Saracens have brought in a major communications company to help manage the public fallout of the salary cap scandal, with the Premiership champions yet to formally appeal against their points deduction and fine.
Sarries are set to be docked 35 points and fined £5.36m after an inquiry into business dealings between owner Nigel Wray and some of the club’s players.
Journalists were banned from asking director of rugby Mark McCall questions about the salary cap breach during Wednesday’s regular media briefing.
The news conference was called to preview their match against Racing 92 on Saturday, when they will begin the defence of their European Champions Cup crown.
FTI Consulting, a global business advisory firm, were present at the briefing and will oversee how Sarries manage the situation publicly.
McCall confirmed the club have until Monday, 18 November to officially lodge their appeal.
In a statement issued on the same day the sanctions were announced, owner Wray said it felt as though “the rug is being completely pulled out from under our feet” and vowed to “appeal against all the findings”.
Premiership Rugby has said a review “can only be on the basis that there has been an error of law, the decision is irrational or that there has been some procedural unfairness”.
What did McCall actually say on Wednesday?
Former Ireland international McCall said it will be a “heck of a challenge” if the 35-point deduction stands, adding that it would be about the Premiership holders “trying to avoid relegation”.
“It’s a challenge we haven’t had to experience before as a group and I think one that we’ll get our head around and relish if we have to do that,” he told BBC Sport.
“We’re in a bit of adversity at the moment and I think over the years when adversity has come our way we’ve dealt with it pretty well.
“This is obviously probably adversity at a different level to what we’ve been used to before.”
Saracens have won six of their opening eight games in all competitions and are likely to be without most of their England World Cup players for their European opener in France, with several yet to return to training.
“I genuinely don’t think it’s realistic that people can jump from being away for five months into something completely different,” McCall added.
“For us to try and tell them playing against Racing’s the biggest game – they played a World Cup final two weeks ago – so we’ve been having some individual conversations to see how they genuinely feel and try to make some decisions with them, rather than for them, as to when they come back.”
What does it all mean for their European campaign?
Saracens centre Alex Lozowski, who spoke to the media after McCall, insisted the club can “absolutely” defend their European crown, adding they are “not going to lie down and give it away”.
But European Professional Club Rugby director general Vincent Gaillard earlier said the sanction “isn’t good news” for their tournament.
“Our concern rests in their capacity to put everything into the European Cup knowing that they will have to fight all the way to avoid relegation,” said Gaillard.
“Perhaps other clubs will be happy that they are going to be a bit wounded but it’s not good news for us.
“We would prefer that they are thoroughly behind the competition.”
England international Lozowski said the Saracens squad had become accustomed to not being popular within the sport, after the silverware they have won over recent years.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve been pretty much been universally disliked so it’s not really new to us,” he said.
“That’s what happens when you have success and win championships. What happened has, I guess, made that a bit worse but we are used to being disliked so it’s nothing new for us.
“The target on our backs may be a little bit bigger now but looking at the people we have I’m pretty sure everyone’s ready to deal with that.”
What’s the background?
The charges relate to a failure to disclose player payments in each of the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Saracens previously claimed they “readily comply” with salary cap rules and were able to spend above the £7m cap because of the high proportion – almost 60% – of home-grown players in their squad.
The Allianz Park outfit have several of the game’s biggest stars on their books, including seven of the 31-man squad that represented England at the World Cup in Japan.
One of the dominant forces in northern hemisphere club rugby, Sarries have won five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cups since 2010-11 – with two of those domestic titles coming in the timeframe that Premiership Rugby have been investigating.
Their three European successes have all come within the past four seasons.
Son Heung-min scored twice following a difficult few days to take Tottenham towards the Champions League knockout stages by thrashing Red Star Belgrade.
Spurs lie second in Group B, four points clear of Red Star in third, knowing one victory from their final two games will ensure progression to the last 16.
Forward Son, who was left “devastated” by his foul that led to a horrific ankle injury for Everton’s Andre Gomes on Sunday, netted twice in the second half, lashing home a finish from an angle and tapping in from close range.
The South Korean did not celebrate his first goal; instead he clasped his hands and bowed his head.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side went ahead in the first half courtesy of the impressive Giovani Lo Celso, who clipped home a finish on his first start for the club following an almighty goalmouth scramble in which Spurs hit the post and bar. Christian Eriksen added a fourth late on.
Red Star had chances of their own but could not find a way past Paulo Gazzaniga, with the Spurs goalkeeper saving sharply off Milan Pavkov and Rajiv van La Parra.
It was Spurs’ first away win since their thrilling Champions League semi-final comeback against Ajax last season.
Son on song for Spurs
Tottenham’s overall form this season has been poor, losing four of their 11 matches in the Premier League and suffering a 7-2 humiliation at home by Bayern Munich.
But the north Londoners have recovered from that demolition in outstanding fashion, scoring nine goals in back-to-back games against Red Star.
Their victory in Belgrade was all the more impressive as the home side tend to provide a stern examination for the visitors, losing just twice in their previous 21 games in Europe at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, including an impressive victory over eventual winners Liverpool last season.
Son was sent off for tripping Gomes in the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Sunday and was visibly distraught by the injury but Pochettino said he was “in a very good way” to play and his two goals showed it.
For the first, he received a pass inside the area from Dele Alli, worked it onto his left foot and smashed a finish into the roof of the net. With the events of Sunday still on his mind, Son opted to remain subdued.
His second finished off a neat team move, converting from close range following Danny Rose’s low cross to the back post.
Midfielder Eriksen came off the bench to round off an excellent night for Spurs by deftly clipping in with five minutes remaining.
Lo Celso displays his potential
Argentine midfielder Lo Celso joined Spurs on loan – with an option to buy – from Real Betis on transfer deadline day in August, but has been restricted to six substitute appearances having struggled with a hip problem.
In Serbia, he showed a glimpse of his potential with an all-round, energetic performance, seemingly shaking of his early season injury issues.
During his 86 minutes on the pitch, Lo Celso touched the ball more times (102) and made more tackles (five) than any other player on the pitch, while he won the ball back eight times. He made 79 passes with an accuracy of 90%.
The former Paris St-Germain player finished off the opening goal well, taking a touch and stroking in from six yards out but not before an incredibly chaotic period of play.
Lo Celso had slipped Harry Kane through on the goal and the skipper toe-poked his effort against the post, while Son saw his follow-up cleared off the goalline.
The Red Star defenders failed to clear and the ball eventually reached Kane again at the back post, but his volley across goal was somehow diverted onto the crossbar by Son from a yard out.
Again Red Star were unable to get the ball to safety, allowing Lo Celso to claim his first goal for Tottenham.
Man of the match – Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Spurs’ scoring run – the stats
- Tottenham’s victory was their first away win in any competition in nine games this season (D5 L3).
- Red Star Belgrade have suffered their heaviest home defeat in their European Cup/Champions League history.
- Tottenham have become the first English team to beat Red Star away from home in a Champions League/European Cup tie.
- Red Star have conceded more goals than any other side after four rounds of matches in this season’s Champions League (13).
- Tottenham have now scored in each of their past 13 Champions League away games – only Chelsea (13 between March 2000 and April 2005) can match such a run among English sides in the competition.
- Giovani Lo Celso scored his sixth goal in his past eight appearances across the Europa League/Champions League.
Marcus Rashford scored a sensational free-kick winner as Manchester United beat Chelsea to reach the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
The England striker gave United the lead with a penalty after Marcos Alonso fouled Daniel James.
Michy Batshuayi equalised for Chelsea, who had won their last seven games, with a great run from the halfway line and finish from outside the box.
But Rashford won the game with a swerving 30-yard free-kick.
The quarter-final draw will take place on Thursday at about 08:45 GMT on BBC Radio 2’s Zoe Ball Breakfast Show.
United’s decision to name strong team pays off
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named a strong side, saying he wanted to “keep the momentum going” – with 19-year-old Brandon Williams the only unfamiliar youngster to start.
And it worked as they won for a third game in a row, all away from home – after a run of six games without a win.
Scott McTominay had already gone close to an opener when Rashford – who missed a penalty in Sunday’s 3-1 win at Norwich in the Premier League – sent Willy Caballero the wrong way from the spot.
Chelsea made six changes from Saturday’s win at Burnley and did not look their usual selves. Christian Pulisic, who scored a hat-trick at Turf Moor, failed to have much of an impact, although he did drag a shot wide in the second half.
Batshuayi’s equaliser was wonderful as he flicked Caballero’s long kick on with his head, before beating Harry Maguire for pace and smashing home from 25 yards.
But the headlines belong to Rashford, who turns 22 on Thursday, who settled the game with a fantastic free-kick which had shades of United great Cristiano Ronaldo.
Chelsea’s worse home record than last season – match stats
- Chelsea have lost three games at Stamford Bridge in 2019-20, one more than they did in the whole of the 2018-19 campaign.
- Manchester United have recorded back-to-back away wins at Chelsea for the first time since February 1998.
- United have won seven of their last eight League Cup matches against Premier League opposition.
- Marcus Rashford has scored five goals against Chelsea, his most against a single opponent. Four of those have come this season
- Since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge on 22 December, Manchester United have taken more (17) and scored more (12) penalties than any other Premier League team in all competitions.
- Michy Batshuayi equalled his longest scoring streak for Chelsea, having netted in three consecutive games for the third time for the Blues (previously doing so in May and September 2017).
- Chelsea (24 years 166 days) named their youngest starting XI in a League Cup fixture since October 2012, which was also against Manchester United (24y 7d).
Josh Brownhill scored a dramatic 98th-minute winner as 10-man Bristol City came from behind to beat Charlton and go fourth in the Championship.
The game looked destined to finish as a draw until midfielder Brownhill latched on to substitute Kasey Palmer’s lofted pass and drilled a left-foot shot past Charlton keeper Dillon Phillips.
After a lacklustre first half, the Addicks took the lead when Macauley Bonne beat Daniel Bentley to Beram Kayal’s through ball at the corner of the box, took the ball past the Robins keeper and slid it home from a tight angle.
But Bristol City levelled when the visitors failed to cut out a looping cross by Brownhill and another substitute, Famara Diedhiou, headed home from close range.
The Senegal striker was then shown a straight red card four minutes from time for kicking out at Jason Pearce while the Charlton defender was on the floor.
Before Brownhill’s late winner, Bristol City looked set to slip to 10th. Instead, they moved within three points of leaders West Bromwich Albion and are only behind third-placed Sheffield Wednesday on goal difference.
Brownhill registered the only effort on target – a tame long-range shot – of a cagey first half, which was interrupted by injuries to Charlton midfielders Sam Field and Jake Forster-Caskey.
But there was no shortage of chances after the break, with Bonne curling a shot wide of the far post and Kayal and Conor Gallagher both being denied by Bentley.
Bonne’s opener on the counter-attack came after the home side’s best spell of pressure as Andi Weimann saw a shot from eight yards turned over the bar by Phillips, while Diedhiou and Rodri both had efforts scrambled off the line following a corner.
Phillips then pulled off two more fine stops to keep out a fierce Weimann drive and a Palmer header, before Diedhiou nodded in the equaliser.
Brownhill then popped up in the box to slam home to winner and spark wild celebrations around Ashton Gate.
Bristol City head coach Lee Johnson told BBC Radio Bristol:
“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m not sure if it trumps the Manchester United feeling (after beating them in the League Cup quarter-finals in 2017).
“Charlton are a good side and you can see why they’ve picked up a lot of results in the Championship.
“I knew I was going to get the howls when I made the sub (Diedhiou for Niclas Eliasson) because I understood that it wouldn’t have looked like it made sense. I wanted to match them with a diamond and get width from our full-backs. I’m so pleased of the quality and the bravery to keep playing in the second half.”
Charlton manager Lee Bowyer told BBC Radio London:
“I thought we deserved to win so to come away with nothing is hard for the lads. I can’t fault them as they gave everything.
“We have to learn from this, because we have to be more ruthless.
“We got into so many good areas in the first half and we didn’t punish them – and they are a good side. I am gutted.
“In this league this is what happens – if you don’t take your chances then you always give the others a chance to come back into it.”
Celebrity Extinction Rebellion supporters have admitted in an open letter being “hypocrites” over their high-carbon lifestyles.
But stars including Benedict Cumberbatch, who last week joined London protests, called for “systemic change” to the “fossil-fuel economy”.
It comes as Extinction Rebellion was granted permission to challenge a London-wide protest ban in court.
Several demonstrators have been arrested as hundreds defied the ban.
More than 100 celebrity supporters of Extinction Rebellion signed the letter to the media, which urges the media to focus on “the real story” of the climate and ecological emergency.
Spice Girl Mel B, comedian Steve Coogan, musician Sir Bob Geldof, actor Sir Mark Rylance, model Lily Cole and Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis, among others, all confessed their culpability in the climate crisis.
The letter says: “Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites. You’re right.
“We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints.
“Like you, and everyone else, we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.”
But they called on the media to focus on the “more urgent story” of life on earth dying in a sixth mass extinction.
They said they cannot ignore the call of young people such as Greta Thunberg to “fight for their already devastated future”, even if it means putting themselves “in your firing line”.
Meanwhile, police have begun making arrests after Extinction Rebellion activists defied an order banning them from demonstrating anywhere in London.
About 500 protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square, some of whom covered their mouths with black tape to symbolise the silencing of their protest.
Within a couple of hours, the protest broke up and large numbers dispersed. Police arrested a small group who were blocking Whitehall, BBC correspondent Andy Moore said.
Among those arrested were Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley and George Monbiot, the author and Guardian journalist.
As he was arrested, Mr Monbiot said: “We have to make a stand against the destruction of our life support systems.”
An application for a judicial review of the ban was accepted by the High Court, according to an Extinction Rebellion spokesman.
It means the case can go ahead, with an initial hearing scheduled for Thursday.
The claimants include the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and Baroness Jenny Jones, Labour MPs Clive Lewis and David Drew, and Mr Monbiot.
Extinction Rebellion argues the ban is disproportionate and an unprecedented curtailment of the right to free speech and free assembly.
The group hopes the High Court will quash the decision to implement the blanket ban.
It follows the Metropolitan Police announcing new restrictions under Section 14 of the Public Order Act, which required protesters to disperse by 21:00 BST or risk arrest.
Any assembly of more than two people linked to the Extinction Rebellion action is now illegal in London.
The force said it decided to impose the rules after “continued breaches” of conditions which limited the demonstrations to Trafalgar Square.
More than 1600 people have been arrested since the protests, dubbed the Autumn Uprising, began on October 7.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, who is leading the policing of the demonstrations, said he was confident the Met’s decision was “entirely lawful” and “entirely proportionate”.
Also on Wednesday, a group of mothers and babies defied the restriction, staging a “feed-in” outside Google’s offices in London’s King’s Cross, while other activists targeted the nearby offices of YouTube – a Google subsidiary.
They said they wanted to highlight the company’s political donations to organisations that have campaigned against action on climate change.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said concerns had been raised about the police’s decision to ban the protests, adding that shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was discussing it with the police.
“I think it’s important to protect the right of free speech, and the right to demonstrate in our society – obviously in a non-violent way,” he said.
He added that Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan had no involvement in the “operational decision” by police to remove the protesters.
On Tuesday, Mr Khan said he was “seeking further information” about why the ban was necessary, saying he believed “the right to peaceful and lawful protest must always be upheld”.
A government spokesman said the UK was already taking “world-leading action to combat climate change as the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely by 2050”.
“While we share people’s concerns about global warming, and respect the right to peaceful protest, it should not disrupt people’s day-to-day lives,” he added.
What are the rules around protests?
Police have the powers to ban a protest under the Public Order Act 1986, if a senior officer has reasonable belief that it may cause “serious disruption to the life of the community”.
Police are also under a duty to balance the task of keeping the streets open with the right freedom of assembly under Article 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and freedom of expression, under Article 10. These rights are not absolute – the state can curtail them.
However, the BBC’s home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani said: “The test, if and when it gets to a human rights court battle, is whether police action was proportionate to the threat and only what was strictly necessary.”
By law, the organiser of a public march must tell the police certain information in writing six days in advance.
Police have the power to limit or change the route of the march or set other conditions.
A Section 14 notice issued under the Public Order Act allows police to impose conditions on a static protest and individuals who fail to comply with these can be arrested.
A “dangerous” drug addict has been found guilty of murdering his friend in a pub doorway in London.
Joe Gynane fatally injured Mohamed Elmi, 37, with a large kitchen knife in the doorway of the Coach and Horses pub in Soho, at about 06.00 GMT on 3 March.
Hours later he used the “blood-stained blade” to seriously injure a 16-year-old boy near Tottenham Court Road.
The 34-year-old, of no fixed abode, was found guilty of Mr Elmi’s murder at the Old Bailey, on Wednesday.
Gynane was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to the unnamed teenager.
Gynane and Mr Elmi had spent parts of the early morning together walking around Soho, smoking and taking drugs with a group of people, the court heard.
The defendant admitted he had taken heroin, crack cocaine and spice.
Prosecutor Gareth Patterson QC told jurors: “In his first knife attack he fatally stabbed a man called Mohamed Elmi in Soho.
“In a short but deadly assault in the doorway of a pub he stabbed him repeatedly using a large kitchen knife.”
The court heard Gynane was a “dangerous” man with previous convictions for robbery and several assaults.
Gynane, of Wimbledon, south-west London, denied murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
He claimed diminished responsibility on the basis he was suffering from “misuse syndrome” – the effects of the misuse of drugs – and a personality disorder.
Judge Richard Foster remanded the defendant into custody to be sentenced on Thursday afternoon.
Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley was “naive to be out before a Champions League game” after being pictured in a row with a taxi driver in Liverpool on Sunday night, said boss Frank Lampard.
Barkley reportedly spilled chips on the floor of the taxi and had an argument over money, with police involved.
Chelsea visit Lille on Wednesday.
“In terms of permission I don’t expect to be asked for that. He hasn’t committed a crime, apart from eating chips in a taxi,” said Lampard.
Chelsea, who beat Brighton 2-0 at home on Saturday, and Lille both lost their opening Champions League games.
“I feel for the cabbie and I think he has been naive to be out before a Champions League game – he has admitted that,” added Lampard.
“I like Ross, I have had no problem with him and he has admitted he made a mistake. I will take that at face value and move on.”
Lampard is not concerned by his side’s start in the Champions League, after they lost their opener 1-0 to Valencia with Barkley missing a penalty.
“I didn’t think Valencia was the worst game for us,” said Lampard.
“We should have got a result. With Lille, they have a lot of threats, speed and quality.
“It is not the be-all and end-all, we have to see it in the big picture, but it’s a game we have to be ready for.”
- Lille will be the fifth different French opponent Chelsea have faced, with each of those 16 matches coming in the Champions League (W5 D5 L6).
- Their six Champions League matches against English opposition all came against Manchester United, with the French side winning just once (D2 L3).
- Lille are winless in eight Champions League home matches (D3 L5), since beating AEK Athens in October 2006 (3-1).
- Chelsea have won seven of their last 12 away group games in the Champions League (W7 D2 L3), keeping a clean sheet on seven occasions.
- Chelsea have lost their last two Champions League matches – they have never lost three in a row in the competition.
- Lille had the youngest starting XI in the first round of Champions League group games – with an average age of 23 years and 277 days against Ajax.
- The two teams with the most shots on the first round of this season’s Champions League without scoring were Chelsea (22) and Lille (17).
- Frank Lampard could become the second Englishman to lose his first two matches in the Champions League, after Ray Harford in September 1995 with Blackburn Rovers.
|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Kia Oval (day three):|
|Surrey 402-6d: Borthwick 137, Pope 106; Mullaney 2-73, Coughlin 2-83|
|Nottinghamshire 77-1: Slater 29, Mullaney 21*; Clarke 1-11|
|Notts (1 pt) trail Surrey (5 pts) by 325 runs|
Surrey and England batsman Ollie Pope struck his eighth first-class century as their game against Nottinghamshire at The Oval drifts towards a draw.
On a rain-affected day three, 21-year-old Pope made 106 while opener Scott Borthwick was out for 137 as Surrey declared their first innings on 402-6.
Relegated Nottinghamshire finished on 77-1 as Rikki Clarke took the wicket of Steven Mullaney lbw for 21.
Stumps were called at 18:00 BST with Ben Slater and Ben Compton not out.
On a day where numerous County Championship fixtures were rained off, play was delayed until 13:10 BST.
Pope began on 79 not out alongside Scott Borthwick, who was on 109, as Surrey resumed on 248-2.
The pair added a further 44 runs before Pope’s wicket ended their 222-run partnership.
Clarke (36 not out) and Jordan Clark (23 not out) added some late runs after tea to earn Surrey a fifth batting point, before the hosts declared at 16:15 BST.
But Nottinghamshire repelled Surrey’s seam attack to finish the day 325 runs behind, with Slater (29) and Compton (16) both surviving.
Midfielder Jordan Nobbs is back in the England women squad for the friendlies against Brazil and Portugal after returning from a serious knee injury.
Arsenal’s Nobbs ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament in November, ruling her out of the summer’s World Cup.
Manchester City’s Jill Scott, Chelsea striker Fran Kirby and Lyon’s Alex Greenwood are in Phil Neville’s squad.
City’s Aoife Mannion could get her first cap, while Atletico Madrid’s Toni Duggan is a notable absentee.
The Football Association says 23,000 tickets have been sold for the match against Brazil in Middlesbrough on Wednesday, 5 October, with the fixture in Portugal three days later.
Lionesses coach Neville, who guided England to fourth at the World Cup in France, said: “It will be great to be back in front of our fans again after two away matches.
“I know playing in Middlesbrough will mean passionate support and the big crowd we’re expecting shows just how much the team connected with the public in the summer.”
Full 20-player squad
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps, Ellie Roebuck, Carly Telford.
Defenders: Alex Greenwood, Millie Bright, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Aoife Mannion, Abbie McManus, Demi Stokes.
Midfielders: Beth England, Beth Mead, Jordan Nobbs, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Leah Williamson, Jodie Taylor.
Forwards: Rachel Daly, Fran Kirby, Nikita Parris.
The government is ready to fly holidaymakers back to the UK if tour operator Thomas Cook collapses, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show contingency planning was in place to make sure no-one would be stranded.
But he dampened hopes of a government rescue bid for the firm.
Ministers did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”, he said.
Mr Raab said he did not want to undermine the rescue talks that Thomas Cook is currently conducting with its biggest shareholder and creditors at City law firm Slaughter & May.
The tour operator’s financial difficulties have mounted over the past year, culminating in a refinancing plan in August led by its biggest shareholder, Chinese company Fosun.
But banks now want the company to raise extra funds and it could fall into administration within days unless it finds £200m.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents Thomas Cook staff, is urging the government to step in with a bail out amid fears the company’s collapse could leave about 150,000 British tourists stranded.
Katie Prescott, business correspondent
This meeting is crucial for Thomas Cook’s survival.
If there is no agreement, then the decision to wind up the company will be taken at a Board meeting this evening. It’s likely (looking at the precedent of Monarch’s collapse) that any announcement about that will be made late at night, once all planes are on the ground. But the company doesn’t have to announce anything until the markets open at 07:00 BST on Monday.
It’s low season at the moment, the time of year when Thomas Cook has to pay its suppliers for the busy summer season just gone. Hoteliers are paid on 60 to 90-day terms, once travellers have already taken their holidays. The nightmare scenario is that hoteliers who don’t think they will get paid might turn out the people staying with them.
However, it is worth re-stating that the company is still trading. People are still holidaying with Thomas Cook. And while we can assume the company is reining back marketing activity around last-minute deals and offers, until any announcement is made, it is business as usual.
The foreign secretary said he did not want talk of contingency planning to become “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.
He told the BBC the government had learned lessons from the collapse of the Monarch airline in 2017. The UK’s consular authorities abroad were ready to assist, he said.
Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said: “Ministers need to step forward and take responsibility for the sake of passengers and staff.
“There is a real risk that if the worst comes to the worst proper arrangements may not be in place for the repatriation programme and staff are still working while not knowing if they have a job or will even get paid for this month.”
A government spokesperson described the situation as a “worrying time for holidaymakers and employees”.
They added: “The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”
‘Being held hostage’
Meanwhile, holidaymakers staying at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook have reportedly been prevented from leaving the resort until it has been paid.
Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said the hotel was refusing to let them leave because of concerns about Thomas Cook’s future.
Customers have reported that the hotel is asking visitors to pay extra money amid fears it will not be paid what it is owed by the tour operator for bookings.
Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel demanded all guests who were due to leave go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.
Security guards closed the hotel’s gates as guests refused to pay the extra fee, Mr Farmer claims.
He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.”
Thomas Cook customers have been reminded on social media that they have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – “in the event that Thomas Cook goes into administration”.
The travel firm also reassured customers on Saturday night that flights continue to operate as normal.
One of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 to operate temperance day trips, and now has annual sales of £9bn.
It employs 22,000 staff, 9,000 of whom are in the UK, and serves 19 million customers a year in 16 different countries.
There are currently 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday, of which 150,000 to 160,000 are British.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to help Thomas Cook “no matter what”, saying it would save thousands of jobs.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said “the government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis”.
Chloe Hardy from Leicestershire is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.
Chloe and her fiance will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.
With the big day looming, Chloe is frustrated by Thomas Cook’s handling of their booking.
“We are unsure if we will be able to fly… This is causing great concern, worry and stress to all of us involved.”
In July, Thomas Cook produced a business plan saying that it needed £900m in refinancing, up from a previous estimate of £150m. The £900m would come from China’s Fosun, the group of creditors and some other investors.
The group of lenders then commissioned an independent investigation. Its financial advisers said Thomas Cook would require an additional £200m on top of the £900m already required, which would bring the total refinancing needed up to £1.1bn.
Thomas Cook succeeded in finding a backer to provide the additional £200m, but the BBC understands it has since pulled out.
The firm has blamed a series of problems for its profit warnings, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.
What are your rights?
If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (Atol).
The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.
Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating.
If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.
If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.
When Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017, the government organised to bring home all the stranded passengers, whether they were covered by Atol or not.
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