Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get through again this week. There have been some big announcements, and although my heart tentatively skips a beat at the new FA Strategy and the Muirfield declaration, I am still weighed down when I read the comments sections after such pieces. I had made a promise to myself not to look at them, but find myself drawn to the sad, ignorant, abusive nonsense posted by the socially inadequate. I will stop it, because otherwise I fear that way madness lies. Anyway, a couple of stellar examples feature in my “And finally” and hopefully that’s the end of it.
Stories this week come from cycling, rugby union, netball, gymnastics, speed skating, hockey, lacrosse, football and golf.
It’s still safe to say that British Cycling is in turmoil. The row about “the package” rumbles on and there seem to be weekly revelations about the culture prevalent in the organisation. So, perhaps it was not a surprise that this week saw the announcement that Joanna Rowsell Shand is to retire from international cycling. Of course we all hope that this is a decision based on how well she knows her body and not the urge to leave a possibly sinking ship.
Certainly she is positive about the move;
“The decision to step away has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make. I believe I have more to offer the world.”
She has indicated that she would like to go into coaching and will also compete in the L’Etape du Tour, an amateur race that covers the same route as the first part of the Tour de France.
In an outstanding career, the 28-year old Rowsell-Shand won gold in the team pursuit at both London 2012 and Rio 2016. She won five world title, four European titles and a Commonwealth gold in the individual pursuit in 2014.
It was Round 4 of the Netball Superleague last weekend. We are down to two unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey Storm and Loughborough Lightning, while Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria still languish at the bottom without a point.
Last weekend’s scores:
Saturday 11 March
Manchester Thunder 62-53 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 67-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Severn Stars 39-48 Team Bath
Wasps 44-57 Loughborough Lightning
Monday 13 March
Team Northumbria 46-64 Sirens
Round 5 is this weekend and Sky’s televised match is on Monday 20 when Team Northumbria takes on Manchester Thunder at 7.45pm.
Thanks to Martin, as usual, for prompting me into mentioning both lacrosse and hockey this week.
On Saturday 18 March England takes on Japan at the Surrey Sports Park. This is part of the team’s preparation for the World Cup which takes place at the same venue in July. If you’re in the area, get along and support the team. If you don’t know lacrosse well, go and discover it- it’s fast and exciting and pretty much unlike anything else you will see.
English domestic hockey
Meanwhile in the IWHL Premier Division, Surbiton have it wrapped up with two games till to play. This means they will be playing in Europe next season.
On 11 March they beat Bowdon Hightown 6-0 and with just bottom team Reading to play away on Saturday and a final home game on 25 against Clifton Robinsons, their seven-point lead at the top of the table is unassailable.
This is how the table stands:
|University of Birmingham||16||9||2||5||35||31||4||29|
Hockey World League (HWL)
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has announced the schedule for the HWL semi-final, to be held in Brussels this summer.
Seven teams have already booked their places; The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Belgium and Spain.
There are three places left to claim and will be decided in a round two event in West Vancouver in April.
The semi-finals will consist of pool stages between June 21 and 27 and the classification matches will begin on 29 June. The semi-finals will be on 1 July and final on 2 July.
The winners will qualify for the 2018 Hockey World Cup.
Muirfield members have (finally) voted in favour of admitting women members to the club.
The R&A had said that the course would be unable to host the Open Championship until it changed its admittance rules.
A similar vote in 2016 failed to win the two-thirds backing, but in this new vote 80.2% voted in favour.
Without wishing to spoil this special moment, I’d just like to point out that it still means that out of the 621 who voted, 123 still voted against admitting women…..
The FA launched its new strategy for the future of women’s football this week (stop me if you’ve heard this before).
FA chief executive, Martin Glenn said that women’s football had, in the past, been “let down” by the FA.
There are a number of aspirations named including the hosting of a major tournament, although it is unclear as to when a bid for such an event may be made.
Major commitments include:
- Building a sustainable and successful high-performance system
- Building a world-class talent pipeline
- Increasing the number and diversity of women’s coaches, referees and administrators in the sport at all levels
- Developing participation opportunities and infrastructure
- Changing perceptions and social barriers to participation and following
- Enhancing the profile and value of the England team and players
- Signposting opportunities to participate, watch or follow
- Improving the commercial prospects in women’s football
Read the full document here:
Unhappily, one only has to read the comments below any article on women’s football to realise what fundamental shifts of opinion need to happen before we can make any progress at all.
Now we have Baroness Sue Campbell at the heart of things, perhaps change has a chance of becoming a reality. I recommend you read this article by The Guardian’s Paul MacInnes: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/13/baroness-sue-campbell-womens-football-fa-plan
Her most telling statement and one I agree with wholeheartedly is this;
“I always believe that great development is making yourself redundant,” she says. “Great development in sport is about transforming a system so that it doesn’t need you. If it always needs you then you haven’t really changed the system.”
This is what I have said about initiatives such as “Women’s Sports Week.”
Melanie Reay has been appointed as the new head coach of Sunderland Ladies after Carlton Fairweather left this week.
Reay had been assistant coach and a former Sunderland striker.
“It is a great honour for me to manage this special club,” she said.
“We have some great young players coming through and hopefully they can make their mark on the team which already has a host of good, experienced players. We will be looking to consolidate and improve together.”
The Lady Glovers have extended the contracts of another five first-team players.
England under-19 goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes, midfielders Jessie Jones, Kelly Snook and Leah Burridge and Welsh international striker Nadia Lawrence have all signed new contracts.
Steve Penny has resigned as USA Gymnastics President and chief executive. The organisation is currently undergoing investigation into a sexual abuse case involving a team doctor.
Former team doctor Larry Nassar is awaiting trial for child sexual abuse and possessing child pornography. More than 40 women have a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, claiming it failed to protect them.
It is alleged that USA Gymnastics did not fully report sexual misconduct claims made by female team members.
The investigation is eight months in already and will, no doubt, run and run.
Elise Christie won three world championship golds at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam at the weekend. In doing so she became the first British woman to win a world title.
She won the 1000m, 1500m and the overall title. She also finished fourth in the 500m.
A crushing win for England and a hard-fought triumph for Ireland have set up a grandstand finale to the 2017 championship and a Grand Slam title to be won.
Saturday 11 March
Wales 7-12 Ireland
There was no score in this match until the 39th minute, when Ireland were awarded a penalty. They kicked for the corner. Prop Lindsay Peat crashed over from the resultant maul and Nora Stapleton converted to make the score 0-7 at half-time.
After the break try-scorer Peat was yellow-carded for repeated Irish infringements and Wales steeled themselves to take advantage.
Shona Powell-Hughes went over for the home side and Robyn Wilkins converted to even the score.
With Ireland back to full strength it was then Wales’ turn to go down to 14 as Amy Evans was sin-binned for a high tackle.
After a period of valiant defence by Wales Ireland finally breached the line with winger Hannah Tyrell going over for the try. Stapleton could not convert and the score was 7-12.
Wales pushed until the end but were unable to convert pressure into points as Ireland held on.
England 64-0 Scotland
Kay Wilson scored a record seven tries for England as they demolished Scotland at the Stoop.
Wilson has scored two tries in the first few minutes and although Emily Scarratt had an off-day with the boot, it made no difference to England’s dominance.
Jessica Forsyth was then sin-binned for Scotland and Amy Cockayne went over soon afterwards to extend the English lead. After only 20 minutes, the bonus point was secured as Cockayne went over for her second try of the match.
Danielle Waterman scored England’s fifth and then Wilson got her hat-trick.
Wilson then scored her fourth – the first player to score four tries in the first-half of a Championship match.
The first period scoring was not yet done though, as Cockayne completed her hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.
In the second-half Wilson scored her fifth and sixth tries, Scarratt her first and then Wilson got a seventh. With two conversions the score was 64-0 and the rout over.
Scotland never stopped battling, but were outplayed from the first minute to the last.
Sunday 12 March
Italy 5-28 France
France were in clinical mood in Parma and had a bonus-point win in the bag by half-time.
The visitors scored their first try after nine minutes with Caroline Ladagnous going over. Audrey Abadie missed the conversion.
On 14, Romane Ménager scored France’s second, this time converted by Abadie.
Ladagnous crossed for her second and Elodie Poublan claimed France’s fourth before half-time. An Abadie penalty took it to 0-28 at the break.
The second-half saw few chances, indeed the only score being a try for the home side as Michela Este powered over. The conversion was missed and there was no further scoring.
Scotland v Italy
6.20pm, Broadwood Stadium (Eurosport IT)
Ireland v England
8pm, Donnybrook, (RTE, Sky Sports)
France v Wales
8pm (GMT), Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive, (France 4)
And finally, back to where we started. This enlightened soul commented on the end of the BBC piece about the retirement of Jo Roswell-Shand. I think it’s safe to say that he misses the point by several million miles….
In response to someone whose post included:
‘ all our cycling girls have shown that women can perform to the highest standards ‘
He so intelligently replied:
“Oh spare me. Only to the highest standards of other women. Not to the standards of men, lets’ clear that up. We are not equal, let’s not start sharing a sporting platform. Unless you wanna be outperformed of course.”
Even more elegant was the fine fellow who posted the first comment I saw after an article about the FA’s new women’s football strategy,
“Nobody gives a f***”, he posted, without the asterisks.
No column next week as I’m away.