Welcome to this week’s column. This week we have stories from swimming, golf, football, cricket, boxing, lacrosse, gymnastics, athletics, netball and tennis plus two “And Finally” pieces that have been featured far and wide in the mainstream media, but nonetheless bear repeating in this column.
So let’s crack on.
This one just broke this morning (Friday 21 April). Notts County Ladies have folded just two days before they were due to play their first match in the Spring Series.
Anyone who knows this column or my Twitter feed will know that County is my biggest local team and I have been happy to promote them wherever possible. I am both saddened and angry that this has been allowed to happen and I believe the FA should take a long hard look at themselves – I know the sport has to be sustainable in the long-term, but the FA are all talk. I’ve said it before that they come up with all these “initiatives” but forget that clubs need everyday support. Shame on you, Football Association.
Last year I visited Meadow Lane to interview the then Chief Executive, Matthew Alexander. It was such an enjoyable morning – the staff was all very upbeat and friendly. Matt gave me full access and a tour. I was unable to sell the resultant article, but published it on my website some time afterwards when Matt left. Here’s the link: Interview
I realised when he left so suddenly that all was not well, but was sure the club would come out of it.
But this is not the case.
There are four Lionesses currently playing for the team – Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter – and it is unclear what will happen to them as the transfer window is now closed.
It did seem that new Notts County FC owner, Alan Hardy, was going to pay the debts of both the men’s and women’s clubs owed to HMRC, but now it appears that it he is unable to do so.
I know no-one has bottomless pockets, but this is disaster for the FAWSL. County were a club on the up – I saw it firsthand and it is short-sighted in the extreme that the money could not be found to save them.
On the Pitch
FA Cup Semi-finals
Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool
Melissa Lawley scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute. The win should have been more convincing with both Jill Scott and Carli Lloyd missing good chances.
Birmingham City 1-1 Chelsea
Birmingham win 4-2 on penalties
After a goalless first half Birmingham took the lead in the 68th minute through a Meaghan Sargeant header. It looked as if this was going to be the winner until Drew Spence popped up two minutes from time to score the equaliser and take it into extra time.
With no further scoring in extra time, the tie went to penalties. Both Eni Aluko and Millie Bright missed their spot kicks and England striker Ellen White stepped up to score to send Birmingham through.
The final will be at Wembley Stadium on 13 May.
Off the Pitch
European Women’s U17 Championships
England has announced an 18-strong squad for next month’s tournament in the Czech Republic.
Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham City), Emily Ramsey (Manchester United).
Defenders: Meg Boydell (Liverpool), Shannon Cooke (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Grace Neville (Millwall), Poppy Pattinson (Sunderland), Olivia Smith (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Beth O’Donnell (Manchester City), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Amy Rodgers (Liverpool) Emily Syme (Bristol City), Miri Taylor (Chelsea).
Forwards: Nicole Douglas (Chelsea), Jess Ngunga (Arsenal), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Ella Rutherford (Millwall), Gabby Ravenscroft (Oxford United).
England’s campaign begins on Tuesday 2 May.
v Republic of Ireland (2 May)
v Netherlands (5 May)
v Norway (8 May)
The top two in the group go into the semi-finals.
Liverpool Ladies have signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Avon Products Inc.
The company’s logo will make its first appearance on the Liverpool shirts during the Spring Series, which begins for the Reds on 23 April against Yeovil Town Ladies at Huish Park.
Liverpool have also been busy in the transfer market this week. They have signed Jess Clarke from Notts County Ladies and Laura Coombs, who had been on a season-long loan at the Merseyside club from Chelsea.
Well, it’s still all going swimmingly for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League. Hoping I don’t put the curse on them, they are still unbeaten after 10 rounds. There were two rounds over the Easter weekend and this week and the results were as follows:
Monday 10 April
Celtic Dragons 55-53 Sirens
Friday 14 April
Team Bath 45-46 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 68-46 Team Northumbria
Saturday 15 April
Manchester Thunder 66-58 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 47-56 Loughborough Lightning
Monday 17 April
Surrey Storm 65-56 Team Northumbria
Loughborough Lightning 49-40 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 50-59 Severn Stars
Sirens 66-76 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough are top of the table on 30 points with Wasps second, having lost two games and are on 28. Third on goal difference are Manchester Thunder.
The next live Sky game will be Severn Stars v Surrey Storm on 24 April at 7.30pm.
The British Swimming Championships have been taking place this week at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.
Standout performances so far have been from Imogen Clark from Loughborough University, who set a new British record to win the 50m Breaststroke in a time of 30.21 and Jocelyn Ulyett who broke the British record to take the 200m Breaststroke title.
50m Breaststroke: Imogen Clark (Loughborough University), Sarah Vasey (National Centre Loughborough), Corrie Scott (Edinburgh University)
400m Individual Medley: Hannah Miley, Aimee Willmott (London Aquatics Performance Programme), Abbie Wood (National Centre Loughborough)
200m Freestyle: Eleanor Faulkner (City of Sheffield), Kathryn Greenslade (Edinburgh University), Jazz Carlin (National Centre Bath)
50m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Sophie Yendell, (City of Derby), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics)
100m Backstroke: Georgia Davies (Loughborough University), Kathleen Dawson (University of Stirling), Jessica Fullalove (Bath University)
200m Breaststroke: Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough University), Molly Renshaw (Loughborough University), Chloe Tutton (City of Cardiff)
200m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics), Emily Larger (Newcastle)
50m Freestyle: Anna Hopkin (Ealing), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Bath University), Lucy Hope (Edinburgh University)
Two days to go.
An 18-strong England squad has been announced for the Women’s World Cup in July. National Team Director, Phil Collier, has gone for a blend of youth and experience with eight players who played in the 2013 World Cup in Canada included, but there also three players who will be taking part in their first major tournament.
There are also eight reserves, should they be needed.
Sally Keogh, Isabel McNab
Emma Adams, Chloe Chan, Ashleigh Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley
Camila Hayes, Kirsten Lafferty, Lucy Lynch, Charlotte Lytollis, Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith
Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Olivia Hompe, Jenny Simpson, Megan Whittle
If you haven’t experienced lacrosse in the flesh, this is the ideal opportunity to do so. The tournament takes place at Surrey Sports Park. Tickets can be purchased here: www.2017worldlacrosse.com
Good news from the WTA tour this week as Petra Kvitova has announced that she may make a comeback as early as the French Open in May.
She has been out since December since being stabbed in the left hand by an intruder in her home.
She suffered damage to both nerves and tendons and was expected to be out for at least six months. But she has put her name forward for Roland Garros in the hope that she will be there. There is no guarantee that she will be able to play, but this is definitely a move in the right direction.
The French Open begins on 28 May.
After winning her first professional bout 40-36 against Virginia Carcamo, it has been announced that Nicola Adams’ next fight will be over three-minute rounds as opposed to the two-minute rounds that are standard in the women’s sport.
Under WBC rules women are not allowed to fight three-minute rounds in title fights but as this is a non-title fight it will go ahead.
The fight is in Leeds on 13 May on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s featherweight title bout against Kiko Martinez.
Adams is also leading the quest for women to wear lighter gloves. At the moment all women fighters wear 10z gloves, whereas male fighters from flyweight to welterweight are allowed to wear 8oz gloves.
The British Boxing Board of Control is still to comment on this proposed change.
Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s next bout will be the undercard of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium on 29 April. She faces Nina Meinke in a WBA lightweight world title eliminator.
Natasha Jonas has announced she is to come out of retirement to turn professional. She got to the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics and won World Championships bronze also in 2012.
Former England bowler and TV and radio broadcaster, Isa Guha, has become the first woman to be appointed to the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) board.
PCA chief executive David Leatherdale said,
“Isa has a vast knowledge of the game from a men’s and women’s perspective.
“With our international women players now full members of the PCA, Isa will bring real insight to the PCA board.”
There was good news from the England set-up this week as it was announced that Sarah Taylor would join the training camp in the UAE.
Her goal is still, according to coach Mark Robinson, to be fit to play in the World Cup in June and July.
Ellie Downie has become the first British gymnast to qualify for every final at a major championships.
She led the all-round standings at the European Gymnastics Championships in Romania on 56.198.
Alice Kinsella has also qualified for the all-round competition, with Becky Downie in the finals of the beam and uneven bars and Claudia Fragapane in the final of the floor.
Cristie Kerr won the Lotte Championship at the weekend. She finished -20, three shots ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun of Korea and third-round leader Su-Yeon Jang.
Kerr hit an amazing third round 62 to take her into contention and didn’t drop a shot in the fourth to maintain her good form.
Becky Morgan of Wales finished tied 16th on -10 and England’s Bronte law tied 39th on -6.
American sprinter Brianna Rollins has been banned for one year after missing three drug tests in 2016.
Rollins won the 100m hurdles gold in Rio.
She can, perhaps, be considered unlucky as for one test she was at the White House meeting President Obama and for another she was in her home town in Florida attending “Brianna Rollins Day”……
She will miss the World Championships in London in August and will be eligible to compete again on 18 December.
And finally (1)
It has been everywhere this week (and good to see), that Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, has run it again this year, 50 years on at the age of 70.
She registered for the race under KV Switzer, therefore avoiding exposing her gender. She was not noticed at the start-line, although some miles in an official tried to drag her off the course. But she was not to be removed and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.
Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972.
Last week she ran it again finishing in a time of 4 hours 44.31 – just under 25 minutes slower than in 1967.
Switzer wore the same number, 261, in both races and the organisers have now decided to retire the number in her honour.
And finally (2)
Serena Williams announced this week that she is pregnant. Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know that I am a complete Serena devotee and so I would like to congratulate her on this happy news. I’m not going to say “Wow, wow, wow, she won the Australian Open while she was pregnant”, not because it’s not an achievement, but because pregnant women do amazing things every day. Nor am I going to question how she might feel if and when she returns to tennis – who knows how she will feel? I do take issue with certain “news” papers that have pronounced that Serena’s competitive edge or what some people see as unseemly strength power will be taken away by motherhood. Why? There can be absolutely no scientific basis for such a statement and why should anyone want it to be? Let us just allow Serena to enjoy the moment and hope that she has the best experience possible in her pregnancy.