Women’s Sports Column 23-29 April

netball2It’s still all go in the world of women’s sport. The newspapers are full of it (not). Well actually they are, full of the crisis enveloping British Cycling. That’s because it’s scandal and has the potential to be titillating. As for match reports, scores and achievements, not so interesting.

Still, here I have news from triathlon, football, cricket, netball, swimming, taekwondo, cycling and athletics, – plus a classic “and finally”

Wales’ Non Stanford staked her claim for Rio gold by winning the World Triathlon Series event in Cape Town on 24 April. She took the title in 59 minutes, 49 seconds, seven seconds ahead of England’s Jodie Stimpson, with Bermuda’s Flora Duffy in third.

 

The women’s Super League season is back up and running with Manchester City and Chelsea stamping their authority already.

Birmingham City 0–2 Manchester City

Three out of three for Manchester City as they took the points at Birmingham this week. Daphne Corboz scored the first after Nikita Paris had hit the post to go in one up at half time. In the second half Manchester took control, but it wasn’t until stoppage time that they sealed the points with a Jane Ross header.

Notts County Ladies 2-2 Reading Women

Notts County came from behind to earn a point against a strong Reading side. The visitors took the lead after only seven minutes through a long-range shot from Helen Ward. County equalised from a Jess Clarke penalty after Fern Whelan had handled. Reading took the lead for a second time through a headed goal from Kirsy McGee. But County didn’t give up and the classy Clarke lobbed the Reading goalkeeper on 64 minutes to snatch a point. It won’t be much consolation for either side, though, as both are still looking for their first win of the season.

Liverpool 2-2 Sunderland

In contrast, both Liverpool and Sunderland remain unbeaten this season as they fought out a keenly-contested draw. Liverpool must have thought they were home and dry as they took a 2-0 lead through Caroline Weir and Laura Coombs, but Sunderland were not to be outdone.   Brooke Chaplen scored just before half time to get the Lady Black Cats back into it and then netted a second at the beginning of the second half to earn the draw. Liverpool looked to snatch it at the end, but couldn’t convert their chances.

Arsenal 0-2 Chelsea

Chelsea looked very impressive as they easily put away a poor Arsenal side. Mini-Messi, Fran Kirby scored twice – the first a neat lob over Sari van Veenendaal in the Arsenal goal and the second thumped in from just three yards after a scramble.

 

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) awards took place this week.

Izzy Christiansen was named PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year 2016.

The Manchester midfielder has had a stunning twelve months. She scored six times in the last seven games to help City finish second in the league. She also scored on her debut for the senior England side against Estonia in September.

Beth Mead was named the PFA Women’s Young Player of the Year 2016.

In 2015 Beth finished as top scorer in FA WSL1 with 12 goals in 14 games for Sunderland. She was named FA WSL1 Players’ Player of the Year and Young England Player of the Year. She played in the 2014 Under-20 World Cup in Canada and is now training with the senior England squad, although she is yet to make her senior debut.

 

The shortlist for the 2016 BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award has been announced this week.

The players are:

Gaelle Enganamouit (Cameroon)

Amandine Henry (France)

Kim Little (Scotland)

Carli Lloyd (USA)

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)

The award is given by the World Service. You can vote online or by text. The closing date is Monday 9 May. For more information on the shortlisted candidates see: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/36102460

 

This Bank Holiday weekend sees the start of the new Royal London One-Day Championship

It could well be the last, as next year the Kia Super League will not only comprise a T20 tournament but a 50 over one too. The current county players will be keen to do well if they are to break into the Super League. Can anyone topple Yorkshire from top spot in Division One?

The first round of fixtures in the top two divisions are as follows:

Division One

Sunday 1st May 2016

Middlesex v Surrey at Eastcote CC

Somerset v Kent at Taunton CC

Staffordshire v Berks at Wolverhampton CC

Warwickshire v Sussex at Edgbaston Foundation Ground

Monday 2nd May 2016

Staffordshire v Somerset at Meakins CC

Surrey v Berks at Reed’s School

Sussex v Kent at The Saffrons, Eastbourne

Yorkshire v Warwickshire at Harrogate CC

Division Two

Sunday 1st May 2016

Essex v Wales at Billericay CC

Hants v Devon at Hursley Park CC

Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire at Welbeck CC

Monday 2nd May 2016

Essex v Devon at Felsted School

Lancashire v Nottinghamshire at Wigan Sports Club

Leicestershire v Wales at Empingham CC

 

The semi-finals of the Vitality Netball Super League have been decided. The last round of results were:

Saturday 23 April

Loughborough Lightning 55-75 TeamBath

Hertfordshire mavericks 48-52 Surrey Storm

Team Northumbria 60-47 Celtic Dragons

It was an amazingly tight finish at the top, with Thunder top and Mavericks, Storm and Bath all finishing on 30 points. Final placings had to be decided through goal average. The semi-finals are this weekend and will be:

Saturday 30 April

Manchester Thunder v Team Bath (Thunderdome) 4pm

Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks (Surrey Sports Park) 6pm

Both games will be live on Sky Sports.

 

Qualifying for Rio, for both Olympics and Paralympics, is in full swing, particularly in swimming.

Among those to achieve the qualifying standard time this week was 12-year old Abby Kane, who set a new British record in the heats of the S13 100m backstroke with a time of 1 minute 11.92 seconds. She then broke this in the later heats to take it to one minute 11.19 seconds.

Steph Slater also qualified in the backstroke in the S3 category.

Ellie Simmonds and Bethany Firth also broke their own world records to secure their Rio berths. Simmonds, who has already won four Paralympic golds, qualified for the S6 400m freestyle with a time of five minutes 18.69 seconds.

Firth beat her own record of 2 minutes 4.44 by 0.74 of a second to qualify for the S14 200m freestyle.

 

Olympic taekwondo champion Jade Jones came back from injury with a vengeance this week to win gold at the German Open.

She won four bouts in total in the -57kg category– winning by default in the final as her Canadian opponent Ivett Gonda withdrew.

Bianca Walkden also took gold in the +73kg category.

The European Taekwondo Championships take place in Switzerland in May.

 

The London Marathon took place last Sunday. Jemima Sumgong of Kenya took the title in a time of two hours 22.58 seconds. Tigist Tufa of Ethiopia was second two hours, 23.03 seconds and Florence Kiplagat from Kenya third in a time of two hours, 23.29 minutes. Sumgong recovered from a fall, hitting her head in the process before picking herself up to make her way through the field to win.

The Marathon was also a trial event for qualifying for Rio. Alyson Dixon and Sonia Samuels finished as the top British women in 13th and 14th respectively. They had already secured their places by running the standard.

In the women’s wheelchair race, the amazing Tatyana McFadden won her fourth consecutive victory in a time of one hour 44.14 seconds, only 0.01 seconds ahead of Manuela Schar from Switzerland, with Wakako Tsuchida of Japan a further one minute 14 seconds behind.

 

Now to the cycling. Every time I write something, there’s another development, but here’s the story to date. I think it’s not too dramatic to say that British Cycling is in crisis, even though it insists it isn’t. It’s also safe to say that the sport is split straight down the middle. And with fewer than 100 days to go to Rio, it would be redundant of me to say that they need to get their act together and sort it out as soon as possible.

I reported last week that Jess varnish had been dropped from the Performance team because, according to technical director Shane Sutton, she “had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world.” Varnish countered with claims of gender discrimination including that she was told to “go and have a baby” by Sutton.

Since then Sutton has been suspended pending an investigation and in the latest turn of events he has resigned his post. Further claims and counter-claims have arisen, including accusations of Sutton’s attitude toward para-cyclists and to other female riders.

Inevitably, some have come out in favour and some against and we certainly haven’t heard the last of it. Things were further complicated by a separate scandal this week when it was suggested that some elite British Cycling gear, including a top-range bike, were being sold on e-bay.

 

And finally, a 12-year old girl “accidentally” ran a half marathon this week (believe me I’d know if I’d run a half marathon by mistake). Lee was supposed to be running a 5km in Rochester in the US, but she turned up just as the half marathon runners were setting off and joined them thinking it was her race. Her parents were worried when she didn’t turn up and a police motorcycle tracked her down, but by that time Lee was determined to finish the 13 mile race. She completed in a time of two hours, 43 minutes and 31 seconds.

Isn’t that a better “And finally” than reading about Bernie Ecclestone’s inanities last week?

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Back to Netball – part 6

 

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So sorry for the delay, life has a tendency to get in the way and while I appreciate you’re all waiting agog to find out if we continue our netball adventures alone (or, as I’ve taken to calling it, unleashed) I really haven’t had chance to write it up until now.

So, quick recap. Friday 1st April was our last session of netball with Val, our coach, as part of the Just Harborough scheme.

Good turnout for the last session and everyone is a bit emotional. Good job we’re also practical and realise we have to discuss our future – if we have one.

The session unfolds as usual. Warm up, bit of a jog. Some passing and footwork and then some games with bean bags! I must admit I’m of the opinion that life is so much better with bean bags – I don’t mean the sitting-on kind, but those little rectangular ones we used to have at school for use in games.

So here we are, running, passing, picking up bean bags. The intensity is almost palpable as we have been assured there are prizes at stake. Two teams fighting to the death.  We then go into a game with the emphasis on footwork and passing, rather than scoring.

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You are spared the drill diagrams this week as you really don’t need to see how we pick up a bean bag, but hopefully you’ll appreciate the photos.

 

 

 

 

By the time we’ve finished (and our team lost, by the way – mutter mutter), we’re happily sweaty (or glowing, depending on which century your perception comes from) and ever so slightly knackered.

020Val has medals – yes medals – for us all and Emma, the organiser of the scheme, turns up to distribute hats (yes I am wearing one and yes it looks silly) and t-shirts.

In return we have a card and flowers for Val and she is suitably embarrassed.

 

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So what do we decide to do? We decide to carry on of course. There are enough of us to commit to ten more weeks and pay for the court in advance. Emma informs us that the sports centre has committed to buying balls and bibs (can they stretch to bean bags, we think? But that is for another time).

We’re going to have our own Facebook group and try to encourage new members in. Emma will help us with marketing materials and we’ll try to get some media coverage. We won’t have a coach, a) it’s too expensive b) there’s a ridiculous shortage of netball coaches in Leicestershire c) we really need a “leader” or “activator” level coach, but such a thing doesn’t exist anymore in netball.

Ce--iZnXIAAQf1VSo, essentially, we’re on our own. We have some paperwork from Val, plus my inscrutable drill diagrams to see us through. But that’s not all we have. We have determination and no small amount of bolshiness, which, I feel, may be our winning factor. We’ll take it in turns to run the drills and try to expand our knowledge of the game through reading and YouTube!

Make sure you catch up with part 7 when you will learn just what we got up to in our first netball “unleashed” session.

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And at this point I would like to thank Val and Emma for being behind us all the way in our endeavours – and especially to Val who insisted we have all improved so much since we started. Our group is living proof that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what shape or size you are, exercise can be fun, not pressurised, and good for both body and soul!

 

Women’s Sports Column 16-22 April

ecclestone2I’m back. And not a moment too soon, by the looks of it. So much to go through, both good and bad.

This week’s stories come from snowboarding, cycling, tennis, rugby union, cricket, football, sailing, netball and Formula 1.

Let’s start with the worst –Swiss snowboard champion, 21-year old Estelle Balet, was killed this week in an avalanche. She had been filming above Orsieres, a village in the Swiss Alps when the accident happened.

In 2015 Balet became the youngest champion of the Freeride World Tour. She won it again earlier this year.

 

Bad news for cyclist Jess Varnish this week as she has been dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic progamme.

She and Victoria Pendleton broke the team sprint world record in qualifying at London 2012, but now it appears her track career could be over.

Varnish had been critical of governing body, British Cycling:

“We have been basically playing catch-up for two years after decisions that were [made] above us, and bad luck.”

But she and Katy Marchant finished only fifth in the World Championships last month and Varnish has failed to qualify for Rio.

Performance Director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton insists that the decision not to renew her contract was made purely on performance grounds and has nothing to do with her criticism of the governing body.

“Since her gold medal at the London World Cup in 2012, Jess had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world,” he said.

 

Bad news also for British tennis this week as Laura Robson lost in qualifying for the WTA event in Stuttgart. Robson won her first qualifier against Klara Koukalova, but lost to Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-2 in the second. Robson will use her protected ranking of 58 to enter the French Open in May.

British number one and world 22, Johanna Konta, lost in the first round proper of the same event. She lost in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.

 

Great news from rugby union this week as England beat New Zealand to win the fourth World Sevens Series event in Canada on 18 April. England have been getting better throughout the tournament and although Australia have won the first three events of the series, England were obviously determined not to see them win a fourth.

They beat Australia in the semi-finals and went on to beat New Zealand 31-14 in the final to claim the win.

Australia look to have an unassailable lead overall with one event to go. They stand on 76 points, with New Zealand in second on 64 and England a further 16 points behind on 48. Even if New Zealand win the last event, Australia would have to finish eighth or lower not to win the title.

The final tournament takes place in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, on 28-29 May.

 

The second tranche (one should never turn down the chance to use the word “tranche”) of Kia Super League signings has been announced. The overseas signings are as follows:

Lancashire Thunder: Deandra Dottin (WI), Sarah Coyte (AUS), Hayley Matthews (WI)

Loughborough Lightning: Ellyse Perry (AUS), Sophie Devine (NZ), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Southern Vipers: Suzie Bates (NZ), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Megan Schutt (AUS)

Surrey Stars: Meg Lanning (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Rene Farrell (AUS)

Western Storm: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Rachel Priest (NZ), Lizelle Lee (SA)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Shabnim Ismail (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS), Alex Blackwell (AUS)

There was some furore as the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) asked why their top players hadn’t been invited, but the ECB replied that they had and the BCCI hadn’t put anyone forward.

In other domestic cricket news, England international Jenny Gunn has left Nottinghamshire to join Warwickshire. Nottinghamshire were relegated at the end of last season.

 

The FA Cup semi-finals were played last weekend and produced contrasting matches.

Arsenal 7-0 Sunderland

Both teams ended up with ten players in a one-sided semi-final.   Arsenal were down to ten on the 33rd minute when Emma Mitchell was sent off after collecting a second yellow card, but it didn’t seem to impede them.

Danielle van de Donk scored a hat-trick with Dan Carter scoring two and another from Jordan Nobbs.

Sunderland also went down to ten when Abby Holmes was sent off in the 72nd minute for a foul in the box with Fara Williams scoring from the resultant penalty.

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)

It was altogether closer in the second semi with very little to choose between two top-class teams.

After a goalless first half, City went ahead through a close-range Jane Ross shot.

Ji So-Yun curled a free-kick in to equalise and the tie went to extra time.

Chelsea seemed to take control in extra time but it wasn’t until the 120th minute that Fran Kirby popped up to snatch victory for the Blues.

The FA Cup final will be at Wembley on 14 May. If you haven’t been to Wembley because you don’t fancy the aggressive atmosphere of a men’s game, may I suggest you give this event a try? I was there last year and it was brilliant. Just being there you feel like you’re a part of women’s footballing history.   If you can’t get there, it will be live on the BBC.

In other football news, Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk suffered a broken leg in a friendly game this week and will be out of action for some time.

 

The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague games produced the following results:

16 April

Celtic Dragons 44-45 Yorkshire Jets

This was the Jets’ first win of the season.

Hertfordshire Mavericks 54-55 Team Bath

Surrey Storm 56-64 Manchester Thunder

The table looks as follows:

Played Points
1 Manchester Thunder 13 36
2 Hertfordshire Mavericks 12 30
3 Surrey Storm 13 27
4 Team Bath 13 27
5 Loughborough Lightning 13 18
6 Team Northumbria 13 9
7 Celtic Dragons 13 6
8 Yorkshire Jets 14 3

 

Good news from British sailing this week as British sailor Alison Young won gold in the Laser Radial class at the World Championships in Mexico. In doing so she became the first British world champion in a solo Olympic dinghy class.

Young beat America’s Paige Railey by just one point as she won the 13th and final race to claim the title.

After finishing 5th at London 2012, she will be hoping to take confidence from this win to Rio later on this year.

In an interview with Sky Young said,

“There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it.”

 

And finally, the prize for complete idiot of the week goes, not for the first time, to head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. In an interview at the Advertising Week European conference he said that women drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are not “not physically” able to drive fast. This old, old argument has been disproved so many times I surely don’t have to go into it here, but the main reason that women aren’t taken seriously is because the sport is intrinsically sexist and has a misogynist dinosaur running it.

I, for one, can’t wait until he is ousted from his position and then hopefully women can move forward in Formula 1 as they already are doing in other branches of motorsport.

By the way, in the same interview he also said President Putin “should be running Europe” and expressed his admiration for Donald Trump. Need I say more? I don’t think so…..

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 April

LizzieArmitsteadThis week’s stories come from football, tennis, sailing, golf, cycling, athletics, cricket and netball,

There’s so much going on, I can’t keep up. This is a brilliant time for women’s sport, and yet, at the same time, we seem to have hit a new phase of unbelievably abysmal comment on just what a woman’s place in sport “should” be. Seems like everyone (men) has an opinion on this – and It’s usually not only misguided, but downright misogynistic.

But let’s crack on with the good stuff and deal with the rest later.

Lots of football news this week.

Former England coach, Hope Powell, has broken through yet another glass ceiling to become the first women appointed to the role of coach educator with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). She was the first woman to attain a UEFA Pro Licence in 2003.

Not such impressive news from America, where former USA favourite, Abby Wambach, has been arrested for drink driving. Wambach, who retired from football in December, has been a role model for American girls and women for a long time.

On her Facebook page she said:

“I take full responsibility for my actions. This is all on me,

“Those that know me know that I have always demanded excellence from myself. I have let myself and others down.”

The FA Cup semi-final line-up has been decided as the quarter finals took place this week:

 Chelsea 6-0 Aston Villa

 

It was only one-nil at half time and Villa must have thought they were in with a good chance of at least holding or even beating last year’s cup winners. They finally scored through Spence six minutes before the break. In the second the chances were converted to goals with Ji scoring a hat-trick and Kirby and Aluko chipping in with the others.

 

 

Manchester City 2-0 Sporting Club Albion

 

Goals from Parris and Ross saw Manchester City through to the semi-final as they beat the lowest-ranked club left in the competition.

 

Arsenal 2-2 Notts County (4-3 on penalties)

 

It took penalties for Arsenal to see off last year’s beaten finalists in a thrilling match that had a bit of everything. Smith scored the first for Arsenal, but Bradley-Auckland levelled the tie and then County took the lead through a Luik shot after a melee in the penalty area. White was sent off for County, who couldn’t quite hold on with 10 players – Sanchon equalising with just five minutes to go. The teams couldn’t be separated after extra time and the tie went to penalties. Both keepers saved two spot-kicks, and it was McCabe’s successful kick that put the Gunners through.

 

Sunderland 3-0 Reading

 

The home side were on top throughout as Mead scored the first and Williams the second as Sunderland went in 2-0 at half time. In the second half Reading had chances to reduce the arrears, but Chaplen added a third to put the tie beyond reach.

 

The semi-final draw has now been made. Both fixtures will be held on Sunday 17 April and will kick off at 2pm. Keep an eye out for details of broadcast coverage, as needless to say, it hasn’t been sorted yet.

 

Arsenal v Sunderland

Chelsea v Manchester City

 

 

 

Britain’s number two, Heather Watson, was knocked out in the first round of the Katowice Open this week. She lost to Czech player Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 3-6 6-4. The Czech is ranked 33 places lower than Watson, at 88 in the world. It was a tight match up to the last set, but Watson lost her first two service games of the third set to go 3-0 down and couldn’t recover.

 

Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady, went through to the second round after beating Karin Knapp in the first 6-7 6-4 6-4.

 

 

 

The worst news of the week comes from sailing. Sarah Young, an amateur sailor taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race died when she was washed overboard. She was recovered by the crew, who attempted to resuscitate her, but she didn’t regain consciousness.

The cause of death is thought to be drowning or exposure. The year-long race was sailing in the North Pacific at the time.

Because of the time it would take for the yacht to reach land, Ms Young was buried at sea, after consultation with her family.

Ms Young is the second person to die in this year’s event, after Andrew Ashman, a crew member on the same IchorCoal boat, died in September.

 

 

Good news from golf this week, as England’s Charley Hull finished joint second in the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. Her previous best finish was tied seventh at the same tournament in 2014.

The wonderful Lydia Ko took the title on -12, with Hull and the Korean Chun, tied second on -11. Catriona Matthew of Scotland finished the tournament on -3 in a tie for 32nd place.

 

 

Lizzie Armistead took first in the women’s Tour of Flanders this week, which finished on Sunday 3 April. She won by only half a wheel from Emma Johansson of Sweden after a sprint finish. This is Armistead’s fourth win of the season, having already won at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda.

 

 

Nothing good coming out of athletics this week as the doping scandals go on and on. This week Russian Olympic and double world hammer champion Tatyana Lysenko was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance. Lysenko had previously been banned for two-years for steroid use in 2007.

Russia is currently banned from international athletics competition in the wake of the doping scandals last year. They are hoping to have the ban overturned in time to compete at Rio, but these continued revelations will not be helping their case.

 

 

By now you’ll all be aware of the outcome of the Women’s World T20 in India. I have written extensively on it for Women’s Sports Uk the past three weeks, including a full report of the final and today I have published my thoughts on the tournament as a whole.

The final was a great spectacle and West Indies worthy winners.

They may not have been able to take a fourth consecutive World T20 title, but Cricket Australia has announced that their female players are to receive a significant pay rise.

The top-ranked players will now earn $65,000 as basic, while those on the minimum will go from $19,000 to $40,000.

Cricket Australia is also the only governing body that guarantees its female national team will fly business class along with the men.

 

The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague fixtures, on Saturday 2 April, brought the following results:

Yorkshire Jets 45-50 Team Northumbria

Manchester Thunder p-p Hertfordshire Mavericks

This match was called off after umpires expressed concern over the safety of the players because of water on the court.

Surrey Storm 52-42 Loughborough Lightning

Mavericks are now top by three points over Thunder in second, Storm in third and Bath fourth. Jets are still bottom having failed to win any games this season.

 

And finally, back to the sexist claptrap and misogyny that seems to have raised its ugly head this week. I think it all kicked off with the tennis: “women players should get down on their knees” and be thankful to the men for propping up the women’s game all these years lines that came from .., (no former) CEO of the Indian Wells tennis tournament. Since then it seems to have become fair game for men to stick their sexist oar in. Top of the pile is this execrable scribbling from Toby Young in the Daily Mail. I don’t really want to dignify it with a link, but read it and weep.  As it was published on 1st April, there was a rumour it was an April Fool’s joke, but I’m afraid not…

And finally, finally, sorry but no column next week as I’m away, but back the following week with all the news.

 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column – 26 March – 1 April

kicking offAs you may have noticed, I have been somewhat pre-occupied by a certain cricketing tournament over the last couple of weeks. But now I’m back. I don’t propose to go over what has happened in women’s sport during that time, as you’ll have all caught up with everything via the mainstream press (not), but here’s a glimpse of what has happened this week.

This week’s stories come from cricket (surprise), football, tennis, golf, skating, Commonwealth Games, cycling, netball and the Boat Race.

The Women’s World T20 final will be between holders Australia and surprise finalists West Indies, who beat England and New Zealand respectively, in their semi-finals. You can read all you would like to on the tournament via my website www. https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/ or via http://www.womenssportsuk.com/.

Can’t help thinking it should have been England v New Zealand, but neither played well enough in their semis to justify reaching the final. I’ll leave that there before I start ranting again.

 

The FAWSL is back! I’ve been so busy with the cricket I’ve hardly had time to notice it, but here it is. Manchester City are the early pace-setters with two wins out of two.

Here’s the current league table:

1 Manchester City Women 2 2 0 0 3 0 3 6
2 Chelsea Ladies 1 1 0 0 4 1 3 3
3 Liverpool Ladies 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
4 Arsenal Ladies 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3
5 Sunderland Ladies 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
6 Reading Women 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 1
7 Birmingham City Ladies 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
8 Notts County Ladies 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
9 Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 0 0 1 1 4 -3 0

In fact there are lots of news stories from football this week – some of them not so good.

There have been claims that Frankfurt fans racially abused Swedish side, Rosengard’s players during their Women’s Champions League quarter-final. Uefa has opened a disciplinary case. The referee had to stop the game to consult with club officials before restarting.

There are also reports that Brazilian star, Marta confronted a fan over the issue. The investigation will report its findings on 5 April.

If found to be true, this is a really disappointing development for women’s football. Many people attend women’s football as a more family-friendly alternative to the aggression inspired by the men’s game. It needs to be stamped out, now.

Another disappointing story (but I’m not comparing them in terms of seriousness) that has appeared this week is that Wales’ women’s team has to wear to men’s shirts!

Surprisingly the Welsh FA didn’t have a comment to put forward on this, but striker Helen Ward said, in an interview with the BBC,

“We’ll wear what we’re given, but it is nice to be wearing a kit that fits and cut the right way,

“It’s really disappointing because a lot of shirts come in women’s sizes.”

Neither are there replica shirts for women who wish to wear a Welsh shirt for the European Championships in the summer. Adidas, suppliers of the Welsh shirts said:

“The shirts on sale are retailed as adult shirts, intended for both male and female fans.”

That’s all right then.

 

Over the pond, there have been big developments in football (or soccer, as they insist on calling it over there).

At a time when the argument over equal pay for women’s sports has been in the spotlight, five members of the USA’s World Cup winning team have filed a complaint against the US Soccer Federation for wage discrimination.

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo have taken the action is desperation at the fact that they earn less than half of what male US players receive, even though they are current World Cup holders. In Hope Solo’s words:

“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT [men’s team] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

A point to realise is, unlike in women’s tennis, it is the women’s game that brings in the money, backing and audience in the US. So by that argument alone, are they not worthy of equal pay?

One might say, with tongue very firmly in cheek, that the male players should go down on their knees and thank the women’s game for its support. (Thanks to Raymond Moore, former Indian Wells CEO for this imagery).

 

Talking of tennis, Johanna Konta has continued her excellent form by reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open, where she was beaten by world number eight, Victoria Azarenka. Konta is the first British woman to reach this stage.

Although she had five break points in the match, she was unable to convert any of them and Azarenka won 6-4 6-2.

Had she beaten Azarenka she would have gone into the world top 20. As it is, she is at an excellent 23.

Heather Watson did not fare so well as she lost in the round of 16 to fifth seed, Simona Halep 6-3 6-4. She had been suffering with a niggling thigh muscle injury which hampered her ability to chase hard.

World number one and defending champion Serena Williams is also out after losing 6-7 6-1 6-2 to fifteenth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

 

It’s golf time again! In the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration in California, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is just one shot off the lead after the opening round.

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is one shot off the lead after the opening round of the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s major of the year. Ai Miyazato of Japan and Azahara Munoz of Spain are five under, one ahead of Matthew, Shiho Oyama and Lee-Anne Pace. Charlie Hull is three behind the leaders, carding a 70 for her first round.

 

The World Figure Skating Championships are currently taking place in Boston, (Mass., not Lincs.). Britain’s top ice dancers, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland came a career-best and creditable seventh. They finished ninth in 2014.

The winners were the reigning champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France with two American pairs, Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates claiming silver and bronze respectively.

 

Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson has expressed a wish that Wales bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

“We just have to be a bit brave and a bit bold and go for it because the Commonwealth Games is a brilliant event,” said Baroness Grey-Thompson.

 

Great news for women’s cycling this week as RideLondon announced a total prize fund of £78,000 for its women’s race 0n 30 July. This is exactly the same as that for the men’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic, which takes place a day later.

Double Olympic Champion Laura Trott has been in the forefront of the campaign for equal prize money.

She says women’s cycling is “getting the recognition it deserves”.

With a month to go, Manchester Thunder appear to be closing on the title in the Netball Superleague. They are three points ahead of the second team, Hertfordshire Mavericks.

The latest round of fixtures, on Saturday 26 March yielded the following results:

Hertfordshire Mavericks 64 40 Team Northumbria
Manchester Thunder 69 51 Team Bath
Yorkshire Jets 39 56 Surrey Storm

 

This year’s Women’s Boat Race took place on Sunday 27 March. Oxford won their fourth in a row as Cambridge nearly sank in the difficult conditions.

Plenty of praise went to the Oxford cox, Morgan Baynham-Williams, who ensured the boat moved across the river to where the conditions were slightly better, but Cambridge should also be given their due for continuing when the easier option would have been to give up and stop.

 

And finally, I could have written double the amount this week, which shows how much women’s sport there is out there, if only we could find any coverage of it… I would like to recommend to you the book I’m reading at the moment – it’s called “Kicking Off – How Women in Sport are Changing the Game” by Sarah Shepherd. The first chapter is basically what I’ve been writing about for the last five years – the cycle of no audience, no sponsorship, no development, no media coverage…. etc, and will make you want to scream. But there are also some wonderfully positive chapters which recognise just how far we’ve come – interviews with greats like Billie-Jean King, Maggie Alphonsi, Chrissie Wellington and others. Read it.