Women’s Sports Column 14-20 October 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s epic, this column should be more within usual parameters!  But there’s still plenty of news; stories this week come from football, cricket, Aussie Rules Football, cycling, rugby, netball, taekwondo, hockey and boxing.

I was about to crack on, then I realised that the top three women’s sports stories are the debacle at the FA, the Danish women’s football team on strike and the fact that the IRB have advertised their women’s national side’s head coach job as a six-month part-time post.  Ho hum.  Don’t think I need to add anything there do I?

Let’s crack on.

Football

No doubt about the top story this week.  Really, if the FA were a soap opera you’d say it was too far-fetched.

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs as I will assume everyone is keeping up with it.  Blame has two lie at two doors – and while we’re blaming the first, let’s not forget about the second, shall we?

Firstly, the Football Association, which has mismanaged the whole situation right from the start.  No, this is not a “witch hunt” as the apologists might have it, but, let’s face it, something has been very wrong at the FA for some time.

Now it appears they ignored the facts before them, initiated a thoroughly useless investigation, came up with totally spurious results and then tried to bribe the complainant into telling the world that it wasn’t “institutionally racist”.  What could possibly be amiss?

The second investigation and subsequent grilling by MPs didn’t take long to show up the FA’s incompetence.

The FA has now apologised both the Eni Aluko and Drew Spence after Mark Sampson was indeed found to have made comments that were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The inquiry also found that it did not believe Sampson to be racist but to have made “ill-judged attempts at humour” and also that Aluko’s bullying claim was not proven.

All through this ordeal Aluko has carried herself with dignity, sticking to her story and not bending, even when attempts were made to offer her “hush money.”

It is my view (neither original, nor unpopular) that the FA is an outdated, outmoded institution that needs to be looked at from the ground up.  Yes, there are black players and women on its satellite boards (see later for news of Dan Carter) but it still remains, at heart, a stale, pale, male, boys’ club.

Football is supposed to be the game of the people – and yet what does this tell us?  Who are the people, in the FA’s case?  Middle-aged (and older), white men.  As a consumer and lover of both women’s and men’s football, I can certainly say they don’t speak for me.

I listened to the debate on 5 Live on the subject this week.  It was really sad to hear Ian Wright, a great player, a role model for black teenagers (boys and girls), and an intelligent man, say he couldn’t work with the FA as it stands.  Mark Chapman was trying to get him to say he’d like to be involved, but obviously, looking at his conscience he said he wouldn’t be able to, even if approached.

And who can blame him?  I would like to think the top brass, Martin Glenn and Greg Clarke, are living on borrowed time.  But who knows?  Who can oust them?  And, more importantly, who would they be replaced by?

Going back to the second guilty party in this – let’s not forget Mark Sampson.  He has seemingly ruined his career over a spectacular inability to know his boundaries.  I don’t think he’s racist, he’s just another product of the “banter” culture, where people think it’s ok to say anything they want if they parade it under the label of “banter”.  Well it’s not.  The England set-up is a workplace, just like any other.  Such comment would not be acceptable in any other workplace, so it’s not acceptable here.  Anyone in such a position should have had courses in boundaries – and, equally importantly – should have known instinctively that he was crossing a line.

It’s not over yet, folks.  Let’s see what happens next.

Champions League Draw

The round of 16 draw was made on Monday.  Chelsea were not seeded, but managed to avoid the big guns of Lyon, Wolfsburg and Barcelona, but they still face a tough two legs against Rosenborg of Sweden.  Manchester City were seeded and will be happy with their draw against LSK Kinner of Norway.

First leg ties will be played on 8/9 November, with the return legs the following week.

Full draw:

Sparta Praha (CZE) v Linköping (SWE)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU) v Barcelona (ESP)
Chelsea (ENG) v Rosengård (SWE)
LSK Kvinner (NOR) v Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA) v Montpellier (FRA)
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ) v Lyon (FRA, holders)
Fiorentina (ITA) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Stjarnan (ISL) v Slavia Praha (CZE)

More from The FA

England and Arsenal striker Danielle Carter has been appointed to the FA Council.  Carter has graduated from the “On the Board” scheme, which works to promote diversity within football.  She also sits on Hertfordshire FA’s disciplinary panel.

Denmark National Team

In an unprecedented move, Denmark’s women’s team will miss their World Cup qualifier against Sweden on Friday as their disagreement with their governing body, the Danish Football Association (DBU) goes on.

The team is still on strike after the two proposals put forward by the players were rejected by the governing body.  The men’s team was to give £60,000 to the women’s team and the women to have the same basic rights as the men do.  There is also still an issue as to who employs the women’s team.  The Danish FA has put forward a deal which means that the women’s team would no longer be employed by the FA.  The team has rejected this.   It doesn’t look as if this is going to be solved any time soon, so expect more updates.

Scotland – World Cup Qualifying

19 October
Belarus1-2 Scotland

Scotland registered a win in their first World Cup qualifier in Minsk on Thursday.  Scotland had chances to score early on through Caroline Weir and Jane Ross, but on 25 minutes it was Belarus who put the ball in the net first, Anastasia Kharlanova lobbing the keeper from six yards.

Three minutes later Scotland were level when Ross poked in from a Weir corner.

In the second-half the visitor had several chances, but spurned them all, until on 62 minutes the pressure told when Ross got through the defence, crossed and the ball was turned into her own net by Anna Kozyupa.

After just one match in group B Scotland lie third with three points.  Switzerland top the table with two wins from two.

Scotland’s next match is against Albania at The Paisley Stadium on Tuesday 24 October.

England

Friday 20 October sees England play France in a friendly at the Stade du Hainaut.  Kick-off is at 8pm BST.  Coverage is via the BBC red button and online.  Apparently 18,500 tickets have already been sold.  It will be Mo Marley’s first test as interim England manager, and in terms of European opposition, doesn’t get much tougher.

Cycling
La Course

It was announced this week that the 2018 La Course will be a one-day only event.  This year’s was over two days, with an added mountain stage.

It was generally agreed that the two-day format didn’t really work, but the riders are certainly in favour of a stiffer, and longer, test.  By reverting to the one-day format, the Tour de France organisers are shirking their commitments to women’s cycling.  Like many women’s sports, women’s cycling has to fight for any recognition at all.  It’s hard to see that calling one cut-down stage of the men’s race is showing it any respect or commitment.

European Track Championships

The British team pursuit foursome has won silver at the European Track Championships in Berlin.

The four; Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker, Manon Lloyd and Emily Kay were beaten by Italy in the final.

This is Team GB’s first medal at the Championships.

Eleanor Dickinson finished fifth in the women’s elimination race, and the women’s sprint team of Sophie Capewell and Katy Marchant lost to Germany in the first round of their event.

Katie Archibald

Scottish track cyclist Katie Archibald is to join road racing team Wiggle High5 in 2018.  She is not giving up on the track but sees the road racing as an addition to her career.

She is hoping to be selected for the Setmana Ciclista Valencia, Tour de Yorkshire and The Women’s Tour, but she will also compete at the track world championships next March.

Cricket – The Ashes

As you will all know, the Ashes are very nearly upon us.  It has not been the ideal warm-up for England’s women as they have managed to play only 18 overs so far due to rain.

Their first game, against a Cricket Australia XI was called off after 18 overs and they didn’t even get on the pitch for their second, which should have been against Queensland Fire.

However, it has been a similar story for both sides, with Australia’s warm-ups abandoned too.

Australia will, no doubt, miss captain Meg Lanning and her replacement, Rachael Haynes is somewhat of an unknown quantity.  England will be buzzing after their World Cup win in the summer.  All of this should point to an England victory, but it would be a brave woman who came right out and said it.  So I won’t.  The Test match will be key, even with fewer points riding on it.  Am I nervous?  Only completely.  More details and analysis, as ever, to come in this column.    

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane SOLD OUT!
26 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

Full coverage, I’m delighted to say, is on BT Sport and begins on Sunday at 12.15am!  Be there, but if you can’t, make sure you watch the highlights later in the day.

ICC Women’s Championship

West Indies v Sri Lanka
Game two 13 October
Sri Lanka 162 all out (46.3 of 47 overs)
West Indies 163/3 (39.4 of 47 overs)

Although the top four batters got a start for Sri Lanka, 162 never looked like being enough to worry West Indies.  Afy Fletcher took 3/24 off 10 overs with Anisa Mohammed and Stafanie Taylor chipping in with two each.

In response West Indies made it look easy.  Taylor starred with bat as well as ball, scoring 60, with Deandra Dottin coming in late on to make 37 not out from 37 balls to seal the win and the two points.

Game three 15 October
West Indies 182/8 (45 overs)
Sri Lanka 142 all out (40.4 overs)

The Windies batted first, setting Sri Lanka a tough target.  Stafanie Taylor again led the way with 55, with Hayley Matthews contributing a fine 41 and Merissa Aguilleira 37.

Sri Lanka were always going to fall short.  Dilani Manodara top scored for them with 42.  Pick of the bowlers were Shakera Selman and Stafanie Taylor who took three wickets each.

So it’s so far, so good for the West Indies who lie top of the ICC Women’s Championship table with six points from three matches.

Tennis

Maria Sharapova claimed her first title since 2015 at the weekend, when she won the Tianjan Open.    She beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 7-6 in the final.   It takes Sharapova up to 57 in the world rankings.

Kremlin Cup

A couple of days and a few thousand miles later Sharapova was knocked out in the first round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.  She lost to Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 7-6 6-4.

We’re now at the semi-final stage and only one seed remains.

The draw is as follows:
Daria Kasatkina v Irina-Camelia Begu
Natalia Vikhlyantseva v Julia Görges (7)

Luxembourg Open

Heather Watson made good progress to get to the quarter-finals of the Luxembourg tournament.  She beat third seed Anett Kontaveit in the round of 16 6-4 6-4.  But she fell in the quarter-final to fifth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 6-4.

And then it was two.  Naomi Broady put in an excellent performance against an under-par Sabine Lisicki to win 4-6 7-5 6-3.  She was however, like Watson, unable to repeat the feat in the quarters, going down 6-0 5-7 6-1 to Mónica Puig of Puerto Rico.

The semi-final line-up is:
Pauline Parmentier v Carina Witthöft
Elise Mertens (5) v Mónica Puig

 Boxing

Natasha Jonas won again at the weekend with a third-round stoppage of Marianna Gulyas of Hungary.

It is Jonas’ third win since her return to boxing and turning professional in 2017, after initially retiring in 2015.

Aussie Rules Football

The AFL has banned transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey from taking part in the 2018 AFLW.

The governing body said it took into consideration “transgender strength, stamina, physique, along with the specific nature of the AFLW.”

The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) responded with a statement accusing the AFL of having no “clear guidelines on transgender players”.  It also stated that “No athlete should face such confusion around their eligibility for an elite competition just days out from a draft.”

Mouncey already plays for the Ainslie club in the Canberra Women’s League and previously played for the Australian men’s handball team.

Although she is now ineligible for this year’s draft, she may be able to be considered for future seasons.

In response to the ruling Mouncey said,

“While I am extremely disappointed with the AFL’s decision regarding my participation in Wednesday’s AFLW draft, I thank them for the genuine way in which they approached my situation.

“Despite not being able to take part in the draft, the AFL has given me the all clear to play for Ainslie next year in the AFL Canberra competition for which I am very grateful and look forward to doing in 2018, before hopefully being able to nominate for next year’s draft”.

This is going to become an issue in many sports and each sport will have to have its own policy.  The AFL clearly has not had to make this decision before but it’s good to see that their General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch is giving it consideration, although it is a shame they didn’t think to pre-empt such a situation,

“We acknowledge Hannah’s openness and cooperation. She has contributed to a process which will substantially inform the development of the AFL’s transgender policy and procedure for future players at the elite level,” she said.

Let’s hope they have that policy in place before such circumstances arise again.

Rugby Union

Ireland National Side

Your country has just hosted an incredibly successful World Cup.  As a host side you haven’t done too well, so unsurprisingly your coach steps down.  But the sport is on a high.  It’s finally getting the profile it deserves.  So what do you do?

Well, apparently you advertise the opening for the new coach of the national side as a part-time post for a six-month period.

That’s just what the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has done to the women’s national side.

Former coach, Tom Tierney, was their first coach employed on a full-time basis and showed the IRFU’s commitment to the women’s team in the run-up to the World Cup.

But now it’s over, it seems that commitment just isn’t there anymore.  England Rugby was similarly criticised when it announced that contracts for fifteens players would end after the World Cup and payments would be only made to sevens players.

It is, unfortunately, a story we see again and again in women’s sport, and I have covered it many times.  The governing bodies talk a good game, but usually that’s all it is.   I’m sick of writing it, and I’m sure you’re all sick of reading it.  But it seems as if the end of this kind of shoddy treatment is by no means nigh.

This weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s fixtures are as follows:

21 October
Wasps Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (2pm Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v DMP Sharks (2.30pm venue tbc)
Harlequins Ladies v Bristol Ladies (3pm The Stoop)
Richmond Women v Saracens Women (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

22 October
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (2pm Sixways Stadium)

Netball

The England Roses squad for their three-match series against Malawi in November has been announced.

Ama Agbeze will captain the side, with England’s most capped player, Jade Clarke, serving as vice-captain.

The squad in full is:

Ama Agbeze (Capt.), Jade Clarke (Vice-Capt.), Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Sasha Corbin, Rachel Dunn, Jodie Gibson, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Josie Huckle, Vicki Oyesola, Natalie Panagarry

The series fixtures are:
Friday 24th November, Copper Box Arena, 7.45pm
Sunday 26th November, Copper Box Arena, 2pm
Wednesday 29th November, Genting Arena, 7:45pm

Hockey

The results from last weekend’s Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier League fixtures were as follows:

University of Birmingham 3-1 Surbiton
Canterbury 1-2 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 1-0 Bowdon
Leicester 0-0 Buckingham
East Grinstead 1-0 Slough

There was a shock defeat for Surbiton at the weekend as the reigning champions went down 3-1 in Birmingham.  England’s Lily Owsley scored the first for the home side from a penalty corner after eight minutes, but four minutes later the visitors were level through Rebecca Middleton.

On 50 minutes Alice Wills put Birmingham back in front and Erica Sanders ensured the win nine minutes later.

After four games Holcombe are top of the table with eight points.  Slough and Surbiton are second and third respectively on seven with Slough in second on goal difference.

Para-taekwondo

Britain’s Amy Truesdale has won gold in the K44 +58kg category at the Para-taekwondo World Championships in London.

It is Truesdale’s fourth medal in the event having claimed gold in 2014, and bronze in 2009 and 2015.

She was leading 17-3 in the final against Rajae Ajkermach of Morocco when her opponent had to withdraw with an injury.

And finally,

 There will be no column for two weeks now, as I’m off on my hols.  I’d like to say I was off to Oz for the Ashes, but I’m not, so I won’t.  I’ll be back on Friday 10 November with the all the news, views, fixtures and results from that week, plus any burning issue that has arisen while I’ve been away.

Advertisements

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 October 2017

camerawomanWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s short, but perfectly formed column, this week promises to be another bumper effort!  Good grief, women, what are you doing playing/officiating in/running/campaigning about all this sport?  Whatever next?  In fact there’s so much to put in I’m going to have to leave it to you to find this weekend’s fixtures for the various sports leagues.  No room!!

Anyway, on to the news.  Stories this week come from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football, netball, gymnastics, hockey and tennis.  Plus, a tiny rant from me for this week’s “And finally”.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

It was a clean sweep for England as they retained their Netball Europe Open Championships title at the weekend.  They were the clear favourites to take the title and put together a fine series of wins to remain unbeaten by the end of the tournament.

Results:
5 October
Fiji 34-52 Scotland
Wales 46-47 Northern Ireland

6 October
England 61-48 Scotland
Fiji 40-61 Wales
England 75-44 Northern Ireland

7 October
Fiji 46-58 Northern Ireland
Wales 49-58 Scotland
England 94-31 Fiji

8 October
Scotland 45-46 Northern Ireland
England 72-50 Wales

Final Standings:

P W D L PTS
England 4 4 0 0 8
Northern Ireland 4 3 0 1 6
Scotland 4 2 0 2 4
Wales 4 1 0 3 2
Fiji 4 0 0 4 0

Football

Off the pitch

Eventually….

Manchester City have apparently asked to talk to the FA about the response of the officials and services available after Pauline Bremer broke her leg in the game against Everton on Saturday.

According to Sportsmail City are unhappy at the lack of emergency services available at the game.  The ambulance apparently did not arrive for an hour and her teammates had to carry her off on a stretcher.

Both clubs had medics available, but there were no emergency services and there is no FA requirement for them to be even at top flight women’s games, whereas they must be available at all men’s professional games.

So, hey ho FA, here we go again.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s all a part of their half-brained thinking.  Last week it was the announcement of a fully professional first tier of women’s football; this week it’s revealed there’s not even an ambulance present at current matches.  Just who is putting these schemes and ideas together?  Are they even aware of the present situation?  Before we move on to the next big thing, can we get the present middle-sized thing right first, please?

Yeovil

Yeovil Town Ladies announced this week that they were going to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £350,000 necessary to put in a bid to be part of the new fully-professional top tier.

As reported a couple of weeks ago, the deadline to apply is 10 November.

The club has said,

“We have the structure, facilities and ambition to become a full-time professional club given time, but we currently do not have the financial support to do this.

“We do not have the budget to allow our players and coaches to become full-time athletes, unless further investment comes our way soon.”

And while you can applaud the club’s ambition and appreciate that it is currently where it is on merit, you have to wonder about the wisdom of building a long-term future on a crowdfunding campaign.  If they don’t have the investment now, is a one-off injection of £350,000 make the club any more sustainable?

I’m hoping they’ve done the sums and I apologise if I am wrongly doubtful. It’s a great club that has come so far and deserves a shot.

Here’s the link to the campaign should you wish to contribute:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/turning-professional-in-the-top-tier-of-the-fawsl

And it’s not just in this country that women’s football is sadly underestimated and treated with contempt:

Brazil

A number of former Brazilian women internationals have sent an open letter to their federation to protest at some of their recent actions.

And although they attack some specific issues, such as the sacking of head coach Emily Lima, their key complaint is one heard again and again throughout women’s sport –

“We, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport”.

Lima’s sacking led to five members of the current Brazilian squad to retire from international football; Cristiane, Francielle, Rosana, Andreia Rosa and Maurine have all given up on their international careers.

But it’s the set-up and governance of the women’s game that is the main focus of the protest.  FIFA has guidelines in place that say women must be included at all levels of governance of the game.  But the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) does not follow these guidelines – indeed there are no women on its governing board.

Can we expect FIFA to intervene?  Impose sanctions?  I suspect not.  But both the CBF and FIFA will have to respond in some way.  And when they do, I’ll be covering it.

England

Mo Marley has named her first squad as interim England Manager.  A squad of 24 has been named for the friendly against France, which takes place on Friday 20 November at the Stade du Hainaut.

The match will be shown live on the BBC red button – friendlies on the TV, whatever next?

Goalkeepers: Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool) 

Midfielders: Izzy Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Reading), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Dan Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal)

Norway – Good News!

And some good news to round off the “off the pitch” section.

The Norwegian Football Association announced this week that it is to pay the same to both male and female internationals.

Head of the Norwegian Players’ union, Joachim Walltin, said,

“Norway is a country where equal standing is very important for us, so it is good for the country and for the sport.

“For the girls, it will certainly make a difference. Some of them are working and studying, as well as playing football, and it’s hard to improve then.

“The feeling of being really respected is very important for them. The federation can see it as an investment to increase the level of the women’s team.”

And so say all of us.  Norway is taking the lead here – it would be good to see others follow suit.

On the Pitch

It’s been a busy week with WSL, Continental Cup and Champions League action all taking place.  After this week’s results we’re now down to the last 16 in the Champions League and it’s good to report that both English clubs went through, but Glasgow City went out on the away goals rule.  

Bayern Munich 2-2 Chelsea
Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate

This was a fine result for Chelsea after being only one up after the home leg.  It was tight all the way through, but when Fran Kirby stuck away an excellent goal on 60 minutes, thereby securing an away goal, the task seemed much easier.

Bayern needed three in 30 minutes and were stung into action.  They pulled one back after sustained pressure as substitute Gemma Davison deflected the ball into her own net and then Lucie Vonkova pounced on some poor goalkeeping from Lindahl to poke home from close range.

Chelsea resisted wave after wave of attack, much as they did in the first leg.  The home side had a good shout for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike Millie Bright’s arm, but the referee waved it away.

Bayern did put the ball in the net in injury time, but it was disallowed for a push in the box and Chelsea held on for the win.

The Bayern staff and manager were not happy with what they perceived as Chelsea time-wasting as player after player went down.  And while there certainly was an element of this, the players had also played themselves into the ground and were genuinely feeling the effects.  Several times Chelsea were down to ten and playing on.  Ramona Bachmann appeared to have pretty constant cramp for the last half-hour!

Manchester City 3-0 St Polten
Manchester City win 6-0 on aggregate

It was an altogether easier night for Manchester City as they cruised past Austrian champions St Polten and into the last 16.

With a healthy 3-0 cushion from the away leg, City matched the tally with goals from Nikita Parris, Jill Scott and Mel Lawley.

In truth, it wasn’t a flowing performance from City and a better team would have made them pay.  Jane Ross missed a penalty in the first-half and was then anonymous for the rest of the game.  The defence, still adapting after losing Lucy Bronze to Lyon, looked creaky at times.  But they’re through and will, no doubt, take confidence from the tie to go on into the last 16.

Glasgow City 4-1 BIIK Kazygurt
4-4 on aggregate, but BIIK Kazygurt go through on the away goal

It was heartbreak for Glasgow City as they so nearly came back from a 3-0 away deficit to complete a miraculous win.

Their task was made so much harder as BIIK took an early lead through Chinwendu Ihezuo and the home side needed five.

Abbi Grant scored a hat-trick and Noelle Murray one to bring the sides level on aggregate.

Then Glasgow were awarded a penalty with eight minutes to go and the chance to win the tie.  But Leanne Ross hit the post and the chance was lost.

City had further chances to score but the ball refused to go in the net and Glasgow had gone out at the round of 32 stage for the third year running.

Round of 16

There are eight seeded teams and eight unseeded in the last 16 and the good news for Manchester City is that they have snuck into the seeded pot.  Chelsea are not so lucky:

Seeded
Lyon (FRA, holders)
Wolfsburg (GER)
FC Rosengård (SWE)
Barcelona (ESP)
Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA)
Slavia Praha (CZE)
Sparta Praha (CZE)

Unseeded
Linköping (SWE)
Chelsea (ENG)
Montpellier (FRA)
LSK Kvinner (NOR
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU)
Stjarnan (ISL)
Fiorentina (ITA)

The draw will be made on Monday 16 October with everyone wanting to avoid Lyon and Wolfsburg!

FAWSL1

7 October
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Everton 2-3 Manchester City

8 October
Arsenal 1-1 Bristol City
Reading 2-2 Birmingham City
Yeovil Town 0-1 Sunderland

Chelsea are top on goal difference with three wins from three.  Manchester City are equal on points, but five behind on goal difference.  Sunderland are third on six points.  Neither Everton nor Yeovil have yet taken a point, with the Lady Glovers bottom with a worse goal difference.

FAWSL2

8 October
Durham 4-0 Watford
London Bees 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses 4-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield FC 2-1 Aston Villa
Oxford United 2-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Millwall are top of division two on goals scored.  Both they and Oxford United are on seven points from three games.  They have the same goal difference, but Millwall have scored three more goals.  Durham are third on six points.  Aston Villa, London Bees and Watford are still to register a point with Watford bottom of the pile on goal difference.

Continental Cup

The Cup begins in a group stage this year with four groups, the top two from each going through to the knockout stage.

The Groups are Groups One and Two (North) and Groups One and Two (South).  If games end in a draw at 90 minutes, they go straight to penalties.

Group 1 (N)
Liverpool 6-0 Sheffield FC
Durham 0-0 Sunderland (Sunderland won 3-2 on penalties)

Group 2 (N)
Birmingham City 4-0 Oxford United
Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-3 Everton

Group 1 (S)
Arsenal 7-0 London Bees
Watford 1-0 Millwall Lionesses

Group 2 (S)
Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 Yeovil Town
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Bristol City

Gymnastics

Claudia Fragapane claimed bronze in the floor at the World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal at the weekend.

Japan’s Mai Murakami took gold with a score of 14,233, Jade Carey of the USA, silver, 14,2 with Fragapane coming in with 13.933.

Amy Tinkler finished 17th in the all round final with a total of 50.899.  It was quite an achievement as she was taking part just seven weeks after ankle surgery.  Morgan Hurd of the USA took gold with 55.232, with Ellie Black of Canada in silver position and Elena Eremina of Russia taking bronze.

Hockey

This week’s Investec Women’s Hockey League results were as follows:

7 October
Buckingham 0-0 Holcombe
Slough 1-0 Canterbury
Bowdon 0-2 East Grinstead
Surbiton 1-0 Leicester

8 October
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 University of Birmingham

This means that with three games gone, Surbiton are still top on goals scored from Slough.  Both are on seven points.  In third lie Holcombe with five.  Canterbury are still bottom with one point.

Rugby League

I realise I have been somewhat remiss in my coverage of women’s rugby league – in fact I’ve just never covered it.  I have no defence.  I love rugby league – in fact the first piece I ever wrote for the Sheffield University newspaper was on Sheffield Eagles.  So, in an attempt to redeem myself, there were two big stories this week.

Grand final
Bradford Bulls 36-6 Featherstone Rovers

Bradford Bulls scored seven tries through seven different players to ensure they won the inaugural Women’s Super League Grand Final at the Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday.

It also ensured a league and cup double for the Bulls who won the Challenge Cup earlier in the season and meant they completed the season with a 100% record.

At half-time it was still all to play for as Bulls led 16-6.  The Bulls began with tries from captain Kirsty Moroney and Lois Forsell.  Georgia Roche scored for Rovers, who then took and scored the conversion. Bulls then scored their third through Charlotte Booth.

But Rovers couldn’t score again in the second-half as the Bulls ran away with it.  Claire Garner, Amy Hardcastle, Charlene Henegan and Haylie Hields all crossed for tries, while Garner put over four conversions.

World Cup Squad

England have named 23 players in the squad to take part in the World Cup in November in Australia.

Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls), Andrea Dobson (Featherstone Rovers), Beth Sutcliffe, Charlotte Booth, Claire Garner (all Bradford Bulls), Danielle Bound (Thatto Heath St Helens), Danika Priim (Bradford Bulls), Emily Rudge (Thatto Heath St Helens), Emma Slowe (Featherstone Rovers), Faye Gaskin, Jenny Welsby (both Thatto Heath St Helens), Jessica Courtman(Bradford Bulls), Jodie Cunningham (Thatto Heath St Helens), Katherine Hepworth (Castleford Tigers), Kayleigh Bulman (Featherstone Rovers), Kirsty Moroney, Lois Forsell (both Bradford Bulls), Rachel Thompson(Thatto Heath St Helens), Rhiannon Marshall, Sarah Dunn (both Featherstone Rovers), Shona Hoyle, Stacey White (both Bradford Bulls), Tara-Jane Stanley (Thatto Heath St Helens).

England’s group fixtures begin against Papua New Guinea Orchids on 16 November.

The tournament final will be before the men’s at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on 2 December.

Group fixtures will be played at the Southern Cross Stadium, Woolooware, NSW.

16 November: Papua New Guinea Orchids (kick-off 09:30 BST)
19 November: Australian Jillaroos (04:45 BST)
22 November: The Cook Islands (04:45 BST)

 Belinda Sleeman

 Meanwhile, the men’s Rugby League World Cup has appointed its first female official.  Australian Belinda Sleeman is one of 24 officials selected.

Needless to say she has already accomplished a series of first – the most recent being the first woman to officiate at a Test Match, when she was a touch judge at the Fiji v Tonga match in May.

Watch out everyone – female officials are on the march at last.  They are progressing as never before in rugby (both codes), football and cricket.  Coming to a match near you!

Rugby Union

 Barbarians Women’s Team

The invitational team, the Barbarians are to introduce a women’s team.

The side’s first game will be against Munster on 10 November at Thomond Park, with further fixtures to be announced in due course.

Giselle Mather will coach the team and Fiona Stockley will manage it.

So far Susie Brown (Scotland), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Claire Cripps and Megan Goddard (England), Elen Evans (Wales), Emma Jenson (New Zealand), Christelle Le Duff (France) and Kelly Russell (Canada), have accepted invitations to play.  These eight start with 440 international caps between them.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Last weekend’s scores were as follows:

Saracens Women 30-0 Wasps Ladies
Harlequins Ladies 36-10 DMP Sharks
Loughborough Lightning 30-19 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Women 28-20 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
Richmond Women 48-12 Worcester Valkyries

Harlequins Ladies are top with four from four and maximum bonus points.  Saracens lie second, a point behind, with Bristol three points further back on 16 after winning three of their first four matches.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries remain pointless, with Firwood Waterloo and DMP Sharks on one and two points respectively.

Cricket

Australia have announced their squad for the Ashes, which start on 22 October.  As we know, captain Meg Lanning is out and her place is taken by Rachel Haynes, a decision that has raised some eyebrows as it has been suggested that Haynes has been picked mostly for her captaincy skills rather than her cricketing skills.  We’ll see in just over a week whether this proves to be an inspired decision (or not).

There are six uncapped players in the squad, two of whom are just returning from long-term injury; Lauren Cheatle has been out for six months with a shoulder injury, while Tahlia McGrath has been out for eight months with a stress fracture.

The squads in full:

Test squad: Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (Capt), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

ODI squad: Beams, Blackwell, Bolton, Cheatle, Gardner, Haynes, Healy, Jonassen, McGrath, Mooney, Perry, Schutt, Villani, Wellington.

ICC Women’s Championship

The quest to qualify for the 2021 World Cup began this week.  Four teams qualify automatically. The first round of fixtures is between West Indies and Sri Lanka and the first game was played on Wednesday 11 October:

Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba
Sri Lanka 136 all out (49.4 overs)
West Indies 138/4 (39 overs)

It was a comfortable win for the home side in the first game of three on Wednesday.  Yasoda Mendis top scored for Sri Lanka with 34.  Fletcher, Matthews and Taylor took three wickets each.  The only downside for West Indies was Hayley Matthews retiring hurt during the West Indies innings.  Kycia Knight made only one and captain Stafanie Taylor, two, but the middle order all contributed to see the Windies home.

The second game is on Friday 13 October.  Each game is worth two points in the Women’s Championship.

Tennis

On the Court

China Open

Caroline Garcia of France took the China Open title, beating new world number one Simona Halep in the final, 6-4 7-6.  She then pulled out of the Tianjin Open with injury.

Tianjin Open

Of course, at this stage of the season, it’s another week, another tournament.

The quarter-finals of the Tianjin Open have just been decided:

S Peng (3) beat S. Sorribes Tormo 6-0 6-1
M Sharapova beat S. Vögele 6-3 6-1
S Errani beat S McHale 5-7 7-6 6-1
A Sabalenka beat L. Zhu 6-3 6-4.

The semi-finals, which take place on Saturday 14 October, will be Errani v Sabalenka and Sharapova v Peng.

Off the Court

Johanna Konta is still suffering with a foot injury and has been forced to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup, which takes place next week.  It means she will no longer be able to qualify for the end of season Singapore tournament.

The places have been decided for Singapore and are:

  • Simona Halep (Romania)
  • Garbine Muguruza (Spain)
  • Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
  • Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
  • Venus Williams (USA)
  • Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
  • Caroline Garcia (France)

And finally

First, let me start by saying God bless the BBC for its efforts in promoting women’s sport in the face of all the bile produced by the Neanderthals every week, who feel their “No-one cares”, or more usually “Who the **** cares?” postings are the sharpest, wittiest comments since Oscar Wilde put pen to paper.

However, (and you knew this was coming) I do have to take issue with their Women’s Champions League coverage.  Last week Chelsea’s first leg match against Bayern Munich was on 5 Live Sports Extra. And very good it was.  The match, which Chelsea won 1-0, was excellent, and the tie was left on a knife-edge.  So it was with some excitement that I tuned in for the second leg on Wednesday, only to find that it wasn’t being covered.  So what was being covered?  The Manchester City v St. Polten tie on Thursday.  So what do these two matches have in common?  They’re the HOME legs.

So the BBC can “splash the cash” to send a reporter to London and Manchester, but can’t stretch to Germany or Austria.  Can you imagine John Murray being told he could cover Manchester United at Old Trafford, but couldn’t travel to an away leg – anywhere in Europe?

I did find the Chelsea game, by the way; excellent coverage, commentary and pictures via Chelsea TV on YouTube.  Would recommend.

Meanwhile, BBC, cover both legs will you?

And, and finally – a special shout out to Ipswich Town Ladies who annihilated Norwich City Ladies 8-1 in the Premier League South East Division One this week.  Fabulous hat-trick for Zoe Cossey.  Good one, ladies.  Come on you Tractor Girls!!

Women’s Sports Column 30 September – 6 October 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  After the turmoil of last week, this week seems to have returned to some semblance of normality and I’m all for it.  News this week comes from netball, football, rugby union, athletics, gymnastics, speed skating, golf, tennis and hockey.

Netball

It’s the Netball Europe Open Championships in Cardiff from 5-8 October.

England Roses are defending champions and the top side in the world to be competing at three in the world rankings.

The other teams taking part are Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Fiji (invitational team).

There will be coverage on the BBC via Connected TV, online and the BBC Sport App.

Fixtures are as follows:

Thursday, 5 October
16.25 Fiji v Scotland
18.25 Wales v Northern Ireland

Friday, 6 October
11.55 England v Scotland
17.55 Fiji v Wales
19.55 England v Northern Ireland

Saturday, 7 October
10.25 Fiji v Northern Ireland
15.55 Wales v Scotland
17.55 England v Fiji

Sunday, 8 October
09.55 Scotland v Northern Ireland
11.55 England v Wales

Football

Plenty of football news, as you would expect, this week. There were WSL1 and WSL2 league matches at the weekend, plus the round of 32 first leg fixtures in the Champions League, midweek.  But first, some World Cup news.

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea has been expelled from the 2019 Women’s World Cup after it emerged that it fielded 10 ineligible players in the qualifying tournament for the 2016 Olympics.

The team had already been banned from the 2020 Olympic Games.

Not only were some players ineligible, but others used forged or false documents in order to qualify.  The country’s football association has also been fined $102,000.

Domestic news

Former Hibernian Ladies manager, Chris Roberts, has been appointed as Bristol City Women’s first team coach and technical director.

Roberts had been at Hibs since 2014.

He rejoins his former Hibs boss, Willie Kirk, who is currently Bristol City manager.

Champions League

St Polten 0-3 Manchester City Women

All the goals came in the first half in Austria with England trio, Demi Stokes, Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris all hitting the back of the net.  The tie would seem to be over and City will be looking forward to the return leg.

Chelsea Ladies 1-0 Bayern Munich

It was a case of hanging on for Chelsea as they scored early on, but were unable to add further goals at Kingsmeadow.

The Blues had an outstanding first half, attacking all the way and were unlucky to in at half-time just one up, through Drew Spence.

The second-half was a completely different matter.  Munich pressed constantly but were profligate in front of goal.  They had countless corners and set pieces, but were unable to score.

Unsurprisingly Chelsea tired in the second-half and never looked like adding to their tally.  They may rue not scoring more in the first period when they go to Munich.

BIIK-Kazygurt 3-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow will do well to come back from a three-goal deficit.  After a goalless first-half, the home side scored three goals in the first ten minutes of the second, effectively putting the tie beyond Glasgow.

Begaim Kirgizbaeva, Kaelyn Korte and Gulnara Gabelia scored the goals for the home side.

Other Scores

Wednesday 4 October

Medyk Konin 0-5 Lyon Féminines
Apollon Ladies FC 0-1 Linköpings FC
FC PAOK 0-5 Sparta Prague Women
Gintra Universitetas 1-1 FC Zürich Frauen
ZFK Minsk 1-3 Slavia Prague Women
Avaldsnes IL 0-4 Barcelona Femenino
LSK Kvinner 0-0 Brøndby IF Ladies
Ajax Vrouwen 1-0 Brescia Femminile
Atlético de Madrid Femenino 0-3 VfL Wolfsburg Ladies
Firenze Femminile 2-1 Fortuna Hjørring
Montpellier Féminines 0-1 Zvezda 2005 Women

Thursday 5 October

CFF Olimpia Cluj 0-1 Rosengård Women
Stjarnan Women 1-1 WFC Rossiyanka

WSL1

Friday 29 September
Liverpool 0-3 Reading

Saturday 30 September
Manchester City 5-2 Arsenal
Bristol City 1-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-6 Chelsea

Sunday 1 October
Birmingham City 2-1 Everton

WSL2

Saturday 30 September
Sheffield FC 3-1 London Bees

Sunday 1 October
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-2 Durham
Doncaster Rovers 2-2 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Aston Villa
Watford 1-3 Oxford United

Check out this week’s upcoming fixtures on the excellent FAWSL website here

Athletics

The current British champion javelin thrower Joanna Blair has been provisionally suspended after failing a doping test.

She tested positive for a “prohibited substance”, although it has not been revealed what the substance was.

She now has the right to a hearing and right to appeal the decision.

Speed Skating

South Korea’s Choi Min-jeong took all three titles at the first World Cup event of the season in Budapest at the weekend.

Britain’s Elise Christie finished fourth in the 1500m and third in the 1000m.

Kim Boutin of Canada took silver in both events while Deanna Lockett of Australia finished third in the 1500m.

In the 500m Arianna Fontana of Italy was second and Shim Suk Hee of South Korea, third.

The other World Cup events take place in the Netherlands, China and South Korea.

Golf – New Zealand Open

This event saw some atrocious weather as the golfers tried their very best to complete their rounds.

If you’d like to get a flavour of what conditions were like in the final round on Sunday, check out this video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/41460869

The eventual winner was 20-year old Canadian Brooke Henderson.  She somehow managed a -3 69 fourth round to win by five strokes – a total of -17.

The weather finally caused the final round to be suspended on Sunday and the remainder played on Monday.  Henderson had played six holes when play was suspended.

China’s Jing Yan finished second with Hee Young Park of South Korea in third at -11.

The conditions were slightly better on Monday but the players still had to play on through strong winds.  The organisers were criticised for making the players continue on Sunday, but most of the players seemed to support the move.

Third round leader Belen Mozo of Spain finished tied fifth with fellow Spaniard Beatriz Recari and Su Oh of Australia.

Tennis

Jo Konta

The British number one has pulled out of next week’s Hong Kong Open with a foot injury.

She hopes to be able to compete the following week in Moscow.

China Open

We’re at the quarter-final stage of the China Open and three of the four matches have been played:

Petra Kvitova (12) beat Barbora Strýcová 6-3 6-4
Simone Halep (2) beat Daria Kasatkina 6-2 6-1
Jelena Ostapenko (9) beat Sorana Cirstea 6-4 6-4

The fourth quarter-final is between third seed Elina Svitolina and Caroline Garcia.

Ostapenko faces Halep in the first semi-final on Saturday, while Kvitova must wait until later on Friday 6 before she knows who her opponent will be.

Hockey

The EuroHockey Club Cup in May 2018 will be held at Surbiton Hockey Club.  It will be the first time the competition has been hosted by an English club.

The teams taking part will be Surbiton, two Dutch clubs; HC’s-Hertogenbosch and AHBC Amsterdam, two German teams; UHC Hamburg and Mannheimer HC, Club Campo Villa de Madrid from Spain, Irish club UCD Ladies HC and HC Victorya Smolevichi from Belarus.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Results from 30 September

Surbiton 3-1 Clifton Robinsons
Holcombe 3-1 University of Birmingham
Bowdon Hightown 0-0 Slough
Leicester 2-0 East Grinstead
Buckingham 4-2 Canterbury

Fixtures Saturday 07 October

Surbiton v Leicester
Bowdon Hightown v East Grinstead
Buckingham v Holcombe
Clifton Robinsons v University of Birmingham
Slough v Canterbury

Surbiton are top on goals scored after two games.  Three other teams are also unbeaten; Slough, Bowdon and Holcombe.  All four have the same goal difference.

Gymnastics

The World Gymnastics Championships are taking place in Montreal on 2-8 October.

Claudia Fragapane is looking to get to the final of the floor, while Georgia-Mae Fenton looks to do the same in the uneven bars.

Amy Tinkler, recently returned from injury, is likely to make the all-round final

Rugby Union

Off the Pitch

For the second week running, it’s all happening at Wasps.  Soon after the column had been published last week, Wasps made their fifth Red Rose signing, this time Danielle Waterman, from Bristol.  This squad is now truly formidable, and even if they take some time to “bed in”, it can’t be long before they start storming up the table.  Indeed they recorded their first win at the weekend – see below for details.

But on the debit side, Elizabeth Crake appeared before an RFU disciplinary hearing this week after being cited for biting in Wasps’ match against Gloucester-Hartpury Women.  Crake admitted biting Ceri Large and has been suspended for six weeks.

On the Pitch 

Results from last weekend in the Premier 15s

30 September 2017
DMP Sharks 28-32 Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-0 Richmond Women
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 16-20 Bristol Ladies
Worcester Valkyries 0-74 Saracens
Loughborough Lightning 19-40 Harlequins Ladies

This week saw a first win of the season for Wasps as they showcased their new signings.  Gloucester-Hartpury Women, Harlequins Ladies and Saracens all remain unbeaten, with Gloucester-Hartpury top on points difference.  Saracens are third on 14, having failed to secure maximum bonus points.  Worcester Valkyries are yet to register a point, while the other two teams without a win are Firwood Waterloo and DMP Sharks, who have one losing bonus point and two losing bonus points respectively.

Fixtures this weekend:

7 October 2017
Saracens Women v Wasps Ladies (2pm Allianz Park)
Harlequins Ladies v DMP Sharks (3pm Surrey Sports Park)
Loughborough Lightning v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (3pm, Loughborough)
Bristol Ladies v Gloucester-Hartpury Women (4.30pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)
Richmond Women v Worcester Valkyries (5.15pm Richmond Athletic Ground)

So whatever your sport, make sure you get out this weekend to support the fantastic women the length and breadth of the country who give their all for their teams, clubs and fans every week.  If you can’t get out, follow your sports via media coverage (where possible!) and make sure you talk about it!  Get the message out there – women’s sport deserves to be talked about too!

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome 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.

Rugby Union

 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:

23 September

Worcester Valkyries 10–62 Bristol Ladies
Harlequins 39-18 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 26-22 Wasps
Richmond 27-10 DMP Sharks

24 September

Saracens 34-20 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s fixtures:

30 September
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)

Wasps

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.

England

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)

Referees

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.”

Golf

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.

Cycling

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:

  1. Chantal Blaak (Ned) 4hrs 06mins 30secs
  2. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) +28secs
  3. Amaile Dideriksen (Den) Same time
  4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned)
  5. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol)
  6. Christine Majerus (Lux)
  7. Susanne Andersen (Nor)
  8. Anna Van der Breggen (Ned)
  9. Emilia Fahlin (Swe)
  10. 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.

Hockey

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

Tennis

Wuhan Open

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.

Speed Skating

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.

Football

Signings

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

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.

Bobsleigh

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.

Cricket

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

And finally,

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.

Women’s Sports Column 16-22 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty of news and results again this week.  Stories from rugby, netball, tennis, cycling, golf, football, bobsleigh, and the BBC’s “100 Women” is back and this time has a sports angle – see “And finally” for details.

Here we go.

Unfortunately there’s only one place to start again this week.  I’d already written my piece about the Lionesses’ World Cup qualifier when the news about Mark Sampson broke.  As those who follow this column know, I have tried to be scrupulously fair in covering the situation with nothing proven and the investigation seemingly ongoing.  But this week, and let’s face it, it was coming, Sampson was sacked by the FA when “safeguarding issues” came to light from his time at Bristol Academy.

I’m still not going to go into the finer points here, and I know I’m not unique in saying this, but the FA have to take a long hard look at their systems.  What on earth have they been playing at throughout this whole thing – basically did they really think if they shoved it all in a corner it would all go away?  It was irresponsible at best and downright dangerous at worst.

And although it’s not my place, I can’t help feeling let down by Sampson.  We all invested time, words and faith in him.  As I said last week, I really resent the fact that all the column inches that should be devoted to the actual football, with the start of the new international campaign and the new WSL season, have been turned elsewhere.

I’ll say no more at this time except that women’s football deserves better, but sadly it’s no surprise that this is currently what it gets.

Rugby Union

The first round of Premiership 15s was played last weekend.  The results were as follows:

Saturday 16 October

Loughborough Lightning 46-12 Worcester Valkyries
Firwood Waterloo Ladies 13-22 Saracens
Wasps Ladies 32-38 Harlequins Ladies
DMP Sharks 3-32 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

17 September

Bristol Ladies 24-31 Richmond Women

This weekend’s fixtures are:

Saturday 23 September

Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Ladies – 2pm
Harlequins Ladies v Firwood Waterloo Ladies – 3pm
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Wasps Ladies – 4.30pm
Richmond Women v DMP Sharks – 5pm

Sunday 24 September

Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins Ladies – 12pm

Sevens

England Women under 18s sevens won the Rugby Europe U18 Championship in Vichy France, at the weekend.

After an impeccable group stage beating Wales 27-10, Russia 26-10 and 32-7, they went on to beat the Netherlands in the quarter-final 31-5, scoring five tries in the first half.

In the semi-final they met hosts France and won 17-0.  They crossed the try line three times with their opponents unable to score.

They faced Wales in the final, who had beaten tournament favourites Ireland 15-12 in their quarter-final and Portugal in the semis 28-5.

They won the game 31-0, scoring five tries in the process.

Netball Fast5

The British Fast5 All-Stars event takes place this weekend at the O2 Arena in London.

“Across a five-hour session the eight teams will play in a double elimination format; two wins and the team will advance straight through to the semi finals, two losses will result in being knocked out of the tournament with teams winning one and losing one of their opening matches playing a deciding match for a place in the last four.”

Hope you’re following that.  The teams taking part are Surrey Storm, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Manchester Thunder, Loughborough Lightning, Severn Stars, Wasps Netball, Team Bath and Team Northumbria.

There are big prizes up for grabs:
£25,000 for the winner
£20,000 runner up
£12,500 losing semi-finalists
If you win one game you get £10,000 and there’s even £5,000 for no wins!

So it’s well worth fighting for.

It all starts at 5pm and should be fast (as the name implies), furious and exciting.  If you’re in the area go along – there are tickets still available.  Check out the website for details: http://www.fast5allstars.com/

Goalden Globe Awards

Loughborough Lightning swept the board at the Goalden Globe Awards this week.

Goal shooter Peace Proscovia won Vitality Player of the Season and also Players’ Player of the Season.

Vicki Oyesola was named Young Player of the Season and outgoing Lightning coach Karen Atkinson won Coach of the Season.

The Vitality Netball Super League All Star VII was named as:
GK – Nicole Aiken-Pinnock (Sirens)
GD – Layla Guscoth (Team Bath)
WD – Beth Cobden (Loughborough Lightning)
C – Bongiwe Msomi (Wasps)
WA – Liana Leota (Manchester Thunder)
GA – Kathryn Turner (Manchester Thunder)
GS – Peace Proscovia (Loughborough Lightning)

The evening ended with a Special Recognition Award, which went to Sheelagh Redpath.  Redpath has been involved in netball for over 40 years, making a significant contribution to developing the umpiring and officiating of the game.  She was one of the original twelve women inducted into the England Hall of Fame in 2001.

Other Netball News

In other netball news, Hertfordshire Mavericks have re-signed England international Sasha Corbin.  This will be her third spell at the club and she will captain the side during the 2018 Super League season.

Last season Corbin played for Northern Mystics in the New Zealand Premiership.

Also this week, Loughborough Lightning announced that their new Director of Netball will be Anna Carter.  She had previously been the under-21 coach.  Emily Perry is the new Pathway Head Coach and will work with assistant coaches Olivia Murphy and Maggie Birkinshaw.

Football

World Cup Qualifiers

England 6-0 Russia
Prenton Park, Merseyside

In truth it was all too easy for England as they began their World Cup qualifying campaign.  Although Russia had Ksenia Tsybutovich sent off in the first half, the gulf between the two sides was already apparent and the extra player probably wouldn’t have made that much difference.

A crowd of over seven thousand saw Nikita Parris start the scoring on 11 minutes, latching on to an accurate back-heel from Fran Kirby to slip the ball home.  There was a somewhat heartening/uncomfortable (choose your adjective) celebration as Parris beckoned over the team and flung her arms around beleaguered coach Mark Sampson in an obvious show of support.

The Lionesses doubled their lead on 14 through Jodie Taylor.

On the half-hour Tsybutovich was given a second yellow card for handball in the area.  Fran Kirby missed the resultant penalty, scuffing it badly and presenting an easy save for the Russian ‘keeper.

But six minutes later England were three-up when it was Kirby again who provided a pinpoint pass for Jordan Nobbs to score.

The home side were four ahead before half-time with the best goal of the lot, from Lucy Bronze, who made it look painfully easy to volley into the top right corner from outside the box.

In the second-half, unsurprisingly England took their foot off the gas, but to give them their due, Russia also regrouped and fought hard.

Toni Duggan got a brace to make it six.  The first was the result of some fine close passing in the box.  Russia will be disappointed with the sixth, though, which came from a miss-kick from a defender.  Duggan pounced to lash the ball home for her second.

It was an all-round excellent performance from England.  The Russian goalkeeper was also excellent, and prevented the Lionesses from scoring more.  Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Wales, the other teams in Group 1, will not be looking forward to playing England.

Northern Ireland 0-2 Republic of Ireland

The Republic took the lead in first-half stoppage time when Northern Ireland’s Rachel Furness headed in past her own goalkeeper and into the net.

Megan Campbell scored in the second to seal the win.

Kazakhstan 0-1 Wales

Jess Fishlock scored the only goal of the game to take the points for Wales.  Fishlock starred throughout with two efforts I the first half.

Other international news

It was also announced this week that the Lionesses will play a friendly against France in Valenciennes on 20 October.

Transfers

England defender Laura Bassett has joined Australian W-League side Canberra United.  Bassett had been without a club since Notts County Ladies folded in April.  She took time away to decide what to do, and was clearly affected by what went on at County.  She obviously wanted to try something completely new and she is looking forward to the move:

“It’s out of my comfort zone and something I’ve never done before and it will be a real challenge for me to go overseas.”

Golf

The Evian Championship

After high winds and heavy rain the first round was cancelled and the tournament played over 54 holes.

Moriya Jutanugarn was leading after two rounds, but on the final round Anna Nordqvist carded a five-under par 66 to force a play-off for the title with Brittany Altomare.

Nordqvist took it on the first extra hole, with the weather deteriorating yet again into pouring rain and hail.

  1. Anna Nordqvist -9, 2. Brittany Altomare -9, 3, (tied) Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk, Moriya Jutanugarn -8.

Solheim Cup

Catriona Matthew will be the European Solheim Cup captain at Gleneagles in 2019.  The event will be held from 13-15 September.

In her time playing Solheim Cup she has won 18 matches and 22 points.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships are going on in Bergen this week.

Women’s Elite Individual Time Trial

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten took the title just 12 seconds ahead of compatriot Anna van der Breggen.  Australian Katrin Garfoot claimed the bronze.

Van der Breggen had taken an early lead and stayed there until the third intermediate check.  But on the descent van Vleuten gained 16 seconds on the leader.

The riders kept up the same pace to the end with van Vleuten winning the 21.1km race in 28:50.35 at an average speed of 43.8 km/h.

Hannah Barnes was top Briton, finishing in ninth.  Elinor Barker finished in eighteenth.

Women’s Junior Individual Time Trial

Elena Pirrone took gold in the junior event, over a 16.1km course.  She finished six seconds ahead of Alessia Vigilia, also of Italy.  Madeleine Fassnacht of Austria came in third.

Britain’s Pfeiffer Georgi finished in seventh and Lauren Dolan, having crashed and sustained a serious leg injury at the half way stage, carried on to finish twenty-seventh.  She will be unable to compete in the Junior Women’s Road Race and has been replaced by Lauren Murphy.

Women’s Team Time Trial

Similarly it was two teams from the Netherlands battling it out for the Team title.  Team Sunweb (Rivera, Kirchmann, van Dijk, Brand, Mackaij, Stultiens) were the victors, with Boels Dolman (Canuel, van der Breggen,  Blaak, Guarnier, Majerus, Pieters) finishing in silver.

Cervelo-Bigla Pro Cycling Team (Lepisto, Klein, Ludwig, Moolman-Pasio, Koppenburg, Gaumnitz) took bronze.

The Women’s Elite Road Race takes place on Saturday 23 September.  Full television coverage on the BBC.

Bobsleigh

The British Bobsleigh and Skeleton Association (BBSA) announced this week that they are to withdraw funding for the women’s team.  The announcement comes just five months before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Apparently they were told there was no more money to fund them because of “an overspend”.

It will, however, continue to fund three men’s teams.

The BBSA issued a statement in which it said,

“The GB Bobsleigh programme is currently focusing resources on winning medals at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

“We are actively seeking commercial funding to further support our world class programme and we will continue to do so.”

The women’s team has already met the Olympic standard, but this is obviously not enough for the BBSA, which is basically saying that the women’s team have no chance of winning a medal, and therefore disappear off their list of priorities when money is tight.

The team is now hoping to raise £30,000 in order to fund themselves.

The BBSA is no stranger to controversy.  It has received £10m of public funding in the four year cycle running up to Pyeongchang, but during the summer UK Sport cut its grant by £50,000 after athletes had complained about the “toxic atmosphere” surrounding the sport, including allegations of bullying, racism and sexism.

Bobsleigh driver Mica McNeill has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the money.  You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/teammcneill

Tennis

Heather Watson’s poor series of tournaments continued this week with a first round defeat in Seoul.  She lost to Spanish world number 92 Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-3 0-6 6-1.

The top three seeds are all safely through to the second round; Jelena Ostapenko (1), Kiki Bertens (2) and Kristyna Pliskova (3).

Meanwhile, in Tokyo Johanna Konta was knocked out of the Pan Pacific Open by Barbora Strycova 7-5 7-6.  Strycova will now face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the quarter-final.

And finally,

The BBC’s “100 Women” challenge is back.  And one of the categories is sexism in sport.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41044889.  Check it out and get involved in the conversation.

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 September 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column and it’s good to be back!  I don’t know about you, but I often think that following women’s sport must be one of the most frustrating things you can do.  Two steps forward, one back and throughout everything there still permeates the hideous whiff of misogyny.

In this summer that some are calling a “watershed moment” for women’s sport, I can’t help thinking that some will never ever be able to view women’s sport with an unjaundiced eye.  And while this is the case, will those in a position to make the biggest changes needed, i.e., the companies and marketers with the money for sponsorship and the high-ups in the media to report on it ever do what is needed?

Sorry, let’s crack on before the pall of doom becomes too overwhelming!  More than a tinge of autumn this week as cricket fades and football and rugby begin to take centre stage.  Stories this week come from football, cricket, tennis, cycling, boxing, netball and basketball.  Plus a humorous but poignant “And finally”, in case you haven’t already caught it elsewhere.  Here we go.

Football

Lots of football news this week.

England

With everything that’s going on off the pitch it’s easy to forget that England are about to embark on a new World Cup qualifying campaign next week.  Up first is Russia at Prenton Park, Merseyside, on 19 September.

Mark Sampson

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this one is going to run and run.  I get the feeling Sampson is now on borrowed time.  I don’t propose to go into the finer details as you’ve probably all been following it – ironically it’s the one women’s sports story that has garnered plenty of column inches.  The situation is developing and changing every day so whatever I write here is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.  So, as I say, keep up with it via other means and when a conclusion is finally reached, perhaps I’ll dissect it further.  The only thing I would say is that it could be a game-changer, now that Drew Spence has come out to say that it was she who was asked by Sampson “How many times have you been arrested?”

Scotland

New Scotland Head Coach, Shelley Kerr, announced this week that Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie will take over the captaincy of the Scottish national side after the retirement of Gemma Fay.  Arsenal midfielder, Kim Little, will be Vice-captain.  Little missed Scotland’s Euros campaign with a cruciate ligament injury.

Lorraine Watson has become the first woman to referee a senior men’s match in Scottish football. She took charge of Edinburgh City v Berwick Rangers in League Two on 9 September.

After the game, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Watson said,

“It was brilliant. There was absolutely no reaction, they just treated me the same as they would any other referee.

“When they disagreed [with decisions], they shouted at me just the same as if it was a male in the middle.”

FA’s Women’s Football Awards

Jodie Taylor was named England’s player of the year at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 8 September.

Taylor took the Golden Boot at this summer’s Euros with 5 goals.

Jordan Nobbs took the WSL Players’ Player of the Year award and Fran Kirby was also rewarded for finishing as top scorer in the WSL Spring Series.

Transfers

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has joined Everton from Doncaster Belles on a two-year deal.

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norwegian international defender Maria Thorisdottir in a contract until 2019.

Wales internationals Laura O’Sullivan (Goalkeeper) and Hannah Miles (full-back) have signed for Yeovil Town Ladies.

Sunderland

Not sure what’s happening at Sunderland.  Having announced earlier in the year that they have gone part-time again, now they have been moved from their ground and training ground due to “scheduling conflicts”.

The club has put a good spin on it, I have to admit. The Lady Black Cats will now play their home games at South Shields’ Mariners Park, moving from the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.  They will train at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, leaving the Academy of Light, Sunderland’s men’s training facility.

The clashes have come about due to the WSL moving to a winter season.  And while I can see the value in training at Northumbria University, which is one of eight designated FA Women’s High Performance Football Centres, I am seriously worried if they have been ejected from Eppleton so that under-8s don’t have to.

FA WSL 1 & 2

Needless to say, without a ball being kicked, there is already talk that the FA is planning to restructure elite women’s football (yet again –everyone got that guinea pig feeling?).  There is an exploration of what the FA may (or may not) be planning on the BBC website.  I suggest you all read it and pick the bones out of it yourselves – and good luck with that.  Here’s the link.

The new winter season begins on Friday 22 September.

Friday 22 September

FA WSL1

19:45 Everton Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC (Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 24 September

FA WSL1

12:30 Chelsea Ladies FC v Bristol City Women (Kingsmeadow Stadium)
14:00 Arsenal v Birmingham City Ladies (Boreham Wood FC)
14:00 Reading FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies (Wycombe Wanderers FC)
14:00 Yeovil Town Ladies FC v Manchester City Women (Yeovil Town FC)

FA WSL2

12:00 Durham Women FC v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC (New Ferens Park)
14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Brighton & Hove Albion (Tamworth FC)
14:00 London Bees v Doncaster Rovers Belles (The Hive)
14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies FC (St Paul’s Sports Ground)
14:00Oxford United Women v Sheffield FC Ladies (Oxford City FC)

Friday 29 September

FA WSL1

19:00Liverpool Ladies FC v Reading FC Women (Select Security Stadium)

TV and radio coverage is set to be more comprehensive than ever with games on the BBC Sport website, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Red Button and BT Sport.  14 games will be broadcast in some format before 12 November.

WSL One on the BBC

Friday, 22 September
Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 24 September
Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 30 September
Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 1 October
Birmingham City Ladies v Everton Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 8 October
Reading Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Arsenal Women v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 29 October
Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Everton Ladies v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 12 November
Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button

I would like to have done the same for BT Sport, but couldn’t find for the life of me which fixtures are being covered.  Apologies.

Cricket

Jan Brittin

We start the cricket news with some sad news.  Jan Brittin, England’s top female Test run scorer died this week, from cancer, aged just 58.

Brittin scored 1,935 runs in 27 Test matches, including five centuries.

She was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1993, top-scoring with 410 runs in eight innings.

Her entire domestic career was spent at Surrey and she is still their leading female run scorer.

Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said,

“She was a legend and a class apart… For girls of my generation, she was our first real female role model. JB was born to play Test cricket and it’s unlikely that her record in this format will ever be beaten.”

England

Car makers Kia have announced it is to extend its sponsorship of the England women’s cricket team until 2020.

It will also continue its sponsorship of the Kia Super League for another two years.

Kia is one of the few (currently) companies actively looking to sponsor women’s sport.  Earlier in 2017 they bought the rights to sponsor the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), covering seven tour events annually, including two majors – the ANA Inspiration and the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award

It was one of the most reproduced images of the Women’s World Cup this summer.  And it has now led to Anya Shrubsole being given the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award for 2017.

When England defeated South Africa in the semi-final with only two balls left, captain Dane van Niekerk was so devastated that she remained crouched at the edge of the pitch, clearly in tears.

England bowler Anya Shrubsole’s first move, before any celebrating, was to go to van Niekerk, put a hand on her shoulder and offered her commiserations.

It’s the first time a female cricketer has won the award.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-24 September.  Britain is fielding a full team of women for the road race and the time trial.  As I suggested a few weeks ago, Lizzie Deignan has recovered sufficiently from her appendectomy to take part in the road race.  The full team is as follows:

Time Trial
Elinor Barker
Hannah Barnes

Road Race
Elinor Barker
Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Mel Lowther
Hayley Simmonds

Tennis

US Open Singles Final

It was a fitting end to a bizarre US Open that the women’s semi-finals should be between four players from the USA.

The final was between unseeded Sloane Stephens and 15th seed Madison Keys.

To be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib (as was the men’s the next day).

Stephens dismantled the Keys game admirably and won 6-3 6-0.

Both of them were making their Gran Slam final debuts and it showed, especially in Keys whose unforced error-count – 30 to Stephens’ six was a telling factor.

The result, and the semi-final line-up will certainly serve as a fillip for US women’s tennis and let’s hope that both finalists go on to more Grand Slam success as they have promised so much for so long.

US Open Mixed Doubles

The doubles phenomenon that is Martina Hingis again took centre stage at Flushing Meadows.  She and Britain’s Jamie Murray, seeded one at this championships, took the Mixed Doubles title 6-1 4-6 10-8 against third seeds Michael Venus and Hao-Ching Chan.

US Open Women’s Doubles

Hingis then completed a stunning double of doubles when she and partner Chan Yung-jan, seeded second took the Women’s Doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic, who were seeded seven, 6-3 6-2.

Hingis now has 24 Grand Slam titles over singles and doubles.

Rugby

As I said in my introduction, winter cannot be far away and this weekend sees the start of the new Premier 15s competition. I’m really hoping the buzz caused by the World Cup translates into bigger crowds and more media coverage for this excellent product.  The lower two divisions – Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South – are already underway.  Checkout www.womenseliterugby.co.uk for details.

The first round of Premier 15s fixtures is as follows:

16 September

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries – 12.00pm
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Saracens 2.30pm
Wasps Ladies v Harlequins Ladies 3.00pm
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury Women 4.00pm

17 September

Bristol Ladies v Richmond Women 2.00pm

Boxing

Out of the Ring

The Inspiration Awards for Women

Katie Taylor has won the Sky Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport in 2017.

Taylor has won all six of her professional bouts since turning professional 10 months ago.

The Inspiration Awards were founded by Sky Andrew, who said that they were about

“Giving the next generation role models that show it is possible to have a sense of status, achievement and success by conducting oneself in a manner that is inspirational.”

In the Ring

It was also announced this week that Katie Taylor will fight for the WBA World Lightweight title on 28 October at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.  She will take on Anahi Sanchez and the fight will be on the Anthony Joshua undercard.

Nicola Adams, meanwhile, fights this weekend in Las Vegas – the first time she has competed in the USA.  She fights Alexandra Vlajk of Hungary.

Netball

Taini Jamison Trophy

England Roses went down 2-1 in the three-match series to decide the Taini Jamison trophy in New Zealand.

Game One – 7 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

The Silver Ferns had only a two goal lead going into the final quarter, but eased away in the last 15, England’s woes compounded by a series of handling errors.  Top scorer for New Zealand was Maria Tutaia who netted 31 as did Jo Harten for England.

Game Two – 10 September
New Zealand 46-49 England

The Roses drew level in the series in dramatic fashion in Napier.  England had a four-goal cushion at half-time but the Ferns brought it back to lead by one going into the fourth quarter.  With three minutes to go it was all square on 45-45, until goals from Jo Harten took it away from the home side.

Game Three – 13 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

Unfortunately for the Roses, the third and deciding game was to go the way of the first, even down to the score!

England were four ahead at half-time, but again the Ferns roared back as England tired.  By the end of the third they were one-up, and although with ten minutes to go the teams were level, the Silver Ferns then drew ahead again to win, in the end, fairly comfortably.

With England defeating New Zealand in the Quad Series, they would have been confident of competing well in this competition.  On the whole they were three good performances and Geva Mentor was outstanding at GK, but Tracey Neville will have to tackle the handling error-count.

Basketball

There was an excellent piece on women’s basketball in Somalia last week in the most unlikely of places – New Yorker magazine.  It’s a good read and here is the link.  It’s a timely reminder that however bad we think women have it here, having to fight off the “back to the kitchen” and “who cares?” crowd, we have it easy compared to other women in the world.

And finally,

Thanks to all those who pointed out this video to me – I actually came to it first through George Takei’s Twitter feed!  (I love all the unexpected sources this week).  So here it is – enjoy.

Women’s Sports Column 26 August – 1 September 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  We’re coming to the end of a stunning summer for women’s sport and while there are those knuckle-draggers who will never give recognition to any woman playing sport, I’m glad to say there are many more of us (women and men) who take a very different view and the numbers are rising all the time.  I can’t help feeling a tad melancholy this week as it draws to a close, but hopefully the news and stories below will help restore my mood (and cheer you too!).

Stories this week come from rugby union (obviously) tennis, netball, cricket, badminton, modern pentathlon, hockey, golf and cycling.  But there’s only one place to start isn’t there – and what a game it was.

Women’s Rugby World Cup Final

Well I hope you were all watching, because although words are my business, I don’t think I can do justice to this match.  Prime time TV, ITV1 in the UK – social media and conventional media alike crying out that it needed to be a great match to engage the masses and move women’s rugby up a level.  And it didn’t disappoint.

England pressed from the off but were unable to convert pressure into points and were shocked after eight minutes when Selica Winiata pounced on a kick to score the first try.  Cocksedge, who had a relatively poor game with the boot, missed the conversion.

On 15 minutes New Zealand were penalised for a dangerous tackle and Emily Scarratt duly slotted over the resultant penalty.

On 20 minutes Sara Goss was yellow-carded for another dangerous tackle and England knew they had to take advantage.

England pressed on towards the line i a series of scrums, but as they got closer to the line the Black Ferns realised they had to scrum with just seven or risk losing cover on the wing.  This they did but broke up the scrummage illegally and the Red Roses were awarded a penalty try, taking it to 10-5 to England.

Eight minutes before half-time England were over again and looking confident.  Lydia Thompson went over on the wing and Scarratt converted well to take it 17-5.

England probably thought this would be the half-time score and perhaps relaxed early, but this proved to be a fatal error.  Toka Natua got in after they secured good line-out ball.   The conversion was missed and the half-time score was 17-10.

And breathe.

The second-half was completely different.  New Zealand came out a different team.  They hustled and harried from the first minute and England had no answer.

Just five minutes in Natua went over for her second.  England still seemed to be in the dressing room.  And to make matters worse for the Red Roses Cocksedge began to find her kicking form as she popped over her first conversion to make it 17-17.

Five minutes later England were ahead again through another Scarratt penalty, but the lead was short-lived.  Two minutes later Charmaine Smith pushed over, hitting the sponge around the post and again it was converted – 20-24.

On 55 England scored again Thompson flying 40 metres down to wing to cross the line for her second try of the match.  Scarratt missed the conversion and England’s lead was just one point.

At this point England Head Coach Simon Middleton introduced a whole raft of changes, something that drew some criticism after the game.  But there can be no doubt England were tiring and the changes made were quality ones.

On 58 Natua got her hat-trick under the posts and Cocksedge converted. The tide was turning in the Black Ferns’ favour.

Five minutes later Cocksedge got a try of her own, but she missed the conversion. New Zealand were 36-25 ahead.  With 20 minutes to go, although the scoreline was still tight, it seemed to be one-way traffic.

On 69 Winiata went over for her second after another good kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali.  Cocksedge missed yet another conversion, but it mattered not as England appeared to be a beaten side.

But England had not finished scoring.  Izzy Noel-Smith went over with three minutes to go and Scarratt converted.

Kefu was yellow-carded for New Zealand, but England didn’t have the time to make it count and before they knew it the game was over.

New Zealand had won 41-32.

The better team had won – no doubt about it.  England fought to the end, but the Black Ferns’ third quarter had battered England into submission.

Without wanting to sound mawkish or trite and realising that I sound both, it was women’s rugby that was the winner on Saturday.  So many people will now realise what a great product it is (and what a good scrum can look like guys).  Let’s hope it leads not only to young girls taking up the sport, but also that the new revamped championship gets the coverage it deserves (i.e., any at all –and yes, BBC Sport, I do mean you).

Football

Women’s Champions League

The round of 32 draw will be made on 1 September.  The 11 teams that made it through qualifying are:

Gintra Universitetas (LTU), Olimpia Cluj (ROU), Ajax (NED), Medyk Konin (POL), Apollon (CYP), Minsk (BLR), *Zürich (SWI), Stjarnan (ICE), BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ), Avaldsnes (NOR). PAOK (GRE)

*qualified as best runners-up.

The teams receiving a bye into the round of 32 are:

Lyon (FRA, holders), Wolfsburg (GER), FC Rosengård (SWE), Barcelona (ESP), Fortuna, Hjørring (DEN), Bayern München (GER), Brøndby (DEN), Rossiyanka (RUS), Manchester City (ENG), Glasgow City (SCO), Zvezda-2005 (RUS), Brescia (ITA), Slavia Praha (CZE), Sparta Praha (CZE), Linköping (SWE), Chelsea (ENG), Montpellier (FRA), LSK Kvinner (NOR), St. Pölten (AUT), Atlético Madrid (ESP), Fiorentina (ITA)

As you probably know, coverage in the UK will be absolutely minimal so I’d again recommend you check out the UEFA website for updates:

http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

These are the dates you need to know:

Round of 32: 4/5 & 11/12 October
Round of 16: 8/9 & 15/16 November

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Final: 24 May 2018, Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo StadiumKyiv

Other football news and signings

Lieke Martens was named UEFA Women’s Player of the Year 2016-17 this week.

The 24-year old plays for Barcelona and had a stand-out tournament for the Netherlands at the Euros earlier in the summer.

She finished ahead of Pernille Harder of Denmark in second and Dzsenifer Marozsán of Germany in third.

Final standings
1: Lieke Martens (Netherlands, Rosengård and Barcelona)
2: Pernille Harder (Denmark, Linköping and Wolfsburg)
3: Dzsenifer Marozsán (Germany, Lyon)
4: Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands, Bayern München and Arsenal)
5: Eugénie Le Sommer (France, Lyon)
6: Wendie Renard (France, Lyon)
7: Jackie Groenen (Netherlands, FFC Frankfurt)
8: Lucy Bronze (England, Manchester City and Lyon)
9: Jodie Taylor (England, Arsenal)
10: Shanice van de Sanden (Netherlands, Liverpool)

Previous winners of the award:
2012/13 ─ Nadine Angerer (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2013/14 ─ Nadine Kessler (Germany, Wolfsburg)
2014/15 ─ Célia Šašić (Germany, FFC Frankfurt)
2015/16 ─ Ada Hegerberg (Norway, Lyon)

Arsenal

Striker Danielle Carter has signed a new contract with Arsenal.  The length of the contract has not been revealed although it is described as “long-term”.

Liverpool

Liverpool, however, have not had such a good week.  Their Dutch star Shanice van de Sanden has left to join Champions League holders Olympique Lyonnais Feminin.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea claimed another title at the weekend when she won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open by two shots from compatriot Lee Mi-rim.

She finished on -13, with M Lee on -11, with a tie for third between Nicole Broch Larsen of Denmark, Chun In-gee of Korea, Shanshan Feng of China and Cristie Kerr of USA on -10.

Park hit a seven-under 64 in the final round to overcome a four shot deficit from the third round.

Holly Clyburn was top British finisher on -3 while Charley Hull was way back in the pack on +6.

American star Michelle Wie had to withdraw before the start of the final round when she had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix.  This seems to be catching – see cycling below!

Hockey

England’s women secured a bronze medal at the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam with a 2-0 win over Germany.

Hannah Martin and Alex Danson scored the goals.

The gold medal went to the Netherlands who beat Belgium 3-0 in the final.

Their goals came from Margot van Geffen, Kelly Jonker and Ireen van den Assem (Penalty stroke).

Modern Pentathlon

A sport featuring rarely in this column, but as the World Modern Pentathlon Championships were held in Cairo this week it should be in.

The events were pistol shooting, fencing, 200m swimming, show jumping and a 3km run (apologies if you already knew this).

In the women’s events the results were as follows:

Individual

Gold went to Gulnaz Gubaydullina of Russia with 1,292 points.  Silver was taken by Zsófia Földházi of Hungary, who was a mere seven points behind on 1,285 and in bronze position was Anastasiya Prokopenko of Belarus, again just behind with 1,281 points.

Team

The team title went to Germany with 2,815 points.  Second were Russia on 2,797 and third Italy on 2,791.

Relay

The relay winners were Germany on 1,276 points with Egypt in second on 1,243 and Japan third on 1,238.

Badminton

Women’s singles

Kirsty Gilmour was defeated in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Glasgow.  She lost 21-19 18-21 21-15 to Saina Nehwal of India.

The gold medal went to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan who beat PV Sindhu of India 21-19 20-22 22-20.

Bronze medals went to Chen Yufei of China and Saina Nehwal.

Mixed doubles

Chris and Gabby Adcock lost in the semi-finals of the mixed doubles to Chinese pair and top seeds  Zheg Siwei and Chen Qingchen 21-15 23-21.  This meant they secured a bronze medal but they were still disappointed with the outcome.  Gabby Adcock spoke to BBC Sport:

“We’re disappointed because we felt we had a chance today.

“It was one of our worst performances of the week and I’m struggling to find a reason as to why but we just couldn’t get going.”

The gold medal winners were Tontowi Ahmed and Liliyanna Natsir of Indonesia who beat the Adcocks’ vanquishers 15-21 21-16 21-15 in the final.

Women’s Doubles

The Women’s Doubles title was taken by Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China who beat Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan in the final 21-18 17-21 21-15.  Bronze medals went to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, also of Japan, and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark.

Netball

The Quad Series in Brisbane is in full swing.  England are finally showing how much they have improved recently and have so far recorded one loss and one win.

Australia 54-50 England

So tight and so close for the Roses!  But it wasn’t always that way.  At half-time England were trailing by 10 points 32-22 and it looked as if the Diamonds were in for yet another easy win.

By the end of the third quarter England had cut the deficit to six and were getting closer by the end but Australia managed to hold on.

Helen Housby top scored for England with 30 goals, an 88% conversion rate, but this was knocked into a cocked hat by Australia’s Caitlin Bassett who scored 43 goals at a conversion rate of 93%.

But England would have been buoyed by this performance going into their second game against New Zealand.

New Zealand 45-49 England

On Wednesday 30 England registered their first win against New Zealand in a Quad Series.

The Roses were down by just one point 37-36 going into the fourth quarter in Auckland and they had a storming last period to take it by four.  Kadeen Corbin scored seven goals in the final quarter as the Roses pulled away.

Helen Housby was top scorer again for England with 26 goals at a conversion rate of 81%.  Bailey Mes scored 28 for the Silver Ferns.

England play South Africa on Sunday to see if they can finish second in a Quad Series for the first time.

South Africa have lost both of their first two games, against New Zealand 63-56 and Australia 58-52.

Cycling

Lizzie Deignan’s participation in the World Championships is in doubt after she had her appendix removed this week.

The Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway, from September 17-24.  The women’s road race is on 23 September.

Deignan would be one of the favourites if she recovers in time to take part.

Tennis

It’s been a bizarre old start to the US Open with seeds falling like dominoes.  Everyone has an opinion on the participation of Maria Sharapova, including former world number one, Caroline Wozniacki who branded the scheduling of Sharapova’s matches all on the show courts to be “questionable”.  I’ll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Some of the high (and low) lights so far:

Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson lost in the first round.  Konta lost to unseeded world number 78 Aleksandra Krunic 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Watson lost to Alizé Cornet of France in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Defending champion Angelique Kerber also departed in round one, losing in straight sets to world number 45, Japanese 19-year old Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-1.

Maria Sharapova, who is, as I’ve already said never far from the headlines, is through to the third round.  Her first round defeat of world number two, Simona Halep 6-4 4-6 6-3 sent shockwaves around Flushing Meadows.

She defeated Timea Babos of Hungary in the second 6-7 6-4 6-1 and faces the unseeded Sofia Kenin of the United States in the third.

Other players of note to go through to the third round are world number one, Karolina Pliskova, who had to fight off a strong challenge from Nicole Gibbs to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.  French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is still in the mix after she defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4 6-4.

One seed to bite the dust in the second round was number 23, Barbora Strycova, who was soundly beaten by American Jennifer Brady 6-1 6-1.  Three more Americans through to the third round are Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

I think it’s safe to say it’s wide open!

Cricket

The past week has seen and will see the culmination of the women’s cricket season in England.  Last weekend the County Championship was decided and on Friday 1 September it’s Kia Super League Finals day.

County Championship

Lancashire have been crowned Division 1 champions, having won five of their seven games this season.  The full standings were as follows:

Team Played Won Lost Points
Lancashire 7 5 2 99
Yorkshire 7 5 2 98
Warwickshire 7 5 2 96
Nottinghamshire 7 4 3 88
Middlesex 7 3 4 76
Kent 7 3 4 71
Sussex 7 3 4 66
Berkshire 7 0 7 24

Sussex and Berkshire are relegated to Division 2.  Their places are taken by the top two finishers in the second division this year, which were Hampshire and Somerset.

Kia Super League

The last three matches took place on Saturday 26 August.  Loughborough won again, but with Western Storm also taking the points it was not enough for the Lightning to go through.  To be honest, they didn’t deserve to anyway on the performances I saw.

Match 13
Bristol County Ground
Lancashire Thunder 122/5 (20 overs)
Western Storm 123/5 (17.1/20 overs)
Western Storm won by 5 wickets

Match 14
The Oval
Loughborough Lightning 171/3 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 90 all out (18 overs)
Loughborough Lightning won by 81 runs

Match 15
Arundel Castle
Southern Vipers 138/6 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 108 all out (18.3 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 30 runs

Finals Day – Hove

Southern Vipers automatically qualify for the final with the other place being fought out between Surrey Stars and Western Storm.

And Finally,

This has just popped up into my inbox and so I had to share it, especially as it is about my Leicestershire neck of the woods.  Good grief Cycling Weekly.  Sort yourselves out:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-41122033

Apologies, but there will be no column next week as I am out and about elsewhere.

 

Women’s Sports Column 19-25 August 2017

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  I went to see a poor Loughborough Lightning well beaten by Yorkshire Diamonds at Loughborough last Friday.   I thought our rain curse was going to pan out yet again as we sat in the car listening to and watching the hail come down.  But we did get a game – 13 per side and actually Loughborough would probably have preferred it to hose down as it was the only way they were ever going to get a point.  Hey ho.  Onward.

Stories this week come from rugby, golf, badminton, cycling, football, snooker, cricket, hockey and tennis.  I’m also happy to say this week’s “And Finally” is a good story.

Badminton

The Badminton World Championships are taking place in Glasgow this week.  Britain’s Gabby and Chris Adcock are through to the quarter-finals.  They went through to the last 16 of the missed doubles by beating French pair Bastian Kersaudy and Lea Palermo, 21-10 21-13.

The fifth seeds played the 11th seeds, Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara from Japan in the next round, winning 21-15 21-16.

In the quarter-finals they face Tse Ying Suet and Tang Chun Man of Hong Kong on Friday 25 August.

Kirsty Gilmour, Britain’s best women’s singles hope is also through to the quarter-finals after beating He Bingjiao of China 21-14 15-21 21-16.  She plays Saina Nehwal of India in the next round.

Rugby

Women’s Rugby World Cup

The final of the Women’s Rugby World Cup will be between New Zealand and current holders, England.

Two contrasting semi-finals on Tuesday 22 August saw New Zealand pull away from a tiring USA to win comfortably, while England had to fight to the hooter to see off France.

New Zealand 45-12 USA

Although most this was only going to go one way, the USA gave it everything they had to cause New Zealand more of a challenge than they had faced in the World Cup so far.

The Black Ferns took the lead after just three minutes, an unconverted try by Subritzky-Natafali.  But USA were ahead 12 minutes later with a try from Thomas, converted by Kelter.

Cocksedge kicked her first points of the afternoon two minutes later, a penalty to take New Zealand 8-7 ahead.  On 25 they looked to be warming to their task as player of the match Portia Woodman went over for her first try, converted by Cocksedge.

At half-time it was 15-7 to the Black Ferns but there was a palpable feeling that they could still be beaten.

But it was not to be.  Woodman scored her second on 48 minutes.  It went unconverted, but a matter of minutes later Cocksedge popped over another penalty to make it 23-7.

Three minutes later USA were back in it with a try from Kelter, but she was unable to add the conversion.

On 62 Woodman went in for her hat-trick – my goodness she’s a force that England will have to keep quiet if they are to win this final.

Cocksedge missed the conversion but the score was 28-12.

The Eagles must have thought they were in with a chance three minutes later when Itunu was yellow-carded.  However, it only seemed to spur the Black Ferns on.  Woodman scored her fourth try on 71 minutes and although it went unconverted, just four minutes later they were in again, this time through Ngata-Aerengamate and they were home and hosed at 38-12.

They still had time to cross the line one more time Brazier scoring and Cocksedge converting to take the final score to 45-12.

England 20-3 France

This was a marvellous, bruising, brutal game, with plenty of hard-hitting tackling and powerful running.  France, who had been so majestic in their previous game against USA, were not allowed the same freedom by England, who smothered any attempt by the French backs to break away.

The sides went in level at half-time with just three points each on the board; one penalty from Emily Scarratt  and one from Shannon Izar.

After the break England went ahead again through another Scarratt penalty.  And then came the play of the match as prop Sarah Bern drove over to score a try which was also converted by Scarratt.

It was clear France were not going to give up and only a stunning last-ditch tackle from Megan Jones prevented Julie Annery from going over as her foot went into touch.

Jones then did some attacking herself, breaking French hearts as she pounced on a loose French ball behind the line and touched down for England’s third.

What a fine, well-fought match it was – it would have made an excellent final.

One blow for England is that Danielle Waterman will be unable to play in the final having suffered concussion during the semi-final.

Ireland 24-36

Ireland played for the fifth place semi-final, but were unable to come away with the victory and now play Wales in the seventh-place play-off.

Australia scored five tries with Williams, Riordan, Samoa, Boyle and Murphy all crossing the whitewash.  Four were converted by Hewson, who also kicked a penalty.

Ireland scored four tries through Egan, Miller, Spence and Fitzpatrick.  Conversions were by Stapleton and Tyrrell.

Everyone plays on Saturday 26 August for the placings.  The games are as follows:

11th place play-off Japan v Hong Kong (12noon)
9th place play-off Italy v Spain (2.30pm)
7th place play-off Ireland v Wales (2pm)
5th place play-off Australia v Canada (5pm)
Bronze Final France v USA (5pm)
Final England v New Zealand (7.45pm)

Tennis

Cincinnati Open

Britain’s Johanna Konta went out in the quarter-finals of the Cincinnati event, beaten by world number two Simona Halep 6-4 7-6.

Halep then defeated American Sloane Stephens 6-2 6-1 to get to the final.  There she met Spaniard Garbine Muguruza who had a tougher route; she beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 5-7 7-5 in the quarters before facing and defeating number one seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-2.

Muguruza then obliterated Halep in the final 6-1 6-0.

US Open

The final grand slam of the season, the US Open, begins at Flushing Meadows on 28 August.

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka has withdrawn due to an “ongoing family situation”, but one player who will be there is Maria Sharapova who has been handed a wildcard.

Cricket

The Ashes

Australian captain Meg Lanning is out of the Women’s Ashes following shoulder surgery.

It is thought she will be out of action for six to eight months.

The Ashes begin on 22 October in Brisbane.

No replacement has been announced as yet.

Kia Super League

It’s been an odd Super League this season.  I’m afraid it’s felt very much “after the Lord Mayor’s show” of the World Cup.  Apparently crowds are up on the back of it though, so it’s not all bad.  There have been some good performances and some stinkers.  Last year’s zeros, Surrey Stars, have suddenly become heroes, while Lancashire Thunder can’t seem to get their act together at all.   Loughborough Lightning have suffered from a combination of over-performing last season and doing badly out of the “redistribution” of players that was supposed to make things more even.  Consequently they have had a poor tournament.  And for the second season in a row, who can stop the mums’ army, Southern Vipers?

Personally I’m looking forward to next season when the tournament is expanded to home and away fixtures – five fixtures just isn’t enough.

Anyway, here are the results from the last week:

Sunday 20 August

Match 8, Stanley Park, Blackpool
Loughborough Lightning 140/5 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 90 all out (17.2 overs)
Loughborough Lightning win by 50 runs

Match 9, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Southern Stars 127/8 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 100/7 (16.2 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 4 runs via D/L method

Match 10, York Cricket Club
Yorkshire Diamonds 160/7 (20 overs)
Western Storm 161/0 (17 overs)
Western Storm win by 10 wickets

Wednesday 23 August

Match 11, Aigburth, Liverpool
Lancashire Thunder 87 (20 overs)
Southern Vipers 88/4 (14.5 overs)
Southern Vipers won by 6 wickets

Match 12, The Oval, London
Surrey Stars 169/6 (20 overs)
Western Storm 117 all out (19.3 overs)
Surrey Stars win by 52 runs

Table:

  Played Won Lost Tied N/R Net RR Points
Surrey Stars 4 4 0 0 0 +1.445 18
Southern Vipers 4 3 1 0 0 +2.155 15
Yorkshire Diamonds 4 2 2 0 0 -0.001 8
Western Storm 4 2 2 0 0 -1.391 8
Loughborough Lightning 4 1 3 0 0 -0.269 5
Lancashire Thunder 4 0 4 0 0 -1.851 0

With one round of games to go the top two are through with the next three teams fighting for two places.  Lightning can still go through with only two wins, although their last match is against the in-form Surrey Stars.

Golf

Solheim Cup

The USA retained the Solheim Cup at the weekend with a convincing 16½-11½ victory over Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Although Europe won the singles on Sunday, the damage had already been done on the previous two days.

Europe started well.  In the first session on day one, they took the foursomes 2½-1½, but the afternoon saw a big swing as USA achieved their first clean sweep in a session, leaving the first day totals at 5½-2½.

This was always going to be a large deficit to pull back.

On day two the morning foursomes were tied, taking the score to 7½-4½, but USA again did well in the afternoon session, extending their lead to five points, 10½-5½ going into the singles.

Europe fought well and hard on the last day, but, as I have already said, the gap was too large to close.  The singles scores were as follows:

Lexi Thompson Halved Anna Nordqvist
Paula Creamer wins 1UP Georgia Hall
Cristie Kerr wins 2&1 Mel Reid
Stacy Lewis loses 1UP Catriona Matthew
Angel Yin Halved Karine Icher
Michelle Wie loses 4&2 Caroline Masson
Lizette Salas wins 1UP Jodi Ewart Shadoff
Brittany Lang loses 1UP Charley Hull
Brittany Lincicome loses 4&3 Carlota Ciganda
Gerina Piller wins 4&2 Florentyna Parker
Austin Ernst loses Madelene Sagstrom 3&2
Danielle Kang 3&1 Emily Pedersen

Europe will be looking to regain the trophy at Gleneagles in 2019.

Football

Retirments and Transfers

Scotland captain Gemma Fay has retired from international football.  She won 203 caps for her country.

This announcement came in the same week that both midfielder Leanne Ross and defender Ifeoma Dieke also declared themselves unavailable for further selection for international duty for Scotland.

The biggest (and shock) transfer news this week came from Manchester City, who announced that their England star and England’s standout player of the Euros, Lucy Bronze is to leave the club to join Champions League holders Lyon.  She has signed a three-year contract with the top French club in a deal that also saw Lyon forward and German international, Pauline Bremer, join City.

Arsenal have also been busy in the transfer market.  This week they signed Swedish right-back Jessica Samuelsson and have re-signed Germany defender Josephine Henning from Lyon.

European Under-19s

Spain 3-2 France

It was holders v three-time running losing finalist in the final in Belfast.

Spain, having lost the last three finals were in no mood to lose a fourth in a row, but it was France who took the lead with a tap-in from Mathilde Bourdieu as early as the fourth minute.

Fourteen minutes later Spain drew level through Patricia Guijarro and the sides went in level at half-time.

France went ahead again with 19 minutes to go with a curler from Emelyne Laurent, but with five minutes to go Damaris Egurrola headed in from a free kick to make it 2-2.

Two minutes later France were down to ten, as Pauline Dechilly was sent off for two yellow cards.

Spain seized their chance with Guijarro scoring her second in the last minute to take the game and the trophy.

Champions League

The Women’s Champions League is set to be bigger than ever.  61 teams from 49 football associations have applied to compete, including first-time appearances from Fiorentina and Ajax.

We are currently in qualifying with 40 clubs competing for 11 places in the round of 32.  There are 10 groups of 4 with group winners + just one best second placed team going through.

The only British teams involved in qualifying are Hibs and Swansea, who are, unluckily drawn in the same group.  Hibs already have a European pedigree which showed when they played their first group game this week – against Swansea

Hibernian 5-0 Swansea

Goals came from Small (11), Turner (18), Graham (42 P, 87) and Hunter (48)

There will be more Champions League coverage from me in the column this year, so watch this space.  It’s good to say something positive about UEFA, so I will.  There is an excellent website dedicated to the Champions League and I would encourage you all to take a look: http://www.uefa.com/womenschampionsleague/index.html

Eni Aluko

I hummed and hawed before deciding to include an item about the ongoing racism allegations that have hit England women’s football this week.  I have the utmost respect for Eni Aluko as both a footballer and a person, which leads me to think that her allegations must have substance and so I thought I owed it to her to say my piece.

It’s doubly hard though, as since taking over as England manager, Mark Sampson has been a breath of fresh air and a fantastic advocate for women’s football and women’s sport in general.

You can’t help but notice that since Sampson has been in post, the number of black players in an England shirt has dropped dramatically – some down to international retirement, such as Rachel Yankey, but others not so easy to explain.

The FA, as usual, has not come out of this well.  If Aluko hadn’t made it public, the FA would have been quite happy to never let a whiff of any investigation come to light.

Now Anita Asante and Lianne Sanderson have come out to back Aluko and the issue shows no sign of going away.

The FA needs to take action now.  There needs to be a more exhaustive investigation as any kind of discrimination has no place in sport, football and indeed the England set-up.

Goodness knows I write about this stuff every week and every week the level of abuse, discrimination and hate that I see women in sport having to face grinds me down just a little bit further.  If this was found to have basis it would be a terrible indictment of the England set-up.

I truly hope it’s a series of misunderstandings, but Aluko is an intelligent woman – she would have weighed it up in her mind before making anything public.  Sadly we can expect much more to come out in the ensuing weeks and months.

Snooker

The Paul Hunter Women’s Classic takes place in Fürth, Germany from 24-27 August.  As it has only just started as I post this column, I’ll defer until next week and give you the full lowdown then.  It is the tournament’s second year and it’s good to see it getting some (very limited) exposure.

More next week.

Hockey

It was heartbreak for England’s women on 24 August as they lost in the semi-final of the EuroHockey Championships in Amsterdam to the hosts 1-0.  England were the defending champions.

They had finished runners-up in group B, having beaten Ireland 4-1 and Scotland 2-0, but losing to Germany 1-0.  This meant they faced the Netherlands in the semi-final.

It was an incredibly tight game settled by a single goal, scored by Marloes Keetels in the fourth-quarter.

The Netherlands now play Belgium in the final on Saturday, while England play the other losing sem-finalists, Germany, for the bronze medal.

 Cycling

Marianne Vos won the Ladies Tour of Norway this week, finishing the final stage in third and taking the title by 13 seconds.

Megan Guarnier of the USA was in second and another Dutch rider, Ellen van Dijk in third.

The team title was taken by Team Sunweb and Vos also won the points title.

And Finally

Thanks to Jennie Powell of 4The Love of Sport for making me aware of the organisation Opening Boundaries, whose aim is “to use sporting initiatives as a platform for campaigns that facilitate gender equality & peace around the globe.”

On Sunday they held a cricket match between a combined India & Pakistan team and the UK Armed Forces Ladies team.  The fixture, now in its second year, is gaining coverage worldwide and is raising awareness both of women’s roles in sport and of violence against women and girls as part of its Bowling Out Domestic Violence campaign.  You can read a report of the game here.

So it’s a combination of women’s sport and empowering women and girls through sport – what’s not to love?  Check it out at the links above.  You can also follow them on twitter @OB_Official.

Women’s Sports Column 5-11 August 2017

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I realise I am terribly late with my Rugby World Cup preview, and the KSL also returned this week, but, as you know, I’m struggling for time at  the moment – the World Athletics Championships have nearly passed me by completely!  I will do the best I can to keep up, but I’m giving my apologies now if I fall short.  The good stuff just keeps on coming with the Solheim Cup and the Netball Quad Series still to look forward to.

So, less blathering, more reporting.  This week’s stories come from rugby, golf, athletics, tennis, hockey, netball, football and cricket.

Firstly to the football and the final of the Women’s Euros.

Football

Women’s Euros Final

Netherlands 4-2 Denmark

What a fitting final to grace an excellent tournament!  It had everything; goals, tackles, great defending, great goalkeeping, mistakes and a fabulous crowd.

The largely orange crowd were silenced after six minutes when Nadia Nadim slotted home a penalty, but the Dutch were level four minutes later Vivianne Miedema poked in from close range.

Player of the tournament, Lieke Martens scored the Netherlands’ second with a 20-yard strike.  But five minutes later the Danes were level again through Pernille Harder.

2-2 at half-time after a breathless, end-to-end 45 minutes.

The second-half was just as competitive.  Six minutes after the re-start through a Sherida Spitse free-kick.  Denmark gave everything they had to come back, but in the 89th minute Danish hearts were finally broken when Miedema got her second.

Netherlands were the best team overall, no doubting that.  England’s Jodie Taylor received the Golden Boot for her five goals.

Other football news

It was announced on Wednesday that the English FA will bid to host the 2021 Women’s Euros.  England last hosted the tournament in 2005 and the current boom in the women’s game has prompted the FA to bid again.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, said,

“The Lionesses’ performances at the Euros this summer gave the country great pride.  It also showed the significant impact that hosting a major European tournament can have on growing and developing women’s football.”

Can’t wait for unreconstructed man commenting on this.

The bidding process begins in September, with a decision due in 2018.

The FA has also announced that it is looking into fielding a women’s GB side at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  Let’s hope the home nations come to an agreement in time, after their singular failure to do so for Rio.

Women’s Under-19 Euros

Hot on the heels of the Euros comes the under-19 version, which is taking place in Northern Ireland from 8-20 August.

Eight teams have qualified for the finals – split into two groups of four.

Group A: Germany, Spain, Northern Ireland, Scotland

Group B: Italy, France, Netherlands, England

The first round of matches produced the following results:

Group A:

Scotland 0-3 Germany

It could have been more for Germany had it not been for the excellent display from Scots goalkeeper Rebecca Flaherty.  Germany took the points with goals from Giulia Gwinn (19), Annalena Rieke (39) and Ereleta Memeti (80).

Northern Ireland 0-2 Spain

Likewise Spain were too strong for the host nation.  Lucia Garcia scored the first on the half-hour with captain Patricia Guijarro scoring on 53 minutes to seal the win.

Group B:

France 0-2 Netherlands

The Netherlands scored an impressive win over Cup-holders France with two goals in the first-half.  Victoria Pelova opened the scoring after just 10 minutes and an own goal from Julie Piga sealed the points for the Netherlands.

Italy 1-2 England

Two goals from Georgia Allen in the second-half were enough to take the points against Italy.  Italy pulled one back in second-half injury time through Annamaria Senturini.

The second round takes place on Friday 11 August.

Women’s Rugby World Cup

Having watched most of the first round of games, I can, with some relief, say that my original thoughts as to the ultimate destiny of the Cup have not changed significantly.  There were some unsurprisingly big wins as minnow were rolled over, with the undoubted highlight of the round being the game between Ireland and Australia.

England and New Zealand are the teams to beat and everyone will be looking to overturn them.  Canada and France will also be in the mix and as dark horses we have to include Ireland.  Can the “Netherlands effect” work in their favour?  It certainly helped at the first game against Australia.  Actually Australia were a good deal sharper than I expected and their sevens speed will be an asset, but I do question their ability, with so many sevens players in the squad, to last 80 minutes on a regular basis.

Right, on with the scores:

England 56-5 Spain

Clinical, but not perfect for England

England ran in 10 tries in their first game with four for Kay Wilson.  The other tries came from Emily Scarratt, Amy Cockayne, Harriet Millar-Mills, Alex Matthews, Lydia Thompson and Megan Jones.  Conversions came from Kay McLean (2) and Emily Scarratt.

Spain’s dogged persistence finally paid off towards the end of the first half as they scored from and England handling-error through Diana Gasso.

Although this was a good first result for England they know they will have to tighten up in certain areas if they are to progress.  They had 88% of territory, making 911 metres compared with Spain’s 258.  But the kicking was not too sharp and the line-outs positively ropey.  Their next game is against Italy on Sunday.

New Zealand 44-12 Wales

It was a tough start for Wales and by half-time they were 20-0 down.  Sioned Harries and Melissa Clay went over for Wales, but they were undone by merciless attacking speed from the Black Ferns, whose tries came through Winiata (3), Waaka, Wickliffe (2), Woodman and Blackwell.

USA 24-12 Italy

A tight game saw the Eagles claim the win with four tries to Italy’s two.  Kris Thomas scored the USA’s first after just two minutes with Kimber Rozier adding the conversion. Rozier went in for a try of her own on 17 minutes, but missed the conversion, to make it 12-0 to the USA.  Nine minutes later Italy were back in with scoring through Lucia Cammarano, which was converted.   In the second-half Thomas and Gustaitis went in for the USA.  Italy pulled one back with a late try from Giordano after Thomas had been yellow-carded.  A good confidence-building win for the USA.

Canada 98-0 Hong Kong

A crushing win for Canada, not really doing anything for the game, but Hong Kong have to start somewhere.  I fear for Hong Kong as things don’t get any easier as they face the Black Ferns next on Sunday 13 August.

Ireland 19-17 Australia

What a match!  Gosh, so tempting it is to trot out a whole line of clichés – they went toe to toe, knocking lumps out of each other, no quarter asked or given, etc.  But it’s also all true!  Before the game I thought Ireland, even without Niamh Briggs, would have it in the bag against such and inexperienced 15s side.  But Aussies never know when to quit (another cliché) and it was mighty tight to the end.

Ireland took the lead with at try from Larissa Muldoon, converted by Nora Stapleton.  But Australia hit back with a try of their own from Mahalia Murphy.  In what soon became a kicking nightmare for Australia, the conversion was missed by Samantha Treherne as the ball fell from the kicking tee just as it was about to be kicked.

After half-time Australia silenced the crowd by going in front with a try from Shannon Parry but there was further embarrassment in the kicking department as Treherne then took, what I would consider, to be one of the worst kicks I’ve ever seen.  We all laughed at the time, but in the end the difference was two points.

Ireland went back in front with a converted try by Ciara Griffin.  And when they scored again with ten minutes to go, the try by Sophie Spence adjudged legitimate by the TMO, Ireland were well ahead and the Aussies seemed to be tiring.

But it was Australia who were to have the last word, prop Hilisha Samoa tunnelling her way through a pile of Irish bodies to get over the line.

The TV coverage kept cutting to poor Niamh Briggs in the stand who was clearly playing every ball.  I hope she has some less-close matches to watch otherwise she’ll have no nails left.

France 72-14 Japan

Japan were touted as a possible outside threat before the tournament began, but this first game surely showed that they still have some way to go before being competitive in the big arena.  Twelve tries for France saw them win easily and a red card for Makiko Tomito for Japan in the second-half did not have improved the situation.

Live coverage is on ITV4.  It’s quite good (thank goodness for Maggie Alphonsi) – sorry can’t be more enthusiastic than that.  And as beggars can’t be choosers, I’d encourage you to tune in.

Tennis – Rogers Cup

There was disappointment for Heather Watson this week as she pulled out with injury in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

She was behind 6-1 4-1 to Naomi Osaka of Japan when she forfeited the match with a shoulder injury.

The quarter-finals take place on 11 and 12 August and the line-up is as follow:

K Pliskova (1) v C Wozniacki (6)

S Stephens v L Safarova

E Svitolina (5) v G Muguruza (4)

C Garcia v S Halep (2)

Athletics – World Championships

I think it’s safe to say that this has not been a vintage World Championships for Team GB.

So far we have only one medal – a gold for Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

Best results for British female athletes:

Laura Muir was a whisker away from taking a bronze in the 1,500m as she came in fourth.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson came in fifth in the heptathlon after really blowing her chances on the first day.

Holly Bradshaw came a creditable sixth in the pole vault but was not far away from getting a medal.

Sophie Hitchon came seventh in the hammer and Eilidh Doyle eighth in the 400m hurdles.

We still have potential medallists though on Friday 11 August with Dina Asher-Smith qualifying for the 200m and Lorraine Ugen in the long jump final.

There are plenty of events still to come through the weekend, so keep watching.  Blanket coverage on the BBC.

Netball

The netball Quad Series begins at the end of the month with England’s first game against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday 26 August at 6am.

They then play New Zealand in Auckland on Wednesday 30 August (8.30am) and South Africa in Invercargill on Sunday 3 September (3am).

Australia have already suffered a blow with top (and scariest) defender Sharni Layton pulling out of the squad, having been diagnosed with physical and mental exhaustion.

England have named a full-strength squad:

Ama Agbeze (captain), Jade Clarke (vice-captain), Joanne Harten (vice-captain), Sara Bayman, Eboni Beckford-Chambers, Eleanor Cardwell, Beth Cobden, Kadeen Corbin, Stacey Francis, Jodie Gibson, Serena Guthrie, Helen Housby, Geva Mentor, Chelsea Pitman.

Reserves: Summer Artman, Sasha Corbin, George Fisher, Natalie Haythornthwaite

Hockey

Just a quick notice!  The public ballot for tickets to the 2018 World Cup, to be held in London from 21 July -5 August opens on 19 August.  Follow this link to register – it’s a short window, the ballot closes on 6 September.

 Golf

Solheim Cup

The teams, including the captains’ picks, are in!  The Solheim Cup is nearly upon us.  The USA are the current holders, having won in Germany in 2015, 14½-13½.

Europe captain Annika Sorenstam had four wildcard picks and chose Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Madelene Sagstrom (Swe), Caroline Masson (Ger) and Emily Pedersen (Den).

Julie Inkster had two wildcard picks for the USA and chose Austin Ernst and Angel Yin.  Although not originally included, Paula Creamer has now been drafted in, as Jessica Korda has pulled out through injury.

The teams in full:

Europe: Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Mel Reid, Florentyna Parker, Carlota Ciganda, Karine Icher, Suzann Pettersen. Wildcards: Anna Nordqvist, Caroline Masson, Emily Pederson, Magdalene Sagstrom.

USA: Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Danielle Kang, Michelle Wie, Brittany Lang, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas. Captain’s Picks: Austin Ernst, Angel Yin.

The Solheim Cup takes place at the Des Moines Country Club in Iowa from 18-20 August and is live on Sky Sports.

British Open

Kim In-Kyung of Korea has won the British Open at Kingsbarns in Scotland at the weekend.  She won by two shots over Jodie Ewart Shadoff of England, finishing on -18.  Michelle Wie of the United States took a share of third with Caroline Masson of Germany and Georgia Hall of England as they finished on -13.

Kim had a six-shot lead going into the last round, but in the end she had to hold on as Ewart Shadoff shot a storming course-equalling round of 64 to pull the deficit back to just two shots.

Cricket

Kia Super League

The second season of the Kia Super League gets underway this week.  Each team still only plays each other once, with Finals Day this year at Hove on 1 September.

The ECB has revealed this week that next year’s competition will be expanded so that each team will play a more usual format of home and away ties.  This good news comes in the wake of an earlier announcement that the ECB has shelved plans for a similar women’s 50-over completion.  When the T20 competition was announced, the ECB said its plans were to extend it to a 50-over competition in a matter of a couple of years.  This is a massive U-turn and somewhat of a slap in the face for a country that has just won a 50-over World Cup.

Not sure how many times I’ve said this, but the various governing bodies have to stop using women’s sport as a guinea pig – so many initiatives announced, so many either dropped before they’ve started or after a limited time – see the RFU and its contract scandal, for example.

The ECB obviously want the women to be concentrating on T20, when really it is the grassroots county game that needs the money.  Where will the much vaunted “pathway” be for county players to get into the England one-day side? It’s a huge jump.

The odds are it will all change again in 2020 when the men’s “franchises” (hush my mouth, dirty word) for the T20 Blast will be revealed.  It is thought that the women’s Super League will then be revamped in line with these franchises.

Anyway, it all began again on Thursday 10 August with a somewhat underwhelming start at the Ageas Bowl as reigning champions the Southern Vipers took on Western Storm.

Western Storm 70 all out (18.5 overs)
Southern Vipers 73/1 (9 overs)

Not a storming start (sorry) to the KSL as the Vipers thrashed the Storm, knocking off their target in just nine overs.  Not even the missing Anya Shrubsole could have turned this round.

Top scorer for Storm was opener Georgia Hennessy, who dug in in the face of the carnage around her.

England captain Heather Knight, made only one before being bowled by Linsey Smith.  The only other player to make double figures was Fran Wilson who made 10.

In an attempt to up the scoring to make some kind of defendable total, Storm suffered three run-outs towards the end of the innings, including that of Sophie Luff who was dismissed by a direct hit from Charlotte Edwards.

In response the Vipers made it look all too easy.  They have a truly scary batting order, which was not needed on this occasion.  Hayley Matthews was the only wicket to fall as she hit out with freedom in attempt to get the game won.  She was caught by Hennessy off the bowling of Stafanie Taylor for 15.

New Zealand captain Suzie Bates (47) and Georgia Adams (3) saw them home.

Coverage is on Sky and BBC TMS.

And finally,

I still must try harder to stop reading the comments sections, particularly on the BBC.  I thought the rugby had cracked it and it was accepted that the women’s game is a quality product (not that I care whether you accept it or not), but this is not the case.  Cue the usual misogyny on the BBC comments sections.  Bored now.

Sorry, no column next week as I’ll be working elsewhere.  Don’t forget, if you’ve enjoyed reading the column please share it with your networks.  I’m also happy to discuss any (non-troll) aspects of women’s sport.

Women’s Sports Column 29 July – 4 August 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  I’m still calming down after the amazing day that was the Women’s World Cup Final, but there’s no time to rest as the Women’s Euros come to their thrilling conclusion this weekend.  After that it’s the Rugby World Cup.  This fantastic summer of sport just goes on and on!

Stories this week come from football, tennis, cricket, lacrosse, and rugby.

Women’s Euros

Well it’s all over for the Lionesses. Can’t pretend I’m not gutted, but the better side won in the semi-final – England weren’t robbed or anything, so that’s the way the game goes.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been enjoying this tournament a lot.  It has been great to see some teams, other than the usual suspects, progressing.  There certainly would have been long odds on the final four being Austria, Denmark, England and the Netherlands.  But surely it’s all the better for that.  Germany and Sweden were particularly disappointing, but at least it gives someone else a go.

In case you missed it (and where were you, if you did?), here’s what happened in the quarter-finals.

Austria 0-0 Spain
Austria won 5-3 on penalties

Spain were clear favourites to win this match and to progress to the quarter-finals, but Austria, in their first Euros, clearly hadn’t read the script.

Silvia Meseguer missed her penalty and Sarah Puntigam put hers away coolly to take the Austrians through.

Netherlands 2-0 Sweden

Goals from Lieke Martens and Vivianne Miedema were enough to see the tournament hosts beat a disappointingly disjointed Sweden side in front of a packed house in Doetinchem to reach the semi-finals.

After Martens had scored with a free kick, the Netherlands were always in control and Sweden quickly lost heart.

The immensely impressive Shanice van de Sanden rampaged down the wing, crossing to Miedema to tap in for the second and it was all over.

Germany 1-2 Denmark

The biggest shock came in Rotterdam where the unfancied Denmark beat reigning champions Germany.

The game had to be played on the reserve day as the torrential rain caused the original fixture to be postponed.

Germany took the lead through Isabel Kerschowski.  The Danish goalkeeper was at fault, parrying the shot into the net.  Germany held the lead until just after half-time when Nadia Nadim headed in the equaliser for the Danes.

Seven minutes from time Theresa Nielsen headed in the winner as she stood unmarked in the centre.

England 1-0 France

England hung on by hook or by crook to beat France for the first time in 43 years in a competitive game in Deventer on Sunday.

England were far from perfect and it was only the stalwart defence that kept France out.

Jodie Taylor scored the winner – her fifth in three games – after being put in by Lucy Bronze.  Bronze had another excellent game – her strength and consistency are phenomenal.

Two minus points for England; Jill Scott received her second booking, thereby missing the Semi-final on Thursday and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley broke her leg in a collision with her own captain, Steph Houghton.  Somehow she played on for 15 minutes, going down a couple of times for treatment, which earned whistling and howls of derision from the French fans.  In the end she was replaced by Siobhan Chamberlain and it was revealed later that Bardsley had suffered a fracture.

Semi-finals

Denmark 0-0 Austria
Denmark won 3-0 on penalties

This was a tight game with plenty of chances for both sides.  In the 13th minute Austria were awarded a penalty for handball, but Sarah Puntigam, who had so coolly slotted in the winning penalty in the quarter-final, this time blazed over.   At the final whistle they could not be separated and the tie went into extra time.    Denmark had had the lion’s share of possession, but could not force a goal.  Both sides again had chances during extra time but it remained stubbornly goalless and it was penalties.

Austria should have been confident going into penalties after their excellent display against Spain, but this time it all went wrong.  They missed their first three spot-kicks and Simone Sorensen put away hers to send the Danes through to the final.

Netherlands 3-0 England

A largely orange crowd of over 27 thousand saw the hosts rout England with an impressive display of attacking football.  The Netherlands were on the front foot from the off and England seemed to have no reply.

The hosts took the lead after just 22 minutes when Vivianne Miedema headed in and it was only then that England started to look calmer and more possessed.  They should have equalised when Jade Moore’s shot was deflected onto her own post by a Netherlands defender.

With Shanice van de Sanden (one of my stars of the tournament) and Lieke Martens raiding down the flanks the Dutch were consistently dangerous, but managed relatively few meaningful shots.

With England 1-0 down at the break and the crowd in full voice, it was up to Mark Sampson to rally the team and get them moving.  But the second half started very much as the first, with the Netherlands coming forward and England retreating.  Fara Williams, in for the suspended Jill Scott (who was very much missed) had a poor game and on 62 minutes Danielle van de Donk capitalised on a misplaced header back to the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 and the game was effectively over.

I feel Sampson made some odd decisions regarding substitutions.  Ellen White was having a stinker and should have been replaced.  I would have liked to have seen Toni Duggan on much earlier and someone creative like Izzy Christiansen to replace Williams.

But it was not to be for the Lionesses.  In injury time Millie Bright deflected the ball into her own net, which seemed to sum up the night for England.  It made the scoreline a little flattering for the Netherlands, but there can be no doubt that they were the better side on the night, by a considerable margin.

According to all reports the England squad is “devastated”.  And rightly so.  They were the highest ranked team left in the competition and could and perhaps should have gone on to win it.  The Netherlands of course had some stunning home support, but England have shown defiance in this kind of situation again and again.  Sampson will need to look at his plans again.  He’s been a great influence for good with this side, don’t get me wrong, but I think he will have to learn, along with his Lionesses, if they are to make that final push to win a major tournament.

The final between Denmark and the Netherlands is on Sunday at 4pm and is live on Channel 4.  The programme starts at 3pm.

Rugby Union

England contracts

As we know, Scrumqueens reported the demise of England women’s fifteens contracts some weeks ago and I mentioned it soon after in my column, but it looked as if the RFU’s decision had slipped under the mainstream media radar (surprise).

But in the last week or so the wider media has finally chipped in with its pennyworth.  The RFU has come under increasing pressure to reconsider its stance.  As yet, there’s no word of this actually happening, but should there be any changes in policy, hopefully I’ll bring it to you as soon as is possible.

Tyrrells Premier 15s.

Whilst the contracts controversy rumbles on, the RFU announced this week that the replacement for the Women’s Premiership will be called the Tyrells Premier 15s.

The crisp manufacturer has signed a three-year deal to sponsor the league.

The league, which comprises 10 teams will be in the usual home and away league format.  The top four will then go to semi-finals played over two legs and the final will be on 29 April 2018.

RFU director of professional rugby, Nigel Melville said of the announcement,

“The Tyrrells Premier 15s competition is an important step forward for women’s rugby to strengthen the foundations of the women’s game as it continues to grow in popularity.

“By investing at domestic level we can build a sustainable model to support the growth of the game at elite level.

“The competition will crucially expand the playing pool of players available for international selection which will enable us to reach our long-term objective of running dual professionalised 15s and sevens programmes and allow us to compeon all fronts at the highest level.”

I think we can safely say that this was the RFU’s “subtle” way of deflecting the criticism over contracts.

There will also be a new development league for the 10 clubs’ 2nd teams who will also play in the RFU Women’s Senior Cup alongside the Women’s Championship North and South teams.

World Cup News

Ireland suffered a massive blow this week when captain Niamh Briggs withdrew from the squad through injury.

Briggs had only just come back from the hamstring injury that kept her out of the Six Nations when she suffered an Achilles injury in training.

Louise Galvin has been called up as replacement for Briggs.

Ireland have announced that their captain will now be flanker Claire Molloy.  Molloy has plenty of experience, having won 53 caps.  This will be her third World Cup.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be given the opportunity to captain my country, it’s a massive honour to be selected to lead the team in a World Cup on home soil.

“I’m fortunate that I’ll be surrounded by players with great experience, and I’m just really looking forward to pulling on the green jersey and running out with my team-mates,” she said.

Ireland are in tough group C:

Pool games:
Wednesday 9 August v Australia (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7pm
Sunday 13 August v Japan (UCD Bowl Dublin) 5.15pm
Thursday 17 August v France (UCD Bowl Dublin) 7.45pm

Ireland women’s World Cup squad in full:

Forwards: Ashleigh Baxter (Cooke/Ulster), Anna Caplice (UL Bohemian/Munster), Ciara Cooney (Railway Union/Leinster), Ailis Egan (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Paula Fitzpatrick (St. Mary’s College RFC/Leinster), Ciara Griffin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Leah Lyons (Highfield/Munster), Claire Molloy (Bristol/Connacht), Cliodhna Moloney (Railway Union/Leinster), Heather O’Brien (Highfield/Munster), Ciara O’Connor (Galwegians/Connacht), Ruth O’Reilly (Galwegians/Connacht), Lindsay Peat (Railway Union/Leinster), Marie-Louise Reilly (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sophie Spence (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Backs: Louise Galvin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Eimear Considine (UL Bohemian/Munster), Mairead Coyne (Galwegians/Connacht), Nicole Cronin (UL Bohemian/Munster), Jeamie Deacon (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Katie Fitzhenry (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Claire McLaughlin (Cooke/Ulster), Alison Miller (Old Belvedere/Connacht), Larissa Muldoon (Railway Union), Jenny Murphy (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Sene Naoupu (Harlequins FC), Nora Stapleton (Old Belvedere/Leinster), Hannah Tyrrell (Old Belvedere/Leinster)

Next week (a bit late, admittedly) I’ll be previewing the Women’s Rugby World Cup as we begin the fourth major women’s tournament in three months!

Tennis

Heather Watson was knocked out in the opening round of the Citi Open in Washington this week.  She lost to world number 134, Patricia Maria Tig of Romania, 7-6 7-6.  Watson had already had to play two rounds of qualifying before proceeding to the main draw.

Meanwhile Maria Sharapova beat Jennifer Brady 6-1 4-6 6-0 in the first round of Stanford’s Bank of the West Classic on her return from injury.  However, she then withdrew before her second round clash with Lesia Tsurenko with an arm injury.

Britain’s Jordanne Whiley has revealed that she was 11 weeks pregnant when she won the Wimbledon doubles title in July.

Cricket

Just when it looked like the possibility of the men’s Ashes being cancelled was a real one, Cricket Australia has finally come to agreement with both the men’s and women’s squads over pay and conditions.

Women’s pay will rise from AU$7.5 million to $55.2 million for a five year term.  For the first time there will be one agreement to cover both male and female cricketers.  A revenue-sharing scheme will encompass all cricketers.

Impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and something other governing bodies should look at.

Lacrosse

Last week the GB lacrosse team took part in the World Games in Wrocław, Poland.  It was the first time lacrosse had featured in the Games, the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) having had its application to join the International World Games Association (IWGA) accepted in 2013.

Great Britain was one of six teams to compete, finishing a creditable fourth, just missing out on bronze, losing to Australia 8-10 in the bronze medal match.

Australia were well on top, going 5-1 up early on.  They went 2-0 ahead through Abbie Burgess and Sarah Mollison.  GB then pulled one back through Ailsa Stott.

But then Australia surged ahead with scores from Rebecca Lane, Theo Kwas and Burgess again, putting them 5-1 up.

Seven minutes before half-time GB struck back, and strongly.  They hit six goals without reply to take the lead.  Claire Faram got the first and Emily Gray and Sophie Morrill scored to take GB to just 4-5 down at half-time.

Gray, Faram and Morrill all scored again within five minutes of the re-start and GB were 7-5 in front.

Australia hit back through Mollison and Courtney Hobbs to level it and then GB took the lead again through Stott with 15 minutes to go.

But Australia were not to be outdone.  Mollison hit home again followed by Hobbs and Burgess to put the game beyond the Great Britain team.

The winners of the tournaments were USA who beat Canada 11-8 to take gold.

And finally,

As you know, I’ve been trying to wean myself off the hell that is the comments section of the BBC website and the comments after BBC tweets.  I’ve been managing quite well, but I thought I’d just have a quick peak tonight at the replies to one of the tweets about England in the Women’s Euros.  I was quite heartened.  I expected to see many misogynistic “back to the kitchen” comments, but actually there was just one lone very sad man “Man Utd Fan” bleating “no-one cares”.  One.  Very.  Sad.  Individual.  Did it look pathetic when he’d got none of his equally butch mates to back him up?  It certainly did!