family came too, although his wife found herself excluded from men-only areas such as the boardroom and team coach. “She tolerated my doing this, but it wasn’t a pleasant time for her,” Osterman admits.

Journalists were delighted by the sight of the bespectacled 43-year-old chairman diving around in the training field mud, while players mischievously blasted balls at him. This was all highly unusual, but still — Tranmere were saved.

In the days before television revenue, a lesser club’s main income was ticket sales. Larger-than-life characters attracted paying fans through the turnstiles, so Osterman made the unexpected choice to appoint Frank Worthington as the team’s player-manager.

Worthington, who died in March 2021, had two decades of experience on the field but had never managed a team. The mulleted Elvis fan was certainly an entertainer, a prodigious goalscorer and even more prodigious playboy. His autobiography, suggestively titled “One Hump Or Two,” lists more nightclubs than football clubs. Worthington joked that when he took charge at Tranmere the players thought they’d be in trouble if they got home before 2 a.m.

Larger-than-life character Frank Worthington playing for England.

In his first game before the Prenton Park faithful the dashing player-manager bagged three goals in a 6-2 victory, and he ended up scoring 20 that season. He also made shrewd use of Osterman’s limited budget — one of Worthington’s acquisitions, Ian Muir, remains the club’s all-time top goalscorer. But defence was poor and Tranmere couldn’t afford new blood.

“We didn’t have the players or the money,” Osterman admits. “I had no idea of the difficulty of handling a team even in the fourth division.”

One player understood the economics of Osterman’s situation more than most. Tenacious midfielder Mark Palios was a local lad in his second stint at Tranmere when Osterman arrived. Unlike most footballers, who typically spend their time between matches wasting money, Palios worked a unique parallel career managing money as he trained to be an accountant.

Mark Palios playing for Tranmere the night they beat Arsenal in 1973.

One day Tranmere’s directors walked into Palios’ office looking for advice. They wanted to push Osterman out. The surprised player found himself in the awkward situation of offering advice on the club’s financial future mere hours before pulling on his team shirt and running onto the pitch.

Tranmere’s cash flow crisis came to a head when the well-intentioned but overstretched Osterman tried to sell Prenton Park to make way for a supermarket. Fans, directors and local authorities turned against him.

The American dream had soured.

Thirty years later, in 2015, history repeated for Tranmere Rovers — and for Mark Palios. The club was again in dire straits on and off the field. And just like in the 1980s, a new owner stepped in. But this time, it was Palios who bought the club.

After combining his playing days with a successful accounting career, Palios had been CEO of the Football Association. A specialist in turning around failing businesses, he and his wife Nicola now tackled Tranmere’s turmoil.

Palios began a three-step process he’d applied to many dying companies: Find cash for breathing space. Use that breathing space to fix the business. And finally, bring in new investment.

Most important, the club had to break the cycle of lurching from savior to savior. Palios compares football clubs to gamblers gifted more chips who continue betting on the same old numbers. To really fix the ailing business, Mark and Nicola had to make new bets.

Tranmere chairman Mark Palios and vice chair Nicola Palios took charge in 2014.

Back in 1985, Palios quit Tranmere and distanced himself from the boardroom shenanigans to avoid a conflict of interest. Ultimately the directors exploited changes to insolvency legislation to get rid of Osterman, Bracewell and Worthington, earning Tranmere another dubious distinction as the first football club to go into administration under the new laws.

In 1987, a new buyer offered less than Osterman paid for the club. Luckily for the American, a strengthened pound took the sting out of the loss.

A new owner and manager took over, but Tranmere’s troubles weren’t over. To ensure survival they had to beat Exeter City on the last day of the season or be disastrously dumped out of the professional league.

Kickoff was delayed as 7,000 fans crammed into one of Prenton Park’s signature Friday night matches on May 8, 1987. Mark Palios was there, although in another bizarre twist he could have been on the field — for either side. Exeter previously tried to sign him, while injury-plagued Tranmere desperately searched for Palios to see if he could help out in the crucial match. “We didn’t have mobile phones in those days,” Palios jokes. “[Tranmere] should have asked the administrators — they knew where I was…”

As the sky darkened above the floodlights neither side could break the deadlock — until six minutes from time, when Ian Muir’s pinpoint cross was headed home by defender Gary Williams. At the final whistle, the delirious crowd poured onto the pitch.

After this fairytale escape, new manager John King — another former Tranmere player, who coined the “deadly submarine” nickname — kicked off a resurgence in the 1990s. The team went to multiple finals at Wembley, rising through the divisions and almost surfacing alongside Liverpool and Everton in the Premier League.

Ian Muir (right), signed by Frank Worthington and still Tranmere’s top scorer, celebrates the first of Tranmere’s many trips to the hallowed Wembley Stadium in the 1990s.

Sadly the golden era didn’t last, and in 2015 a run-down Tranmere sank out of the professional league entirely. Under different leadership that could have destroyed the club, but Mark and Nicola Palios had a plan to stay afloat. They developed new revenue streams which didn’t rely on a benefactor’s deep pockets, earned money from the stadium not just on matchdays, and built on the club’s standing in the community with training schemes for vulnerable youth. “The business model I’ve tried to produce is football-agnostic,” Palios explains. “So if I go, the business stays.”

The club is into phase three of the Palios plan: tempting investors. Palios contemplates leveraging the local area’s rich footballing heritage for projects such as a hotel, and perhaps even leaving Prenton Park (an idea that backfired for Osterman). Palios has his eye on building a new stadium at the £4.5 billion Wirral Waters dockland regeneration scheme, one of the largest development projects in Europe.

Tranmere returned to Wembley in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019, when Connor Jennings scored another last-gasp goal to secure Tranmere a second successive promotion.

Palios notes these long-term plans are “embryonic” and depend on factors like promotion to higher leagues, millions added to the bottom line, and major investors.

“It’s a way off,” Palios says of his potential vision for the future, “but if somebody comes in with serious money, you have to have a business plan. And the one thing I won’t do is limit ambition.”

To bring things full circle in terms of foreign backers, the Palios’ have shared photos of themselves courting international investment since this interview. This time Tranmere’s seeking funding from soccer-mad Indonesian businessman Simon Nainggolan, also known as Simon N.

The chaos at Bury and Bolton Wanderers in 2019 shows how precarious the football business can be even with TV money and global investment. At Tranmere, smart commercial decisions and dedicated supporters kept the club alive. To fans’ delight, under manager Micky Mellon — yet another former player — the team won promotion in 2018 and again in 2019 (only to be summarily relegated again when the Covid pandemic ended the next season early).

Devoted Tranmere Rovers fans celebrate.

Bruce Osterman still practices law, although he stopped playing soccer at 60. “If I had to do it all again I would,” he says of his experience with Tranmere. “No foreigner had ever done this before, and I met a lot of great people. It was an adventure for me.”

For today’s US-based investment consortiums, owning a sports team is all about profit. For Bruce Osterman, it was an adventure. And for Mark Palios, sport offers a unique combination of both business and passion. When fans tell him they’re proud of the club, he says, “that’s the reward.”

Facebook eyes sports for its next push in online events

A pay-per-view-like option for sports leagues wouldn’t be out of the question, apparently.

The next sports event you watch may be on Facebook.

The social network launched its paid online events product last summer, inviting some people running Facebook pages to use tools designed to create, promote, host and monetize virtual live events. Since launch, event hosts have received 100% of revenue from ticket sales through Facebook Pay. However, that is set to expire in August, after which Facebook may take a cut.

Facebook is reportedly targeting smaller leagues and sports events since the top sports leagues — such as the National Football League and National Basketball Association — are restricted by broadcast media rights. The social network sees potential for monetizing things outside of games, such as team practices or behind-the-scenes videos, Shaw told CNBC.

A Facebook spokesperson on Wednesday said the company’s paid online events feature is available to all publishers, and sports is one area where it’s being adopted.

NHL in 2021: How to watch and stream hockey without cable

The season may be young, but some of the goals have already been highlight-worthy. Pull on your team’s sweater and we’ll show you how to stream all the action.

Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano of the Anaheim Ducks celebrate their astonishing goal.

TNT will broadcast 50 NHL games, including the outdoor Winter Classic, Stadium Series and Heritage Classic. TNT will also air half of the Stanley Cup playoffs. ESPN or ABC will air 25 games along with half of the playoffs and all of the Stanley Cup Finals, while ESPN Plus and Hulu will stream 75 exclusive matchups. The NHL’s out-of-market streaming service, formerly known as NHL.TV, moves to ESPN Plus for no extra charge.

So what does all this mean for hockey fans desperately looking to stream their team’s games? The good news is that you don’t need cable to watch hockey this year, but it still might be the easiest and cheapest choice depending on where you live.

Read more: NFL 2021: How to watch and stream football, RedZone this season without cable

Die-hard sports fans are beholden to regional sports networks, or RSNs, that carry the majority of the games for their local team. These RSNs are usually included in local cable packages, so most cable subscribers never have to worry about gaining access to the broadcasts on these channels: They can simply turn on the TV and watch the game.

Cord-cutting hockey fans have a tougher path. Because of rights agreements, most live TV streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV don’t carry many RSNs. DirecTV Stream is the exception. It has nearly every RSN, particularly the Bally Sports channels (formerly Fox Sports) offered by Sinclair, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan.

Read more: DirecTV Stream review: Expensive, but the best option for streaming NBA and NHL

Ultimately, depending on location, getting a cable subscription that includes ESPN, TNT and the local RSN might actually be cheaper and easier for you than streaming — especially if it’s bundled with the home internet you’ll likely be getting anyway.

Whether or not you have cable, ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service is great for casual fans and is a must-have accessory for the zealots. It costs $7 a month or $70 a year and shows all out-of-market games along with up to 75 exclusive ESPN-produced telecasts per year. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus. Nevertheless, this is a huge savings for long-time NHL.TV users, as the all-access package used to cost subscribers $145 a year.

Even better for hockey fans, ESPN Plus just reached a deal to show 130 Kontinental Hockey League games — Russia’s top hockey league — including the playoffs and the Gagarin Cup finals. This is on top of ESPN’s NCAA college hockey coverage. That’s a lot of hockey for a little more than half the price of the old NHL.TV package.

Disney is also planning to show exclusive games on Hulu, so the $14-a-month Disney bundle might end up being an even better buy for hockey fans who also love TV and Disney/Marvel/Star Wars.

Those looking to just get ESPN Plus to watch their local team’s games will be out of luck, however. Most fans are in-market, meaning they follow the local team, and RSNs have broadcast exclusivity in the region that they cover. That means local NHL games are blacked out on ESPN Plus.

If you’re living in Philadelphia for example, you won’t be able to watch Flyers games on ESPN Plus. The same goes for Rangers fans in New York, Bruins fans in Boston and so on. The only way to watch most of those home team games in your home market is to get a service that has the local RSN, respectively NBC Sports Philadelphia, MSG or NESN.

Services like ESPN Plus use IP addresses to block out games in viewers’ regions — you’ll just get a black screen if you try to watch those games. That’s why ESPN Plus is ideal for casual fans who just love a good game, or superfans who want to follow one or more of the teams based in cities other than their own, aka out-of-market teams, but is less useful for fans of the local team.

Read our full review of ESPN Plus.

For those determined to watch their local hockey team without a cable or satellite TV subscription, a live TV streaming service is the best bet. While it is pricey, DirecTV Stream is the best option for most people, particularly those where the local games air on Bally Sports networks.

Below is a chart of all of the NHL teams in the United States and their corresponding RSNs.

Note: None of the US-based services carries the RSNs for the Canadian hockey teams. That means fans of the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks need to use ESPN Plus to watch all the games that are not either on your local RSN or on a US national broadcast.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: If you don’t recognize the name of some of these channels, don’t worry. The Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s and renamed them.

The NHL Network, run by the league, is still available as a stand-alone station. This season the network will air 90 games that will be considered national for those out-of-market. This means that you will still be able to watch your local team play on your RSN, but viewers around the country will need the NHL Network in order to watch the game as it will be blacked out on ESPN Plus. Fans might be able to save some money if they’re willing to miss out on the handful of games on the NHL Network.

The NHL Network is not included in many basic streaming services or cable packages and is not available at all on Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV. If you want it, chances are you are going to pay extra for it.

Many cable and streaming services group NHL Network into a multinetwork sports bundle. For example, Sling’s Sports Extra bundle costs $11 per month on top of a Sling Orange package and includes the NHL Network along with 13 other sports channels like NFL RedZone.

FuboTV includes the NHL Network in its $8-per-month Fubo Extra package. This can be purchased alongside any of Fubo’s subscription offerings, though Fubo Extra is included in the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier.

Lastly, Direct TV Stream users can only get the NHL Network if they subscribe to the $95-per-month Ultimate or the $140-a-month Premier package.

DirecTV Stream is expensive. It’s the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, ABC, TNT and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area. The NHL Network is available starting at the $95-a-month Ultimate package.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 12 RSNs for hockey. It also includes ESPN, but not TBS — which might be a problem for some hockey fans. But you can add the NHL Network for an extra $7 a month with the Fubo Extra Package or pay for the $80-a-month Elite streaming tier that includes Fubo Extra. Check out which local networks and RSNs FuboTV offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers four RSNs for hockey, along with all of the national broadcasts. However, it lacks the option to get the NHL Network. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu Plus Live TV costs $65 a month and carries four RSNs for hockey along with ESPN, ABC,TBS and TNT, but not NHL Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch hockey. You can, however, use Sling to watch some national broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN and both plans offer TBS, but none of them gives you access to ABC. The NHL Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

Oh, Canadians, we know you love hockey and so does the NHL. But that means that you’re unable to participate in the league’s new deal with ESPN Plus. Instead, you’ll have to continue to pay more for a subscription to NHL Live for all of your out-of-market games. The service was offering early-bird pricing of CA$180, but that price jumped to CA$200 once the season started.

NHL Live has a nifty tool that will help you figure out exactly what games are available in your region with your subscription.

Cord-cutters in Canada might also need Sportsnet NOW at CA$15 per month and TSN Direct at CA$20 per month to get their local games.

NFL heads to Twitter Spaces to produce content for the 2021 season

The NFL is taking to Twitter Spaces to talk football throughout the 2021 season and beyond.

“The commitment to Twitter Spaces represents another innovative step forward in the longstanding partnership between the NFL and Twitter,” said Blake Stuchin, the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development. “We’re excited to bring NFL fans a new way to engage with live audio ahead of our biggest events of the year and every week throughout the NFL season.”

The news comes on the heels of the NFL’s previous partnership with the Twitter Spaces rival Clubhouse, which saw the league host live audio content on the platform during the 2021 NFL draft in May. Moving forward, the league says to expect to see live audio content like that, including during upcoming drafts, exclusively on Twitter Spaces.

Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort: Start time, how to watch or stream online, Trump commentary

Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort are fighting today! Alongside Anderson Silva with Trump on commentary.

Apparently, Trump will be commentating? 2021 is a helluva year.

Originally, legendary fighter Oscar De La Hoya, 48, who retired in 2009, was set to fight Brazilian ex-UFC champion Vitor Belfort, 44, in an exhibition bout. But earlier this month, De La Hoya posted a video shot from a hospital bed. He has COVID-19 and can’t fight.

“I have contracted Covid and am not going to be able to fight next weekend,” De La Hoya tweeted. “Preparing for this comeback has been everything to me over the last months, & I want to thank everyone for their tremendous support.”

Evander Holyfield, 58, agreed to step in and fight Belfort. Holyfield turns 59 on Oct. 19.

The event begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The event was supposed to take place at Staples Center in De La Hoya’s hometown of Los Angeles, but it’s been moved to The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. According to a report from ESPN, the California State Athletic Commission refused to sanction Holyfield-Belfort.

The coast-to-coast move certainly makes it more convenient for the Florida-based former president, who reportedly will be at the fight in person.

To watch the fight night on pay-per-view, go to Fite TV to purchase the $49.99 package, which includes unlimited replays until Dec. 11, 2021. Or order it through your existing cable, satellite or telecommunications provider.

To hear the Trumps’ commentary during each match, viewers will need to use the secondary audio function (SAP) on their cable box or TV set, pay-per-view provider iNDemand said in a statement.

Donald Trump is hardly new to combat sports. He’s a longtime friend of Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Trump’s past involvement with hosting major boxing events at his hotels and casinos earned him a place in New Jersey’s Boxing Hall of Fame.

For the Sept. 11 event, the Trumps will offer commentary on all four of the evening’s fights. But they’re not the only soundtrack available. Viewers can pick between the Trumps narrating the fight, or regular commentators Jim Lampley and Shawn Porter.

Here’s everyone fighting on the card…

NFL 2021: How to watch, stream football and RedZone this season without cable

The NFL season may be past its midway point, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stream the rest of the season.

The only way to get a full football experience is to have a whole litany of channels from your TV provider. Sunday NFC games are largely on Fox, AFC games are on CBS and Sunday Night Football is on NBC. Monday Night Football is only on ESPN. Though Fox has most Thursday night games (with additional streaming on Amazon Prime Video), there are several that are available only on NFL Network.

With all that in mind, we offer our recommendations for the best way to watch NFL without cable.

Read more: YouTube TV vs. Hulu vs. Sling TV vs. Philo vs. FuboTV vs. AT&T TV: 100 channels compared

Our pick from last year remains our go-to choice in 2021.

At $65 per month each, FuboTV’s Starter plan, Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV check all the NFL boxes. Local channels CBS, NBC and Fox are included in many markets, as are ESPN and the NFL Network, so you can watch Sundays, Monday night and Thursday night.

Want to follow your fantasy team with RedZone? That’s available on all three services as part of an add-on. If you’re a YouTube TV subscriber, you can add the $11 per month Sports Plus add-on by clicking on your profile and going to Settings, then the Membership tab. FuboTV subscribers can go into My Profile and choose Manage Add-ons to get its $11-per-month Sports Plus with NFL RedZone offering.

After Hulu added the NFL Network in July, Hulu users can now add RedZone for $10 per month with its Sports add-on.

Both YouTube TV and FuboTV allow three people to watch at once (Hulu allows two live streams) and all three have apps on nearly every mobile device and major streaming platform, including Amazon Fire TV, Google TV, Roku and Apple TV.

While all three are largely similar, we like YouTube TV for its superior DVR (unlimited storage compared with 250 hours on FuboTV and 50 hours on Hulu) and that it, unlike Fubo, includes the Turner channels.

Both YouTube TV and FuboTV will stream Thursday Night Football games in 4K, but only Fubo includes the higher-quality broadcasts with its base package. To watch in 4K on YouTube TV you’ll need to spend another $20 per month.

Worth noting: YouTube TV and Hulu are each running promotions that drop their respective $65 monthly prices down to $55 per month for the first three months for new users. This should take you through much of the NFL regular season before the pricing jumps by $10 per month.

DirecTV Stream (formerly AT&T TV) offers most of the main broadcast channels, but starts at $70 per month and lacks NFL Network and RedZone.

Sling TV’s Orange and Blue plan for $50 a month gets you ESPN and the NFL Network, and, in select major markets, Fox and/or NBC, but you’ll still lack CBS. You can also add RedZone for $15 per month with the Sports Extra add-on.

A frequent fan-favorite method of following all the NFL action, RedZone is a way to catch every big play around the league. The cheapest road to RedZone is to get Sling TV Blue for $35 per month and add the $11 per month Sports Extra add-on.

This option can also be streamed on a host of devices including iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and web browsers.

Sling is currently offering a discount on the first month of Sling Blue, dropping the price to $10 for the main package.

Note: If you only subscribe to Sling’s Orange package you won’t be able to get RedZone in Sports Extra. Your base package needs to be either Sling Blue or its larger Sling Blue Plus Orange bundle for you to be able to get RedZone as an add-on. If you choose the latter, the Sports Extra add-on is $15 per month as you will also get additional channels like the SEC Network, ACC Network and PAC 12 Network.

Those looking to save some cash might want to check out Sling Blue for $35 a month. While it lacks ESPN, meaning you’ll miss out on Monday Night Football, in select markets you’ll be able to get Fox and NBC. The catch is that those markets are mainly in big cities, so if you live outside one of those areas, Sling Blue might not be for you.

You can also add RedZone through the company’s $11 per month Sports Extra add-on.

Fox, of course, broadcasts most NFC and Thursday night games (with the others on NFL Network and/or Amazon Prime Video), while NBC has Sunday Night Football. CBS, which broadcasts the bulk of AFC games, isn’t included on Sling at all. But an antenna can fill those local channel gaps.

Local and prime-time games will also be available to watch for free on your iOS or Android phone or tablet through the Yahoo Sports app. You cannot, however, cast this feed to your big screen.

There are some apps that offer CBS’ slate of Sunday AFC games live, including Paramount Plus’ Premium tier for $10 per month. Depending on where you live, however, your local CBS station (and those NFL games) might not be available. CBS offers livestreaming services in many markets; you can check for yourself if your area has live CBS streaming here.

An antenna is another option for getting CBS, as is watching on the Yahoo Sports app. And as we mentioned above, an over-the-air antenna connected to your TV provides another free option, no streaming required, as long as you have good reception.

The 2021 schedule of NFL Network games.

Thursday Night Football is probably the most complicated part of the NFL streaming schedule. Most games will be available on the NFL Network, Fox, Amazon Prime Video and Twitch.

A handful of games, however, are also being shown exclusively on the NFL Network, including the Week 5 London game between the Jets and Falcons, and the Week 15 Saturday doubleheader with matchups that are yet to be announced.

As mentioned above, if you want the NFL Network you’re going to need FuboTV, Hulu Plus Live TV, Sling TV Blue or YouTube TV or use the Yahoo Sports app.

NFL Sunday Ticket is still largely limited to DirecTV satellite subscribers, though those who live in buildings that can’t add a satellite dish can get a streaming version to watch football starting at $147 for its To Go package for the remaining two months of the season, or $210 for a Max package that includes the RedZone channel (a student version is also available at a discount). You can check your address on the Sunday Ticket site. Both packages have a one-week free trial.

The problem here, however, is even if you’re eligible it doesn’t include local games. You can only watch Sunday games that aren’t being broadcast on CBS, Fox or NBC in your area. They also won’t be helpful come playoff time — as you’ll need your local stations and ESPN to catch all those games.

For $65 a month, you’ll get all the major football channels with YouTube TV. Plus, RedZone is available for an extra $11 per month. Plug in your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC, Fox and the NFL Network. Enter your address here to see which local channels are available where you live.

Note: This version of Sling TV does not include ESPN. For that, you’ll need to switch to the similarly priced Orange plan or go for the combined $50 per month Orange and Blue bundle. RedZone is also available for an extra $11 per month.

Read our Sling TV review.

Those looking for CBS games will be able to stream them on Paramount Plus with its $10 per month Premium tier. You can check for yourself if your area has live CBS streaming here.

Most Thursday Night games, starting with Week 5 on October 7, will be available on Amazon Prime Video. For millions of Amazon Prime subscribers, the Prime Video channel is already included at no extra cost. But if you’re not a subscriber, it might be worth it to shell out the $9 a month for the stand-alone TV service fee.

Read our Amazon Prime Video review.

Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier 3: Is the fight still on?

Dustin Poirier has apologised for calling out McGregor and the fight is 100% back on.

Conor McGregor has become broiled in a new controversy.

Let’s try and explain this whole deal from the start.

In the wake of a dominant win against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in early 2020, Conor McGregor was itching to continue fighting throughout the remainder of the year. Unfortunately COVID-19 put a big dent in those plans.

The UFC continued putting on fight cards throughout 2020 and was one of the first sports in the US to come “back,” but it appeared as though the UFC was reluctant to put together another McGregor fight — most likely because fans couldn’t attend fights yet and the UFC makes a significant amount of money on live gates to see one of the sport’s biggest stars.

For comparison, the UFC might usually take in $1 million to $2 million in ticket sales for a regular event, while a McGregor fight with full attendance will bring in over $7 million from ticket sales alone.

So McGregor was left on the shelf.

Out of frustration McGregor took matters into his own hands, attempting to put together an exhibition bout with Poirier.

McGregor had faced Poirier before. In 2014, McGregor defeated Poirier via a devastating first round KO. But to remain active, McGregor offered to face off against Poirier in a second fight — albeit an exhibition — and donate $500,000 to The Good Fight Foundation, a nonprofit charity set up by Poirier to help those in need. Poirier agreed to the bout.

That got the UFC’s attention.

In the wake of those tweets the UFC set up a legitimate rematch between McGregor and Poirier under the UFC banner, but McGregor committed to the $500,000 donation he had promised regardless.

Given the outcome of their first fight, McGregor was heavily favored to beat Poirier in their rematch. In the leadup, the pair were extremely cordial — a stark contrast to the first fight, when McGregor was largely credited with beating Poirier mentally with an assault of cutting trash talk in the lead up to the contest.

But the second fight played out much differently. After compromising McGregor with punishing, debilitating calf kicks, Poirier knocked out McGregor, putting the pair at 1-1.

In interviews after the second fight, Poirier confirmed that McGregor’s people had reached out about the donation and thanked him face-to-face for the money McGregor intended to donate to The Good Fight Foundation.

A third fight between McGregor and Poirier was scheduled for July 10, with McGregor declaring there would be “no more Mr. Nice Guy” — in reference to the relaxed atmosphere between the two in the leadup to their second fight.

The cordial relationship between the pair quickly deteriorated. After a series of tweets back and forth, Poirier posted an explosive tweet accusing McGregor of not actually following through on the $500,000 donation he’d promised in the lead up to their second fight.

“That’s a fun prediction,” Poirier tweeted. “[Y]ou also predicted a donation to my foundation and you and your team stopped responding after the fight in January.”

That got McGregor’s attention. He claimed that communication stopped because he was waiting on specifics on plans for the money.

“We’ve been awaiting the plans for the money that never came,” he tweeted. “I do that with all my donations.”

After more back and forth, McGregor got more riled up, appearing to cancel the upcoming third fight, claiming he would “fight someone else” on July 10th.

Most likely the fight will go ahead and McGregor has made reference to making Poirier “pay” for “smearing” his name.

Plenty of others got involved, including McGregor’s manager Audie Attar.

McGregor has given heavily to charities in the past, donating 1 million euros to hospitals in Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic and invested a “significant amount” to help keep his childhood soccer club alive.

Attar claimed the donation was still going ahead.

After the twitter battle over the donation, McGregor initially started hinting he might look for another opponent for his July 10th fight.

But after the dust had settled, it was confirmed by all parties that the fight was back on.

ESPN’s MMA reporter Ariel Helwani confirmed the news with McGregor himself.

In an interesting twist, Poirier tweeted out an official apology for bringing up the charity issue in the first place.

“I jumped the gun and took my private matters between Conor and my foundation public,” he wrote in a statement. “My mistake, we live, we learn. Spreading positivity and doing good is my goal.”

MLB streaming 2021: Watch baseball’s pennant races live without cable

From DirecTV Stream to Bally Sports to MLB.TV to YouTube, there are plenty of ways to watch the last weeks of the Major League baseball season.

With about 15 games left in the season, MLB has again dropped the price of its MLB.TV season subscription, and there are also a few free ways to watch live baseball in September. You don’t need cable to watch your favorite team’s games, but your options depend on which team you follow and where you live.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has led the Toronto Blue Jays back into playoff contention, where they are fighting with the Yankees and Red Sox for a Wild Card spot.

There are two major ways to stream MLB games day in, day out without a cable or satellite TV subscription:

Depending on where you live, one of the major live TV streaming services could carry the channel that has your favorite team. Those channels, called regional sports networks, deliver almost all of the regular-season games live.

Most such services, however, carry only a handful of the 30 RSNs that show MLB games — and they’re typically the most expensive. DirecTV Stream carries the most RSNs, but you’ll need to spring for its $85-a-month plan; its basic $70-a-month plan doesn’t include RSNs. Sling TV, a service that costs $35 per month, doesn’t have any RSNs for baseball. If you’re a baseball fan who needs your team’s RSN, a cable subscription might actually be cheaper than streaming.

The other option is MLB.TV, a separate service that carries every game played by every team live. It’s great for hard-core fans in general. MLB.TV costs $27 for the remainder of the season.

The big catch with MLB.TV is the local blackout restriction: You can’t watch your local team’s games live. Instead, they become available about 90 minutes after the game ends. If you’re a Yankees fan in the New York area, for example, you can’t start to watch the Yankees game until an hour and a half after the final out. Other teams’ games aren’t blacked out live, which makes MLB.TV ideal for fans who want to follow one or more of the 28 or 29 teams based in other cities, aka out-of-market teams.

Due to MLB.TV’s blackout restriction, a live TV streaming service is the best bet for following your local team. Many services carry the RSN that has exclusive rights to every regular season game, but availability varies by location and service.

In addition to the RSNs listed below, live TV services carry most if not all of the major national networks — ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS — that regularly televise matchups from different teams around the league. Details are at the top of this article.

Here’s how the RSNs stack up on each service.

Some key takeaways:

One other note: Fox Sports RSNs have been rebranded as Bally Sports, because the channels are no longer owned by Fox but Sinclair, which has since partnered with casino group Bally’s to rename them. So, Fox Sports Ohio is now called Bally Sports Ohio and so on.

If you are looking to watch your local team night in and night out, DirecTV Stream is your best bet. It offers by far the most RSNs of the live TV streaming services. Philadelphia and Toronto are the only MLB cities whose RSN is not offered on DirecTV Stream. FuboTV is second with 10 RSNs, giving you only a one-in-three chance of getting your local RSN to watch baseball.

DirecTV Stream is the priciest of the five major live TV streaming services, but it’s also the one with the most RSNs. Its cheapest, $70-a-month Plus package includes ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS. You’ll need to move up to the $85-a-month Choice plan to get MLB Network and any available RSN. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels and RSNs are available in your area.

Major League Baseball’s official streaming service is great for following your favorite team if you live outside its TV market. Because of the 90-minute blackout described above, however, it’s much less useful for following your local home team.

MLB.TV subscribers also miss games that are broadcast nationally on ESPN, Fox, FS1, MLB Network and TBS. Those games are blacked out on MLB.TV, which can be particularly irksome for fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and other big-market teams that are frequently selected for national broadcasts.

The price of MLB.TV at the start of the season was $130. With only two weeks left, that has dropped to $27. As a subscriber, you can watch out-of-market games live or on demand, and the in-market (home) team with a 90-minute delay from the end of the game.

With MLB.TV, you can also listen to home and away radio broadcasts. The radio broadcasts aren’t subject to the blackout rule, so you can listen to home team games live. MLB.TV also includes a ton of video content, including classic games, baseball documentaries and old This Week in Baseball episodes.

Even if you don’t subscribe, you can still watch baseball with the MLB app. It offers one Free Game of the Day that anyone can stream live for free.

Read our MLB.TV review.

ESPN’s stand-alone streaming service costs $6 a month or $60 a year and shows one game nearly every day of the six-month MLB season. The catch is that your local team’s games are blacked out when they appear on ESPN Plus, similar to MLB.TV. Also, the games shown on ESPN Plus are not exclusive to ESPN Plus and are also available on MLB.TV.

Aside from DirecTV Stream, the odds are long that a live TV streaming service carries the RSN for your local team’s games, which makes the other four services better bets for watching nationally televised games. YouTube also shows a game a week for free.

FuboTV costs $65 per month and offers 10 RSNs for baseball. It also includes ESPN, Fox and FS1 but not TBS. You can add MLB Network for an extra $11 a month with the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone add-on. Check out which local networks and RSNs it offers here.

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and offers five RSNs for baseball, along with all five channels for national broadcasts. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available in your area.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and carries five RSNs for baseball along with ESPN, Fox, FS1 and TBS, but not MLB Network. Click the “View all channels in your area” link at the bottom of its welcome page to see which local networks and RSNs are available where you live.

Sling Blue currently lacks a single RSN to watch baseball. You can, however, use Sling to watch national baseball broadcasts. Sling TV’s Orange plan includes ESPN, and the Blue plan includes Fox and FS1. Both plans offer TBS. The MLB Network is available as part of the Sports Extra add-on, which costs $11 a month for either the Blue or Orange plan or $15 for the combined Orange-and-Blue plan. The individual plans cost $35 a month each, and the Orange-and-Blue plan costs $50 a month. You can see which local channels you get here.

Each live TV streaming service offers a free trial, allows you to cancel anytime and requires a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live TV streaming services guide.

For the third year, YouTube streams some MLB games for free. For the 2021 season, 21 games will be shown as the MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube. Two games remain on the schedule

For Yankees fans in the team’s market, Amazon will stream 21 Yankees games on Prime Video this season. While you don’t need to live in the Bronx to stream these games, the area where they’re available is limited — New York state, Connecticut, northeast Pennsylvania, and north and central New Jersey. You’ll need to be a Prime member, too.

Three Prime Video games remain:

The MLB At Bat app is great on phones and even better on tablets. If you bought an MLB.TV subscription (as outlined above), you can log in to your account and watch games live in the app. There is a cheaper subscription option for use with the mobile app only, but it’s limited in what it lets you watch.

You can buy an At Bat subscription via the MLB At Bat app. It costs $20 a year (or $3 a month) and lets you listen to the home or away radio broadcasts — baseball is the only sport I can listen to on the radio — and watch one game per day during the season. You can’t choose which game you want to watch; you’re stuck with the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day.

Olympics opening ceremony memes: Tonga still doesn’t give a shirt

But this year the shirtless, glossy Tongan taekwondo athlete has competition from Vanuatu. Plus: What’s with the team entrance order?

Malia and Pita lead Team Tonga during the opening ceremony. Um, yes, some viewers did in fact notice Pita’s shiny torso.

Things were a little different this year: Taufatofua wore a face mask, and he was joined by Malia Paseka, Tonga’s first female Olympian to compete in taekwondo. He congratulated his teammate and fellow flag bearer.

“A special congratulations to our Flag Bearer, Malia Paseka,” Taufatofua tweeted. “She did an amazing job leading the way for more participation of females and youth in sport in Tonga. So proud to walk along side our first ever female taekwondo Olympian!”

Fans were drawn to the Tonga team.

“Clearly the best pair of flag bearers in the Parade of Nations,” wrote one Twitter user. “You both are amazing!”

Wrote another, “**BREAKING** TONGA HAS WON THE OLYMPICS. We can all go home now.”

This year, Tonga wasn’t alone in the oiled-up athlete arena. Rower Riilio Rii from Vanuatu also pulled off the shirtless and glossy look.

“Pita, we see you and we raise you,” the official Olympics Twitter account wrote.

The countries usually file into the stadium in alphabetical order. But when you watch this year, you may wonder if you even know the alphabet. That’s because it’s in the order used in Japan.

There are also some other variations. Greece, home of the original Olympics, leads the pack, followed by the Refugee Team, athletes from troubled countries who’ve mostly been training in Kenya. The USA marches in near the end, followed by France and then Japan, the host country. (If you want to follow along, Wikipedia has the order.)

Many who were expecting the teams to march in ABC order were thrown.

“This order is bonkers,” wrote one Twitter user. “I clearly need to revisit the alphabet.”

The various sports were also displayed by performers dressed in white and blue and dubbed “human pictograms,” who re-create the icons used to depict each sport.

Wrote one Twitter user, “This live action Wii sports menu was unexpected but very much appreciated.”

Said another, “Give the pictogram team a GOLD.”

The opening ceremonies will be rebroadcast in the US on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT. The Olympics run through Aug. 8.

NFL 2021: How to watch Packers vs. Ravens, Saints vs. Buccaneers, RedZone and Week 15 on Sunday

The NFL action continues on Sunday.

Here’s how to watch Sunday’s games, as well as the rest of the NFL season, with or without cable.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on Sunday Night Football tonight.

Major streaming providers such as YouTube TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, FuboTV and DirecTV Stream offer nearly all the major channels you will need for football. This includes CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as ESPN, which is needed for Monday Night Football.

Sling TV offers NBC and Fox in some markets with its Blue package, but it lacks CBS. It’s also worth noting that to get ESPN you will either need to switch to its Orange package or go for its Blue and Orange bundle.

Those who are fine with watching on phones or tablets, meanwhile, can also use the Yahoo Sports app to stream the games that are broadcast on your local stations for free.

All of those services above, with the exception of DirecTV Stream, offer the option to get RedZone and the NFL Network. RedZone will usually require you to spend another $10 or $11 per month as an add-on.

If RedZone is all you care about, the cheapest option is getting Sling TV Blue for $35 a month and adding the $11-per-month Sports Extra add-on. This gets you all the football channels with the exception of ESPN and CBS.

If you do have cable or satellite, here is where you can find the NFL Network on a few of the bigger providers. Note: The exact channel numbers may change depending on your area, so for best results check your channel guide.

Most Thursday Night Football games will be broadcast on Fox, NFL Network and Amazon Prime Video. Check out the full Thursday Night Football schedule here and our recommendations for the best ways to watch NFL without cable throughout the season.

Paramount Plus offers live CBS feeds with its Premium tier for $10 a month. Depending on where you live, however, your local CBS station (and those NFL games) might not be available. CBS offers livestreaming services in many markets; you can check if your area has live CBS streaming here.

All of NBC’s regular-season NFL games will be available to stream on its Peacock streaming service, so long as you pay for one of its Premium subscriptions.

There are two of these tiers, a $5-a-month Premium option that has ads (when watching nonlive content) and a $10-per-month Premium Plus option that will stream nonlive content ad-free (and let you download some content to watch offline).

YouTube TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major football channels, with RedZone available for an extra $11 a month. Plug in your ZIP code on its welcome page to see which local networks are available in your area.

Note that YouTube TV is offering a $15 discount, bringing the price down to $50 per month, during its contract dispute with Disney.

Read our YouTube TV review.

Hulu with Live TV costs $65 a month and includes all the major football channels, with RedZone available for an extra $10 a month. Click the “View channels in your area” link on its welcome page to see which local channels are offered in your ZIP code.

Read our Hulu with Live TV review.

FuboTV costs $65 a month and has all the major NFL channels with RedZone available as an $11-per-month add-on. Click here to see which local channels you get.

Read our FuboTV review.

Sling TV’s $35-a-month Blue plan includes NBC, Fox and the NFL Network. Enter your address here to see which local channels are available where you live.

Note: This version of Sling TV does not include ESPN. For that, you’ll need to switch to the similarly priced Orange plan or go for the combined $50-per-month Orange and Blue bundle. RedZone is also available for an extra $11 a month.

Read our Sling TV review.

Formerly AT&T TV, DirecTV Stream’s basic $70-a-month package includes nearly all the major channels for football with the notable exceptions of RedZone and the NFL Network. You can use its channel lookup tool to see which local channels are available where you live.

Read our DirecTV Stream review.

Those looking for CBS games will be able to stream them on Paramount Plus with its $10 per month Premium tier. You can check for yourself if your area has live CBS streaming here.

Peacock will show NBC’s full slate of Sunday Night Football games. You will, however, need one of the service’s Premium plans to watch Sunday Night Football live and full-game replays, though highlights are available on the free tier.

The ad-supported Premium plan costs $5 a month, and the ad-free Premium Plus plan costs $10 a month.

Read our Peacock review.

Most Thursday Night games will be available on Amazon Prime Video. For millions of Amazon Prime subscribers, the Prime Video channel is already included at no extra cost. But if you’re not a subscriber, it might be worth it to shell out the $9 a month for the stand-alone TV service fee.

All of the live TV streaming services above offer free trials (except Peacock, which just has a free tier that doesn’t stream live NFL games), allow you to cancel anytime and require a solid internet connection. Looking for more information? Check out our live-TV streaming services guide.