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. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 January 2018

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the brevity of this week’s offering, but a bout of sickness has meant I’ve been a bit pushed for time.  Hopefully there’s enough here to keep you entertained.  Stories this week come from tennis, hockey, boxing, rugby union, cricket, football and sports politics.

So here we go.

Tennis

Australian Open

The draw for the first round of the Australian Open has been made and Jo Konta, fit again after pulling out of the Brisbane International, has a tough draw.  She faces American Madison Brengle, 92 in the world.

Heather Watson’s first opponent is Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who, at 50, is ranked 24 places higher than Watson.

Naomi Broady is through the first round of qualifying, beating Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein 7-6 5-7 6-3.  She plays Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the next round and needs to win three to get through to the first round proper.

The tournament begins on Monday 15 January.

Hobart International

Heather Watson seems to be getting into her stride before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.  She made it to the semi-finals of the Hobart International, losing to the 2017 champion and second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Mertens will play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine of Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

Boxing

Irish boxing star, Katie Taylor, will fight her first professional Dublin bout on 14 April.  It will be her second defence of her WBA World Lightweight title.

The venue is yet to be decided.

Football – off the pitch

Eni Aluko

The big news this week is that Eni Aluko is in discussion with Paris St-Germain over a possible transfer.  Aluko, 30, has five months left on her Chelsea contract.  PSG lie currently in the French division one behind Lyon.

Lionesses

Drew Spence has been recalled to the England squad for their 10-day training camp in Spain; it will be the first time she has been involved since the debacle with Mark Sampson last year.  The squad is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup in the US in March.  The full squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Drew Spence (Chelsea), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

Meanwhile, although we are assured by the FA that the search for the new England Head Coach is well underway, some of the best candidates are slipping through their fingers.  John Herdman, the Canadian women’s coach has just left his post, but has gone directly to take over the Canadian men’s team.   One name that is, apparently, in the hat, is that of Phil Neville.  As the current parlance would have it, I’ll just leave that here.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fourth Round

After the excitement of last week’s third round, the fourth round draw has been made and this is where the WSL sides make their first appearance.  Ties will be played on Sunday 4 February.  There is one outstanding tie from the third round this Sunday (14 January) when Derby County take on Brighouse Town fourth round fixture away to Sunderland AFC.

The New Saints v Chichester City
Durham v Sheffield
Aston Villa v Middlesborough
Sunderland AFC v Derby County/Brighouse Town
Keynsham Town v Lewes
Tottenham Hotspur v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Liverpool v Watford
Cardiff City v Oxford United
Reading v Birmingham City
Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Yeovil Town v Arsenal
London Bees v Chelsea
Everton v Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United

For fixture times and venues please see the FA Website.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

Rugby Australia

Good news from Australia this week as it was announced that a deal between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association means that its men’s and women’s sevens sides will be paid the same (at entry level), at least until 2020.

The fifteens team, the Walleroos, will be covered by the new deal and will receive payments for Tests for the first time.

There will be a new Pregnancy Policy to ensure players have the security to return to their contracts if they have children.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

There was one game in the Premier 15s last weekend:

Worcester Valkyries 7-38 Loughborough Lightning

We’re all-guns-blazing again this weekend with a full programme of fixtures:

Saturday 13 January

Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Allianz Park)
Harlequins v Loughborough Lightning (2pm, Surrey Sports Park)

Sunday 14 January

Richmond v Gloucester-Hartpury (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cricket

WBBL latest scores:

6 January
Melbourne Renegades 142/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/3 (19 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Jess Duffin top-scored for the Stars with 40, ably supported by Claire Koski, who finished 33 not out.  Erin Osborne took 2/14 from her four overs.  In response Georgia Elwiss scored 58 not out and Mignon du Preez 45 from 35 balls as the Stars took the game with an over to spare.

7 January
Hobart Hurricanes 111/4 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 114/2 (14.2 overs)
Heat won by 8 wickets

The Hurricanes’ total never looked like being enough.  Jess Jonassen took 2/17 off her four overs.  Beth Mooney scored an unbeaten 62 from 43 balls as the Heat got home easily.

Sydney Thunder 145/6 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 144/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 1 run

Scorchers needed three runs off the last ball, but as Mathilda Carmichael came back for the second, ‘keeper Rachel Priest took the ball and broke the bails, denying the second run and super over and claiming the win for the Thunder.  Earlier Priest had also top-scored with the bat with 42 from 32 balls.

But it was Rene Farrell who took the player of the match award for her dismissal of the two Scorchers openers.  She also effected the run out of Perth’s English batter Nat Sciver.

8 January
Brisbane Heat 168/4 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 126 all out (18.5 overs)
Heat won by 42 runs

Kirby Short starred for the Heat with 79 of 55 balls as they posted an excellent total.  In response the Hurricanes lost Hayley Matthews for just eight and after the top four had been dismissed, no-one else got into double figures.  All of the Heat’s seven bowlers, excepting bizarrely, Deandra Dottin, all picked up wickets to contribute to the win.

Sydney Thunder 134/4 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 136/2 (18.1 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

The Scorchers were back to winning ways on Monday as they beat the Thunder with nearly two overs to spare.  Alex Blackwell starred for the Thunder, scoring 81 off 58 balls, as their openers faltered with Priest bowled for a duck by the in-form Katherine Brunt.  Stafanie Taylor also contributed with 31.

Elyse Villani was run out early on for just nine for the Scorchers, but Nicole Bolton scored 28 and then England pair Nat Sciver and Brunt took it on, scoring 61 and 17 not out respectively to ensure the win.

9 January
Melbourne Stars 132/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 134/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 1 wicket

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the Stars with 52 with Katie Mack backing up well with 42 from 32 balls

Although the Strikers all got starts, none went on to make a big score and with the Stars taking regular wickets it looked as if they had the game sewn up.

When the ninth wicket went on 129 with just two balls to go it was down to last recognised bat Tabitha Saville to score the winning runs.  Beams bowled a dot for the fifth ball but then committed the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball on the sixth; one run for the no-ball and a free hit.  Saville tonked the free hit for four and the Strikers had won the game.

12 January
Melbourne Stars 133/3 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 134/5 (18.1 overs)
Heat won by 5 wickets

Beth Mooney is in fearsome form, as the Stars found to their cost on Friday.

Katie Mack put in her second big score of the week with 57 off 48 for the Stars with Mignon du Preez backing her up with 30.  Deandra Dottin took 2/13 off three overs for the Heat.

But there was no stopping Mooney.  She hit seven fours in an innings of 57 off just 38 balls.  She was ably supported by Jess Jonassen who scored 23 not out from 21 balls as the Heat won with nearly two overs to spare.

As it stands

Thunder are top with 12 points from 8 matches.  The Heat are second with the same number of points, but from nine matches.  They are followed by the Sixers and then the Strikers.  Hobart Hurricanes are still to get off the mark and are bottom with no points from eight games.

Hockey

Jaffa Super 6s Finals

The four qualifiers for Finals Day at the Copperbox Arena have been decided.  The men’s and women’s tournament will be played on Sunday 28 January and the semi-final line-up is as follows:

10.45 am – East Grinstead v Leicester
12 noon – Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe

The women’s final will be at 15.45pm.

Saudi Arabia

It’s finally happening.  Today women will watch a football match from inside the stadium – legally.

From now on, there will be areas for women fans in the grounds at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.  There is a large female fanbase for men’s football in Saudi Arabia, but until now they have had to follow games on the television only.

The three grounds expect a big turnout at their first inclusive matches and also expect crowds to build over time.  Make no mistake, this is a significant step for sports-loving women in the country, and while we realise it’s a drop in the ocean compared to many indignities women have to suffer, it is, however, a very definite drop.

And finally,

Well done and commiserations to Ipswich Town Ladies in their third round FA Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic.  The Blues took the lead through Cassie Craddock in the second-half, but Charlton equalised and then took the lead.  Craddock was in again late on to take the game into extra time.  Charlton, top of the league above Ipswich, took their chances, scoring three during extra time to take the game 5-2.

 

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.

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 17-23 September

sarah-storey

Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s so much going on, I don’t know where to start.  With the demise of the domestic cricket season comes the new rugby season.  And so, without further ado, let’s tell you what’s coming up; stories from the Paralympics, golf, football, rugby union, rugby league, cricket, plus a good-news “And finally” from netball.

Paralympics

It was such a brilliant event; so many remarkable performances and stories.  As I said last week, I just haven’t got the space to devote to it all, but one person I didn’t mention last week I’m going o mention this week.  She hadn’t finished when last week’s column came out – turns out she still had a medal to win.  So my last mention goes to Dame Sarah Storey.  I met her a few months ago at an event and even from this brief conversation and from the event itself I could see just how amazingly driven she is.

She won three gold medals at Rio to take her tally to 14 and has not ruled out competing at Tokyo in 2020.  Even more incredible when you realise she originally competed in the pool in four Paralympics 1992-2004.  At Rio she won two road races, the C5 time trial and the C4-5 road race and on the track she took gold in the C5 3,000m individual pursuit.

I certainly wouldn’t bet against her appearing in Tokyo!

Golf

The Evian Championship was won this week with a record low total of -21.  Gee Chun of South Korea beat the previous record by two shots, winning the title by four.  Her compatriots So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park tied for second on -17.

Top British finisher was Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who finished tied twelfth on -5.

 Football

This week saw the last round of qualifying fixtures for next year’s Euros.  There were mixed results for the home nations, with the two that had already qualified, England and Scotland, recording impressive wins, while Wales ended with a creditable draw and Northern Ireland were beaten.

20 September 2016

Belgium 0-2 England

Leuven

England showed a good deal of patience in their final match on Tuesday.  The game took the opposite path to the previous fixture against Estonia.

The first half was poor with few chances for either side.  England needed a draw to finish top of the group, and, at times, it looked as if they would be happy to settle for this.

But in the second half, they came out with renewed vigour.  Whether manager Mark Sampson had decided that the Belgians were there for the taking, it isn’t clear, but it did seem that England had been given the green light to go forward.

Karen Carney, who had a much better game than she had against Estonia, delivered a pinpoint cross to Nikita Parris, who duly obliged with an accurate downward header to score the first goal.

After this there was only going to be one winner with Carney running midfield with renewed confidence.  She scored the second herself with a deflected shot, which wrong-footed the Belgian goalkeeper and the victory was sealed.

It has been announced that England will play France in a friendly in October as part of the build-up to the Euros next year.

It will be played at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster on 21 October.

France will be one of England’s principal rivals for the European title in 2017.  They are currently third in the Fifa rankings.

Iceland 1 -2 Scotland

Scotland cemented their second-place qualifying position with an impressive away win over group winners, Iceland.

The Scots took the lead through a Jane Ross header, but Iceland equalised before half-time through Fanndis Fridriksdottir.

Ross scored her second, and her tenth of the qualifying tournament, from the penalty spot in the second half to give Scotland the win and took them to 21 points.

Iceland still topped the group, also on 21 points, only courtesy of their 4-0 win over Scotland in the reverse fixture.

 

Not such good news for Scotland’s Under 19s who were unable to field a team to face Serbia in Albania in their European Championship qualifier this week.

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) claimed an “outbreak of acute gastroenteritis” affected nine players and eight staff.

The statement on the SFA website continued,

“This was flagged to UEFA via the match delegate on the day of the match and contact was subsequently made with the Albanian FA to verify the developing illness.

“A visit was made by a local doctor near the match venue in Durres and upon submitting his findings, the game was postponed.”

However, since then UEFA has announced it has begun disciplinary proceedings against the SFA, for its alleged “refusal to play”.

To add to the SFA’s woes, the Scottish Daily Record has run a story about Serbian reports that the players were actually too hungover to play.  The Serbia piece asserted that,

“The evening before the match the players were celebrating and drinking alcohol, and failed to sober up for the beginning of the match with Serbia”.

The SFA has strenuously denied these reports and is waiting for the outcome of the UEFA investigation.

Wales 0-0 Austria

Newport

 Wales finished their campaign strongly, but ultimately unsuccessfully, with a creditable draw with second-placed finishing Austria in Newport.

Jess Fishlock and Tash Harding both had chances in the first half, but could not make them count.

Austria improved in the second-half, but the game ended in stalemate.

Switzerland 4-0 Northern Ireland

Biel

Switzerland never looked in trouble against a depleted Irish side.   They were 2-0 up at the break though goals from Vanessa Bernauer and Rahel Kiwic.

Bernauer scored her second after half-time with Rachel Rinast making it 4-0 to the hosts.

Switzerland finish top of group 6 with a 100% record.  Northern Ireland finished fourth with seven points from eight games.

The draw for the group stage of the finals of the Euros in 2017 will take place in Rotterdam on 8 November.

 

Off the field, two contrasting reports appeared this week regarding the support (or otherwise) of women’s football in Britain.

On the positive side, energy company SSE has signed a deal to become the official partner of Scotland’s women’s national team and to sponsor the Scottish Women’s Cup.

This is continuing its recent forays into the backing of women’s sport, which began with its sponsorship of the English Women’s FA Cup.

The figures have not been released, but the deal will be in place for four years.  It means that for the first time there will be prize money at stake for the Scottish Women’s Cup final.

 

In another article, the Daily Mirror reported this week that just £14m of the £1.7bn earned by football TV deals goes towards the development of women’s football – that’s 83p out of every £100.

Young girls, especially are being let down, with the closure of the centres of excellence all over the country to be replaced by 34 regional talent clubs.

I think we all know that however much is paid in lip service by the FA, the girls’ and women’s game will always be the poor relation.  Good to see the issue raised in a red top.   A one-off piece isn’t enough, though.  If you’re involved in football, or have a daughter who would like to play, this will affect you.  Make sure you make your views known to the FA.

 

And finally in football, Eniola Aluko has signed a new contract with Chelsea.  Although the length of the deal has not been revealed, Aluko is obviously Chelsea through and through, after re-signing from Birmingham for her second spell in 2012.

Cricket

Good news for West Indies women’s cricket this week.  The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has announced that those on retainer contracts will receive much better packages from October, including an increase in their retainers, sponsorship payments, match fees and captains’ allowances.

Currently there are 11 women on retainers and this will be increased to 15.

CEO of the WICB, Michael Muirhead said that the new packages would

“Serve as an additional incentive for the current set of women” and would also “serve as a drawing card to more women to be attracted to cricket.”

 

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has announced the England side to tour West Indies in October.  The squad of 15 contains two players uncapped in 50-overs internationals – left-arm spinner Sophie Ecclestone and right-arm seamer, Beth Langston, both of whom have already been capped at T20 level.

England are still looking to secure automatic qualification for the ICC Women’s World Cup, which takes place in England in 2017.  At the moment they lie third, one point behind West Indies, with four teams qualifying automatically.  They still have two rounds of qualification to go; the last three ODIs in this West Indies tour and then in November, they play three more ODIs in Sri Lanka.

Australia have just become the first country to qualify automatically with a series win over Sri Lanka.

The full squad of 15:

Heather Knight (capt), Anya Shrubsole, Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alexandra Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones (wk), Beth Langston, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

West Indies tour fixtures:

Trelawny Stadium, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Saturday 8 October

Monday 10 October

Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica

Friday 14 October

Sunday 16 October

Wednesday 19 October

Rugby League

 It was announced this week that the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup will be held alongside the men’s tournament for the first time.

The final for the men’s and women’s games will be played back-to-back on 2 December in Brisbane.

So far, title holders Australia, England, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have already qualified.

One from Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands will still qualify from the Pacific qualifying series, which takes place in October.

Rugby Union

The final round of the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Sevens Series takes place this weekend in Malemort, France.  Expect all the results and details next week, but there are a few salient points to note regarding the Great Britain Lions (England) squad.

Three of those who took part in the Rio Olympics Sevens tournament return: Abby Brown, Katy McLean and captain Amy Wilson Hardy.

The squad also includes a number of new players including Lotte Clapp, Lauren Cattell and Katie Mason, who all played in the 2016 Six Nations.

The remainder of the squad is Lucy Nye, Deborah Fleming, Kelly Smith, Millie Wood, Rachel Woosey and Natasha Brennan.

Pool Games

Saturday 24 September

Pool C

GB  Lions v Belgium KO 10.00am

GB Lions v Italy KO 12.45pm

GB Lions v Ireland KO 3.52pm

The Great Britain Royals (Wales) play in Pool B.

Their squad is Elinor Snowsill (Capt), Sian Williams, Dyddgu Howell, Rhi Parker, Shona Powell Hughes, Jess Kavanagh-Williams, Elen Evans, Keira Bevan, Gemma Rowland, Sinead Breeze, Hannah Jones, Alisha Butchers.

Pool B

GB Royals v Portugal KO 12.06pm

GB Royals v Ukraine KO 2.51pm

GB Royals v Russia KO 3.52pm

A live stream of all matches is available at www.rugbyeurope.tv

 

The new domestic Premiership season in England started on 10 September.  Each team has now played two matches and at the moment it is Bristol Ladies who lead the way.

Results so far:

10 September

Wasps Ladies 3-39 Bristol Ladies

11 September

Saracens Women 57-0 DMP Sharks

Richmond Women 7-53 Lichfield Ladies

Worcester Valkyries 6-27 Aylesford Bulls Ladies

17 September

Lichfield 27-14 Saracens Women

18 September

Richmond Women 15-31 Worcester Valkyries

DMP Sharks 43-19 Wasps Ladies

Bristol Ladies 42-3 Aylesford Bulls Ladies

The third round of matches takes place this weekend beginning with leaders Bristol taking on the Valkyries at Worcester on Saturday.

I’ll be writing up a regular review of the weekend’s Premiership matches for www.womenssportsuk.com, so I’ll provide a link for that in future columns.

And finally, England Netball has just announced a final batch of tickets has been released for the England v Jamaica game at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry, on 4 December 2016.  The other two games in the series, in London and Manchester, have sold out, so if you want to see the Roses in action, buy your tickets now!  What great times these are for netball worldwide!!  tickets.sky.com/seats/England-v-Jamaica-4-December