Welcome to this week’s column. I’m back! I hope you’ve all managed to satisfy your women’s sports craving somehow while I was away. I can’t begin to cover all that’s happened in those two weeks, but this week has been full to bursting with news; some good, some bad and some just downright baffling.
This week’s stories come from football, rugby, golf, hockey, winter sports, athletics and cricket. My “And finally” comes from tennis – yep you can probably guess the one.
So let’s crack on.
Off the Pitch
What on earth is happening to football? Is the FA determined to scupper its progress? And there has, undoubtedly, been progress. I know this is a well-worn hobby horse of mine, but it seems that every time I look away, when I turn back another nail has been bashed into the women’s football coffin.
The 99th restructuring of the women’s game is the story of the week making the headlines and dividing lovers of women’s football throughout the country.
Firstly this week we heard that Watford, who play in WSL2, will not reapply for as WSL licence when their current one expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.
I think it’s worth reproducing the club’s statement in full:
“Watford FC will be seeking to re-energise a more community-focused approach to its ladies’ football offering at all ages, once its FA Women’s Super League licence expires at the end of the current 2017/18 campaign.
Over recent months, the Hornets have carefully considered all available options with regards to how it shapes a fully sustainable future provision of ladies football.
The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels and is pleased to have already begun the research and planning phase.
This involves creating a clear pathway towards adult football provision, which will include an offering for 16-18 year-old players who are currently all-too-often lost to the sport through lack of realistic opportunities in the senior game.
This move will include an application to The Football Association for election of the senior team into the regional Women’s Premier League structure.
Watford FC will continue to work closely with its Community Sports & Education Trust to ensure all possible routes into football for enthusiastic local players are both maintained and enhanced.
There will also be the chance for both affiliated and independently-run organisations to partner with Watford FC with a view to extending the reach and breadth of the positive impact of this approach.
The stability the current Watford FC Ladies operation enjoys means that supporters can expect a vibrant and active community-led offering from summer 2018 onwards.”
This statement has sparked furious debate – on one side some say it is the club being pragmatic, still showing commitment to the game but realising its limitations at this time. On the other side (and, you will probably not be surprised to read that I adhere to this) there are those who see it as a complete abdication of responsibility and a shocking lack of ambition. If, as the statement says, “The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels”, why are they not going to apply for a licence? The infrastructure is in place for WSL2, so there is no extra input needed? What exactly does “community-led” mean? Is it a euphemism for “run by volunteers”? Obviously all sport relies on the strength of its volunteers, very often even to make it viable, but you cannot run a club in the second tier of football with volunteers.
Wales international striker, Helen Ward, was a high profile signing for the Hornets. She obviously saw the ambition in the club when she signed. On 7 November she tweeted, “280 characters still isn’t enough to say what I want to say right now…so it’s best I don’t say anything at all.”
In a similar vein, yesterday Sunderland AFC also issued a statement:
“Sunderland AFC has today confirmed that the club will not be applying for an FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) Licence in the first wave of applications. Instead, the club will focus on a joint bid for a Tier One licence in March.
Applications are currently open to existing FA WSL clubs, but due to the collaborative nature of Sunderland’s intended bid it would not be appropriate for the club to apply at this stage.
A club spokesperson said: ‘Sunderland AFC are committed to supporting women’s football and a joint approach, with combined resources, makes for a better and more sustainable model.
‘We have been working with our partners to ensure that we continue to provide the opportunity for elite female footballers in the North East to compete at the top level.’”
So that’s one WSL1 and one WSL2 effectively saying they’re not buying into the restructure.
And then you have Yeovil, desperate to be involved with the WSL but destined to be denied because they can’t raise the arbitrary £350k figure needed to qualify to apply for a licence. But is it really because they’re not “fashionable”, or that they’re not affiliated to a men’s club (and we all know how well that worked for Notts County, don’t we)? I ask you to read the Yeovil Chairman’s view: http://www.yeoviltownladies.com/news/views_from_our_chairman.html#IumCMSUCX7IFsW48.97
If you have any love for the women’s game I would also urge you to check out the Facebook Group, “FAWSL Fans United”
Something’s got to give here – let’s hope it’s not the whole future of women’s football in this country.
Right, now I’ve thoroughly depressed everyone, let’s carry on with what else has been happening in football this week.
Seattle Reign head coach, Laura Harvey, has resigned, re-igniting speculation that she is to take over as England Manager.
Harvey, who comes from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, has not indicated what her next move will be saying she will “take a little bit of time to reflect”.
She was boss at Seattle for five years, winning two NWSL Shields. Her successor will be Vlatko Andonovski and Harvey will stay on for a period to see him settle in.
Australian coach Joe Montemurro has been named as new Arsenal manager, after Pedro Martinez resigned in October.
He was manager at Melbourne City Women, winning two titles during his time there.
Nikita Parris has signed a new contract with Manchester City which runs until the end of the 2018-19 season.
They have also signed Swedish international forward, Julia Spetsmark, from KIF Örebro DFF. She will be available to play in January 2018.
Reading midfielder Jade Moore suffered a serious ankle injury during her side’s 5-0 win at Bristol City on Saturday.
She could be out for four months and requires surgery.
On the Pitch
Continental Cup Results:
Bristol City Women 1-2 Chelsea Ladies
Durham Women 0-0 Liverpool Ladies
Arsenal 1-2 Reading Women
Aston Villa Ladies 2-2 Sheffield FC Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies 3-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
London Bees 3-4 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester City Women 2-1 Everton Ladies
This week saw the first leg ties of the last 16. There were big wins for some of the tournament favourites, effectively sealing the ties before the second leg is played. Both English teams had fine wins and the second legs are next week. The scores were as follows:
BIIK-Kazygurt 0-7 Lyon
Gintra 0-6 Barcelona
Fiorentina 0-4 Wolfsburg
Brescia 2-3 Montpellier
Sparta Praha 1-1 Linköping
Chelsea 3-0 Rosengård
Chelsea’s excellent home form continued on Wednesday. They dominated a useful Rosengård side and now should be through to the quarter-finals. Fran Kirby scored the only goal of the first half. In the second, Ramona Bachmann scored the second and Gilly Flaherty pounced on an error by former England international Anita Asante, to put away the third.
LSK 0-5 Manchester City
Manchester City are effectively into the quarter-finals with a good away win at LSK of Norway. If I tell you City had 22 attempts at goal, to the home side’s three, you’ll probably understand the course of the match.
City took the lead on 26 minutes through Demi Stokes. They doubled their lead just before half-time when Jane Ross was brought down in the box and Izzy Christiansen converted from the spot.
There was more of the same in the second period. Claire Emslie scored City’s third on 69, while Jane Ross bagged a brace in the space of five minutes to complete the rout.
Stjarnan 1-2 Slavia Praha
It’s pretty much make or break time for England’s cricketers as they take on Australia in the sole Test match of the Women’s Ashes. After the three ODIs Australia lead 4-2. With four points riding on the result of this Test match England really need to win.
After two days at the North Sydney Oval it’s fairly even. Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat.
England 280 all out
Tammy Beaumont top-scored with 70, while captain Heather Knight chipped in with 62. Plenty of others got starts – Elwiss 27, Taylor 29 and Shrubsole 20, but no-one could make the bit score that could take a big total to an excellent one.
Australia 177/5 (stumps day 2)
In response Australia started well with Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney falling in the twenties. But it’s the best all-rounder in the world, Ellyse Perry, who is holding England up and is currently on 70 not out. England will have to get her out, and quickly, on the third morning.
Park Sung-hyun of Korea has become the first LPGA Tour rookie to go to number one in the world rankings.
Park won two titles in the summer – the US Women’s Open in July and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
She has finished in the top-10 nine times this year and has not missed a cut in 29 tournaments.
Kenyan marathon runner, Jemima Sumgong has been banned for four years after having tested positive for EPO.
The Olympic marathon winner claimed she had been given the drug in hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy. The claim was rejected by a Kenyan court who said that the paperwork offered in her defence has been supplied by “an imposter” and that her claim was “not authentic”.
Sumgong had admitted her “unfortunate offence and unintended mistake” when she was initially suspended in April, but the court found her uncooperative during the investigation.
There is still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of the administering of the substance, but the ban means she will unable to compete in Tokyo in 2020.
New York Marathon
Shalane Flanagan won the New York Marathon at the weekend – the first American woman to do so for 40 years.
She won in a time of two hours 26 minutes 53 seconds.
Mary Keitany of Kenya was second, 61 seconds behind the winner.
Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the women’s wheelchair race, beating five-time champion Tatyana McFadden into second. She finished in a time of one hour 48 minutes nine seconds, almost three minutes ahead of McFadden.
Jess Varnish will sue both UK Sport and British Cycling over the sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal she allegedly suffered at their hands in 2016.
Apparently UK Sport had applied to have her case dismissed, but on Monday a judge rejected the application and now Varnish can go to an employment tribunal.
A preliminary hearing will begin in April. Expect this one to run and run.
The Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup is underway in Lake Placid, USA.
Lizzy Yarnold won a bronze medal in the first race of the new Skeleton season. She moved from fifth after the first run, to third after the second. The winner was Janine Flock of Austria.
Fellow Briton Laura Deas finished fifth.
In the bobsleigh, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore, who you will remember had their funding cut and started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their bid to race at the Olympics in 2018, finished eighth in both of their runs to finish eighth overall. Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz of Canada took gold.
Joy Neville will become the first woman to referee a European men’s professional club fixture in December.
She takes charge of the Bordeaux-Begles v Enisei-STM match in the Challenge Cup on Friday 15 December.
She has been making marked progression in the game and refereed the Women’s World Cup final in August.
Last weekend’s Women’s Premier 15s scores were as follows:
Saracens Women 29-12 Bristol Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 27-15 Richmond Women
Wasps Ladies 31-3 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
DMP Sharks 39-5 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 39-12 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
After seven matches Harlequins are now top with 35 points, that’s seven bonus point wins. Saracens are a point behind. Wasps lie third, but the gap to second is 11 point. At the bottom Worcester Valkyries are yet to claim a point, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on four points with the Sharks just above them on 13.
The eighth round is this weekend. Get y ourselves out there to see some live action if you can. It’s such a competitive league:
Richmond Women v Harlequins Ladies (2pm Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens Women v DMP Sharks (2pm Allianz Park)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps Ladies (TBC Sixways Stadium)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (TBC)
Bristol Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (7pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division
The results from last weekend were as follows:
Canterbury 1-1 Holcombe
Leicester 1-2 Bowdon
East Grinstead 0-2 Surbiton
Slough 0-1 University of Birmingham
Buckingham 3-2 Clifton Robinsons
After seven games Surbiton are still top with 16 points. University of Birmingham are second with 13 with Buckingham third on 12. Canterbury are bottom with just two points with Bowdon just above them on 7.
It’s tennis in 2017 – is it? Really?
Not technically a women’s sport story, but one that resonates with us all. At the Next Gen ATP Finals draw in Milan, female models revealed the letters of the groups under their clothing, had to hang on the arm of the participants and other generally degrading stuff under the guise of “entertainment”.
When it was pointed out to the organisers that it probably wasn’t in the best of taste, they first suggested that they were just trying to refer to Milan’s place in the fashion world, but on further consideration (and a lot of bad press) a joint statement from sponsors Red Bull and the ATP said “Our execution was in poor taste and unacceptable.”