Women’s Sports Column 1-7 June 2019

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Some interesting stuff this week, both on and off the pitch/track/court.  And, of course, the football World Cup is imminent and I must confess I am excited!  Looking forward to seeing some great action – bad punditry to follow.

But there’s so much more than football going on.  News and results this week come from tennis, boxing, football, rugby union, rugby league, golf, netball, athletics and mountain biking.

Tennis

French Open – On the Court

How close for Jo Konta, but it was not to be.  The French Open final will between the 19-year old unseeded Marketa Vondrousova and Ash Barty (8) as they overcame 26th seed Jo Konta and Anisimova respectively.  Both will be playing in their first Grand Slam finals.

To be honest, Konta peaked in the quarter-final, where she played the game of her life, overcoming seventh seed Sloane Stephens 6-1 6-4.  She was strong, adventurous and determined and everything she tried seemed to succeed.

In the other quarters, Vondrousova beat 31st seed Petra Martic 7-6 7-5, Amanda Anisimova beat third seed Simona Halep 6-2 6-4 and Barty beat Madison Keys (14) 6-3 7-5.

And so to the semis.

Not ideal to be playing on the third court quite early in the morning – a decision that has been rightly criticised by some of the top players and commentators on the game.

Jo Konta (26) lost to Marketa Vondrousova 7-5-7-6.

In contrast to the quarter-final, Konta looked lacklustre and nervous.  Vondrousova also made mistakes in the first set and Konta was a break up but Vondrousova broke back to take the first set 7-5.

The second set was a tight affair with each player making errors.  But in the end it went the way of the first.  Konta was up with a break, but couldn’t maintain it and as the set went into a tie-break there looked to be only one winner.  This proved to be the case and Vondrousova was through the final.

Ash Barty (8) beat Amanda Anisimova 6-7 6-3 6-3

At first it was one-way traffic in this match as Barty raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set.  But Anisimova showed great resilience to not only recover her game but take the first set on the tie-break.

Barty could have been crushed by this comeback, but she wasn’t, taking the next two sets 6-3 6-3 to set up the final clash with Vondrousova, and in so doing becoming the first Australian into a Roland Garros final since 2010.

Doubles

We are at the semi-final stage of the women’s doubles with the following ties taking place today (Friday 7 June):

Elise Mertens/Aryna Sabalenka (6) v Kristina Mladenovic/Timea Babos (2)
Johanna Larsson/Kirsten Flipkens (15) v Zheng Saisai/Duan Yingying

French Open – off the Court

American tennis player Anna Tatishvili has been fined her whole first-round fee, around £41,000 for failing to perform to a professional standard in a Grand Slam.

Tatishvili has been out of the game for 18 months with an ankle injury and used her protected ranking to enter the French Open.

The world number 50 lost 6-0 6-1 to 29th seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.

The match referee is allowed to impose the fine if they feel that the protected ranking has been used to play when they are not really fit enough.

Boxing

Katie Taylor won in controversial circumstances at Madison Square Garden at the weekend.  She beat Delfine Persoon on points to become undisputed lightweight world champion.

But there are some who though Persoon had done enough to win it.  The judges scored it 95-95 96-94 96-94.

It is thought that Persoon will ask for a quick rematch.  More news on this as it happens.

Taylor now holds the WBC, WBA, WBO and ITF titles.

Football

World Cup

Are you ready?  Have you got your wall-chart up?

The Lionesses had a disappointing end to their warm-up matches as they lost 1-0 to New Zealand.  For those many so, so, so ridiculous men out there who say that female goalkeepers are “all crap” or words to that effect, perhaps they should take a look at the player of the match winning performance of the New Zealand goalkeeper, Erin Nayler.

The only goal of the game came on 50 minutes through Sarah Gregorius and was largely down to some poor England defending.

Hopefully that’s the blip over.

It all begins tonight (Friday) with France v South Korea (8pm).  It is live on BBC1.

England and Scotland begin against each other on Sunday 9 June at 5pm, also live on the BBC – both TV and radio.

My prediction?  It’s not coming home, I’m afraid.  England to get to the quarters.  Winners USA, France or Netherlands, with a sneaky eye on Japan – not that I’m hedging my bets or anything….

Other Football News

Former England defender Laura Bassett has announced her retirement from football.

She made 61 appearances for England, but unfortunately she will probably be remembered for the own goal that gave Japan the win in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup.

However, she was much more than that one goal.  She was a gifted, dependable player, making significant contributions to all the clubs she played for, especially Notts County, Birmingham City and Chelsea.

Selected transfers

The transfer window is hotting up. Here are a few of the transfers that have happened in the last week.  Birmingham City seem to be suffering a bit of an exodus, which is worrying:

Matilde Fidalgo: SC Braga to Manchester City
Meaghan Sargeant: Birmingham City to Bristol City
Charlie Wellings: Birmingham City to Bristol City
Laura Coombs: Liverpool to Manchester City
Claudia Walker: Everton to Birmingham City
Mel Lawley: Manchester City to ??
Jen Beattie: Back to Arsenal from Manchester City

Rugby Union

The England v Barbarians double-header on Saturday saw wins for both England teams, beginning with the Red Roses:

England 40-14 Barbarians

The Roses scored six tries, including a hat-trick for Lark Davies, as they demolished the Barbarians in their first ever meeting at Twickenham on Saturday.

A crowd of 17,902 saw England take the lead after just two minutes when hooker Davies went over with Zoe Harrison converting.

Hannah Botterman went in for the second and Poppy Cleall England’s third, before Davies picked up her second.  Harrison converted all four tries and the Red Roses went in 28-0 up at half-time.

In the second-half England seemed to have gone over again through Kelly Smith, but the try was disallowed due to a forward pass in the build-up.

The Barbarians finally got on the board when Sene Naoupu made the break and passed to Millie Wood who went over.  Fiao’o Fa’amausili scored a second, both tries converted by Elinor Snowsill.

But England weren’t finished.  Davies grabbed her third and Smith finally went in for their sixth, with one conversion by Amber Reed, making the final score 40-14.

England’s next test will be in the Women’s Rugby Super Series, which takes place later on in June in San Diego, where they will take on the best five sides in the world; New Zealand, France, Canada and USA.

Mountain Biking

Rachel Atherton won the UCI Mountain Bike Downhill World Cup in Fort William at the weekend.  She completed the course in a time of five minutes 15.560 seconds, with Tracey Hannah of Australia in second in a tie of 5:17.171.

Atherton is now top of the overall standings after two rounds with another six to go.

Netball

With all due respect to squad announcements and Super League additions, there’s only one top story in netball this week:

Tracey Neville

It was announced this week that Tracey Neville is to leave her post as England Netball head coach after the World Cup in July.

She has been in post for four years, a period of unprecedented change and development in the sport, as well as a huge increase in its profile.

During this time, England have beaten the best in the world and are now a serious threat to the Southern Hemisphere dominance of the sport.  This improvement, of course, culminated in England’s breathtaking triumph at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Who will succeed Neville as head coach?  Well, Tamsin Greenway has to be the firm favourite having won back-to back titles with both Surrey Storm and Wasps Netball.

But for now, let’s concentrate on the upcoming World Cup in Liverpool.  As you will all know by now, it begins on 12 July, and the first day includes England v Uganda at 7pm.

Other Netball news:

Leeds Rhinos Netball will join the Vitality Netball Super league from the 2021 season.

The club was only launched two years ago, but its aim was always to gain a super league spot.   The team will play its home games at various venues including Leeds Beckett University, the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and the First Direct Arena.

Kadeen and Sasha Corbin are to present a new BBC 5 Live podcast entitled “Netballers”.

It begins on Tuesday 11 June with weekly editions and during the World Cup will be even more regular.  Check it out via the BBC Sounds app or other podcast providers.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have named their squads for July’s World Cup:

Scotland
Emma Barrie, Kelly Boyle, Lynsey Gallagher, Ella Gibbons, Bethan Goodwin, Sarah MacPhail, Claire Maxwell (Capt), Niamh McCall, Nicola McCleery, Hayley Mulheron, Emily Nicholl), Lauren Tait.

Northern Ireland
Caroline O’Hanlon (Capt), Fionnuala Toner, Lisa Bowman, Shaunagh Craig, Niamh Cooper, Ciara Crosbie, Michelle Drayne, Gemma Lawlor, Emma Magee, Michelle Magee, Lisa McCaffrey, Neamh Woods.

Golf

Never one to gloss over my ignorance, I have to confess I was somewhat nonplussed by the winner of the US Open, when her name appeared as Jeong-eun Lee6.  Six, I thought?  Well, yes, it is, sort of.  Apparently, there have been another five Jeong-eun Lees in the Korean LPGA and so Lee has added the “6” to her name to differentiate herself!

Anyway, she claimed the US Open in Charleston at the weekend.  She finished on -6.  Angel Lin (US), Lexi Thompson (US) and Ryu So-yeon (Kor) tied for second on -4.

Top British finisher was Charley Hull who ended on level par.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s Super League results were as follows:

York City Knights 0-50 Leeds Rhinos
Wakefield Trinity 0-66 St Helens
Wigan Warriors 42-4 Featherstone Rovers

With most teams having played five matches, Castleford Tigers are top with eight points.  They have played only four games, but have a better points difference than St Helens and Leeds Rhinos, both of whom also have eight points but from five matches.

Athletics

Caster Semenya

As I warned, this story is far from over.  This week a Swiss court temporarily suspended the new IAAF ruling that will require Semenya to take testosterone-reducing medication.

However, the suspension only applies until 25 June and the governing body has been quick to say it will seek a “swift reversal” of the decision.

The IAAF has defended its ruling (thank you to BBC for this):

  • It is “convinced there are some contexts, sport being one of them, where biology has to trump identity”.
  • It “believes the right to participate in sport does not translate to a right to self-identify into a competition category or an event”.
  • “To define the category based on something other than biology would be category-defeating and would deter many girls around the world from choosing competitive and elite sport after puberty.”
  • “Regulations [on athletes with differences of sexual development] are a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of protecting fair and meaningful competition in elite female athletics, and Cas agreed.”

It also says:

“The challenge that the IAAF faces is how to accommodate individuals who identify as female (and are legally recognised as female) but who – because of a difference of sex development – have XY chromosomes that lead to testes that produce high levels of testosterone, and therefore have all the same physical advantages over women for the purposes of athletics as men have over women.”

So there’s some serious to-ing and fro-ing here and it is likely to continue for some time.  Hats off to Semenya for fighting her corner.  Let’s hope that she doesn’t ever feel that it is not worth the fight.

Cricket

It feels ridiculous to be saying this in early June, but the County Championship is over already – and sadly it is the last of its kind, before the ECB’s restructure.

In the final round of fixtures, the results were as follows:

Division 1
Hampshire 273/9 (50 overs) 18 points beat Surrey 81 all out (21.4 overs) 5 points
Kent 108 all out (31.2 overs) 4points lost to Sussex 268/6 (50 overs) 18 points
Nottinghamshire 198/7 (47 overs) 7 points lost to Yorkshire 209/8 (47 overs) revised target 206 from 47 overs, 17 points
Warwickshire 148/4 (39 overs) 3 points lost to Lancashire 58/1 (5.4 overs) revised target 58 from 10 overs, 15 points

Kent finish top and are the last County Champions with 106 points from seven games.  Yorkshire finish second on 93.

Division 2
Durham 175 all out (47.5 overs) 4 points lost to Cricket Wales 179/4 (28.5 overs) 18 points
Middlesex 166 all out (48.3 overs) 17 points beat Berkshire 146 all out (47.3 overs) 6 points
Worcestershire 138/7 (43 overs) revised target 194 from 43 overs, 6 points lost to Essex 197/8 (43 overs) 17 points

Middlesex finish top with 102 points from 7 games.  Berkshire finish second on 92.  There was one game abandoned between Devon and Somerset.  They are due to try to play it again, but whatever the result, it will not affect the top of the table.

After 23 years, the County Championship ends here.  From 2020 the set-up will be radically different.  County cricket will be cut from 34 teams to 8-10 – negotiations are still ongoing.

According to the ECB, the thinking behind the restructure is to encourage professionalism and the chance for women to make a living in the sport they love.  They aim to see around 90 women making a living in cricket within four years.

The locations of the teams have not yet been decided, but they will play both 50 overs and T20 cricket.  There will also be a Women’s Hundred (yippee) with the same team names as the men’s tournament.

I don’t think it’s too dramatic to say that the future of women’s cricket in England is at stake here and we must trust (but do we?) that the ECB has its wellbeing at heart.

More to follow as the details are revealed.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 27 April – 3 May 2019

camerawoman

Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get though again with Chelsea’s valiant attempt in the Champions League semi-final plus news of the Premier 15s final and yes, the hockey play-offs (thanks Martin).  This week’s “And finally” is one I was hoping I wouldn’t have to write.  You’ll know why when you get there.

So here we go, stories this week come from football, cricket, athletics, tennis, rugby union, rugby league, netball and hockey.

Let’s crack on… 

Football

Chelsea

Chelsea went out of the Champions League semi-final, drawing the second leg at home 1-1, with the aggregate score 3-2 to holders Olympique Lyonnais.

The Blues were 2-1 down after the away leg and although they had a vital away goal, it was always going to be a monumental task for them to beat Lyon, even on their own turf.

Lyon struck a blow when they took the lead through Eugenie Le Sommer in the seventeenth minute.

The home side could have caved in at this point, but they didn’t and got their reward through an excellent Ji So-Yun free kick.

Although they battled hard and had chances, they just couldn’t score the second to bring them level on aggregate and take it to extra time.  And every time Lyon broke they looked dangerous and likely to score.

This will be Lyon’s fourth final in a row.  A crowd of 4,670 watched the match at Kingsmeadow.

Barcelona 1-0 Bayern Munich

(Barcelona win 2-0 on aggregate)

With a 1-0 lead from the away leg, Barcelona were always going to be favourites to go through.

This they duly did, the only goal coming from a penalty, slotted home by Mariona Caldentey.

A club record 12,764 crowd saw them clinch their place in the final.

The final is in Budapest on Saturday 18 May.

PFA Player of the Year Award 2018-19

Vivianne Miedema beat Steph Houghton, Nikita Parris, Keira Walsh, Erin Cuthbert and Ji So-yun to take the PFA women’s Player of the Year award this week.

The Dutch striker has scored 22 goals in 19 appearances in the WSL for title-winning Arsenal this season.  In all competitions she has 39 goals in 46 appearances.

Georgia Stanway won the Young Player of the Year award, having scored 11 goals for Manchester City this season in the WSL.  The other shortlisted players were Miedema, Keira Walsh, Erin Cuthbert, Alisha Lehmann and Sophie Baggaley.

Steph Houghton also received the PFA Special Achievement award.   She will captain England at the World Cup in France this summer and has already 104 caps.

FAWSL

Arsenal clinched their first league title since 2012 last Sunday.  They beat Brighton 4-0 at the Amex Stadium in front of a record WSL crowd of 5,265.

The weekend’s results were as follows:

Brighton 0-4 Arsenal
Needless to say Vivianne Miedema was in amongst it all, scoring the first and creating the second for Katie McCabe.

Beth Mead added a spectacular third and Danielle van de Donk the fourth as the Gunners secured the title in style, with a match to spare.

Birmingham City 2-0 Liverpool
White 20’ 29’

Everton 3-2 Reading
Kaagman 40’, Boye-Hlorkah 52’, Magill 65’
Allen 8’, Williams 77’

Manchester City 2-1 Yeovil
Parris 30’ (PEN), Hemp 65’
Fergusson 1’

Bristol City 1-2 West Ham United
Rafferty 60’ (OG)
Kiernan 74’, Ross 89’

So with most teams having just one game to play, Arsenal are top and champions with 51 points from 19 games.  Manchester City will finish as runners-up and are currently on 47 points, 10 points ahead of an impressive season from Birmingham City who are third.  They may not finish third, however, as Chelsea are just a point behind and have a game in hand.

FAWC

The weekend’s Championship results were:

Millwall Lionesses 0-5 Manchester United
Zelem 7’ (PEN), Turner 13’, Devlin 23’, Harris 29’ (PEN), Sigsworth 78’

London Bees 1-5 Aston Villa
McLachlan 66’
Richards 35’, Ale 38’, West 52’, Smith 80’ 90’

Leicester City 1-1 Durham
Johnson 82’
Robson 45’

Crystal Palace 1-4 Charlton Athletic
Balfour 77’ (PEN)
Eggesvik 24’, Graham 40’, Ejupi 75’, Agg 85’

Lewes 0-3 Sheffield United
Salmon 16’ 60’, Cox 35’

1 May
Aston Villa 1-1Tottenham Hotspur
West 50’
Naz 2’

As we know, Manchester United are champions.  With the draw against Villa, Spurs are promoted from second. All teams have one game left to play except for London Bees who have completed their season.

FA Cup Final

Don’t forget it’s The FA Cup final on Saturday.  Manchester City v West Ham Utd kicks off at 5.30pm and is live in the UK on BBC1 and on the radio on BBC 5 Live.

Tennis

Stuttgart Open

Petra Kvitova won the Stuttgart Open, defeating Anett Kontaveit in the final 6-3 7-6.

Kontaveit went through to the final after top seed Naomi Osaka withdrew with an abdominal injury before the match began.  Third seed Kvitova beat sixth seed Kiki Bertens in her semi-final 7-6 3-6 6-1.

Istanbul Open

Meanwhile, in Istanbul the final was between sixth seed Petra Martic, who had won the first set against Margarita Gasparyan in the first semi-final 6-1 when her opponent retired.  The second semi-final was a straight sets victory for the unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who beat Barbora Strycova  6-2 6-1.

The final went to three sets, with Martic coming out the winner 1-6 6-4 6-1.

This week’s tournaments are in the Czech Republic and Morocco:

Prague Open

Two unseeded players will contest the final in Prague on Saturday 4 May.

Jil Teichmann will face Karolina Muchova, having beaten ninth seed Barbora Strycova (6-3 6-0) and the unseeded Bernarda Pera (6-2 7-5) respectively.

Rabat Open

Saturday’s Rabat Open final will be between sixth seed Maria Sakkari, who beat Alison Van Uytvanck (8) 6-4 6-4 and British number one Jo Konta (7), who defeated fourth seed Ajla Tomljanovic in her semi-final 6-2 7-6.

Netball

Vitality Super League

Last weekend’s results

Friday 26 April
Strathclyde Sirens 41-56 Wasps Netball

Saturday 27 April
Celtic Dragons 58-51 Surrey Storm
London Pulse 62-67 Loughborough Lightning
Saracens Mavericks 62-48 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 53-56 Team Bath

Wasps are out and away at the top with 42 points from 17 games.  They have qualified for the semi-finals.  Then come Thunder, Bath and Lightning on 36 points.  Lightning lie fourth with an inferior goal difference of just 14.  Just behind them, Mavericks are in fifth and can still qualify if they win and Bath or Loughborough lose as they have a massively better goal difference than the two above them.  It is bound to be an exciting final round of matches on Saturday.   Wasps have already secured a home semi-final.  The other is up for grabs.  Will Wasps get through again and if they do, can anyone stop them from making it a hat-trick of titles on 18 May?

It is the final (18th) round of matches this weekend before the semi-finals on 11 May.  All games start at 6pm.

Saturday 4 May
Loughborough Lightning v Celtic Dragons
Saracens Mavericks v Strathclyde Sirens
Team Bath v London Pulse (Live on Sky Sports)
Severn Stars v Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm v Manchester Thunder

Hockey

Contrary to what I said in the column last week, the Investec Women’s Hockey Premier League play-offs actually took place on the weekend of 13-14 April, so my apologies for that.  It would be remiss of me not to mention it, now it has been pointed out to me so here are the results:

13 April
Holcombe 6-0 Buckingham
Surbiton 2-1 East Grinstead

14 April – play off final
Holcombe 0-1 Surbiton

So despite Holcombe finishing top in the regular season, Surbiton are champions for a sixth straight season after defeating them in the play-off final.

Slough went into the Promotion tournament, but could not finish in the top two, which means that along with Canterbury, they are relegated.  Hampstead & Westminster and Loughborough Students (at least they’re not called Lightning) finished first and second and are promoted.

Rugby Union

Premier 15s Grand Final

Saracens 33-17 Harlequins

Saracens retained their title in front of a (slightly disappointing?) crowd of 2,590 at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton, on Saturday.

The holders took the lead on three minutes through Poppy Cleall.  They doubled their lead on 10 minutes when Sydney Gregson flew in on the wing.

On twenty minutes they were in for a third as Zoe Harrison went in and there were two more scores – a second each for Cleall and Harrison to make the score 27-0 to Saracens at half-time, leaving Harlequins with a mountain to climb if they were to get back into the match.

Quins made a spirited attempt after the break.  They were on the scoreboard early through an Emily Scott penalty.  Saracens responded with a penalty from Harrison.

Harlequins finally scored their first try on 54 minutes through prop Vickii Cornborough.  Soon afterwards captain Rachael Burford scored their second.

But it was not to be for the Quins who conceded another penalty late on, which Harrison slotted over.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s Super League results:

28 April
Bradford Bulls 58-6 Wakefield Trinity
Castleford Tigers 27-0 Leeds Rhinos
York City Knights 0-62 Wigan Warriors
St Helens 54-16 Featherstone Rovers

After three matches Castleford Tigers and St Helens have six points with three wins from three.  Bradford Bulls and Leeds Rhinos have four.  Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity have two and York City and Featherstone Rovers have yet to get off the mark.

Athletics

London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei of Kenya won the elite women’s race in a time of two hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  She beat defending champion Vivian Cheruiyot into second with Rosa Dereje of Ethiopia finishing third.  At 25, Kosgei is the youngest woman to win the race.

In the wheelchair race, Manuela Schar of Switzerland took gold in one hour 44 minutes and nine seconds.  She finished more than five minutes ahead of Tatyana McFAdden, with last year’s winner Madison de Rozario coming in third.

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

No it’s not a Women’s IPL, but it’s building on last year’s event as so, should be applauded as progress.  The three squads have been announced, with the Australian’s due to play being notable absentees due to a spat between the BCCI and Cricket Australia over a men’s series due to played in India in January 2020.  So, the best female Australian cricketers will miss out on a big pay day and the exposure the tournament will bring because of a dispute between men.  ‘Twas ever thus, you might say.  Cricket Australia have apologised to Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry and Alyssa Healy for their omission.

The squads are:

Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Anuja Patil, Arundhati Reddy, Chamari Athapaththu (Sri Lanka), Jemimah Rodrigues, Lea Tahuhu (New Zealand), Mansi Joshi, Nat Sciver (England), Poonam Yadav, Priya Punia, Radha P Yadav, Sophie Devine (New Zealand(, Taniya Bhatia.

Trailblazers: Smriti Mandhana (c), Bharti Fulmali, Dayalan Hemalatha, Deepti Sharma, Harleen Deol, Jasia Akhtar, Jhulan Goswami, R Kalpana, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shakera Selman (West Indies), Sophie Ecclestone (England), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies), Suzie Bates (New Zealand)

Velocity: Mithali Raj (c), Amelia Kerr (New Zealand), Danielle Wyatt (England), Devika Vaidya, Ekta Bisht, Hayley Matthews (West Indies), Jahanara Alam (Bangladesh), Komal Zhanzad, Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Sushma Verma, Sushree Dibyadarshini, Veda Krishnamurthy.

The tournament will be played from May 6-11 at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur.  More news next week

And Finally,

Will she appeal?  Will she retire?  What on earth has possessed the Court of Arbitration for Sport to reject Caster Semenya’s challenge to the IAAF’s new rule restricting the testosterone level of female athletes?

Even more bizarrely, Cas said it has “serious concerns as the future practical application” of the new rule.  These include:

  • Worries that athletes might unintentionally break the strict testosterone levels set by the IAAF
  • Questions about the advantage higher testosterone gives athletes over 1500m and the mile
  • The practicalities for athletes of complying with the new rules

It also found that the ruling was discriminatory to those with Differences of Sexual Development (DSD).  Let’s just consider that statement in itself – it is not “positive discrimination” in any way; Just discrimination.  It goes on to qualify that by saying that it is “necessary, reasonable and proportionate” to practise this discrimination to protect “the integrity of female athletics”.

But is it?

To muddy the waters further, not only has the United Nations Human Rights Council called the move “unnecessary, harmful and humiliating”, but before the ruling was made, the World Medical Association (WMA) issued a press release where it “urges physicians not to implement IAAF rules on classifying women athletes.”  Read the press release here.

The new ruling comes into effect on 8 May.  If Semenya (or any other athlete affected) wants to compete at the World Championships in September, she will have to start taking the testosterone-reducing medication in the following seven days.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve written this, but we’ve not heard the end of this one.  It’s a decision that strikes at the heart of women’s athletics.  Semenya has a naturally high testosterone level.  She has not cheated, she has not taken performance enhancing drugs.  There are many and varied views on this, but I for one don’t think she should be penalised and forced to undergo medical treatment for what is a natural condition.  More news on this as it develops.

And, and finally,

To end on a positive note, one last call to remind you that Bank Holiday Monday, 6 May is Women’s County Cricket Day.  Get out there and support your local county side and perhaps you’ll see some of the biggest stars in the English game.  If you still need to know when and where the matches are taking place, the link to the fixtures is here.

More news and view next week.

 

Women’s Sports Column 9-15 February 2019

running track

Welcome to this week’s column.  With news of Lindsey Vonn’s last race, the wonderful Six Nations, football, netball, hockey, athletics, volleyball, cricket, speed skating and tennis I’d better get on…

Football

FAWSL

Last weekend’s results:

Sunday 10 February

Bristol City 0-0 Brighton & Hove Albion

Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea
Wullaert 12’, Stanway 24’
So-yun Ji 50’, 89’

FAWC

Sunday 10 February

London Bees 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Dean 14’ (Pen), Johnson 22’ (OG), Wiltshire 47’

Leicester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
James 68’, Dugmore 74’
Whinnett 57’, Bryan 64’, 84’

FA Cup – Remaining Fourth Round Ties

We now know the full fifth round line-up, after the fourth was completed at the weekend:

Durham 5-1 Cardiff City
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Lewes
Reading 13-0 Keynsham Town
Liverpool 6-0 MK Dons
Loughborough Foxes 0-2 Sheffield United
Charlton 3-3 Huddersfield Town (Huddersfield won 5-4 on penalties)
Stoke City 1-2 Aston Villa
Yeovil Town 1-3 Birmingham City

The fifth round takes place this Sunday, 17 February.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The league was back after its winter break last weekend:

9 February

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

10 February

Bowdon 4-1 Slough

All teams have played 11 now except Bowdon and Slough who have played 12.  With Surbiton suffering their third defeat of the season, Holcombe are now top with 25 points.  Surbiton are second on 22 with East Grinstead third on 19.  At the bottom, Canterbury have four points from 11, and Slough are just above them on eight, having played the extra game.

This weekend’s fixtures will take them all to 12 games played:

16 February

Clifton Robinsons v Buckingham (1pm, Coombe Dingle P1)
Holcombe v Beeston (2pm, Holcombe HC P1)
Canterbury v University of Birmingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC, P1)
Surbiton v East Grinstead (4pm, Surbiton HC Water)

Hockey – off the Pitch

Maddie Hinch has been named FIH Female Goalkeeper of the Year for the third year running.

Ayeisha McFerran (Ireland), Rachael Lynch (Australia), Maria Ruiz (Spain) and Ye Jiao (China) were also shortlisted.

Winter Sports

Speed Skating

Elise Christie won silver in the 500m at the last World Cup event of the season in Turin.

Martina Valcepina of Italy took gold and Maame Biney of the USA the bronze.

Lindsey Vonn

After crashing out in her penultimate race, the super-G at the Alpine World Championships in Are, Sweden the previous Tuesday, Vonn made amends in her last race, the downhill, winning bronze.  Defending champion Ilka Stuhec took gold and Corinne Soutar, silver.

In winning the bronze, Vonn became the first female skier to win a medal at six World Championships.  What a way to go out!

Cricket

Alyssa Healy scooped three prizes at the Australian Cricket Awards this week.  She won female ODI player of the year (6 matches, 329 runs at an average of 54.83), female T20I player of the year (17 matches, 578 runs at an average of 41.29) and also the Belinda Clark Award.

The Betty Wilson young cricketer of the year award went to Georgia Wareham and female domestic player of the year was Heather Graham.

Rugby Union – Six Nations

England 41-26 France

Quite surprisingly, this game was only ever going one way.  England were 24-0 up and coasting at half-time, and although France came back to put a good number of points on the scoreboard, it was never going to be enough to overhaul the Red Roses.

A record crowd of 4,674 were at Doncaster to see it.

England scorers:
Tries: Breach (2), Cleall (2), Smith, Botterman, O’Donnell
Conversions: Mclean (3)

France scorers:
Tries: Bourdon (2), N’Diaye, R Menager
Conversions Bourdon (3)

Italy 3-3 Wales

Stalemate in Lecce as neither side could make the decisive score to win the match.  Robyn Wilkins scored a penalty to give Wales the lead after 30 minutes.  In the second half, Michaela Sillari drew the home side level with a penalty on the hour.

Wales thought they had snatched it late on when Jasmine Joyce went over from a breakaway, but the visitors were pulled back for a forward pass.

The home side then had a chance to win it, but a second Sillari penalty went wide.

Italy scorers:
Pen: Sillari

Wales
Pen: Wilkins

Scotland 5-22 Ireland

Ireland opened the scoring through Aoife McDermott, but Scotland drew level through Hannah Smith.

It looked as if they would go into the break level, but Ireland had other ideas as Leah Lyons went over again to make it 10-5 to the away side at half-time.

Straight into the second-half Ireland were on the attack again and five minutes in Alison Miller grabbed their third try of the match.

Anna Caplice bagged the bonus point try just before the hour, picking up the ball from the back of a ruck to crash over.

Scotland scorers:
Tries: Smith

Ireland scorers:
Tries: McDermott, Lyons, Miller, Caplice
Conversions: Fowley

Other Rugby News

It was announced this week that England will play the Barbarians at Twickenham in June.  The Barbarians’ women’s side was only formed in October 2017.  This will be the first time they have played England.

They will play before the men’s team in a double-header on Sunday 2 June.

The game kicks off at 12.45pm with the men’s following at 3pm.

Tennis – on the Court

Fed Cup

Group A

Great Britain 2-0 Hungary
Katie Boulter triumphed in the first rubber against Dalma Galfi 6-4 6-7 7-6.  This was followed by another three set victory for Jo Konta 6-2 6-7 7-6.

Greece 2-1 Slovenia
Valentini Grammatikopoul beat Kaja Juvan 7-6 5-7 6-3.  Maria Sakkari defeated Dalila Jakupovic 4-6 6-4 6-3.  The doubles rubber was a walkover for Slovenia.

Group B

Serbia 2-1 Croatia
Olga Danilovic defeated Jana Fett in the first rubber 2-6 6-2 7-6.  The second went to Croatia as Donna Vekic beat Aleksandra Krunic 1-6 7-5 6-1.  The deciding doubles went to Danilovi and Krunic as they beat Jurak and Konjuh 1-6 6-1 6-4

Turkey 3-0 Georgia
Cagla Buyukakcay defeated Mariam Bolkvadze in the first rubber 6-4 6-1.  In the second, Pemra Ozgen beat Ekaterine Gorgodze 7-6 6-3.  The doubles were a walkover to Turkey.

Great Britain and Serbia finished top of their respective groups, each winning three from thee ties.  They faced each other in the promotion play-off

GB 2-0 Serbia
In the play-off, both Boulter and Konta kept up their tremendous run of form:

Boulter beat Ivana Jorovic in the first rubber 6-4 6-3 Konta struggled in her match and was visibly distressed at the end through physical exhaustion.  She came through her match against Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 3-6 6-2.  The doubles rubber was not played.

The World Cup Group II play-off draw was also made this week and GB have a home tie.

They will play Kazakhstan in April with the venue yet to be announced, although it may well be at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Meanwhile, the World Group semi-finals look like this:

20-21 April

France v Romania
Australia v Belarus

Qatar Open

Having seen off Sam Stosur in qualifying (7-6 3-6 6-4), unseeded Anna Blinkova then put out seventh seed Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 6-4.  She finally succumbed in the next round, to Barbora Strycova in a bizarrely scored match, 6-0 3-6 6-0 to the unseeded Strycova.

We are now at the semi-final stage, which will be completed today, Friday 15 February:

Simona Halep (1) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Angelique Kerber (3) v Elise Mertens

We are also at the semi-final stage in the doubles, with only one seeded pairing left in the competition.  Both games again today, 15 February:

Chan Hao-Ching/Latisha Chan v Jelena Ostapenko/Veronika Kudermetova
Alison Riske/Ons Jabeur v Demi Schuurs/Anna-Lena Grönefeld (4)

Tennis – off the Court

Maria Sharapova had withdrawn from next month’s Indian Wells tournament.

She is suffering ongoing problems from a shoulder injury that has forced her to withdraw or retire from two of her last three events since playing in the US Open in September.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s results from the Women’s Super League Top 5 were:

9 February

Durham Palatinates 3-0 Malory Eagles UEL (25-16, 25-18, 25-22)
London Orcas 0-3 Tendring VC Ladies (17-25, 14-25, 15-25)

Durham are top with 29 points from 10 games.  Tendring are second with22 from nine.

Women’s Super League Bottom 4:

9 February

Sheffield Hallam 3-1 Birmingham Volley Club1 (25-17, 25-22, 25-27, 25-16)

All teams have played nine games.  Sheffield are top with 12 points, then come Polonia SideOut London (6), Bristol VC1 (4) and Birmingham Volley Club1 (3).

Athletics

British Indoor Championships

More team GB places have been booked as we build up to the European Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March.

Results in full:
Pole vault: 1. Holly Bradshaw (4,80m), 2. Jade Ive (4.40m), 3. Sophie Cook 4.30m)
Triple Jump: 1. Naomi Ogbeta (14.05m), 2. Laura Samuel (13.61m), 3. Alexandra Russell (13.27m)
60m hurdles: 1. Cindy Ofili (8.16), 2. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (8.27), 3. Gabriella Ade-Onojobi *13.21)
60m: 1. Asha Philip (7.19), 2. Rachel Miller (7.20), 3. Kristal Awuah (7.35)
3000m: 1. Laura Muir (8:48.03), 2. Melissa Courtney (8:50.61), 3. Amy Eloise Neale (8:59.86)
Shot Put: 1. Sophie McKinna (17.97m), 2. Amelia Strickler (17.28m), 3. Adele Nicoll (15.58m)
5000m walk: 1. Heather Lewis (22:55.15), 2. Madeline Shott (25:15.58), 3. Pagen Spooner (26:43.74)
Long Jump: 1. Katarina Johnson-Thompson (6.46m), 2. Jahisha Thomas (6.36m), Abigail Irozuru (6.35m)
High jump: 1. Morgan Lake (1.94m), 2. Bethan Partridge (1.87m), 3. Nikki Manson (1.80m)
400m: 1. Zoey Clark (52.85), 2. Amber Anning (53.00), 3. Laviai Nielsen (53.03)
200m: 1. Hayley Mills (23.59), 2. Kiah Dubarry-Gay (24.01), 3. Melissa Roberts (24.28)
800m: 1. Shelayna Oskan-Clarke (2:05.04), 2. Mari Smith (2:05.68), 3. Adelle Tracey (2:05.72)
1500m: 1. Jemma Reekie (4:17.08), 2. Sarah McDonald (4:18.10), 3. Katie Snowden ( 4:19.34)

Netball

Last weekend’s Vitality Superleague results were as follows:

Friday 8 February
Strathclyde Sirens 46-50 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 9 February
Severn Stars 49-62 Manchester Thunder
Loughborough Lightning 50-75 Team Bath

Monday 11 February
London Pulse 49-69 Surrey Storm
Wasps Netball 54-50 Saracens Mavericks

Wasps are still top with four wins from four.  Manchester Thunder are second on the same points but with an inferior goal average.  Team Bath are third on nine points from four games.  At the bottom, there are two teams with three points from five games; London Pulse and Strathclyde Sirens.

This weekend’s round six fixtures:

Saturday 16 February
Manchester Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (5pm)
Severn Stars v Surrey Storm (6pm)
Saracens Mavericks v Team Bath (6pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Monday 18 February
Celtic Dragons v Wasps Netball (7pm)
London Pulse v Strathclyde Sirens (7.30pm)

And Finally,

Is she a woman?  Is she a man?  It still seems that no-one can agree.  While they debate her physical make-up, what happens to Caster Semenya’s mental health?  How does she feel having her gender debated in this way?  Will she have to undergo treatment to lower her testosterone levels?  If so, when tested she will have show the lower levels six months before competition.

Earlier this week it was reported that the IAAF’s lawyers will say Semenya is a “biological male”.  The organisation has denied this.

Now Semenya’s lawyer has said that she is “unquestionably a woman”.

Semenya herself says,

“It is not fair. I just want to run naturally, the way I was born.

“It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am.”

I’m not arguing with her.  I just want her to be able to run – where she wants to run.

Not here next week, so more news and views in a fortnight. 

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 October 2018

social mediaWelcome to this week’s column.  The motorsport issue is still causing fierce debate, but there’s so much more to offer this week with stories from winter sports, hockey, rugby league and union, netball, football, gymnastics, athletics, golf, tennis and cricket!  Unfortunately, also two disturbing and despicable “and finally” items this week.

So let’s crack on….

Winter Sports

The biggest story this week, as regards British athletes, has to be that Lizzy Yarnold, two time Olympic gold medallist, has announced her retirement from the skeleton.

She is Britain’s most decorated Winter Olympian, having defended the title she won in 2014 at Pyeongchang in 2018.  She also won World Championship gold in 2015 and bronze in 2012 and 2017, World Cup gold in 2013-14 and silver in 2014-15 and European Championship gold in 2015.

It is no secret that the skeleton has taken its toll on her body, with her back and knees taking the brunt of this punishing sport.  She also suffers from vestibular disorder which affects her inner ear and brain, causing dizziness.

Yarnold’s decision may have been hastened by former teammate Amy Williams’ revelation that her skeleton career has caused her so much back and knee pain that she has had to sell her house and move into a bungalow.

Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Yarnold is a brilliant role-model for would-be winter sports athletes and I’m sure she’ll stay involved in sport, perhaps working with youngsters and their motivation and I would like to offer my congratulations to her on a stunning career.

Rugby League – Super League Grand Final

Leeds Rhinos 16-18 Wigan Warriors

Wigan defeated Leeds Rhinos in the Grand final on Saturday with a penalty in the last minute.

Leeds took the lead through Rhiannon Marshall, but Wigan were ahead at the break 8-6.  Rachel Thompson scored a hat-trick of tries and Georgia Wilson one try as Wigan pulled 10 points ahead.

But Leeds were not done.  They drew level to 16 points all with tries from Caitlin Beevers and Suze Hill with two goals from Courtney Hill.

With one minute to go, Wigan were awarded a penalty and Charlotte Foley calmly slotted it home to take the two points and the game.

Leeds have still had a great season, winning the League Leaders’ Shield and the Challenge Cup.

Tennis – on the court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta is through to the semi-finals of the Kremlin Cup.  She had a fine win in the first round of the beating seventh seed Elise Mertens 6-3 7-5.  In the round of 16 she defeated Daria Gavrilova in three sets 6-4 3-6 6-3 and in the quarter-final she overcame Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 2-6 7-6.

She faces sixth seed Daria Kasatkina in the semi-final.  The first semi is between Ons Jabeur and fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova.

Luxembourg Open

We are also at the semi-final stage of the Luxembourg Open where top seed Julia Goerges meets Eugenie Bouchard and Belinda Bencic comes up against ninth seed Dayana Yastremska.

Tennis – off the court

Britain’s Katie Boulter is into the top 100 of the WTA world rankings for the first time.

Last week she lost at the quarter-final stage of the Tianjin Open to world number six Karolina Pliskova.

Now the 22-year old from Leicester is ranked 96 in the world.

Race to Singapore

She was due to be number one seed at the WTA Finals which begin on 21 October, but Simona Halep has had to withdraw due to her ongoing back injury.  Kiki Bertens, who finished ninth in qualifying, takes her place.  The full line-up is as follows:

(1. Simona Halep)

Angelique Kerber
Caroline Wozniacki
Naomi Osaka
Petra Kvitova
Sloane Stephens
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova
Kiki Bertens

Gymnastics

After the hideousness of the Larry Nassar scandal, it is up to USA Gymnastics to get its house in order, and quickly.  Unfortunately, it seems they have failed spectacularly this week.

It had appointed Mary Bono as interim head, but after objections by Olympic champions Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, Bono has resigned after just four days in post.

First Biles criticised Bono for appearing to oppose Nike’s Colin Kaepernick advertising campaign.

Bono has responded that she did not oppose the campaign because of Kaepernick’s stance over racial injustice, but because of the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.  She said she was responding as someone who has lost family serving in the armed forces – the ultimate sacrifice.

But it Raisman has also raised the issue that Bono was a solicitor at the law firm that represented Larry Nassar in 2015.  Bono did not represent him directly, but the firm and the sport’s administrators were aware of abuse allegations at the time.

Nassar was sentenced to 300 years in prison for child pornography and sexual abuse charges.  He abused both Biles and Raisman while coaching for USA Gymnastics.

Time for USA Gymnastics to think again.

Football

World Cup Qualifying

Three more countries qualified for next year’s World Cup this week.  The USA and Canada qualified from the CONCACAF Women’s Championship as finalists.  USA beat Canada 2-0 in the final with goals from Rose Lavelle in the second minute and Alex Morgan in the 89th.

There was an historic result in the third-place play-off as Jamaica defeated Panama 4-2 to qualify for their first World Cup finals.  The match ended 2-2 in normal time and the deadlock still could not be broken in extra-time.  So it went to penalties.  Jamaica coach, Hue Menzies, took off the first-choice goalkeeper in the last minute of extra time to bring on Nicole Mcclure, a renowned shot-stopper, a manoeuvre that paid off as Mcclure saved two penalties while the Jamaicans scored all their four.

Panama still have a chance to qualify, but they have to beat Argentina, who finished third in the Copa America Femenina.  First leg is Monday 5 November and the second is just over a week later on Tuesday 13.  Brazil and Chile have qualified for next year’s finals after finishing top and second respectively.

Champions League

Chelsea 1-0 Fiorentina

Chelsea may rue their missed chances when it comes to the second leg in Florence in two weeks.  Emma Hayes had made seven changes to the team that were demolished 5-0 by Arsenal at the weekend.

Chelsea played well and were most often on the front foot, with chances for Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann (who ran and ran all night) and Millie Bright.

The only goal of the game came from Karen Carney from the penalty spot on eight minutes.

Fiorentina seemed happy to sit back and try to hit Chelsea on the break, but in truth it would have been most unjust if they had scored an equaliser.

Some fine goalkeeping from Fiorentina’s Stephanie Öhrström kept the score down and Fiorentina will go into the second leg confident of overturning the 1-0 deficit.

Barcelona 5-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow contributed to their own downfall with a series of mistakes and now the tie seems to be over.

Barcelona were three-up at half-time with goals from Kheira Hamraoui, Aitana Bonmati and Patricia Guijarro.  After the break the onslaught continued and two more goals from Andressa Alves and Maria Leon ensured a thumping first leg win for the Spanish team.

Other Champions League scores:

Wolfsburg 4-0 Atletico Madrid
Zurich 0-2 Bayern Munich
Ajax 0-4 Lyon (a goal for Izzy Christiansen for Lyon in this match)
FC Rosengard 2-3 Slavia Praha
Linkoping 0-2 Paris St Germain
Lillestrom SK 1-1 Brondby

The Round of 16 second leg matches are 31 October and 1 November.

Football – English Domestic

Arsenal are on Fire, as the current idiom would have it.  They put five past Chelsea at the weekend away from home to stay top of the table, but they need to watch out as Manchester City also seems to be hitting their straps at last.

Super League Results from Sunday 14 October:

Bristol City 0-1 Birmingham City
Mannion 75’

Everton 3-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Kaagman 27’, George 46’, Kelly 70’
Buet 2’, Brazil 75’ 78’

Liverpool 2-1 Yeovil Town
Linnett 18’, Clarke 87’
Heatherson 28’

Manchester City 7-1 West Ham United
Weir 2’, Parris 7’ 17’, Stanway 72’ 80’, Houghton 76’, Wullaert 86’
De Graaf 82’

Chelsea 0-5 Arsenal
Little 21’ (pen), Miedema 38’ 57’, Nobbs 52’ 67’

On the negative side for Arsenal, Scotland striker Kim Little fractured her leg in the match and will be out for approximately 10 weeks.  According to social media it was a bad tackle by Drew Spence that took her out and she should have been red carded, although she was only booked.

Arsenal are top from Birmingham City on goal difference.  Both teams have 12 points, the Gunners from four games and the Blues from five.  Manchester City are a point behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton are above them with just one.

Championship results from 14 October:

Millwall Lionesses 1-2 Leicester City
Lumsden 20’
Axten 61’ 77’

Crystal Palace 1-0 London Bees
Hincks 21’

Aston Villa 0-0 Durham

Lewes 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Kempson 14’
Baptiste 16’, Dean 32’ 45’

Manchester United 3-0 Charlton Athletic
Zelem 16’, Sigsworth 57’, Arnott 75’

Who can stop Manchester United from running away with it?  They are top with 13 points from five games.  Spurs are second a point behind, but from four games, and Leicester are third with nine from five.  At the bottom, Villa and Millwall have a point each but Villa have a terrible goal difference (-17).

Athletics

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The introduction of the IAAF’s new testosterone rules has had to be delayed due to a legal challenge from Athletics South African (ASA) and 800m runner Caster Semenya.

The new ruling was due to come in on 1 November, but that has now been put back to 26 March 2019.

However, the ruling states that female athletes have to keep their testosterone levels below the prescribed amount for at least six months before competing.

This means that the athletes affected (primarily Semenya), will not be allowed to run for six months from the date the rule comes in.  If the March date happens, six months from then will be 26 September, just one day before the start of the World Athletics Championships in Doha.

More to come as it happens.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey league Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

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

So the Surbiton juggernaut rolls on.  They are top on 10 points from four games.  Second are Holcombe with the same points but an inferior goal difference.  Buckingham lie third on eight points.  At the bottom Slough lost again and still have only one point.  Canterbury and Bowdon are just above them with two.

This weekend’s fixtures:

20 October:
Surbiton v Bowdon (12 noon, Surbiton Hockey Club)
University of Birmingham v Canterbury (4pm, Birmingham Uni P1)

21 October
Buckingham v Beeston (12 noon, Stowe School P1)
Clifton Robinsons v Slough (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Holcombe v East Grinstead (2pm, Holcombe Hockey Club, P1)

Rugby Union

Premier 15s

Last weekend’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

DMP Sharks 15-7 Richmond
Saracens 21-5 Wasps
Loughborough Lightning 36-18 Bristol Bears
Worcester Valkyries 19-69 Harlequins
Firwood Waterloo 10-43 Gloucester-Hartpury

After five games Saracens are top with 24 points.  Loughborough are second with the same number of points but an inferior goal difference.  Harlequins are third on 18.  At the bottom, Worcester have only two points having lost all of their games so far.  Firwood Waterloo lie above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

20 October
Wasps v Richmond (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Bristol Bears v Firwood Waterloo (2.30pm, Shaftsbury Park)
Harlequins v Saracens (3pm, Surrey Sports Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Worcester Valkyries (4.30pm)
Loughborough Lightning v DMP Sharks (5pm, Loughborough University)

Young Sports Personality of the Year

The shortlist for Young Sports Personality of the Year has been announced.  There are six girls and women in the list of 10:

Kare Adenegan (17) (Para-athletics)
Freya Anderson (17) (Swimming)
Georgia-Mae Fenton (17) (Gymnastics)
Anna Hursey (12) (Table tennis)
Georgia Roche (17) (Rugby League)
Maisie Summers-Newton (16) (Para-Swimming)

Check out the credentials of the contenders here

Netball

A full house at the Copper Box saw Wasps Netball win the second Fast5 Allstars tournament at the weekend.  They beat the benecosMavericks 42-32 in the final.

The series of results were as follows:

Double elimination stage

Loughborough Lightning 19-21 Surrey Storm
Strathclyde Sirens 4-15 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-18 Manchester Thunder
benecosMavericks 31-41 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 12-28 Severn Stars
Team Bath 23-37 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 32-28 Strathclyde Sirens
Manchester Thunder 22-32 bencosMavericks
Surrey Storm 15-6 Loughborough Lightning
Team Bath 21-47 benecosMavericks

Semi-Finals
Wasps Netball 45-36 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 8-38 benecosMavericks

The Final
Wasps Netball 42-32 benecosMavericks

There are a number of “warm-up” tournaments before the Vitality Netball Superleague begins in January.  Check out your favourite team’s website to see who they’re playing.

Sunshine Series

Meanwhile England Roses have suffered a disappointing series defeat against Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls in Kingston.  England were without some of their star names, but with the World Cup next year, Tracy Neville will be concerned that none of the three matches was particularly close.

First Test
Jamaica 55-43 England

Second Test
Jamaica 58-39 England

Third Test
Jamaica 58-43 England

Cricket

It was an easy a start to a series as Australia could wish for as they demolished Pakistan in a rain-affected first ODI in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Pakistan 95 all out (37.2 overs)
Australia 95/5 chasing revised target of 92 (22.2 overs)
Australia won by five wickets with 112 balls remaining

The rain hit when Pakistan were 76/6 and reduced the game to 41 overs per side, but Pakistan were in deep trouble already by then.  Sana Mir made 21 not out and captain Javeria Khan also made 21, but Megan Schutt took 3/17 from 7.2 overs and Nicola Carey 3/19 off 7 as the home side slumped to 95 all out.

Australia’s target was revised to 92 via the D/L method.  They started well with an opening stand of 40 before Alyssa Healy was out for 26 in the seventh over.  Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry went cheaply (four and one respectively), both wickets falling to Sana Mir, who eventually took 3/26 in seven overs.  After Nicole Bolton was out for 22 it was up to Rachael Haynes and Beth Mooney to see it home.  Haynes was out with just one needed, but Ash Gardner came in to back up Mooney and take the win.

The only real positive for Pakistan is that they took five Australian wickets.

Reports from the rest of the series next week.

Golf

Laura Davies has won the Senior LPGA in Indiana.  She finished four ahead of the field on -8.  Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and Silvia Cavalleri of the US were tied for second on -4.  Of the other British players, Trish Johnson finished on +3 and Catriona Matthew +4.

This is Davies’ second senior major win of the year, after winning the US Senior Women’s Open in July.

And Finally,

I have neither the space nor time do justice to the subjects of this week’s “And Finally”.

This week Chelsea winger Karen Carney received abuse, rape and death threats on Instagram after Chelsea’s win over Fiorentina on Wednesday.

You will know how much I tend to “go on” about the abuse women receive on social media and on “Have Your Say” sections of websites, but there has been talk that the abuse of Carney is of “another level”.  Is it?  Is it not part of the same systematic degradation of women in sport (and in other areas of public life) that goes on every day?  It’s despicable and unacceptable and sends chills right through me, but I would say, seeing the stuff that gets through the comments pages, I would imagine it is probably on a level with those comments that are “moderated and removed because they have broken house rules.”

No-one should have to contend with this, be they woman or man – no-one should be threatened for doing their job, be that on the pitch, as a journalist, an administrator or an activist.

What is on “another level”, however, is the news from Mexico that a woman who spent her life working to promote women’s football, Marbella Ibarra, has been murdered.  It is not known whether her links to football made her a target, but it has certainly brought home to me yet again that while words are upsetting and unacceptable, women all over the world are being killed or suffer violence for their thoughts, actions and stances.

Read the full story of the death of Marbella Ibarra here

I in no way mean to belittle what Carney and many, many other women have gone through – goodness knows I try to highlight it and call it out as much as I can.  I also realise that violent words can often escalate into violent behaviour, so we should always investigate this kind of abuse and find out the motivation behind it.  But I also realise that social media is not the be-all and end-all of life.  Some people are living through real-life horror stories every day.  And some may not survive it.

More news and views next week.   

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 June 2018

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

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

Tennis

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

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

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tri-Series

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

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

The last double-header was on Thursday 28 June:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

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

Caster Semenya

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

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

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

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

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

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

The statement said that the IAAF needs

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

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

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

Football

Sheffield FC

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

The club issued a short statement:

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

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

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

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

Manchester United

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

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

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

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

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

Signings

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

 Rugby Union

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

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

 Rugby League

Two results from the Super League this week:

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

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

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

Cycling

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

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

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

Updates as they come through.

Netball

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

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

More news and views next week.