The Matthew Alexander Interview – It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m a quick learner.

notts-countyIn May I went to Meadow Lane to meet up with and interview the then CEO of Notts County Ladies, Matthew Alexander.  As you will all know, Matthew has now left the club, but the piece I wrote bears publishing, I think.  I never managed to sell it to a publication and I never quite finished it – there was so much more I could say.  Matthew contacted me the other week and I said I was happy for him to read it – he did and loved it.  So, I feel I can publish it here now without reservation.

The future of Notts County Ladies may be currently in some doubt, which I consider to be a terrible pity, and the club will certainly suffer for not having Matthew at the helm. 

 

The Matthew Alexander Interview – It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m a quick learner.

Notts County Ladies’ CEO talks business on and off the pitch, the pleasures and frustrations of running an FAWSL1 club and how to take on the big guns.

Notts County FC is the oldest professional football club in Britain.  It was created in 1862, playing its own brand of “football” until it became one of the eleven founding members of the Football League in 1888.  By contrast, Notts Counties Ladies only came into being in 2014 after it moved from Lincoln, rebranding from Lincoln Ladies along the way.

The move was not without controversy; Lincoln was an established team, formed in 1995, with its own identity and fanbase.  But the qualifying criteria for the new two-tier FAWSL meant clubs had to be linked to a men’s club and so something had to change.  And now, with the resources of Meadow Lane open to them, and increased support, few can maintain that the change was anything but for the good of the club.

In fact you only have to visit the Notts County to see it is an up-and-coming enterprise.  And some of this is directly down to CEO Matthew Alexander.

It is early days.  Alexander has only been in post since December 2015, but when you’ve talked to him for five minutes you feel his commitment and passion for both the club and the role he has taken on.  When I arrive, he’s outside the main entrance emptying his office rubbish bin into a larger one – very glamorous.

“It’s a steep learning curve, but I’ m a quick learner.  There is nothing that will put me off.  Nothing will phase me,” he says and I immediately believe him.

Asked whether he is a “business man” or a “football man” he does not hesitate – it is the latter.  Indeed how can it not be?  His father, to whom he refers regularly during our discussion, was Keith Alexander, a professional footballer, but probably more well-known as loved and respected manager of Lincoln City and Peterborough United.  He was managing Macclesfield Town when he died suddenly, aged just 53, in 2010.

His son, therefore, was steeped in football from an early age.  He cut his footballing teeth in scouting for Bradford City, moving to Notts County in 2011.  His commercial experience came as an agent, at first securing boot deals for his clients.  He went into the business of running a football club with Notts  County in March 2015 as Interim Commercial Manager and Head of Business Development, before taking on his current role in December.

Chairman and owner, Ray Trew approached Alexander and asked him to take on the job of CEO.  His quarry was just about to take a job with a Premier League club working on their under-21 recruitment, but Trew didn’t have to wait long for his answer.  And there’s no sign that Alexander is regretting his decision; he’s enjoying (nearly) every minute.

But there are frustrations – many of them.

He knows he has a small squad and limited resources.  With these he has to build a club that can take on Manchester City and Chelsea – the “millionaires” of women’s football and Arsenal and Liverpool – the big four.  But he insists this is not necessarily a bad thing,

“It’s a tight-knit team.  When we sign new players we have to consider how their personalities are going to fit.”

But this, he says, gives them the edge over others.

“For a club this size we should be aiming to stay up every year,” he says .

But this is not enough for him.  He knows it’s ambitious, but he is desperate to break the monopoly of the top four.  But not just that – his ultimate aim is Champions’ League football for Notts County Ladies.

Although he is very clearly a football man, he realises he has to hone his own business skills and the business skills of Notts County Ladies if they are to survive and progress.   This is where his major frustrations lie.

His frustrations go from having to ask the Football Association (FA) for basic guidance on employee rights and human resources issues (what should a “new starter” form look like, for example), to why they can’t secure the levels of sponsorship they need.

“I could do with employing someone full-time just to ring round companies and talk to them about sponsorship,” he says ruefully.

The club now has its first accountants to look after the books – another innovation since Alexander took over.  But it’s a case of needs must as they strive to compete.

The Club Development Fund money that comes from the FA isn’t enough to pay for two players’ wages for a year, never mind about contributing to any “development”.

“The FA needs to get on top of the commerciality of the game,” he says.

Things are proceeding too slowly for him and he clearly feels that the FA should be doing more.

At this point, Alexander reveals he has a small daughter.

“I’m one of the parents who tells their daughter they can do whatever they want.”

And he is determined that if she wanted to be a professional footballer she should have a pathway to achieving just that.

“We want our players to be role models for women all over the world.  I’ve never been prouder of being involved in anything than this.”

“We’re on the verge of creating something really special,” he says.  And I come away thinking that yes, he probably is.

 

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 December

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to the last column of the year.  It’s been a big year for women’s sport (but isn’t every year?).  I’ve tried to reflect that in the best way I know how, and looking back over the last twelve months, I’m pleased with the breadth of stories I’ve been able to include.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with stories from speed skating, rugby, netball, cricket, Aussie Rules and Australasian sports administration, football, golf, boxing, cycling, bowls, taekwondo, the BT Action Woman Awards and SPOTY.  This week’s “And finally” is probably predictable, but bears repeating one more time….

Rugby Union

Bristol won again this weekend to leave them top of the table over the Christmas break.

The scores were:

10 December

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-24 Lichfield Ladies

Wasps Ladies 33-12 Richmond Women

11 December

Worcester Valkyries 15-22 Saracens Women

Bristol ladies 48-0 DMP Sharks

As ever, a longer round-up of these matches, written by me appears on the Women’s Sports UK website.

Bowls

Wales’ women won a silver medal in the triples at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand this week.

Anwen Butten, Kathy Pearce and Emma Woodcock were beaten in the final by Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott and Rebecca Van Asch of Australia.

They had beaten England (16-12) and Malaysia (18-16) on the way to the final.

Australian Rules Football                                                                                   

Good news for Aussie rules fans this week as it was announced that every game in the inaugural AFL women’s competition will be shown live on television.

Fox Footy is to show all 28 league games and the Seven Network will broadcast eight prime-time matches, including the first game of the season and the Grand Final on 25 March.

The action begins 3 February 2017.  Not sure if they will be streamed in Britain, but nevertheless it’s great news for AFL fans.

Australasian Sports Administration

1) Kate Palmer has been appointed the Australian Sports Commission’s first female chief executive.  She joins after an historic spell as the head of Netball Australia, in which she brokered a landmark pay deal for players and also oversaw a huge increase in revenue for the sport.

2) Dr Farah Palmer, three-time World Cup winning captain has been elected to the Board of New Zealand Rugby.  She is currently a member of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board and will replace the former Maori representative, Wayne Peters, who has retired.

“Women on sports boards” seems to be the in-vogue cause at the moment.  Not surprising really, as the current percentage of women on sports boards in the United Kingdom is 30%, having risen from 21% in 2009.  There is progress, undoubtedly, and more needs to be done.  Personally, I’m still more concerned with lack of media coverage which stubbornly stands at 7%.  But progress cannot not be concentrated on a single issue and we should celebrate any victories we achieve, however small.

Cricket

New England central contracts

The ECB has announced new and improved central contracts for England’s women.  Two-year contracts have been issued to:

Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Beth Langston (rookie contract), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Becky Grundy has lost her contract and Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway are no longer a part of the set-up having retired from international cricket last season.

Australian contracts

Just when you’re feting all things Australian, Cricket Australia drops an enormous clanger.

The executive general manager of strategy at Cricket Australia has confirmed that female cricketers’ new one-year contracts will have a clause that will require them to “warrant” that they are not pregnant when they sign.

They insist that the clause is there “for the player’s safety and that of their unborn child” and that that any disclosure would be confidential and made to the medical officer.

Female players are also excluded from the parental leave policy, although women in non-playing roles can have four to 12 weeks’ paid leave.

And, as ever, although things are improving, there is a great discrepancy in pay; the national minimum for men is $270,000 excluding superannuation, but for women it is $40,000 including superannuation.

Cricket Australia says that it is all being negotiated, but the union says contract conditions are ‘contrary to acceptable employer behaviour’,

Watch this space for further fallout.

WBBL

After the first weekend of WBBL matches it’s all square all the way down as each team won one and lost one!  Sydney Sixers are top on net run rate, but it’s early days.  The results so far are as follows:

10 December

Perth Scorchers 119/6 off 20 overs

Hobart Hurricanes 120/5 19 overs

Hurricanes won by 5 wickets

 

Adelaide Strikers 116 all out (19.3 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 102 all out (19.1 overs)

Strikers won by 14 runs

 

Melbourne Stars147/8 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 141/4 (20 overs)

Stars won by 6 runs

 

11 December

 Adelaide Strikers 128/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 131/3 (19.3 overs)

Renegades won by 7 wickets

 

Perth Scorchers 142/4 (20 overs)

Hobart Hurricanes 125/9 (20 overs)

Scorchers won by 17 runs

 

Sydney Sixers 138/6 (20 overs)

Brisbane Heat 142/5 (19.2 overs)

Heat won by 5 wickets

 

12 December

Brisbane Heat 83/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 86/2 (16 overs)

Sixers won by 8 wickets

 

13 December

Melbourne Stars 116/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 121/2 (18.5 overs)

Thunder won by 8 wickets

Live matches and highlights are on BT Sport and the WBBL also has a very detailed website:  www.bigbash.com.au/wbbl

BT Action Woman Awards

The ceremony for the BT Action Woman of the year took place this week.  Winners of Team of the Year were the GB Hockey team for their brilliant gold medal in Rio.  Katherine Grainger won a Lifetime Achievement award, which she knew nothing about and looked a bit grumpy about to start off with!

Winner of Action Woman of the Year 2016 was mountain biker Rachel Atherton.  She won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup this year and took the world title for the fourth time.

Boxing

Katie Taylor won her second professional bout against Viviane Obenauf of Brazil last week.  She won on points 60-53.

Obenauf was knocked down in the second round and also suffered a cut near her left eye, but she managed to take it distance before being outpointed.

Netball

It was announced this week that New Zealand will play Wales in two test matches in February 2017.

The two games will take place at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff on 7 and 8 February.

Sports Personality of the Year 2016

Although the main event is not broadcast until 18 December, the winner of the Young Sports Personality of the Year award has already been announced.

Swimmer Ellie Robinson is this year’s winner.

She won a gold medal and a bronze at the Rio Paralympics aged just 15.

She won the S6 50m butterfly in a Games record time and broke the British record in the 100m freestyle to take bronze.

Earlier in the year Robinson had bagged one silver (50m butterfly) and three bronzes (50m, 100m and 400m freestyle) at the IPC European Championships.

Taekwondo

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the World Grand Prix Final in Baku last weekend.

Charlie Maddock set the ball rolling as she beat Olympic champion Sohui Kim in the -49kg to take gold.

Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden followed suit on Saturday as Jones beat Hedaya Malak of Egypt in the -57kg final and Walkden defeated Zheng Shuyin of China to take gold in the +67kg category.

Rachelle Booth lost to South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in -62kg bronze-medal match.

Speed Skating

Great Britain’s Elise Christie won double gold at the World Cup event in Shanghai last weekend.

She won the first of two 500m races in 43.590 seconds and took the second in 42.590.

Christie leads the 500m overall ranking from Fan Kexin from China and Marianne St-Gelais of Canada.

Shanghai is the third in the series of World Cup events.  The fourth is in Gangneung, South Korea, from 16-18 December.

Golf

Shanshan Feng won a record fourth Dubai Ladies Masters at the weekend.  She took the title on -10, two ahead of England’s Charley Hull.

Going into the final round, Felicity Johnson was leading, but she faded in the last carding a three over 75 to finish six shots off the lead.

Cycling

The dispute between British Cycling and cyclist Jess Varnish continues.

After last week’s revelation that only one of nine of her complaints against Shane Sutton was upheld, Varnish has now requested that British Cycling release her personal data under the Data Protection Act so that she can see Sutton’s text messages and the organisation’s report into his conduct.

I feel there’s still probably plenty to come out of this story yet.

Football

Birmingham City Ladies

David Parker resigned as Birmingham City ladies’ manager on Monday.  He had been in charge for five years.

There was no delay in announcing his successor as the WSL1 club announced they have appointed Marc Skinner to the post.

Skinner had been director of the Blues Ladies’ centre of excellence.

Casey Stoney

After a period of silence it has been announced that former England captain, Casey Stoney, has signed for Liverpool Ladies.

She left Arsenal at the end of the season causing much speculation as to her future plans.

Liverpool manager Scott Rogers said,

“Her reading of the game and ability on the ball is fantastic so I have no doubt that she will prove to be a great signing for us.”

New rules for WSL2

It was announced this week that WSL2 will introduce relegation for the first time in the 2017-18 season, when the league swaps to a winter season.

This means that the bottom team will drop into the Women’s Premier League.

In other WSL news, the league has also revealed that applications for WSL licences for the 2018-19 season will only be open to the existing clubs.  If, however, a club fails to meet the specified criteria, other clubs will be allowed to apply.

FA funding will increase as follows:

WSL1 up to £92,500 (up from £70,000)

WSL2 up to 62,500 (up from £35,000)

Whilst any increase is welcome, make no mistake, this money is still just a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a WSL club. 

Nigeria’s continued protest

As I reported last week, the Nigerian women’s football team is currently fighting for outstanding payments due to them after they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on 3 December.

On Tuesday, one of the players, quoted anonymously by the BBC, said that they are prepared to continue their sit-in at the Agura hotel until they receive all bonuses, believed to total £23,650 USD per player.

“We are tired of the lies and false promises from the NFF,”

The NFF is directly funded by the Nigerian government and is currently strapped for cash after Nigeria slipped into recession in August.

But the Super Falcons coach, Florence Omagbemi and her assistants have only received one month’s pay since March.

The NFF general secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, met with players and officials at the hotel on Tuesday. In a statement he said,

“The NFF is not happy owing players and coaches, but present severe economic challenges inform that it can only continue to seek the understanding of these persons, as well as hoteliers, travel agents, management and staff until the situation improves,”

“We know we have financial commitment to you (players and officials of Super Falcons) and we have not at any time stated otherwise. But the money is not readily available.

“I have come to appeal to you, to understand the situation of the federation, to understand the situation of the country at the present and exercise patience.

“We will pay you all monies you are being owed as soon as we receive same from the government.”

The stalemate continues.

And finally, I’m sure you’ve all seen it already but it’s three boos for the Football Association this week (God bless ‘em).

In their wisdom, the FA have revealed their ideas for attracting more girls into football.  The plan, posted on the Sussex FA website includes:

Pink whistles

Nice smelling bibs (we all want those, don’t we?)

Allowing girls breaks so they can check their phones.

Advertise “where girls go” such as “coffee shops or the backs of toilet doors”

Slogans to attract girls could include:

“You won’t even notice you’re getting fit!” and “Who needs Facebook friends?”

Not saying anything else.  Don’t need to, do I?

 

As I said at the beginning, that’s all for this year.  I’m currently writing a history of women’s field hockey for WiSP Sports, so please check in to read that if you’re so inclined.

Also next week, although there will be no column, I am publishing something which means a lot to me.  Earlier this year I interviewed someone and got some great copy.  I tried to sell the resultant article but to no avail.  Although he has now moved on from his post, the subject of the article has just read it and he loved it, so I would like to reproduce it on my site.  Look out for it – I’m really happy with it and I hope you like it too.

Hoping you all have a lovely, peaceful and sporting Christmas and let’s all wish for more sporting success in 2017

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 December

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Not so much in the way of results this week, plus lots of news from around the world.  It’s a truly global column this week as you’ll see.  So read on for stories from football, cricket, rugby, golf, netball, tennis, taekwondo, cycling, sailing and, wait for it, kabbadi!  Also an “And finally” guaranteed to make you say, “Not before time….”  Let’s crack on.

Firstly this week, it’s official, “This Girl Can” (as if we didn’t know this already).

Figures published by Sport England this week have revealed that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21m.

This is an increase of 250,000 on the figures before the “This Girl Can” campaign was launched in 2014.

The gap between men’s and women’s participation has narrowed to 1.55m.

This is obviously good news but is not reflected by the coverage given to women’s sport in the media, which is still at a woeful seven per cent.

Netball

England 57-64 Jamaica

I was there at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 4 December to see a tight, excellent game between two well-matched sides.

It was my first in-person experience of a netball international and I can thoroughly recommend it.  I must say hell hath no fury like a crowd of mainly young girls when their team is behind……

England were ahead by two after the first quarter.  Jamaica came back to lead at half-time by four.  During the third quarter the crowd really got behind the Roses, stamping and cheering for all they (we) were worth.  The Jamaican goalkeeper and captain Malysha Kelly incurred the crowd’s wrath as she repeatedly fouled Joanne Harten shooting for England and the game got a bit physical.  In fact I hadn’t seen that much bumping and boring in netball since I played goalkeeper for my school against our local convent school.

Anyway, the barracking worked as Jamaica had a loose period and England pressed.  It was all square going into the final quarter and the noise was deafening.

Unfortunately for England, they couldn’t maintain their form and Jamaica pulled away with the final score 57-64.  They also took the series 2-1.  Epic stuff.

Special mention must go to England’s defence, Ama Agbeze and Ebony Beckford-Chambers who had the unenviable task of marking the Sunshine Girls’ goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, who is just the six feet six inches tall.  And she jumped too (unlike Peter Crouch).

Hockey

Shameless piece of self-promotion, I’d like to tell you about my latest series for WiSP Sports.  This time I’m writing a four-part history of women’s field hockey.  The first part has just been published, so here’s the link:  History of Hockey part 1

Sailing with Abby Ehler

Team Magenta 32 is the second match racing team to receive their Tour Card for the World Match Racing Tour season 2017. Sally Barkow from USA is together with her all-female team preparing for their second full season and their challenge for the World Championship title in match racing.  Founded in 1999, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the world’s leading professional sailing series. It features world class sailors and Olympic champions, with tour events staged around the globe.  Each stage, or World Championship event, now takes place in identically supplied one-design M32 high-performance catamarans to place the focus on teamwork and skill.

British professional sailors Dee Caffari and Hannah Diamond are this week working with Oman Sail to train and prepare 2 all-female Middle East teams for next year’s Sailing Tour of Arabia.

Since 2008 Oman Sail has been running sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani women and men. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is contested in a fleet of identical Farr 30 yachts – one of the most exciting boats on the professional sailing circuit – along a course, which stretches each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility.

In its short history, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has gained global recognition, attracting top amateur and professional sailors from four continents and blue-chip sponsors. Now in its seventh year, The Tour has become one of the most respected and dynamic sailing regattas on the international circuit.

Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3 crossed the finish line in, Grenada at recently to take Monohull Line Honours and win the International Maxi Association (IMA) Trophy for the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race.  The Maxi yacht was navigated by Britain’s Libby Greenhalgh, the only women in the crew of 17.  Libby Greenhalgh was the navigator onboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and it is fantastic to see her continuing in that role at the elite level of the sport.

Football

Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria won their eighth Cup of Nations this week with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, in front of a 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.

Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal late in the game to ensure Nigeria retained the trophy they won in Namibia in 2014.

Cameroon were runners-up for the second tournament in succession.

Ghana finished third after they beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match on Friday.

In a further development, the Nigerian squad refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until they were paid allowances and bonuses for winning the Cup.

The total owed to each player amounts to $23,650 per player.

More details in next week’s column.

Chelsea

Chelsea Ladies have signed Swiss international striker Ramona Bachmann until 2019. She will join the Blues in January 2017 when the transfer window opens.  All the early signs are that Chelsea will be the big spenders (relatively speaking) going into the new season.

Women in Football Awards

On Tuesday I attended the Women in Football Awards, which were held at the BBC TV Centre in London.

It was a night not without its hitches, but discretion forbids me from saying more….

The awards were given as follows:

Woman of Inspiration Award: Lucy Oliver
Journalist of the Year: Amy Lawrence
Club Best Practice Award: Susan Whelan (Leicester City)
Coach of the Year: Kelly Chambers (Reading LFC)
Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Performance of the Year: Scotland Women for qualifying for 2017 Euros
Referee of the Year: Mary Harmer
Women in Football Business Award: Amy O’Brien (Fulham FC)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sylvia Gore
Woman of the Year: Dr Eva Carneiro

Kabaddi

Pakistan will be holding its first ever women’s Kabaddi National Championships in Lahore this December.

At least seven clubs are expected to take part including Islamabad, WAPDA, Higher Education Committee and the Pakistan Army.

The tournament starts on 14 December.

Pakistan Kabaddi Federation Secretary, Muhammad Sarwar is excited about the move:

“The event is a huge step forward.  We want to encourage girls to develop an interest in the sport and even represent the national side in the future,” he said.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones will be part of the British taekwondo team that is taking part at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix finals in Baku on Saturday.

The other women in the team are Bianca Walkden, Rachelle Booth and Charlie Maddock.

Cycling

The BBC revealed this week that British Cycling only found its former technical director Shane Sutton guilty on one of the charges laid against him by cyclist Jess Varnish.

He was found guilty of using the word “bitches” to Varnish but eight other charges were dismissed including Varnish’s key complaint that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.”

Sutton was also cleared of using any other offensive or discriminatory language and all bullying allegations.

Varnish has responded to the report with shock.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I am shocked and upset by this latest news and have instructed my solicitor to appeal against the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf.

“Having provided substantial evidence to back up my complaints, to now learn that the majority were not upheld is heartbreaking. I know what was said, and I know I’ve told the truth.

“I have requested from British Cycling the full investigation report to understand why the weight of evidence provided by me and others wasn’t sufficient for the board to uphold my complaints.”

Unfortunately, this story shows no sign of ending, with both sides unhappy with the results and British Cycling’s reputation taking a battering.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

Well it didn’t take long for former England captain Charlotte Edwards to announce her next move.  She has joined Hampshire.  She already sits as a non-executive director with Hampshire and Southern Vipers, so this clearly fits into the plan.

It will be a different experience for Edwards who is used to winning County Championships with Kent as Hampshire play in division two.

I surmise she will move into a coaching role once she finally hangs up her boots, but currently she clearly has an on-field contribution to make.

She will also be playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the upcoming WBBL.

Women’s Big Bash League

And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.

The opening fixtures are:

10 December

Hobart Hurricanes v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars

11 December

Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat

There are plenty of England players in action:

Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont are at the Strikers, the Hurricanes have England captain Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt is at the Renegades and the Stars have Dani Hazell and Nat Sciver.  Becky Grundy comes in for Anya Shrubsole until 29 December and will play alongside Katherine Brunt at the Perth Scorchers.

If you have access to BT Sport keep an eye out as they are covering some of the matches.

Women’s cricket in Bangladesh

This is a great initiative.  Please read this piece on developing women’s cricket in Bangladesh.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/04/breaking-boundaries-bangladesh-women-cricketers-charity

Rugby Union

Bristol were back to winning ways at the weekend.  The scores were as follows:

Lichfield Ladies 75-17 Wasps Ladies
DMP Sharks 15-29 Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Richmond Women 10-52 Saracens Women
Bristol Ladies 34-10 Worcester Valkyries

For a more in-depth report see here

Golf

Dubai Ladies Masters

After two rounds of the Dubai Masters, there are two English players at the top of the leaderboard.  Top is Felicity Johnson on -7 with Florentyna Parker two behind on -5.  Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Aditi Ashok of India are tied in third on -4.

Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.

Tennis

There will be three women in the main draw of the Australian Open in January.  They are Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady.  It was at the 2016 tournament that Konta made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.  Let’s hope she can repeat this form in 2017.

And finally,

Three cheers for the Government of South Australia which this week decided to withdraw its support for the hideous tradition of “podium girls” at the 2017 Tour Down Under.

You will have seen them – I’m not going to produce images – of scantily clad young women doing nothing much but providing “window dressing” for the presentation parties at cycling events.  And not before time, at least at this event, they will be no more.

Instead there will be a number of junior cyclists helping to present the prizes.

The same authority has already withdrawn its funding of “grid girls” at the Clipsal 500 motor race.

Let’s hope that’s the kick that other governments/governing bodies need.

Women’s Sports Column 26 November – 2 December

sarah-storeyWelcome to this week’s column.  Yet again there’s a lot to get through, so here we go.  This week’s stories come from hockey, tennis, football, rugby, sevens, boxing, netball, cricket, cycling and to match last week’s Action Woman shortlist, this week we look at the women shortlisted for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.  This week’s “And finally” comes from tennis, and the ever-inspirational Serena Williams.

Hockey

I am the first to admit that I do not follow hockey with any diligence.  Consequently it appears only rarely in the column.  This didn’t stop me getting practically hysterical during the Olympic final, but I do realise that I should do more for this under-reported sport.

This is a shout-out to Martin, who regularly reminds me of my lack of hockey knowledge and coverage.

Premier League

On 26 November Surbiton Ladies beat second-placed Holcome 4-1 which meant they are unbeaten in 50 Premier League matches.

Surbiton’s last defeat was at home to Leicester in February 2014.

Women’s Junior Hockey World Cup

The World Cup takes place between 24 November and 4 December in Santiago, Chile.  Sixteen countries are involved, including England.

We are now at the semi-final stage.  England lost in the quarter-finals to Spain.  The quarter-final results were as follows:

Netherlands 5-0 Germany

Spain 5-3 England

Spain’s goals came from Garcia, Iglesias (2), Amundson, Serrahima

England’s goals came through Sanders, Crowson (2)

Argentina 2-0 USA

Australia 7-2 Belgium

The semi-finals are to be played on 2 December with the final on Sunday 4 December.

 And don’t forget, the full Women’s World Cup will be held in London from 7-21 July, 2018.  Tickets go on sale in 2017, so keep an eye out for that. 

 Football

 Netherlands 0-1 England

Tilburg 29 November 2016

 England’s unbeaten run now stands at 10 matches with this friendly win in Tilburg.

The first-half was tight but produced few chances.

The second-half saw an England improvement and the match was decided by a Jodie Taylor lob with 15 minutes to go.

 Under 20s Women’s World Cup

Semi-finals

North Korea 2-1 USA

(after extra time)

 

Japan 1-2 France

(after extra time)

The final will take place on 3 December.

Netball

The three-match test series between the England Roses and Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls is underway.

 29 November

Copper Box Arena London

 England 49-66

According to reports, Tracy Neville was furious with this England performance and they will need to improve in the next two to get anything at all from the series.

England were 16-12 up after the first quarter, but by half-time they were down 31-27.  After the half-time break Jamaica seemed t o go up a gear and stretched away to take the game.

The second game is at Belle Vue in Manchester on Friday 2 December, with the third on Sunday 4 at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.  I’ll be there for the third game, so look out for a more detailed report next week.

Rugby Union

The big news from last weekend’s matches is the first defeat of the season for Bristol as they were thumped by Aylesford Bulls, but second placed Lichfield also slip up and miss out on the chance to close the gap.

26 November 2016

Saracens Women 27-0 Lichfield Ladies

Worcester Valkyries 50-29 Richmond Women

27 November 2016

Aylesford bulls Ladies 51-5 Bristol Ladies

Wasps Ladies 34-22 DMP Sharks Ladies

For a more in-depth report, please see my latest for Women’s Sports UK.

Rugby Sevens

The Dubai Sevens took place on 1-2 December

England

England reached the semi-finals.  They won their first match 31-7 against Spain and the second against Brazil, 28-7.  In the third, Canada took the honours 24-12.

In the quarter-finals they faced Fiji, producing and excellent display to win 19-17.  England scored first through a Fisher try which was not converted by Watmore.  Tinai made it 5-5 but was unable to add the extras.  In the second half Fiji took the lead with a try from A M Roqica, but the conversion was missed.  Nagasau made it 15-5 in the 12th minute and this was converted by Tinai.  But England were not to be outdone.  Tries from Richardson and Watmore and two conversions took the score to 19-17 and a semi-final against favourites, Australia.

Australia took the semi-final 31-10.  Two minutes in England were behind through a try from Caslick, which was converted by Dalton.  Brown struck back for England, but Richardson was unable to convert.  Then Tonegato scored for Australia, but Cherry missed the conversion and at half-time it was 5-12 to Australia.  Straight after the break the Aussies scored again, this time through Penitani.   The conversion was missed, but not long after Penitani scored her second try, this time complete with the extra two points from Cherry and the score was 5-24.  England’s fate was sealed when Brennan went in again, although the conversion was missed.  England had the last word with a try from Murphy, converted by Dalton to take the final score to 10-31.

In the Bronze Final England faced Russia.  Russia won 17-14 to take third place.  Zdrokova began the scoring in the second minute with a try, but Kudinova couldn’t convert.   Zdrokova went over for her second just before half-time, again unconverted to take the score to 10-0 to Russia at the break.  In the second-half Brennan scored a try for England which was converted by Richardson.  Then Russia scored again, this time through Mikhaltsova, converted by Kudiniova.  England managed one more try from Fleming, converted by Cattell, but the game was gone.

 

Ireland

Ireland lost their first game 27-5 to New Zealand and their second, 24-14 to France.   They came back with an excellent 17-17 draw against Fiji.

They played USA in the Challenge Trophy semi-finals, winning it 28-5.

And they won the final 14-12 against Spain.  Spain took the lead in the final with a try from Garcia which she also converted.  They went 12-0 up in the seventh minute through Casado, but Garcia missed the extras.  The second-half was a different matter as Ireland fought hard to get back into it.  Williams scored a try two minutes in, which was converted by Mulhall.  Then Mulhall went over for Ireland’s second to level it at 12-12 and then she put over the conversion to put them in the lead, and to secure the Challenge Trophy.

Dubai Women’s Sevens Final

New Zealand 17-5 Australia

New Zealand came out on top in the gold medal match in Dubai.

New Zealand took the lead with a try from Woodman after two minutes.  Nathan-Wong missed the conversion.  Just one minute later Cordero-Tufuga went over again, but again it went unconverted.  Australia came back into with a try through Cherry but Sykes missed the conversion.  But New Zealand were not finished and a second from Cordero-Tufuga, this time converted by Nathan-Wong saw New Zealand take the title 17-5.

Round Two of the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series will be in Sydney on 3-4 February 2017.

Boxing

Katie Taylor’s professional career got off to a perfect start on Saturday when she stopped her Polish opponent, Karina Kopinska in the third round.

Her second bout will be against Brazil’s Viviane Obenauf on 10 December in Manchester.  Obenauf has only suffered one defeat in ten contests and should provide a much stiffer test for Taylor.

Tennis

Anne Keothavong has been appointed GB Fed Cup captain and senior national women’s coach.

She takes over from Judy Murray as Fed Cup captain.

GB begins its Fed Cup campaign in Estonia in February 2017.

 

In a surprise move, Johanna Konta has split with her coach of two years, Esteban Carill.

2016 has been Konta’s breakthrough year, a year in which she won her first WTA Tour title at Stanford and reached a career-high world ranking of ten.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

The big cricket news this week is undoubtedly the announcement that former England captain, Charlotte Edwards, is to leave Kent.

In a press release issued by Kent CCC Edwards is quoted,

“I would like to thank everyone at Kent County Cricket Club for all their support over the past 18 years. I’m immensely proud to have played for the county and what the team has achieved within that time.

“Kent is very much seen as one of the leading counties within the women’s game due to it consistently producing players to the England Pathway.

“It’s been a really tough decision to leave Kent but ultimately I feel it’s the right decision for me and more importantly the current team. Having won the double in 2016 I feel this is a fitting end to my time as a Kent cricketer.”

Edwards joined Kent in 2000 and with them has won seven County Championships.

Her personal record speaks for itself.  In her Kent career she played 136 matches and scored 6,164 runs at an average of 61.64.  She made 40 half-centuries and 14 centuries.

She also took 124 wickets at an average of 17.51 and claimed 81 catches.

Edwards will, undoubtedly, stay in cricket and it remains to be seen just what her next move will be.

Cycling

Bad news this week from Dame Sarah Storey.  You may remember that it was only in June that I attended the launch of Storey’s all-women Podium Ambition team at Café Ventoux in Leicestershire.

It was expected that the café would be the base for the 2017 season, but after just one season the team has had to disband due to lack of sponsorship funding.  In an interview with The Mixed Zone Storey says,

“We have been unable to secure sufficient cash input to remain a UCI-registered team. We spent the last 12 months searching for a title sponsor to start with us from 2017, but despite many brands being interested, there was nothing concrete in place in time for the deadline to register the team again.

“Barney and I spent 2016 covering the lion’s share of the budget ourselves and without that money in our savings now, we don’t have a back-up. The cost of running even a small UCI team is significant and we weren’t going to continue struggling.”

It is well worth reading the whole article, so here’s the link.

The news is unbelievably disappointing.  At the launch there was a good deal of optimism and good will. Chris Boardman was there with his bikes and the team looked good.  But unfortunately, it’s just another example of the woeful levels of corporate investment in women’s sport.  And the scary thing is that if some of the biggest names in the sport, Dame Sarah Storey, Barney Storey, Chris Boardman, can’t attract sponsorship, what chance does any lesser, but aspiring name have? 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2016

In what has been a stellar year for sport, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist is 16-strong.   There are six women on the list:

Nicola Adams (Boxing)

Sophie Christiansen (Equestrian)

Kadeena Cox (Athletics and cycling)

Laura Kenny (Cycling)

Kate Richardson-Walsh (Hockey)

Dame Sarah Storey (Cycling)

The public vote for this award via telephone during the live show on 18 December.

 

In the Young Personality of the Year award the shortlist is 10.  Out of these, eight are women/girls:

Ellie Downie (Gymnastics and winner of the 2015 award)

Sophie Ecclestone (Cricket)

Ellie Robinson (Swimming)

Lauren Rowles (Rowing)

Georgia Stanway (Football)

Jess Stretton (Archery)

Rebekah Tiler (Weight lifting)

Amy Tinkler (Gymnastics)

This award is decided by expert panel.

 

And Finally, Serena Williams has written an open letter in Porter Magazine’s Incredible Women of 2016 issue.  In it she re-iterates her themes of equality and fairness.

The Guardian has reprinted the letter:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/29/dream-big-open-letter-serena-williams-porter-magazine-incredible-women-of-2016-issue-women-athletes

The first two responses in the comments section are:

“Jason Stoltenberg was a much better tennis player than Serena Williams. Williams would struggle to get a couple of games off him. But Williams has made much more money than Stoltenberg.  What’s her beef?”

‘My dream was to be the best tennis player in the world.’  Well she quite clearly failed in that regard. She wouldn’t even beat the 200th-ranked male tennis player. Why does she continue trotting out this garbage? She should be happy with what she’s achieved.”

Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this is the standard in a “quality” newspaper.  Needless to say quite a few responses have been removed by the moderator, and many others are worse than those listed.  Missing the point?  Er, yes, just slightly.  The world should be grateful for women like Serena speaking up, telling her story and making her case.  In the twenty-first century any woman speaking out is still met with hostility, cynicism and scorn.  I’m happy to post the link to this letter and encourage all of you to read it.