Welcome to this week’s column. You may remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned rumours of another FAWSL restructure may be in the offing? Well, it now looks like it’s very much on – and so far few are impressed. See below for details. The FA is really covering itself in glory at the moment, isn’t it?
Anyway, the column this week also includes news from cricket, rugby union, golf, hockey, speed skating, cycling, some good news from bobsleigh and tennis. The focus of “And finally” this week is an update on the BBC’s 100 Women project.
Three teams remain unbeaten with two bonus point wins each after the second weekend of fixtures in the Premier 15s. Gloucester-Hartpury Women are top on points difference (33), with Harlequins in second (27) and Richmond in third (24). The weekend’s results were as follows:
Worcester Valkyries 10–62 Bristol Ladies
Harlequins 39-18 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 26-22 Wasps
Richmond 27-10 DMP Sharks
Saracens 34-20 Loughborough Lightning
This weekend’s fixtures:
Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins (12pm Loughborough RFC)
Worcester Valkyries v Saracens (2pm Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol (2.30pm)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Richmond (2.30pm)
DMP Sharks v Wasps (4pm Northern Echo Arena)
Meanwhile Wasps have been on a signing spree this week as they welcomed four England players to boost their squad. Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cockayne and Justine Lucas join from luckless Lichfield, while Rochelle Clark makes the transfer from Worcester Valkyries.
It’s a sad situation, although one often found in sport, that if players wish to be considered for their national sides, they have to play at the top level – it’s not enough to excel in a lower division. Obviously it means they will face more testing opposition week in, week out, but it is still shame that those at a lower level are doomed to be “selling” clubs.
Wasps are without a win so far this season, but this fearsome foursome should make a significant change to the situation.
The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures were also announced this week. It will be a triple-header against Canada.
17 November – Allianz Park (7.30pm – game to be streamed live by EnglandRugby.com
21 November – Twickenham Stoop (7.45pm – broadcast to be announced)
25 November – Twickenham Stadium (5.40pm live on Sky Sports – part of double-header with England’s men who play Samoa at 3pm)
Not strictly women’s sport this one, but women in sport and worthy of inclusion.
Alhambra Nievas and Joy Neville will both referee men’s internationals this year.
Nievas will take charge of Finland v Norway in the Conference 2 on 14 October. Neville will also officiate at a Norway match, this time against Denmark on 28 October.
Both officials have a wealth of experience; Neville refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup this summer and is a former Ireland Captain. Las season she became the first female assistant referee to officiate in a men’s European rugby match. Nievas is a former Spain international and was the first female official to assist in men’s Test match.
The good news is they are likely to have a much better time of it than football referees as rugby referees are treated with more respect generally. What the reaction on the terraces will be like is not so certain.
In an interview with the BBC, Nigel Owens, everyone’s favourite referee and arbiter of good sense said,
“It’s great to see a cross-section as men have been refereeing the women’s game for a long time.
“It doesn’t matter about the colour of our skin, whether you’re a man or a woman, your sexuality or religious beliefs. None of that should matter one bit. If you’re good at what you do, then you should have the opportunity to excel at that and referee at the level you deserve.
“These two are getting what they deserve from the hard work they’ve done.”
The New Zealand Open at Windross Farm Golf Course in Auckland began on 28 September. After round one, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff of England shared the lead with Brooke Henderson of Canada on -7, after shooting 65s. Belen Mozo of Spain and Amy Bouldon of England are tied on third, one stroke back with Beatriz Recari (Spain) Na Yeon Choi (South Korea) and Brittany Linicome (USA) a further shot back, tied for fifth on -5.
The UCI Road World Championships – Elite Women’s Road Race
The Women’s Road Race took place on Saturday. Who can stop the Dutch? No-one it seems as Chantal Blaak took the title, 28 seconds ahead of Katrin Garfoot of Australia. Defending champion, Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark, was third. The Dutch worked so well as a team it was no surprise to see three of them in the top ten.
Top ten finishers:
- Chantal Blaak (Ned) 4hrs 06mins 30secs
- Katrin Garfoot (Aus) +28secs
- Amaile Dideriksen (Den) Same time
- Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned)
- Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol)
- Christine Majerus (Lux)
- Susanne Andersen (Nor)
- Anna Van der Breggen (Ned)
- Emilia Fahlin (Swe)
- Elena Cecchini (Ita)
Of the British team, Hannah Barnes finished 14th, Dani King 20th, Lizzie Deignan 41st, Hayley Simmonds 48th, and Elinor Barker 66th. Alice Barker and Mel Lowther failed to finish.
Off the Track
This week also saw the installation of a new UCI president. David Lappartient beat the incumbent, Brian Cookson, 37-8 in the vote. One of the first things he did was to repeat the commitment that Cookson had made to prioritise the development of women’s cycling. His emphasis was on the responsibilities of race organisers and broadcasters.
“We have some wonderful classics, some are on live TV; we’re going the right way but we don’t have a strong stage race like the Tour de France.
“Without this kind of race it will be difficult to promote women. Organisers must take care of this, that’s also part of our global responsibility. We need to have races on TV.”
There are still relatively few professional female riders. Many women combine a day job with their cycling. Lappartient went on to say,
“They must earn their life with cycling and not just riding for nothing.”
He then announced that the minimum wage for the men would be increased. Hurrah! But then he failed to announce that a women’s minimum wage would be introduced. No, there is no minimum wage at all for women, let alone one to increase. So, on one hand he would like to ensure that women are not “riding for nothing”, but on the other he has no plans to introduce a wage that would help end this problem.
The Investec Women’s Hockey League began its 2017-18 season on 23 September. The first round of results was as follows:
East Grinstead 0-0 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 1-3 Bowdon
Canterbury 2-2 Surbiton
Clifton Robinsons 2-0 Leicester
Slough 3-1 Buckingham
For upcoming fixtures check out the England hockey website here
Unseeded Ashleigh Barty is having a storming week at the Wuhan Open. She beat British number one Johanna Konta in the second round 6-0 4-6 7-6, ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, 4-6 6-0 6-4 and third seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals 4-6 7-6 7-6. She now plays eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko who defeated world number one Garbine Muguruza in their quarter-final 1-6 6-3 6-2.
The second semi-final will be between the unseeded Maria Sakkari of Greece and Caroline Garcia of France.
There are four qualifying events between now and the Pyeongchang Olympics which will decide the speed skating qualifiers. This weekend sees the first, the Budapest World Cup.
Britain’s Elise Christie will be looking to start strongly. Results to come in next week’s column.
Manchester City Women have signed Danish Euros star Nadia Nadim.
She will join the current league champions in January, after finishing the season with her current club, Portland Thorns.
Nadim’s backstory is well known, but bears repeating.
When Nadim was only 12 she fled Afghanistan with her mother and four sisters when her father was executed by the Taliban. They found refuge in Denmark and she has now played for her new country 74 times.
While she has been playing in the United States she has also been studying at medical school and plans to become a doctor when she hangs up her boots.
West Ham United
It finally looks like West Ham has some serious backing after they announced this week that are likely to bid for a licence to play in the new restructured WSL.
The Ladies’ side was finally integrated into the club in 2016, after a highly public row between the then manager, Julian Dicks, and the women’s club chairman, Stephen Hunt, who accused the parent club of sexism in denying the women’s team the facilities and support they needed to play.
West Ham currently play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division – women’s football’s third tier.
It will be somewhat of a jump in footballing class for the hammers, but let’s face it, the FA probably won’t be looking at that – they’ll be judging on a financial basis. If you can afford it, you could be in.
England under-19s head coach, Mo Marley is to be appointed as interim manager of the Lionesses. She brings no lack of experience to the post having captained England as a player, been assistant to Hope Powell during her tenure and having managed Everton Ladies domestically.
Marley will be in charge for the friendly against France in October and the World Cup qualifiers in November against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.
New Super League Structure (Yes, again)
Another day, another “initiative”. Will someone please save me (and women’s football) from the FA and their constant tinkering?
Their latest restructure, if I read it right, will see a top tier of full-time only clubs for the season 2018-19.
All clubs have to re-apply for places in WSL1 and have until 10 November to submit their applications. Teams outside WSL1 who wish to apply will do so in March 2018.
The criteria are business-based only: players have to have 16 so-called contact hours per week, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020-21. The club must have a minimum level of financial investment and also an academy system in place. They have to conform to Financial Fair Play regulations.
As no-one knows at the moment how many clubs will be able to fulfil the conditions, the FA are saying that the WSL will comprise between eight and 14 teams.
The new second tier, the tier with no name, will have 10-12 clubs and players will be part-time. Clubs will be required to have a reserve team, but not necessarily an academy.
The WPL regional divisions will be unaffected.
While no-one wants to see a repeat of the Notts County situation, the FA’s concentration on a “stronger commercial model”, according to the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, Katie Brazier, is a soulless approach that could see the women’s game head down the same road as the men’s.
Apparently, “It will provide an elite performance environment that will produce more and better players, increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league, attract a greater number of fans and in turn deliver improved commercial viability for clubs and the leagues.”
In my cynical way I’m tempted to say – prove it.
Yeovil Town have been the first club to respond to the move with general manager Trevor Jenkins saying that the club will need to raise over £350,000 in order to compete in the new league. At the moment they are in WSL1 on merit, as it should be. They have no professionals and no academy. In a couple of months they are going to have to make major changes if they want their application to be a part of the new WSL to be successful.
We all want the women’s game to be successful and indeed no-one can disagree with the FA’s ultimate aims. We all want the game to develop and grow and be sustainable. But the constant uncertainty, the constant shifting of the goalposts (apologies) just brings a feeling of impermanence and the inescapable sense that the FA can’t decide on one clear strategy – and can’t be bothered to sort it.
This is the second week running that I’ve ended the football news with the phrase “women’s football deserves better”. And it’s the second time I’ve thought it’s not going to get it.
Good news and mind-boggling news from the world of bobsleigh this week. After reporting in the last column that Mica McNeill and her team were going to crowdfund their attempt to get to Pyeongchang I’m happy to confirm that they reached their target on Monday.
Now a second team, piloted by Donna Creighton is bidding to do the same. You can contribute here: https://makeachamp.com/teamdc.
The BBSA decision to stop funding the women’s teams drew widespread criticism from both inside and outside the sport.
Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold accused the body of “mismanagement”, adding,
“It’s hard to see talent and hard work go to waste. Everyone deserves their moment to make their dreams come true.”
Things then moved again when BBSA chief executive Richard Parker resigned from his position. The body then announced that they are now in a position to “partially support” a women’s team in their attempt to reach Pyeongchang.
So they are seriously saying that the chief executive’s salary is going into partially funding a team?
It seems there is still plenty more to come in this story.
England’s Ashes squad was announced this week. Unsurprisingly, it is largely the squad that won the World Cup this summer with the addition of spinner Sophie Ecclestone. Beth Langston is the unlucky player to miss out.
The squad in full:
Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).
There was good news from Cricket Australia this week as they confirmed that the Allan Border Field in Brisbane, the venue for the first ODI on 22 October is already a sell-out.
The fixtures are as follows:
22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane
22 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney
17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
The BBC 100 women list is nearly ready. There are several women under the #TeamPlay hashtag, concentrating on sexism in sport, including Mithali Raj and Steph Houghton. For the full list, check out the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41380265.