Women’s Sports Column 23-29 June 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  You will be glad to know I did indeed get to swim in the sea last week! (briefly) and I lived to tell the tale, so here I am.  It’s been a mixed week for women’s sport (and women in, whisper it, men’s football) yet again – certainly two steps forward, one step back.  Heartily sick of it now – let’s stick it in “and finally” and see what happens.

Anyway more interesting and sensible stories this week come from football, cricket, netball, cycling, tennis, rugby union, athletics and rugby league.

Tennis

Wimbledon is nearly here!  Qualifying is well underway as is the run-up Eastbourne

Eastbourne semi-finals:
Agnieszka Radwanska v Aryna Sabalenka
Caroline Wozniaki (1) v Angelique Kerber (4)

Eugenie Bouchard is one of those who has come through qualifying to reach the main draw at Wimbledon, the tournament proper beginning on Monday 2 July.

Serena Williams has been named as 25th seed.  This has caused some comment, both for and against, from current players and others in the sport.  I think it’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  Should a tennis player’s seeding be protected while on maternity leave?  There is already the protected ranking rule for those out of the game due to injury from six months to two years.  You would think the ITF would have inserted something into their maternity policy to cover it, but of course, it’s a relatively new thing that women should want to return to elite competition after giving birth (!)  Come on ITF sort it out.

Cricket

The Women’s World Twenty20 groups were announced this week.

Group A: England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa + 1 qualifier
Group B: Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan + 1 qualifier

Venues are Guyana, St Lucia and Antigua and the tournament takes place from 9-24 November.

England’s fixtures:
Saturday 10 v Sri Lanka
Monday 12 v Qualifer
Friday 16 v South Africa
Sunday 18 v West Indies

Radio coverage on Test Match Special, TV broadcast news to follow.

The remaining qualifiers will come from the tournament in the Netherlands, being held 7-14 July.  The eight teams competing for two places are: Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

Tri-Series

The final of the England – South Africa – New Zealand Tri-Series will be between England and New Zealand.

England finished top of the table with three wins from four games, New Zealand second with two wins and two losses and South Africa third with just the one win, against England last weekend.

The last double-header was on Thursday 28 June:

South Africa 148/6 (20 overs)
New Zealand 151/2 (15.2 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

South Africa won the toss and elected to bat.  They made a good start with a 40-run partnership between the openers, Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt.  Lee was the first to go for 25.  Sune Luus went for a duck soon after and although there were good contributions from Wolvaardt (25), Dane van Niekerk (25) and particularly Chloe Tryon (35), they still finished possibly 20 runs light.

New Zealand made a strong response.  They had reached 130 before Bates was caught by Lee off the bowling of Marizanne Kapp for 62.  Katey Martin was bowled by Zintle Mali for 10, but Sophie Devine finished 68 not out as the White Ferns won with more than four overs to spare, sealing their place in the final.

New Zealand 129 all out (18.1 overs)
England 130/3 (15.5 overs)
England won by 7 wickets with 25 balls remaining

In the final game, a dead rubber, England won with four overs to spare.  The key was the bowling performance, and in particular, the dismissal of Suzie Bates for a duck.  Sophie Devine took on the anchor role, making 52 off 45 balls, but apart from 37 from Amy Satterthwaite, there was little in the way of support for the opener.  Anya Shrubsole took 3/16 from 3.1 overs, while Dani Hazell took 2/21 off her four.

In response the England openers fell cheaply (Wyatt, 2 and Beaumont 11), but Sarah Taylor made 51 from 37 before she was stumped (!) off the bowling of Amelia Kerr.  Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and New Zealand could not take another wicket.  Sciver finished on 39 and Knight on 24.

The final is this Sunday, 1 July at Chelmsford and the match begins at 3pm.

Athletics

The British Athletics Championships take place this weekend (30 June-1 July) at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

As well as the titles on offer, athletes will be looking to qualify for the European Championships, which are in Berlin from 7-12 August.

Scotland’s Eilidh Doyle will not be there to defend her 400m hurdles title as she is still nursing an injury and aiming to be fit for Berlin.

Coverage is via the BBC on TV, online and the Red Button.  See here for details: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/43572549

Caster Semenya

The row over the new Court of Arbitration for Sport’s testosterone rules rumbles on.

Unsurprisingly, South African 800m champion Caster Semenya had vowed to fight the new ruling, calling it “unlawful”.

But it seems that amongst the governing bodies of the sport she will have little or no support.  Both the IAAF and Athletics South Africa have now said they will honour any ruling made by CAS when it comes in on 1 November.

As we know, the rule only applies to women who run in track events from 400m up to a mile and although Lord Sebastian Coe, IAAF president, in a statement on Wednesday said,

“No individual athlete has been targeted in the creation of the regulations”

It’s hard not to see that Semenya is indeed the target.

The statement said that the IAAF needs

“to create competition categories within our sport that ensures that success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work, rather than by other factors that are not considered fair or meaningful, such as the enormous physical advantages that an adult has over a child, or a male athlete has over a female athlete.

“We therefore need to come up with a fair solution for intersex/DSD athletes wishing to compete in the female category which is what the new regulations set out to do, based on the evidence the IAAF has gathered about the degree of performance benefit that such intersex/DSD athletes get from their higher levels of circulating testosterone.”

Is the new ruling this “fair solution”?  I’m certainly not sure and from Semenya’s point of view, no aspect of it is fair.  Expect no resolution by the due November 1 introduction date.

Football

Sheffield FC

Biggest and most disturbing news of the week comes from the new FA Women’s Championship.  Sheffield FC has withdrawn from the new league due to financial issues.

The club issued a short statement:

“Following a meeting of the directors, the Club has taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from The FA Women’s Championship. The financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous.

“Sheffield FC has been a pioneer of women’s football in Sheffield over the past 15 years, and has competed with honour, pride and considerable success against clubs with much greater resources. Sheffield FC will continue to participate in girls’ and women’s football.

“The structure of the women’s game at elite level is moving towards a full-time operation which is no longer consistent with where Sheffield FC is positioned as a club.”

Sheffield FC Ladies was founded in 2003.  It was promoted to WSL2 in 2015.  I don’t know where to start.  Is it time for me to wheel out the oldest and most-used phrase of all, “What are you playing at FA?”  Wasn’t all this application process supposed to stop all of this – weren’t all the checks supposed to ensure that those awarded licences were able to fulfil the criteria?  And yet, here we have a well-established club forced to withdraw without a ball being kicked.  Who will replace them?  There were no shortage of applicants – should be Blackburn, Sunderland or Oxford I think.  But I’m sure I’m not alone in picturing this new structure as resembling a house of cards – and we all know what happens to those.

Manchester United

Former Bristol City manager, Willie Kirk, has been named as assistant coach to Casey Stoney at Manchester United.

In an interview with the club’s website, Kirk said,

“To have the chance to work with Casey Stoney and to be part of a team that is being set up from scratch, to me, is an opportunity not to be missed.

“Manchester United is renowned around the globe for developing young talent and that will continue in the women’s team.

“I would like to thank Casey for giving me this opportunity and I know that our skills and experience will complement each other as we work together to develop an exciting new team.”

Signings

  • Chelsea have signed New Zealand captain Ali Riley.
  • Liverpool have signed Millwall Lionesses defender Leighanne Robe.
  • West Ham have been busy, largely signing players from champions Chelsea! Matt Beard obviously means business (you would expect nothing else), signing England centre-back Gilly Flaherty, left-back Claire Rafferty and goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.
  • Birmingham City striker Lucy Quinn has signed a new one-year contract.
  • Reading have also offered midflelder Jo Potter a contract extension, the length of which has not been revealed and Jade Moore has also signed a new contract.
  • Manchester City have signed Belgian striker Tessa Wullaert from Wolfsburg on a two-year deal.

 Rugby Union

The Women’s European Grand Prix Series starts today (Friday 29 June) in Marcoussis.  All of the home nations are taking part.  For more news and live video feed click below:

https://www.rugbyeurope.eu/competitions/2018-women-7s-gps

 Rugby League

Two results from the Super League this week:

24 June
Featherstone Rovers 20-31 Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos 30-10 Bradford Bulls

All teams have now played either six or seven matches.  Leeds top the table with 12 points from seven games.  Wigan are second a point behind from seven and St Helens are third with nine points, but have a game in hand over the top two.

York City Knights are the only team not to have scored a point so far, having played six games.

Cycling

German Double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed in training on Tuesday and is in hospital in Berlin.

She is described as having suffered a “serious spinal injury”, when she crashed into another rider at full speed at the Cottbus track.

She has had surgery and is in a stable condition, although she remains in intensive care.

Updates as they come through.

Netball

Somehow we have already reached the business end of the Super League season already.  The regular season finished with Wasps on top with 48 points from their 18 games.  Loughborough Lightning finished second with 45 and these two teams have secured home semi-finals.  Lightning face Manchester Thunder, who finished third, while Wasps play fourth-finishers Team Bath.

The semi-finals are this Saturday, 30 June and will both be shown live on Sky Sports:

Wasps v Bath (5.45pm)
Lightning v Thunder (7.45pm)

The Grand Final will be on Saturday 7 July at the Copper Box Arena in London and again will be shown live on Sky Sports.

And finally,

It will not have escaped your notice (and I’m not saying that it should) that the men’s football World Cup (as I like to call it) is taking place in Russia at the moment.  For the most part, except for the massive amounts of feigning injury, rolling around, wrestling players to the ground, surrounding the referee etc., it has been enjoyable so far.

But, it seems, women are not destined to enjoy the World Cup.  How very dare they?  How dare they commentate?  Summarise or offer opinion?  Or even be part of the crowd?

1)  Jason Cundy (former Chelsea, and to my shame, Ipswich player and Talksport “pundit”), who hopefully is regretting ever opening his mouth, said in an interview that women shouldn’t commentate because their voices are “too high-pitched”.  Good Morning Britain then ran a poll “should women commentate?” (on men’s football – the only thing that counts).  Cue meat-heads far and wide to weigh-in with their “opinion” (and the word “whiny” appeared several times).  You’ll all know where I stand on this.  But let me just sum it up in one sentence; if you say you don’t like X’s voice or Y’s voice when commentating, this is ok.  Everyone has this kind of preference and there is nothing wrong with that.  If, however, you say you don’t like “women’s” voices, it is discrimination and nothing else.  You are discounting 50% of the population without any basis.

2) Secondly, Eni Aluko and Alex Scott have been employed as “pundits”, and boy have they received flak, particularly Aluko.  Scott is much more experienced in this and has been praised as well as insulted, but Aluko is still learning, but has been given no credit for this.  One of the more astounding comments I’ve seen (more than once) is that when anyone mentioned their 242 England caps between them as proof of knowledge and experience, the commenter said “242 women’s caps = 1 men’s cap”?  Really?  Is this the case?  I don’t think so?

3) Getty Images released a rather ill-judged gallery of the World Cups “Sexiest fans” this week.  Men and women?  Just men?  Nope, just women.  For crying out loud, Getty, what century are we in again?  They have since shamefacedly withdrawn the piece.

Here’s a novel idea, how about women being allowed to watch, comment on, write about, speak about and likewise give an opinion on the World Cup without the misogynist bile and objectification?

More news and views next week. 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 9-15 June 2018

Swell2Welcome to this week’s column.  Something a bit different on offer this week as I’ve just read a really excellent book on women’s swimming; Swell by Jenny Landreth and I wanted to share my view of it with you.

But before I get on to that, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t get the usual stuff in, so this week sees stories from football, cricket, cycling, tennis, netball, athletics and rugby league.

Let’s crack on.

 Cricket

No prizes for guessing the performance of the week – 17-year old Amelia Kerr made history this week when she broke Belinda Clark’s record for an ODI innings of 229, scored in 1997, when she scored 232 not out against Ireland in Dublin on Wednesday.   But she didn’t leave it there – she also took 5/17 in her seven over spell.    Her 232 came from 145 balls and included 31 fours and two sixes, the second of which, on the last ball of the innings, took her to the record.  She also became the youngest double-centurion (male or female) across all cricket formats.

In fact, Ireland have been given a bit of a battering in their series against New Zealand and the White Ferns are getting into some serious form before they face England later in the summer.  In the only T20 they won by 10 wickets and in the ODIs New Zealand have won by 346, 306 and 305 runs.

England v South Africa

Well it’s been a “game of two halves” so far in this three-ODI series.  Which England team will turn up on Friday?  Who knows?  But it’s clear that England must be more consistent if they are to dominate their opponents this summer, while South Africa will take great heart at their own progress.

First ODI – Worcester
9 June

England 189/9 (50 overs)
South Africa 193/3 (45.3 overs)
South Africa win by 7 wickets with 27 balls remaining

England won the toss and elected to bat.  And what a dismal performance it was.  Amy Jones fell first for 19, but Beaumont, Taylor and Knight made only 12 between them as they slumped to 39/4.

Only Katherine Brunt, you can imagine her chuntering about having to do it all on her own, showed any fight, scoring 72 not out from 98 balls as wickets fell around her.

It was also great bowling from South Africa; Shabnim Ismail took 3/25 from 10 overs and Ayabonga Khaka 3/42 from her 10.

England’s bowlers had as poor a day as their batters.  Opener Lizelle Lee smashed 92 not out from 128 balls, Dane van Niekerk 58 and Mignon du Preez 36 not out as South Africa claimed a comprehensive victory.

Second ODI – Hove
12 June

England 331/6 (50 overs)
South Africa 262/9 (50 overs)
England win by 69 runs

England had obviously been told to up their game at Hove.  And up it they did.  Centuries for Beaumont (101 from 109 balls) and Taylor (118 from 106 balls) saw them post a competitive 331.  Only Nat Sciver failed to contribute, making just six.

But was it enough?  A blistering start from the South African openers took them to 142 off 25 overs when Wolvaardt fell for 32.  Lizelle Lee, meanwhile, was dispatching the ball with ease again and made 117 off 107 balls before she went bowled Georgia Elwiss, caught by Danni Wyatt, an innings that included 13 fours and five sixes.

Chloe Tryon came in further down the order and caused mayhem, scoring 44 off 26 balls.  But after she was out, again caught by Wyatt off the bowling of Ecclestone, South Africa couldn’t maintain the momentum and fell well short.

One-all in the series and all to play for today (Friday 15 June).

Tennis – on the Court
French Open

World number one Simona Halep broke her Grand Slam duck at the weekend as she defeated Sloane Stephens of the US, 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Stephens made a storming start, looking a class above Halep, hitting winner after winner as Halep couldn’t keep up and she took the first set 6-3.

But Halep found a reserve of strength in the second, taking four games in a row after going a break down.  Although Stephens tried hard to strike back, Halep took the set 6-4.

The third ended up quite one-sided as Halep took control and Stephens tired.  She broke the American twice to take a 4-0 lead.  There was no coming back for Stephens and Halep took the match with her first match point.

It was a fitting final between two well-matched players, even though Stephens was somewhat of a surprise finalist.  As a result of this run Stephens will rise to fourth in the world rankings.

 Nottingham Open

 On to the glories of the all too brief grass season.

We’re at the quarter-final stage of the Nottingham tournament, but there are a couple of earlier round results that bear mentioning.

In the round of 16 we had the match-up many wanted to see – Johanna Konta v Heather Watson.  In the end the tie went to the fourth seed, Konta, 6-4 7-6 and she now plays the unseeded Dalila Jakupovic in the quarters.

The standout British performance, though, came from Katie Boulter.  She is through to her first WTA quarter-final after she defeated Sam Stosur of Australia 7-6 6-1.  She plays number one seed and another Australian, Ash Barty, later on today (Friday 15 June).

The other two quarter-finals are Donna Vekic (6) v Mona Barthel and Naomi Osaka (3) of Japan v Mihaela Buzărnescu (5) of Romania.

Heather Watson is still in action in the doubles and is through to the semi-finals with partner Mihaela Buzărnescu, where they face Lizette Cabrera and Irina Falconi for a place in the final.

Tennis- off the Court
 Sara Errani

 Sara Errani’s doping ban has been increased from two to ten months.  She tested positive for banned drug letrozole – a cancer drug taken by her mother which somehow got into the family’s food.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted that the medicated had got into the food, but said that Errani was guilty of a “light degree of fault”, and dished out a 10-month ban.

She was initially banned for two months but the Italia anti-doping agency asked for a longer ban.

Errani, unsurprisingly, is unhappy with the decision,

“I am really disgusted by this matter. I don’t think anything similar has ever happened or been managed – in my humble opinion – in such a shameful manner,” she said.

Maria Bueno

Brazilian tennis star, Maria Bueno, has died at the age of 78.

Bueno, Latin America’s most successful female tennis player won 19 major titles during her career in the 1950s and 60s.  This included three Wimbledon singles titles (1959, 1960, 1964) and four US titles.

She also won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title twice, first with althea Gibson in 1958 and then again with Billie Jean King in 1965.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Apologies for being so slow but the Women’s Tour of Britain is upon us and this year the prize fund has been doubled – matching that awarded in the men’s race.  For the first time it also has its own broadcast coverage, instead of being tacked on to that of the men’s race.

ITV4 are screening highlights of each of the five stages, as follows:

Stage One: Framlingham to Southwold
Wednesday 13 June, 21:00

Stage Two: Rushden to Daventry
Thursday 14 June, 20:00

Stage Three: Atherstone to Royal Leamington Spa
Friday 15 June, 20:00

Stage Four: Evesham to Worcester
Saturday 16 June, 20:00

Stage Five: Dolgellau to Colwyn Bay
Sunday 17 June, 21:00

Check out the website: http://www.womenstour.co.uk/

Stage One

Jolien D’hoore  (Mitchelton-Scott)won stage one, ending up on Southwold seafront (one of the loveliest places on Earth), finishing ahead of former World Champion Marta Bastianelli (Alé Cipollini) and Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb).

Dani Rowe (King) was the highest finishing Briton in fifth.

Stage Two

The Green Jersey passed to Coryn Rivera after stage two when she won the stage in a sprint finish with Marianne Vos (Waowdeals Team) in Daventry.    Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam) was third.

Rivera now has a 15-second lead over the field.  Dani Rowe (King) lies in second with Vos in third.

Para-cycling

Sarah Storey will make her return the Great Britain Para-cycling team at the Road World Championships in Italy from 2-5 August.

The women’s team: Karen Darke, Hannah Dines, Lora Fachie (piloted by Corrine Hall), Megan Giglia, Crystal Lane-Wright, Mel Nicholls, Liz Saul, Sarah Storey, Katie Toft.

Mountain Biking

After Tahnee Seagrave’s triumph last week at Fort William, Rachel Atherton has won gold at the next Mountain Bike World Cup leg in Leogang, Austria.

Miriam Nicole of France took silver and Australian Tracey Hannah, bronze.  Seagrave had finished third, but was disqualified being adjudged to re-enter the course on the wrong side of a marker.

Football

 Plenty of football news this week:  home nations qualifiers, just what is going on a Liverpool? and the worst kept secret in football is finally confirmed.

Friday 8 June
Russia 1-3 England

It was a good performance from England against a poor Russian side that saw them go back to the top of Group A.

Nikita Parris opened the scoring with a header after 22 minutes.  Jill Scott then got two (27 and 36 minutes) to put the visitors into a three-nil lead.

After the break the Lionesses took their foot off the gas and will be disappointed that they allowed the home side to score, Elena Danilova taking her chance to make the final score 3-1.

Sunday 10 June
Northern Ireland 0-5 Netherlands

The European champions looked a class apart as they demolished Northern Ireland at home.

The Irish managed to keep the score down to just 1-0 by half –time, the goal coming through Lineth Beerensteyn.

But the second-half saw four more through Danielle van de Donk, Shanice van de Sanden, Sherida Spitse and Jackie Groenen and the Netherlands are four points clear of Norway at top of Group C.

Tuesday 12 June
Wales 3-0 Russia

England weren’t on top of the table for long.  Wales put in an excellent performance to beat Russia in Newport on Tuesday and take them one point back ahead of their English rivals.

After a goalless first-half, Wales upped their game and Kayleigh Green bagged a brace (48 and 62 minutes) before Tash Harding sealed it with 22 minutes to go.

Russia had nothing in response.

Poland 2-3 Scotland

Performance of the week, however, must go to Scotland who came from two goals down to beat Poland in Kielce on Tuesday.

The Poles took an early lead through Dzesika Jaszek, which they held until half-time.  On 66 minutes they were two-up when Sophie Howard turned the ball into her own net.

But Scotland fought back.  Kim Little bagged the first from a free-kick and Jane Ross brought it level with nine minutes to go.

Lisa Evans got the winner in the 90th minute to take the Scots to just three points behind Switzerland, who are top with six wins from six and 18 points.

Casey Stoney

It was announced this week that former England captain Casey Stoney will be the manager of the new Manchester United women’s team.

In an interview with the BBC she said,

“This the biggest club in the world.

“The fact we are going to have a women’s team and I’m going to be able to introduce that from scratch, to build a team, build a philosophy, with the biggest club in the world, means that, for me, there is no more exciting opportunity.

“I truly believe Manchester United has the ability to change the face of women’s football forever.”

Let’s face it, expectation will be incredibly high; having attracted such a high-profile manager, it will also attract some equally high-profile players.  If they don’t win the Championship at the first attempt, questions will be bound to be asked.  Stoney is never one to shirk a challenge though, and for us neutrals it promises to be quite something to behold.

Liverpool

What on earth is going on?   This week they’ve lost a manager, gained a manager and dispensed with the services of three more players.

England defender Alex Greenwood, Martha Harris and Amy Turner have all reached the end of their contracts and have been released.

Wales captain Sophie Ingle has left to re-sign for Chelsea.

Not long after, manager Scott Rogers also left the club after three years in charge.  He had been number two to Matt Beard from 2014 until Beard left for the States in 2015.

But that was not the end of the story this week.  Chief executive Peter Moore said,

“The search for a new manager is underway and we hope to make an appointment in a decisive and timely manner.”

An understatement: just four days later, Liverpool revealed their new manager to be Neil Redfearn.

Redfearn had been manager of Doncaster Rovers Belles since December 2017.

 “It is a massive privilege and real honour for me to have been appointed as manager of Liverpool Ladies. It is a team with big potential which should be challenging for trophies on a regular basis.

“Liverpool Football Club is a huge club and I have every confidence that we will be competing at the top end of the Women’s Super League this season. I am over the moon to have been given this opportunity and cannot wait to get started,” he said.

It’s certainly been a turbulent couple of weeks for the Reds and Redfearn will have to have a clear plan of action – surely he has a number of signings in his sights and will need to bolster the squad after all the departures.  He needs to show his own and the club’s commitment to the women’s game as a response to some of the recent questions raised about the owners’ motivation and support for the women’s side.

Yeovil Town

The Lady Glovers have announced Lee Burch as their new boss.  Burch was formerly at Millwall Lionesses and won the League Managers Association’s WSL2 manager of the year this season.

He will have the task of seeing Yeovil through their first season as a full-time professional side in the new Women’s Super League.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith backed up her British record run in Oslo last week with victory in the Stockholm Diamond league event.  She won in a time of 10.93, just 0.01 seconds outside her new British record.  Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast was second.

At the same meet, Lorraine Ugen won the long jump with 6.85m, while Laura Muir finished second in the 1500m behind Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia and Beth Dobbin was second in the 200m.

Netball

Last weekend’s Superleague results:

Friday 8 June
Team Bath 42-43 Loughborough Lightning

Saturday 9 June
Celtic Dragons 42-83 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 52-51 Team Northumbria
Benecos Mavericks 47-52 Manchester Thunder

Monday 11 June
Manchester Thunder 68-48 Celtic Dragons
Severn Stars 55-36 UWS Sirens

Leaders Wasps bounced back (and how) this week with a thumping win over Celtic Dragons, while second-placed Lightning played out a thrilling game, winning by a single point over Team Bath.

Thunder are also making a late run and there are now three teams on 39, stretching ahead of the field.  Wasps play their game in hand this weekend so all should become much clearer by the end of this round of games.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Friday 15 June
Team Bath v Wasps (7.30pm)

Saturday 16 June
Celtic Dragons v UWS Sirens (4pm)
Severn Stars v Team Northumbria (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Manchester Thunder (6pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Loughborough Lightning (6pm)

Monday 18 June
Wasps Netball v Benecos Mavericks (7pm Live on Sky Sports)

Rugby League

Just one result from the Super League this week:

Sunday 10 June
Wigan Warriors 50-0 York City Knights

And finally,

When you read a good book about women’s sport or even a general sports book written by a woman, and it’s a fabulous read, you should just shout about it.  So here I am, SHOUTING.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with swimming and it appears from this book that I’m not alone.  I love swimming in the sea, but living in landlocked Leicestershire means I don’t get much opportunity.  I hate swimming in indoor pools – too self-conscious, too slow, too much chlorine.  It’s quite a while since I’ve actually been swimming and this book has encouraged me to try again.  Hence I will not be here next week, because hopefully I will be swimming in the sea!

Anyway, the book I’m talking about is Swell, by Jenny Landreth.  It was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2017 (somewhat of a miracle in itself).  And what a great read it is.

It’s a mixture of autobiography (or Waterbiography as Landreth calls it), and a history of women’s swimming in Britain.  I learnt so much.  As in most aspects of women’s history, women had to fight for every minute of allowed swimming time in Britain.  From being able to go in the sea (via ridiculous bathing machines) to being allowed a couple of hours a week in a public baths, each right has had to be negotiated and battled for by bands of determined women and girls who could not stand by and let the inequalities and injustices of women’s swimming go unchallenged.

There is a wealth of detail in this book; how and where women were first allowed to swim, what they were allowed to wear (no change there, then) and with whom they were allowed to swim.  How could they learn to swim when men were the only teachers and they weren’t allowed to be at the pool at the same time?

Landreth talks about the real heroes of women’s swimming – those who pioneered; in the sport itself, in its organisation and in its coaching.  She raises a glass (or two) to those who broke through the boundaries and are still doing it today; those who swim long distance, elite swimmers and the every day woman who still has to fight to do her 10 lengths of the baths of a morning before the rest of the world claims her time.

It’s a marvellous, incredibly funny book that will make you laugh out loud (I guarantee).  I laughed out loud and punched the air in equal measure.

Go out and buy or borrow it folks.  It should definitely be on everyone’s sporting bookshelf.

Swell is published by Bloomsbury with a retail price of £9.99.

As I said, there will be no column next week, as I will hopefully be swimming somewhere in the North Sea next week , emerging blue no doubt and cursing Jenny Landreth soundly for encouraging me to get out there.  Back with you all in a fortnight.  

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 June 2018

running trackWelcome to this week’s column.  After the marathon of the previous one, I’m hoping this offering can be more in the way of a sprint!  Stories this week come from football, triathlon, rugby union, athletics, cricket, tennis, golf, judo, mountain biking and…. darts!

So let’s crack on.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith broke her own British 100m records at the Diamond League Bislett Games in Oslo on 7 June.  She clocked 10.92, beating her previous best by 0.07 seconds.  In the race she finished second behind Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast, but beat Commonwealth Games 100m champion Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago into third.

Tennis

No doubt as to the disappointment of the week, when the much-anticipated match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at the French Open was scuppered by Williams withdrawing through injury.  Anyone who reads this column regularly will know whose camp I am firmly in, and although Serena was the underdog, I would have loved to have seen her take on and beat Sharapova without breaking sweat.

Needless to say, there has been much comment since Williams withdrew, for and against both players.  I’m not passing judgement.  I wish she had been out there, but an arm injury that would have prevented her serving to the best of her ability was not something she could have played through.

The final of the French Open will be between number one seed Simona Halep and tenth seed Sloane Stephens and the tournament progressed as follows:

Quarter-finals
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Daria Kasatkina (14) 6-3 6-1
Madison Keys (13) beat Yulia Putintseva 7-6 6-4
Garbine Muguruza (3) beat Maria Sharapova (28) 6-2 6-1
Simona Halep (1) beat Angelique Kerber (12) 6-7 6-3 6-2

Semi-finals:
Sloane Stephens (10) beat Madison Keys (13) 6-4 6-4
Simona Halep (1) beat Garbine Muguruza (3) 6-1 6-4

The final is on Saturday 9 June and will be broadcast in the UK on ITV and ESPN and on the radio via BBC 5 Live.

Cricket

The England squad for the one-day series against South Africa has been announced.

Coverage of the first match, which is on Saturday 9 June is on TMS on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and via the BBC website and begins at 11am.

Heather Knight (capt, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Amy Jones (wicketkeeper, Warwickshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

England’s fixtures this summer:

England v South Africa

June
9 1st ODI, Worcester (11:00 BST)
12 2nd ODI, Hove (d/n) (13:00 BST)
15 3rd ODI, Canterbury (d/n) (14:00 BST)

Twenty20 tri-series

20 South Africa v New Zealand, Taunton (13:00 BST)
20 England v South Africa, Taunton (17:40 BST)
23 England v South Africa, Taunton (13:00 BST)
23 England v New Zealand, Taunton (17:40 BST)
28 South Africa v New Zealand, Bristol (13:00 BST)
28 England v New Zealand, Bristol (17:40 BST)

July
1 Final, Chelmsford (15:00 BST)

England v New Zealand
7 1st ODI, Headingley (11:00 BST)
10 2nd ODI, Derby (d/n) (13:00 BST)
13 3rd ODI, Leicester (d/n) (14:00 BST)

English Women’s County Championship

Hampshire have won the County Championship for the first time after beating Middlesex, which also condemned them to be relegated to division two.

Hampshire, promoted to division one this season and under new Director of Cricket, Charlotte Edwards, won six of their seven fixtures to secure the title.

Yorkshire finished as runners-up, while Middlesex and Somerset were relegated.   Sussex and Surrey are promoted from division two.

Aboriginal Tour

There are both men’s and women’s Aboriginal XIs touring England at the moment.  On Thursday 7 both sides played a Surrey XI at The Oval and on Friday 8 June they play a Sussex XI at Hove.

Thursday 7 June
Surrey Women 149/6 (20 0vers)
Aboriginal XI 113 all out (19.6 overs)
Surrey women won by 36 runs

Surrey captain Hannah Jones won the toss and elected to bat.  England’s Bryony Smith top scored with 58 with Amy Gordon making 37. Aboriginal captain Ashleigh Gardner had the best bowling figures, taking 2/28 from her four overs.

In response Gardner opened the batting but was out for six.  Hannah Darlington top-scored with 32 and there were good contributions from Emma Manix-Geeves (21) and Sally Moylan (27), but wickets fell too regularly for them to have a chance and the tourists fell short by 36 runs.

Mountain Biking

Great Britain’s Tahnee Seagrave won the Fort William leg of the Downhill World Cup last weekend.  She took the title in a time of 05:10.960, ahead of Myriam Nicole of France in second, 05:19.211 and Britain’s Rachel Atherton in third, 05:20.016.

Seagrave now lies second in the rankings on 1751 points, behind Myriam who has 1950.

Football

England Qualifier

England Head Coach, Phil Neville, will have decisions to make on Friday as there have been a series of withdrawals from his squad for Friday’s qualifier against Russia.

Captain Steph Houghton was the first to withdraw and now faces some time on the sidelines as she undergoes knee surgery.

Earlier this week Izzy Christiansen and Jordan Nobbs also withdrew.  Christiansen has a thigh problem, while Nobbs has a foot injury.

Lucy Staniforth of Sunderland and Lauren Bruton of Reading have been called up as cover and Lucy Bronze had been named captain.

Just to remind you, the Russia game will be on the BBC Red Button and online from 5pm.

Wales Qualifier

Wales 1-0

Wales took a one-point lead in Group A after beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 in Swansea on 7 June.

Kayleigh Green scored the only goal of the game in the 61st minute after Wales had spurned numerous chances, including a penalty, which was missed by Helen Ward.

Wales play again on Tuesday 12 June in Newport when they face Russia.

Scotland Qualifer

Scotland 2-1 Belarus

Scotland are up to second in Group B, three points behind Switzerland after they came from behind to beat Belarus at the Falkirk stadium on 7 June.

Belarus took the lead through Karina Olkhovik.  Scotland had plenty of chances to equalise and Jane Ross had a goal disallowed before Erin Cuthbert finally drew them level just before the break.

Cuthbert bagged her second on 65 minutes to give the Scots the win.

They play again in Poland on Tuesday 12 June, with leaders Switzerland travelling to Belarus on the same day.

Other football news

There has been another flurry of transfers/releasing of players/new contracts this week.  Here are the highlights:

  • Biggest news of the week, Reading and England goalkeeper Mary Earps has signed for German champions Wolfsburg on a one-year deal. This will be great experience for the 25-year old.
  • Second biggest news must be the appointment of former Liverpool coach Matt Beard as the new Head Coach of West Ham Ladies. Watch out, West Ham obviously mean business.
  • Birmingham City have released Freda Ayisi, Maddy Cusack and Coral Haines.
  • Manchester City have signed Scotland international Caroline Weir from Liverpool.
  • Fran Kirby has signed a new three-year contract with Chelsea.
  • David Haley is to step down as Celtic manager after five years to take charge of the Celtic Women’s Academy

Darts

Great news from the world of darts this week as it was announced that from 2019 the PDC World Championship will include two female players as part of an expanded field.

There will be 96 players taking part, an increase from 72.  There will be two women’s qualifying events for the UK and Rest of the World.  The winners of these events will get to the main draw.

The tournament takes place at the Alexandra Palace and runs from 13 December to 1 January.

Triathlon

Great Britain took silver in Nottingham on Thursday 7 June in the first of the Mixed Relay Series events.

The team, comprising Jonny Brownlee, Non Stanford, Tom Bishop and Vicky Holland finished 29 seconds behind the USA, who completed the course in one hour 21 minutes and 16 seconds.

France finished third in a sprint finish, nine seconds behind Brownlee and one second ahead of Australia’s Ryan Bailie in fourth.

Mixed Relay will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and the Nottingham event was the first to earn teams Olympic qualifying points.

The second event will be in Edmonton, Canada, from 27-29 July.

Rugby Union

This weekend sees the final leg of the Women’s World Sevens in Paris.  Australia are currently top of the standings with 74 points, New Zealand lie second with 70 with France back in third on 54.  News and results next week.

It was also announced that next season’s series will include an extra leg, an opening event in Glendale, Colorado.  This will mean the women’s circuit will comprise six rounds; USA, Dubai, Sydney, Kitakyushu, Langford and Paris.

Netball

It was round 15 of the Netball Super League at the weekend and the results were as follows:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath 54-45 Benecos Mavericks

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder 53-42 Wasps Netball
Team Northumbria 58-47 Celtic Dragons
Surrey Storm 51-44 UWS Sirens
Loughborough Lightning 59-44 Severn Stars

With Wasps’ second defeat in a row, they and Lightning are level on points at the top on 36, but Wasps still have a game in hand.  Thunder are third, three points back but also with a game in hand over Loughborough.  The Dragons are bottom on six points with Northumbria above them on nine.

It’s round 15 this weekend – just three rounds to go until the semis and final!

Friday 8 June
Team Bath v Loughborough Lightning (7.30pm)

Saturday 9 June
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (4pm)
Benecos Mavericks v Manchester Thunder (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Team Northumbria (6pm)

Monday 11 June
Severn Stars v UWS Sirens (Live on Sky Sports, 7pm)

Rugby League

There were no Super League games last weekend as it was a Challenge Cup weekend.  There were some big scores for the more established sides with Castleford Tigers knocking out current Challenge Cup holders, Bradford Bulls, in the process.  The quarter-final draw has been made.  Ties take place during the weekend of 30 June-1 July.

Barrow v York City Knights
Castleford Tigers v St Helens
Featherstone Rovers v Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos v The Army

Judo

Britain’s Sarah Adlington took a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Madrid last weekend.

She was beaten by Kristin Bussow of Germany in the final of the +78kg category.

Golf – US Open

Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand won the US Open on the fourth play-off hole in Alabama last weekend.

She had a seven-shot lead going into the back nine of the final round, but in the end had to settle for a play-off as she finished level with Hyo Joo Kim of Korea on -11.

They were still level after a two-hole play-off before it went to sudden death.  At their third play-off hole they both parred again before Jutanugam won the fourth with a par to win her second major.

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda finished third.  Charley Hull finished in a share of tenth place and was the highest placed Briton.

No spitting or ranting “And Finally” this week (relief all-round there), but I’ll be back next week with more news, scores and views.  

Women’s Sports Column 26 May – 1 June 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I missed quite a bit last week, didn’t I, so this week’s bumper offering will include a few highlights from the previous one.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s another week, another women’s sport initiative (yay!), likewise I get to play yet another game of “What on earth was the FA thinking?”  News and results also from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, golf, netball, tennis and lacrosse plus a round-up of who won what at the Women’s Sport Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards.

Football – off the pitch

No doubting the top women’s sports news of the week – the FA announcement as to who has been handed licences for the new Women’s Premier League and Women’s Championship.  I don’t know what you’ve read about it, but there’s precious little positive reaction out there.  Some clubs are even considering appealing the decision.  There are always winners and losers in such a process, but yet again the FA has done nothing to endear itself to supporters of women’s football and the clubs themselves.

Tony Farmer, founder of Chelsea Ladies and vocal supporter of women’s football through WSL Fans Utd, tweeted this (and I think this sums it up)

Team finishes 7th in WSL1 removed
Team wins WSL2 not promoted
Team wins FAWPL South promoted to T2
Team wins FAWPL North not promoted to T2
Team finishes 7th in FAWPL promoted to T1
Team finishes 4th in FAWPL MID1 promoted to T2
Club with no team placed in T2
Confused?

So to recap, the winners are, no doubt, Lewes, Manchester United (!), Leicester City and West Ham, while the losers are Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Watford, Blackburn Rovers, Oxford United, Southampton and Derby County.

14 teams applied for five licences in the part-time Championship.  They were awarded to Manchester United, Charlton (champions of third-tier in a play-off against Blackburn.  Blackburn didn’t make it even though they finished top of the Premier League North), Leicester City, Lewes FC and Sheffield United.

Current WSL1 side Sunderland were the big losers.  They had already indicated the need to go part-time and should have been confident of making the Championship, but they didn’t and are now due to languish in the new third-tier, the Women’s National League North.  Watford and Oxford United are also demoted to the third-tier.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, the FA’s head of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell said of Sunderland,

“They were in a very competitive competition to get in to the two leagues and we had to judge people on merit.

“Yes, it’s tough on them, but unfortunately, whenever you create these kind of step-changes, there are casualties, and I’m afraid they’re one of them.

“As we move the WSL to full-time, in order to improve competitive balance, get better broadcasts and eventually better commercial income. Some clubs couldn’t make that step.

“Others have stepped up to the mark. It has to be a commitment from the club to step up and move forward together with us.

“We’re in a very good place and I think in a few years from now, we’ll have a league that is the envy of the world.”

Well I certainly hope so, but serious doubts remain as to some of the decision-making.  Why 11 teams in the WSL?  Apparently this will be upped to 12 at the end of next season through promotion, but if the winners of the Championship are unable to fulfil the “professional” criteria, will they still be promoted or will it be a random appointment of a club that finished mid-table?

There have been some admirable statements from the unsuccessful clubs; both Oxford United and Derby County have committed to progressing their women’s sides and contesting to rise through the leagues via promotion.

I think I’ve exhausted myself with the ramifications of this now, so here’s the list of who is where in the top two tiers for next season:

Women’s Super League 2018-19
Arsenal
Birmingham City
Brighton & Hove Albion
Bristol City
Chelsea
Everton
Liverpool
Manchester City
Reading
West Ham United
Yeovil Town

Women’s Championship 2018-19
Aston Villa
Charlton Athletic
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Durham
Leicester City
Lewes FC
London Bees
Manchester United
Millwall Lionesses
Sheffield FC
Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur

Other football news

What a week for England’s Lucy Bronze.  She began the week by winning the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award and ended it as a Champions League winner!  In a public vote she beat Netherlands star Lieke Martens into second, while Australia striker Sam Kerr was third.

Chelsea Ladies are no more – well they’re changing their name (not before time, in my opinion) to Chelsea Football Club Women.

Also with Chelsea, midfielder and Norway captain Maren Mjelde has shown her commitment to the club by signing a new three-year contract.

Reading, meanwhile, have released Harriet Scott, Melissa Fletcher and Kirsty Linnett after deciding not to renew their contracts.  Fletcher, a Wales international, had been with the club since she was eight years old.

US midfielder Heather O’Reilly has left Arsenal after 18 months.  But Netherlands international Danielle van de Donk, Sari van Veenendaal and Dominque Janssen have all signed new contracts.

Bristol City Women’s head coach Willie Kirk has left the club after three years.  He had been offered a new contract, with his current one expiring in the summer, but turned it down.

Manchester City are also in the transfer news; Jane Ross and Tessel Middag have been released on the expiry of their contracts, but they have signed Bristol City forward Lauren Hemp.

England squad for Russia World Cup Qualifier

The squad has been announced for the qualifier against Russia:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Abbie McManus (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

The game is on Friday 8 June with a 5pm kick-off UK time and will be on the BBC red button.

Football – on the pitch – Champions League Final

Wolfsburg 1-4 Lyon (aet)
0-0 after 90 mins

It was all too easy for Lyon in the end, but in the early stages Wolfsburg went toe-to-toe with the holders.

But Lyon always had the better chances and had goal-line technology been in place the match could have been over in normal time as Lyon’s Amandine Henry’s shot looked to have crossed the line before Noelle Maritz cleared it from inside the goalmouth.

After a goalless 90 minutes, the German side took the lead with a deflected shot from Pernille Harder.

But the game arguably turned on the sending off of Wolfsburg defender Alexandra Popp for a second yellow card.

Lyon capitalised quickly and ruthlessly and Wolfsburg soon tired.  Amandine Henry scored the equaliser before substitute (and why wasn’t she starting as she was fantastic when she came on) Shanice van de Sanden put in two pinpoint crosses for Eugenie le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg to score and take the game away from Wolfsburg.

Camille Abily scored the fourth, somewhat flattering Lyon and hard on Wolfsburg and the French side had won their fifth Women’s Champions League title.

Tennis – on the court

French Open

We’re reaching the end of the first week at Roland Garros.  British number one Jo Konta continued her poor French Open form, exiting in the first round, losing to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 4-6 3-6.  Heather Watson got to round two; in the first round she played an excellent match to defeat      Océane Dodin of France 6-3 6-0.  She was, however, unable to replicate this form in the second and was soundly beaten by sixteenth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 3-6 4-6.

Over the next couple of days the round of 32 in the singles will be completed.  Conqueror of Konta, Putintseva, is still going strong, having defeated Wang Qiang 1-6 7-5 6-4. Others through to the round of 16 so far are thirteenth seed Madison Keys, 6-1 7-6 winner over twenty-first seed Naomi Osaka and fourteenth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1 1-6 6-3 winner over Maria Sakkari.

There are plenty of seeds still in it and don’t forget Serena – more news next week.

Tennis – off the court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is to bestow its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, on Evonne Goolagong Cawley for her contribution to tennis both on and off the court.

During a distinguished career Goolagong Cawley won the French Open and Wimbledon at the age of 19 in 1971 and in total won seven Grand Slam singles title, six Grand Slam doubles titles and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

She was also part of the Australian Fed Cup team that won in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

Since her retirement she has been active in promoting tennis for women in Australia and is an ambassador, advocate and role model for indigenous Australians.

For 12 years she has run the Goolagong National Development Camp which aims to improve the health, education and employment prospects of indigenous youngsters through tennis.

Rugby League

Just a couple of results from the Super League this week:

Saturday 26 May
Featherstone Rovers 22-46 Bradford Bulls

Sunday 27 May
Leeds Rhino 40-12 Castleford Tigers

St Helens are still top on points difference from Leeds Rhinos.  York City Knights have yet to register a point although they have at least one game in hand over most teams, and two over some.

Lacrosse

There was sad news from the world of lacrosse this week with the announcement of the death of Celia Brackenridge at the age of 67 from leukaemia.

Brackenridge had an illustrious career playing for and captaining both the England and Great Britain lacrosse sides.

On her retirement from the game she got into coaching and was England coach for the 1986 World Cup.  She was a scholar and student of the game and wrote several books on the sport.

But she was also passionate about equality in sport and was a part of the founding of the Women’s Sports Foundation UK.

At the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s she researched and worked in the field of the sexual abuse of young athletes by coaches, especially in football and in 2001 she worked with the FA on a new child protection strategy.

She was awarded an OBE for her serviced to Equality and Child Protection in Sport in 2012.

Netball

It was round 14 of 18 in the Netball Super League last weekend.  Performance of the weekend went to Loughborough Lightning, who ended Wasps Netball’s unbeaten run in stupendous style.  The full results were:

Friday 25 May
Celtic Dragons 38-78 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 26 May
UWS Sirens 51-43 Team Bath
Benecos Mavericks 59-40 Team Northumbria
Wasps Netball 47-60 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 28 May
Surrey Storm 42-51 Severn Stars

That win for Lightning could be vital as Wasps (36) lead at the top is cut to three points.  However they do have a game in hand over Loughborough (33) in second with Thunder (30) in third a further three points back.  Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria prop up the table on 6 points.

Round 15 is this weekend:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (2.15pm Live on Sky Sports)
Team Northumbria v Celtic Dragons (6pm)
Surrey Storm v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (7pm)

Be a Game Changer Awards

The Winners were:

Sporting role model (Individual)
Stacey Copeland

Sporting role model (Team)
England Women’s cricket team

Ambassador for Women’s Sport
Lorna Boothe
Boothe is the most senior black woman in athletics administration

National Governing Body of the Year
England and Wales Cricket Board

Brand/Sponsor partner of the year
Investec (Principal Partner of GB and England Women’s Hockey)

Inspiring Initiative (Local)
Crawley Old Girls
Enabling older women to learn to play football

Inspiring Initiative (National)
England Rugby’s inner warrior campaign

Imagery of the year
“Standing in the light”

Media initiative of the year
The Tough Girl Podcast

Outstanding contribution
Carol Isherwood
Former England rugby captain and founding member of the Women’s RFU.

Golf

Changes are afoot in the world of golf.  I’m not going to lump this into the wonderful world of hashtagged initiatives, as it seems there could be more substance to this one.

I do see stormy times ahead for the R&A though if it truly wants to improve the lot for women and girls who want to get into the sport.

In an interview with the BBC, Chief Executive, Martin Slumbers (could have been nominative determinism gone mad, but it’s obviously not) has said that “Doing nothing is not an option” when it comes to improving the “recruitment, retention and progression” of women in golf.

Considering it is only four years since the R&A voted to admit women members, this is somewhat of a seismic shift.

Enter the Women in Golf Charter.  Actually it’s inspiring stuff.  Give it a read.  There will be huffing, puffing and some rebellion I don’t doubt, but the old order is changing throughout sport and although golf may be one of the more difficult ones to crack, it is doable if enough people have the will.

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

A women’s IPL is surely a step closer as the Trailblazers and Supernovas put on a fine show, with the fight going down to the last ball, as the prelude to the men’s IPL final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Trailblazers 129/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 130/7 (20 overs)

Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers batted first.  Top scorer was Suzie Bates with 32, while Jemima Rodrigues got 25.  The Australian duo of Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry did the bowling damage with Schutt taking 2/18 and Perry 2/20.

In reply the Supernovas started well.  Openers Danni Wyatt and Mithali Raj scored 47 inside the first six overs, but as they lost wickets the run-rate rose until they needed four runs to win off the final over.  Poonam Yadav took 2/21 and Bates 2/16 and it was Bates to bowl the final over.  Perry drew the scores level with a single from the penultimate ball and Pooja Vastrakar hit the winning run with a thrash to mid-wicket.

So come on BCCI and the many potential sponsors out there – recognise a 24-carat gold opportunity when you see one.

#ShowUp

Let me start by saying it’s laudable.  Any initiative that encourages people to attend women’s sports events can’t be bad.  But I’ve got initiative fatigue and although I’d like to raise a glass to this fine new idea, I’m struggling.  What it has got going for it is that it’s not run by the FA….. Here’s the gist:

This partnership between Sky Sports and the Women’s Sports Trust encourages sports fans to try something different by attending a women’s event.  People are being asked to pledge their support by using the hashtag #ShowUp across their social media platforms.

All of the big names in women’s sport are backing it and Sky is also giving away 5,000 tickets to women’s sports events this year.

For all of us who have been #showingUp for years it’s nothing new, but the further we can reach into new audiences the better.  Get behind this new campaigning and check out the Youtube video here.

And finally,

Before we carried away on the big fluffy #ShowUp cloud, there was a more disturbing announcement this week from Women in Football (WIF).

It has seen a 397.2 per cent increase in the number of sex discrimination and harassment incidents reported than in the preceding 12 months.

Unsurprisingly social media accounts for a huge number of complaints.  Of the 271 incidents reported:

Match day incidents were up 133.3%
Workplace incidents up 112.5%
Social media incidents up 285.4%

Of course, before we all run for the hills we must also remember that it is only recently that the reporting of incidents has been made easy and is actively encouraged.

Any regular reader of this column will realise that the abuse is widespread, particularly in social media, and particularly in football.  There are a large number of women and men out there aiming to change this and little by little we’re making a difference.  But don’t expect this behaviour to be eradicated any time soon.  All we can do is keep at it and call it out when we come across it.  We will get there.  I do believe that, otherwise I’d have given up long ago.

Until next week.  Enjoy your sport!