Women’s Sports Column 4-10 August 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  What a week!  So much going on I don’t know where to start.  One thing’s for sure, there’s plenty to catch up with stories from football, golf, hockey, rugby union, rugby league, athletics, cycling, motor racing, swimming, gymnastics, cricket and probably many other things that I’ve forgotten!

So let’s crack on!

Golf – British Open

Top of the pile this week is the Georgia Hall’s terrific triumph in the Women’s British Open at Lytham at the weekend.

It was a great tournament, good coverage on Sky, has its house in order as regards sponsorship and had brilliant crowds on all four days.  Am I allowed to say FA take note?

Anyway, Hall kept her cool to take the title by two shots on -17 from Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand in second and Ryu So-yeon of Korea a further two back in third.

Phatlum had an overnight lead of one shot, but Hall picked up five as Phatlum faltered in the closing stages, only going into the lead on the 16th after she holed a 20-foot putt to make birdie.

It was a stunning achievement for the 22-year old, who showed a maturity beyond her years.  Her cool approach will be a great asset in next year’s Solheim Cup.

Hockey – World Cup

Summary: the Irish took the tournament by storm, while a disappointing England side could only finish sixth.  There were many, many shocks, but right from the off no-one was beating the Netherlands!

Netherlands 6-0 Ireland

The bald facts will be there in the history books – the Dutch were by far the best team in the tournament, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

But back to the facts: Ireland went one down after seven minutes through (my) player of the tournament Lidewij Welton.  But it was the only score in the first quarter.

They scored a second on 19 minutes when Kelly Jonker put away a rebound originally kicked away by Irish goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran.  Before the half was over, Ireland were four-down as first Kitty van Male and then Malou Pheninckx beat the Irish defences.

At the start of the third quarter Marloes Keetels made it five and in the 34th minute Caia van Maasakker scored a sixth.

The Dutch then took their foot off the gas, but the Irish also showed great heart to keep them out and build up their own period of pressure.  They couldn’t quite force the ball over the line, but they gave it everything in the attempt.

And, we should remember they beat the United States and India in their pool matches, then India again in the quarter-final and Spain in the semi, all of whom were higher in the world rankings.

With their second place finish, Ireland move from 16th to 9th in the world.

One immediate result, apart from a truly stunning homecoming reception for the team in Dublin – if you haven’t seen it, check it out here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/hockey/45088396 is that the Irish Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, has indicated that hockey will receive better funding in the run up to the 2022 Olympics.

Spain finished third as they defeated Australia 3-1 in the bronze medal match.  Goals from Maria Lopez, Berta Bonastre and Alicia Magaz won it for the Spanish, with Australia’s score coming from Kathryn Slattery.

Rugby League – Challenge Cup Final

Castleford Tigers 14-20 Leeds Rhinos

The Tigers were well ahead 14-6 at half-time with tries from Katie Hepworth and Tara Stanley.

Sophie Nuttall got one back for Leeds before the break, but then Georgia Roche crossed again to stretch the lead.

On the resumption Leeds scored immediately through Caitlin Beevers.

Aimee Stavely put the Rhinos ahead and Lois Forsell scored again to ensure the victory for Leeds.

And it was great to see it on the TV!

Earlier on in the afternoon Bradford Bulls won the Women’s Shield 44-16 over Stanningley.  The Bulls’ tries came from Leah Jones, Shona Hoyle, Reagan Walker (2), Becky Conlon, Amy Hardcastle (2) and Jess Courtman.

Rugby Union

There is good news and a whole bundle of frustration from rugby union this week.  Next season’s fixtures for the Premier 15s have been announced although you have to search for them a bit.

Check it out here: https://www.premier15s.com/news/tyrrells-premier-15s-release-2018-19-fixtures/, as have those for Championship North and South https://www.englandrugby.com/fixtures-and-results/competitions/womens-competitions/#/fixtures.

On the other hand, there has been criticism levelled at the RFU over their handling of the women’s national side.  If you remember, after the World Cup, the 15s contracts were not renewed as they wanted to concentrate on sevens.

It is safe to say that the England Sevens side has not kicked on as was hoped and yet, there is no sign of 15s contracts.  Steve Brown, Chief Executive of the RFU, has said that their “ambition” is to award full-time contracts in both 15s and sevens.

But where are they?  Former England captain Catherine Spencer has been quoted as saying the RFU has shown “..a lack of effective leadership and a lack of direction.”

Is it a coincidence that this week has seen the retirement of England’s most-capped player Rochelle (Rocky) Clark from England duty?

The 37-year old won 137 caps for England in her 15-year international career and will continue to play domestically for Wasps.

This latest retirement comes in the wake of Izzy Noel- Smith’s in April and Danielle Waterman’s in May.

The last thing we need is another FA.  We don’t need another governing body that can talk a good game and then not follow through.  Let’s hope the RFU gets its house in order before too long.

Motor Sport

Another young British star in the making is Jamie Chadwick.  Last weekend at Brands Hatch she became the first woman to win a British Formula 3 race.

She won from fourth position on the grid, moving up to second and staying just behind leader Pavan Ravishankar of Singapore until Ravishankar was hit with a 10-second penalty for a jump start and Chadwick took the win.

European Championships

The multi-sports European Championships are happening as we speak.  I can’t do justice to all of the performances, so apologies if I’ve missed your favourites.   Here are some of the highlights so far:

Rowing

It was a disappointing event for Team GB with only one medal for the women.  This came in the women’s eight which finished in silver medal position.  There were only three boats in the race, however, so they were guaranteed a medal.

The women’s quadruple sculls were fourth in their final as were the women’s four.  The pair of Hattie Taylor and Rowan McKellar finished fifth in their final.

Athletics

Dina Asher-Smith’s fabulous form continued as she stormed to 100m gold in 10.85 seconds, yet another British record.   Gina Luckenkemper finished in silver and Dafne Schippers took bronze.

Holly Bradshaw won bronze in the pole vault – her first major outdoor medal.

Cycling

Laura Kenny came back to the track and won two gold medals.  The first was in the team pursuit alongside teammates Katie Archibald, Elinor Barker and Neah Evans and they beat Italy in the final.

Kenny also won the elimination race ahead of Anna Knauer of Germany and Evgenia Augustinas on Russia.

Katie Archibald took three medals in total – the first as part of the pursuit team, but then she also won silver in the individual pursuit, losing to German Lisa Brennauer in the final and silver also in the omnium behind world champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands.

Emily Kay took silver in the 10km scratch race.

Swimming

There were plenty of medals won by Team GB in the swimming.

Hannah Miley took the first, a bronze, in the 400m individual medley behind Fantine Lesaffre of France who took gold and Ilaria Cusinato of Italy who took silver.  Britain’s Aimee Willmott finished fourth.

Holly Hibbott won a bronze in the 400m freestyle as did Molly Renshaw in the women’s 200m breaststroke.

Imogen Clark won silver in the 50m breaststroke, behind Yuliya Efimova of Russia and ahead of Arianna Castiglioni of Italy.

Alys Thomas won bronze in the 200m butterfly.

Wales’ Georgia Davies won a gold in the 50m and silver in the 100m backstroke.

Team GB was particularly strong in the relays:

She was also part of the women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay team alongside Freya Anderson, Eleanor Faulkner and Kathryn Greenslade that took gold.

There was a bronze for the women’s 4 x 100m team comprising Georgia Davies, Siobhan Marie O’Connor, Alys Thomas and Freya Anderson.

The 4 x 100m mixed medley relay team won gold.  The team comprised Adam Peaty, Freya Anderson, James Guy and Georgia Davies.

The 4 x 200m mixed freestyle team of Stephen Milne, Craig McLean, Kathryn Greenslade and Freya Anderson  took bronze.

Diving

Grace Reid and Ross Haslam won silver in the mixed synchronised 3m springboard.

Eden Cheng and Lois Toulson took gold in the 10m synchronised event.

Gymnastics

Team GB missed out on a medal in the team event, finishing fourth.  The event was won by Russia with France in silver and the Netherlands in bronze.

Triathlon

Jess Learmonth took silver in the triathlon.  Nicola Spirig won the title with Cassandre Beaugrand of France taking bronze.

There’s still plenty to come with more athletics, BMX and golf this weekend.

Other Athletics News

British javelin thrower Joanna Blair has been banned from the sport for four years.

She tested positive for anabolic steroids in June last year.  Her provisional suspension has now been upheld and she will be ineligible to compete until July 2021.

Blair maintains she unintentionally took the banned substance metandienone in a contaminated creatine supplement that she bought online.

But UK Anti-Doping (UKad) rejected this argument, saying she had not proved that she had not taken the drug intentionally.

Football – Signings

In a surprise move this week Jamie Sherwood has been appointed as Director of Football at Yeovil Town.  He stood down as manager in the summer and was replaced by Lee Burch, but has now rejoined to, in the club’s words, “provide the board with a link to the core work being undertaken by the management team”.

Yeovil have also re-signed striker Annie Heatherson.

Brighton & Hove Albion have signed midfielder Emily Simpkins from Doncaster Rovers Belles.

West Ham have been at it again, signing Swiss forward Alisha Lehmann from BSC Young Boys Frauen.

Not a signing as such, but an excellent and significant piece of news is that Jayne Ludlow has signed a four-year contract extension to her role as manager of the Wales national side.

Under 20s World Cup

England started their World Cup campaign with a 3-1 win over North Korea on Sunday.

Alessia Russo opened the scoring with Georgia Stanway bagging the second on the hour.

Ja Un-Yong got one back for North Korea in the second-half, but England sealed the win two minutes later as Russo got her second.

On Wednesday they played their second game against Brazil and drew 1-1.  England were ahead for much of the game after Georgia Stanway scored from the penalty spot in the 11th minute.  They conceded the equaliser in the last minute when Ariadina fired in to take a share of the points.

England’s last group game is against Mexico on Sunday 12 August.

The top two teams in the group go through to the quarter-finals.

Champions League Qualifying

Glasgow City 1-2 Anderlecht

Glasgow lost their first Champions League Group Three match in Edinburgh on Tuesday.  The away side took the lead through Ella Van Kerkhoven.  A few minutes later Leanne Ross missed a penalty, hitting the post with her spot-kick.  Elke Van Gorp scored a second for Anderlecht, before Lara Invanusa pulled one back for Glasgow.

Cardiff Met UFC 2-3 Olimpia Cluj

The Welsh Premier League champions fared no better in their first game in Group six as they too lost at home.

Cardiff opened the scoring through Naomi Clipston, but then Cluj had a period of pressure before Mara Batea equalised.

In the second-half, Cristina Carp scored for Cluj, Erin Murray equalised for Cardiff and Phoenetia Browne got a third for Cluj, all in the space of three minutes.  The Browne goal turned out to be the winner.

Football

Another week, another story of the FA’s lack of leadership.  I’m coming to the conclusion that the FA wants to offload the “burden” of the WSL as soon as possible.

This week the FA has said it would be “open to Premier League takeover” of the WSL.  But is it, as it stands, an attractive enough proposition for the Premier League to take an interest?

Obviously the game has grown under the FA, but last season some attendances stagnated or even went down.  It has been criticised for its constant revamping of the league structure and also last season’s fixture list which included large gaps followed by a crush of games.  The FA can’t even find a main sponsor for this year’s league.  So why would the Premier League take over?

Reaction from clubs to the idea has been mixed.  There is a belief from some that the league is not developed enough for the Premier League to take over, but those such as Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is in favour – back in January 2018 she said she thought it was a good idea as it would probably mean more money into the game.

If I were the Premier League, looking at its own package and how it brings in millions of pounds of revenue, at this moment I would run a mile.  I’d be telling the FA to come back when they’ve stopped messing with the product and everyone is settled and satisfied with the situation.

This one’s going to run and run.

Cricket

4 August
Southern Vipers 172/6
Loughborough Lightning 174/7 (19.4 overs)
Lightning won by 3 wickets with 2 balls remaining

Although Suzie Bates scored only nine and Tammy Beaumont a single, Sarah McGlashan scored 55, Danni Wyatt 36, Arran Brindle 26 and Mignon du Preez 24 to put together a sizeable total of 172 for the Vipers.

In response, Sophie Devine was out early for seven, but Rachael Haynes anchored the innings scoring 53 from 34 balls.  Amy Jones chipped in with 31 but it was Elyse Villani’s 61 not out from 38 balls that saw Lightning home as the lower order began to wobble.

Eventually Loughborough won the game with two balls to spare.

5 August
Yorkshire Diamonds 172/5
Western Storm 174/3 (19.2 overs)
Storm won by 7 wickets with 4 balls remaining

Diamonds batted first and posted a decent score.  Beth Mooney top scored with 69 from 42 balls, while Lauren Winfield fell two short of her half-century.

In response, Smriti Mandhana continued her good form, making 56 from 36 balls. She was ably supported by Heather Knight who scored 45 and Rachel Priest with 37 and the Storm got home with four balls to spare.

7 August
Surrey Stars 167/8
Lancashire Thunder 112 all out (19.2 overs)
Stars won by 55 runs

An excellent and much needed win for the Stars as they skittled the Thunder for just 112.

Bryony Smith fell for just 10, but Lizelle Lee finally stepped up to show the crowd what she was made of and the partnership of 94 between Lee and Sarah Taylor really got the Stars going.  The lower order did not contribute much to the score, but it was a decent total to defend.

The Thunder made a good start in response with a 55 run stand between openers Nicole Bolton and Eve Jones.  After Bolton was dismissed by Dane van Niekerk for 24, there was then a disaster for Thunder as Harmanpreet Kaur was run out without scoring.  This precipitated a collapse with only Amy Satterthwaite (21) providing any resistance.  Van Niekerk took 3/20 from her four overs and Bryony Smith 2/9 from two.

8 August
Southern Vipers 159/7
Yorkshire Diamonds 143 all out (19.5 overs)
Vipers won by 16 runs

Vipers ended their losing streak with a win at Southampton.  Tammy Beaumont was back from sitting out through concussion and top-scored with 64.  Katie Levick was the pick of the bowlers for the Diamonds, taking 3/35 from her four overs.

It was the same old story for Diamonds though as they started relatively well but fell away down the order.  Thea Brookes top-scored with 45 from 36 balls, but wickets kept falling and the last five batters scored only eight between them.  Suzie Bates did much of the damage, taking 4/26 off 3.5 overs and Amelia Kerr chipped in with 2/22 off four.

9 August
Loughborough 100/7 (match reduced to 13 overs)
Surrey Stars 106/3 (11.2/13 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets with 10 balls remaining

Loughborough’s winning run came spectacularly to an end at Guildford as Stars cruised to the win.  Lightning made a fair 100 off 13 overs with Georgia Elwiss top scoring on 26.  They lost three wickets for 10 runs towards the end which prevented them posting a really good total.

But the Stars meant business.  Lizelle Lee starred, as it were, for the second game in a row, with 48 from 28 balls.  She was backed up by Bryony Smith who made 31 as Lightning struggled to take wickets.

9 August
Western Storm 185/4 (20 overs)
Lancashire Thunder 109 all out (18.2 overs)
Storm won by 76 runs

Not close.  Storm were ruthless in all departments as they crushed the Thunder at Taunton.  Priest went cheaply for just four, Mandhana was at it again with 49 from 25 balls and England captain Knight top-scoring with 76 from 50.  Stafanie Taylor hit 51 after the fall of Mandhana as they posted an excellent 185.

In response the Bolton scored a good 21, but fellow opener Eve Jones made only one, Amy Satterthwaite four and Harmanpreet Kaur eight before EllieThrelkeld came in to try to steady the ship.  It was a vain hope though – her 33 was easily the Thunder’s top score as the rest of the wickets fell around her.

We’re now just over half way through with all teams having played seven games.  Lightning’s loss at Surrey has seen them replaced at the top of the table by Western Storm.  It looks to be between Surrey Stars and Lancashire Thunder for the third place at finals day although there is still all to play for.

It may be significant that Loughborough Lightning’s two losses have been in reduced-overs matches.  With the weather becoming less predictable as the season progresses, will this cause Loughborough some problems?

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 26 May – 1 June 2018

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

Football – off the pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other football news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

England squad for Russia World Cup Qualifier

The squad has been announced for the qualifier against Russia:

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

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

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

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

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

Football – on the pitch – Champions League Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennis – on the court

French Open

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

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

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

Tennis – off the court

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

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

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

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

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

Rugby League

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

Saturday 26 May
Featherstone Rovers 22-46 Bradford Bulls

Sunday 27 May
Leeds Rhino 40-12 Castleford Tigers

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

Lacrosse

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netball

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

Friday 25 May
Celtic Dragons 38-78 Manchester Thunder

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

Monday 28 May
Surrey Storm 42-51 Severn Stars

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

Round 15 is this weekend:

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

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

Be a Game Changer Awards

The Winners were:

Sporting role model (Individual)
Stacey Copeland

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

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

National Governing Body of the Year
England and Wales Cricket Board

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

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

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

Imagery of the year
“Standing in the light”

Media initiative of the year
The Tough Girl Podcast

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

Golf

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

#ShowUp

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

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

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

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week.  Enjoy your sport!

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

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

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.

Women’s Sports Column End-of-Year Review

loveWelcome to this, the last column of 2017.  And what a year it’s been!  Instead of the usual news this week, I thought I’d review the year – in terms of heroes and villains!  Everyone loves a listicle, particularly at Christmas, so here’s mine.  I’m sure the majority of my choices will come as no surprise to regular readers of the column.

So, for the final time this year, let’s crack on.

Heroes

1) Women’s Cricket World Cup Final

No prizes for guessing my number one in the heroes department this year.  The Cricket World Cup was a fabulous event from start to finish and I’m privileged to say I was at the final at Lord’s in July.  The media coverage was pretty good, the organisation at the group games was excellent and, of course, the standard of cricket was generally superb.  But the actual day was something else.  Twenty-eight thousand cricket lovers (MCC members not included) packed into Lord’s to experience the game, the occasion and the atmosphere.  And the game had everything; great batting, bowling, fielding (and that drop from Jenny Gunn), the threat of rain, competition down to nearly the last ball…..

It was a brilliant game between two well-matched teams, which leads me on to number two:

2) Indian Women’s Cricket Team

They’ve made fans and friends wherever they go.  They’re on a massive upward trajectory and are set to get even better. Captain Mithali Raj is rightfully considered one of India’s outstanding sports personalities.  One of the moments of the World Cup was when it was reported that a little girl in a Nike store asked for her Indian cricket shirt to have the name “Mandhana” (as in opener Sriti Mandhana) on the back.  And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

India will be out for revenge in the New Year when they face England again in the Women’s Tri Series.

3) Rugby union – heroes and villains

Rugby union is on the up.  And while it is, I’m reluctant to stick it in both the heroes and villains categories so, on balance, it’s in the heroes.  The Rugby World Cup was a fantastic tournament rounded off by a spectacular final.  Laurel wreaths all round to New Zealand and England for such an outstanding display, with the Black Ferns worthy winners.

But it’s not all plaudits for the administrators and organisers.  Before the tournament started we had the announcement that the RFU was not going to re-issue contracts for the 15s, but instead would concentrate on the Sevens squad ahead of next year’s World Cup.  Then the tournament itself threw up some strange scheduling that meant people missed out on seeing matches they wanted to see.  And this was followed by the announcement from the Irish Rugby Football Union that its new women’s head coach would be employed only on a part-time contract – it hosts a World Cup, then cuts its commitment to women’s rugby?  How does that work?

World Rugby has since redeemed rugby’s hero status with its new World Rugby Women’s Plan 2017-25.

So, as I say, some hits, some misses in the rugby department, but, on the whole, it’s heading the right way.

 4) Mica McNeill and Mica Moore

When British bobsleighers Mica McNeill and Mica Moore had their funding withdrawn, their Winter Olympic dream could have been over.  But they were not going to give up that easily.  McNeill launched a Crowdfunding page to raise the £30k needed to field a team.  They did it with time to spare and will now be in Pyeongchang in February.

5) Advocates, volunteers and campaigners for women’s sport

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to celebrate the legions of people out there working tirelessly (and sometimes it’s the original thankless task) to promote women’s sport.  I’m going to name a few, but I know I will have missed a lot so apologies as there’s not enough room to mention you all.  If we could only become “mainstream”, how amazing that would be.  So here we go, in no particular order, three cheers for: Women in Sport, Women in Football, Suzy Wrack, WiSP, Scrumqueens, Women’s Elite Rugby website, England Netball, FAWSL website, CricketHer, Martin Whiteley, Martin Woodward, Tracey Neville, Shelley Alexander, Kieran Theivam, 4TLOS, Jen O’Neill and She Kicks, Girls on the Ball, Eleanor Oldroyd, The Magenta Project, Darren Gilham, Sarah Williams (Tough Girl), Female Coaching Network, Coach Annie Zaidi, The Offside Rule, Natalie Germanos, Jane Martinson and so it goes on…

Apologies to those I missed out.

I’ve not included the links to the individuals and organisations above, but if anyone would like any more information, just message me.

villainsVillains

1) The FA

As we all know, some sports governing bodies are better than others.  But the nadir of the governing body world has to the Football Association (FA).  It easily makes it to the top of my villainous tree this year.  First we had the scandal surrounding Mark Sampson and his behaviour towards Eni Aluko and Drew Spence in particular.  Its attempts to sweep the “problem” under the carpet backfired spectacularly and when asked to account for its actions by a House of Commons Select Committee, was unable to come up with the faintest useful answer.  So much for the organisation’s duty of care, vetting process and grievance procedures.

If that wasn’t enough it then decides to restructure the women’s elite game once again.  Just when we were getting used to the current structure the FA, in its wisdom, decides that WSL1 has to be organised to a “stronger commercial model” to “improve the performance of the women’s game on and off the pitch.”  In doing so it immediately put immense pressure on some of the less well-equipped teams, who are currently in their position on merit, to come up with £350k, amongst other things, in order to be able to apply for a licence.  Unfortunately, this has meant that Sunderland and Watford (with probably more to come) have taken the chance not to press forward with their investment in the women’s game, but to scale it back.  Yes, the teams may have been looking for an “out”, or as they euphemistically put it “becoming more community-focussed”, but the FA needn’t have handed it to them on a plate need they?

2) Neanderthal Man

As ever, ‘Neanderthal man’ is pretty much at the top of my list too.  These are the knuckle-draggers who think their views on absolutely everything are required reading – particularly their views on women’s sport.  The “Women’s sport will never be as popular”, “women aren’t as fast/strong/good/add your own adjective, as men”, the “the only way women would get equality would be to compete against men”, the “she looks like a man, anyway”, the “get back to the kitchen” comments, even “they’re all lesbians” is still doing the rounds after all these years.  I have reported a few in my “and finally” section this year and, I’m afraid it doesn’t look as if I’m going to run out of examples any time soon.

Get over it chaps!  Katie Taylor doesn’t have to fight Amir Khan to be a good boxer, Sarah Taylor doesn’t have to keep wicket to the bowling of Jimmy Anderson to be a good cricketer and Nikita Parris doesn’t have score for Manchester City’s men’s side to be a good footballer.

3) The ECB

The ECB was due to be in my “heroes” section, but I’m afraid the news of the last couple of days means that it also makes it into my “Villains” list too.

It appears that the Kia Super League will be no more after 2019.  It looks like it will be rebranded in line with the new city-based men’s competition.  So no more Western Storm, Loughborough Lightning et al…  Each of the current franchises (yes, I have deigned to utter the word) has tried so hard to develop its USP, expand its fan-base and facilities.  The tournament is still in its infancy, but the teams are already recognisable and have their own following.  It did have a good sponsor and commitment to TV and radio coverage.  But we have to start again.

So, yet again, a governing body has seen fit to “fix it” when it hasn’t been “broke”.  We’re yet to see the details of what’s to come, but I haven’t yet got past “why?”

4) BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think the event is a good thing.  I find the whole evening a bit cringe-worthy, but the idea is a sound one.  But it was beyond disappointing this year that the four women nominated came in the last four places after the public vote.  Obviously there has been a lot of mansplaining on this issue – the women weren’t “good” enough, it’s a public vote so people vote for who they want to, some of the women are from minority sports, etc.

But they’re missing the point.

Women’s sport still consistently flies under the radar.

The popularity and media profile of Women’s cricket is at an all-time high, and yet this was not enough for Anya Shrubsole to finish higher than eighth from twelve nominees in the individual category.  How do we know these women are so good if we rarely see their achievements celebrated in the media?  And if their achievements are denigrated by the “usual” sport-watching public so much, how are we to know that taking six wickets in a Women’s World Cup final is worth rewarding?

How do these women ever raise their profile sufficiently to make a dent in the minds of the general public?   I’m afraid to say that at the moment they still don’t.  They are coming from such a low level of coverage, investment, support and recognition that it’s still a mountain to climb, all of which leads me on to my fifth villain:

5) Anyone who says it’s been a “watershed year” for women’s sport

Sorry to throw such a dampener on things, but while there’s been so much to celebrate this year (see heroes!), there is still so much work to do that I really don’t think it has been a “watershed” year.  There have been countless fantastic achievements, tournaments, records, performances, but in the eyes of the general public it counts for nothing until the “mindset” (ugh horrid word) of the sport-loving public is changed beyond recognition.  So while there has been undoubted progress and I personally have loved every minute of it this year, it’s not a “watershed year”.

But let’s not end on a negative note.  No, I’m not going to “look for the positives” (ugh again), but there has been so much to celebrate this year and we should ensure that 2018 builds on this.  As well as the usual annual tournaments, we have the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast, Rugby World Cup Sevens, the Hockey World Cup at Surrey Sports Park, two teams still in the Champions League, and so it goes on.  And we sports-lovers will be there to see it all.  So let’s make every week of 2018 Women’s Sports Week and let’s cheer every extra televised fixture, every column inch and every interview.

Thank you for reading the column this year.  I’ve loved writing it, which I hope comes out in every word.  I’m having a couple of weeks off now, but will back in the New Year with more news, features, reports and interviews and I hope you’ll join me. 

I’d also like to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a lovely sport-filled New Year. 

 

Women’s sports column 11 – 17 March 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through again this week.  There have been some big announcements, and although my heart tentatively skips a beat at the new FA Strategy and the Muirfield declaration, I am still weighed down when I read the comments sections after such pieces.  I had made a promise to myself not to look at them, but find myself drawn to the sad, ignorant, abusive nonsense posted by the socially inadequate.  I will stop it, because otherwise I fear that way madness lies.  Anyway, a couple of stellar examples feature in my “And finally” and hopefully that’s the end of it.

Stories this week come from cycling, rugby union, netball, gymnastics, speed skating, hockey, lacrosse, football and golf.

Cycling

It’s still safe to say that British Cycling is in turmoil.  The row about “the package” rumbles on and there seem to be weekly revelations about the culture prevalent in the organisation.  So, perhaps it was not a surprise that this week saw the announcement that Joanna Rowsell Shand is to retire from international cycling.  Of course we all hope that this is a decision based on how well she knows her body and not the urge to leave a possibly sinking ship.

Certainly she is positive about the move;

“The decision to step away has been the hardest I’ve ever had to make.  I believe I have more to offer the world.”

She has indicated that she would like to go into coaching and will also compete in the L’Etape du Tour, an amateur race that covers the same route as the first part of the Tour de France.

In an outstanding career, the 28-year old Rowsell-Shand won gold in the team pursuit at both London 2012 and Rio 2016.  She won five world title, four European titles and a Commonwealth gold in the individual pursuit in 2014.

Netball

It was Round 4 of the Netball Superleague last weekend.  We are down to two unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey Storm and Loughborough Lightning, while Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria still languish at the bottom without a point.

Last weekend’s scores:

Saturday 11 March

Manchester Thunder 62-53 Celtic Dragons

Surrey Storm 67-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Severn Stars 39-48 Team Bath

Wasps 44-57 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 13 March

Team Northumbria 46-64 Sirens

Round 5 is this weekend and Sky’s televised match is on Monday 20 when Team Northumbria takes on Manchester Thunder at 7.45pm.

Lacrosse

Thanks to Martin, as usual, for prompting me into mentioning both lacrosse and hockey this week.

On Saturday 18 March England takes on Japan at the Surrey Sports Park.  This is part of the team’s preparation for the World Cup which takes place at the same venue in July.  If you’re in the area, get along and support the team.  If you don’t know lacrosse well, go and discover it- it’s fast and exciting and pretty much unlike anything else you will see.

Hockey

English domestic hockey

Meanwhile in the IWHL Premier Division, Surbiton have it wrapped up with two games till to play.  This means they will be playing in Europe next season.

On 11 March they beat Bowdon Hightown 6-0 and with just bottom team Reading to play away on Saturday and a final home game on 25 against Clifton Robinsons, their seven-point lead at the top of the table is unassailable.

This is how the table stands:

Team Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Goal Difference Points
Surbiton 16 13 2 1 48 11 37 41
Holcombe 16 10 4 2 40 23 17 34
East Grinstead 16 8 5 3 28 19 9 29
University of Birmingham 16 9 2 5 35 31 4 29
Clifton Robinsons 16 8 1 7 37 27 10 25
Leicester 16 7 4 5 25 22 3 25
Canterbury 16 5 4 7 24 36 -12 19
Slough 16 3 3 10 15 34 -19 12
Bowdon Hightown 16 1 5 10 16 35 -19 8
Reading 16 0 2 14 16 46 -30 2

 Hockey World League (HWL)

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has announced the schedule for the HWL semi-final, to be held in Brussels this summer.

Seven teams have already booked their places; The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Belgium and Spain.

There are three places left to claim and will be decided in a round two event in West Vancouver in April.

The semi-finals will consist of pool stages between June 21 and 27 and the classification matches will begin on 29 June.  The semi-finals will be on 1 July and final on 2 July.

The winners will qualify for the 2018 Hockey World Cup.

Golf

Muirfield members have (finally) voted in favour of admitting women members to the club.

The R&A had said that the course would be unable to host the Open Championship until it changed its admittance rules.

A similar vote in 2016 failed to win the two-thirds backing, but in this new vote 80.2% voted in favour.

Without wishing to spoil this special moment, I’d just like to point out that it still means that out of the 621 who voted, 123 still voted against admitting women…..

Football

The FA launched its new strategy for the future of women’s football this week (stop me if you’ve heard this before).

FA chief executive, Martin Glenn said that women’s football had, in the past, been “let down” by the FA.

There are a number of aspirations named including the hosting of a major tournament, although it is unclear as to when a bid for such an event may be made.

Major commitments include:

  • Building a sustainable and successful high-performance system
  • Building a world-class talent pipeline
  • Increasing the number and diversity of women’s coaches, referees and administrators in the sport at all levels
  • Developing participation opportunities and infrastructure
  • Changing  perceptions and social barriers to participation and following
  • Enhancing the profile and value of the England team and players
  • Signposting opportunities to participate, watch or follow
  • Improving the commercial prospects in women’s football

Read the full document here:

http://www.thefa.com/news/2017/mar/13/fa-womens-football-strategy-gameplan-for-growth-double-participation-130317

Unhappily, one only has to read the comments below any article on women’s football to realise what fundamental shifts of opinion need to happen before we can make any progress at all.

Now we have Baroness Sue Campbell at the heart of things, perhaps change has a chance of becoming a reality.  I recommend you read this article by The Guardian’s Paul MacInnes: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/mar/13/baroness-sue-campbell-womens-football-fa-plan

Her most telling statement and one I agree with wholeheartedly is this;

“I always believe that great development is making yourself redundant,” she says. “Great development in sport is about transforming a system so that it doesn’t need you. If it always needs you then you haven’t really changed the system.”

This is what I have said about initiatives such as “Women’s Sports Week.”

Moves

Sunderland

Melanie Reay has been appointed as the new head coach of Sunderland Ladies after Carlton Fairweather left this week.

Reay had been assistant coach and a former Sunderland striker.

“It is a great honour for me to manage this special club,” she said.

“We have some great young players coming through and hopefully they can make their mark on the team which already has a host of good, experienced players. We will be looking to consolidate and improve together.”

Yeovil Town

The Lady Glovers have extended the contracts of another five first-team players.

England under-19 goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes, midfielders Jessie Jones, Kelly Snook and Leah Burridge and Welsh international striker Nadia Lawrence have all signed new contracts.

Gymnastics

Steve Penny has resigned as USA Gymnastics President and chief executive.  The organisation is currently undergoing investigation into a sexual abuse case involving a team doctor.

Former team doctor Larry Nassar is awaiting trial for child sexual abuse and possessing child pornography.  More than 40 women have a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics, claiming it failed to protect them.

It is alleged that USA Gymnastics did not fully report sexual misconduct claims made by female team members.

The investigation is eight months in already and will, no doubt, run and run.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie won three world championship golds at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam at the weekend.  In doing so she became the first British woman to win a world title.

She won the 1000m, 1500m and the overall title.  She also finished fourth in the 500m.

Rugby Union

A crushing win for England and a hard-fought triumph for Ireland have set up a grandstand finale to the 2017 championship and a Grand Slam title to be won.

Saturday 11 March

Wales 7-12 Ireland

There was no score in this match until the 39th minute, when Ireland were awarded a penalty.  They kicked for the corner.  Prop Lindsay Peat crashed over from the resultant maul and Nora Stapleton converted to make the score 0-7 at half-time.

After the break try-scorer Peat was yellow-carded for repeated Irish infringements and Wales steeled themselves to take advantage.

Shona Powell-Hughes went over for the home side and Robyn Wilkins converted to even the score.

With Ireland back to full strength it was then Wales’ turn to go down to 14 as Amy Evans was sin-binned for a high tackle.

After a period of valiant defence by Wales Ireland finally breached the line with winger Hannah Tyrell going over for the try.  Stapleton could not convert and the score was 7-12.

Wales pushed until the end but were unable to convert pressure into points as Ireland held on.

England 64-0 Scotland

Kay Wilson scored a record seven tries for England as they demolished Scotland at the Stoop.

Wilson has scored two tries in the first few minutes and although Emily Scarratt had an off-day with the boot, it made no difference to England’s dominance.

Jessica Forsyth was then sin-binned for Scotland and Amy Cockayne went over soon afterwards to extend the English lead.  After only 20 minutes, the bonus point was secured as Cockayne went over for her second try of the match.

Danielle Waterman scored England’s fifth and then Wilson got her hat-trick.

Wilson then scored her fourth – the first player to score four tries in the first-half of a Championship match.

The first period scoring was not yet done though, as Cockayne completed her hat-trick on the stroke of half-time.

In the second-half Wilson scored her fifth and sixth tries, Scarratt her first and then Wilson got a seventh.  With two conversions the score was 64-0 and the rout over.

Scotland never stopped battling, but were outplayed from the first minute to the last.

Sunday 12 March

Italy 5-28 France

France were in clinical mood in Parma and had a bonus-point win in the bag by half-time.

The visitors scored their first try after nine minutes with Caroline Ladagnous going over.  Audrey Abadie missed the conversion.

On 14, Romane Ménager scored France’s second, this time converted by Abadie.

Ladagnous crossed for her second and Elodie Poublan claimed France’s fourth before half-time.  An Abadie penalty took it to 0-28 at the break.

The second-half saw few chances, indeed the only score being a try for the home side as Michela Este powered over.  The conversion was missed and there was no further scoring.

Round 5

17 March

Scotland v Italy

6.20pm, Broadwood Stadium (Eurosport IT)

Ireland v England

8pm, Donnybrook, (RTE, Sky Sports)

18 March

France v Wales

8pm (GMT), Stade Amédée Domenech, Brive, (France 4)

And finally

And finally, back to where we started.  This enlightened soul commented on the end of the BBC piece about the retirement of Jo Roswell-Shand.  I think it’s safe to say that he misses the point by several million miles….

In response to someone whose post included:
‘ all our cycling girls have shown that women can perform to the highest standards ‘

He so intelligently replied:

“Oh spare me. Only to the highest standards of other women. Not to the standards of men, lets’ clear that up. We are not equal, let’s not start sharing a sporting platform. Unless you wanna be outperformed of course.”

Even more elegant was the fine fellow who posted the first comment I saw after an article about the FA’s new women’s football strategy,

“Nobody gives a f***”, he posted, without the asterisks.

No column next week as I’m away.  

 

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 December

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to the last column of the year.  It’s been a big year for women’s sport (but isn’t every year?).  I’ve tried to reflect that in the best way I know how, and looking back over the last twelve months, I’m pleased with the breadth of stories I’ve been able to include.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with stories from speed skating, rugby, netball, cricket, Aussie Rules and Australasian sports administration, football, golf, boxing, cycling, bowls, taekwondo, the BT Action Woman Awards and SPOTY.  This week’s “And finally” is probably predictable, but bears repeating one more time….

Rugby Union

Bristol won again this weekend to leave them top of the table over the Christmas break.

The scores were:

10 December

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-24 Lichfield Ladies

Wasps Ladies 33-12 Richmond Women

11 December

Worcester Valkyries 15-22 Saracens Women

Bristol ladies 48-0 DMP Sharks

As ever, a longer round-up of these matches, written by me appears on the Women’s Sports UK website.

Bowls

Wales’ women won a silver medal in the triples at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand this week.

Anwen Butten, Kathy Pearce and Emma Woodcock were beaten in the final by Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott and Rebecca Van Asch of Australia.

They had beaten England (16-12) and Malaysia (18-16) on the way to the final.

Australian Rules Football                                                                                   

Good news for Aussie rules fans this week as it was announced that every game in the inaugural AFL women’s competition will be shown live on television.

Fox Footy is to show all 28 league games and the Seven Network will broadcast eight prime-time matches, including the first game of the season and the Grand Final on 25 March.

The action begins 3 February 2017.  Not sure if they will be streamed in Britain, but nevertheless it’s great news for AFL fans.

Australasian Sports Administration

1) Kate Palmer has been appointed the Australian Sports Commission’s first female chief executive.  She joins after an historic spell as the head of Netball Australia, in which she brokered a landmark pay deal for players and also oversaw a huge increase in revenue for the sport.

2) Dr Farah Palmer, three-time World Cup winning captain has been elected to the Board of New Zealand Rugby.  She is currently a member of the New Zealand Maori Rugby Board and will replace the former Maori representative, Wayne Peters, who has retired.

“Women on sports boards” seems to be the in-vogue cause at the moment.  Not surprising really, as the current percentage of women on sports boards in the United Kingdom is 30%, having risen from 21% in 2009.  There is progress, undoubtedly, and more needs to be done.  Personally, I’m still more concerned with lack of media coverage which stubbornly stands at 7%.  But progress cannot not be concentrated on a single issue and we should celebrate any victories we achieve, however small.

Cricket

New England central contracts

The ECB has announced new and improved central contracts for England’s women.  Two-year contracts have been issued to:

Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Natasha Farrant, Jenny Gunn, Alex Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones, Heather Knight, Beth Langston (rookie contract), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Anya Shrubsole, Sarah Taylor, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

Becky Grundy has lost her contract and Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway are no longer a part of the set-up having retired from international cricket last season.

Australian contracts

Just when you’re feting all things Australian, Cricket Australia drops an enormous clanger.

The executive general manager of strategy at Cricket Australia has confirmed that female cricketers’ new one-year contracts will have a clause that will require them to “warrant” that they are not pregnant when they sign.

They insist that the clause is there “for the player’s safety and that of their unborn child” and that that any disclosure would be confidential and made to the medical officer.

Female players are also excluded from the parental leave policy, although women in non-playing roles can have four to 12 weeks’ paid leave.

And, as ever, although things are improving, there is a great discrepancy in pay; the national minimum for men is $270,000 excluding superannuation, but for women it is $40,000 including superannuation.

Cricket Australia says that it is all being negotiated, but the union says contract conditions are ‘contrary to acceptable employer behaviour’,

Watch this space for further fallout.

WBBL

After the first weekend of WBBL matches it’s all square all the way down as each team won one and lost one!  Sydney Sixers are top on net run rate, but it’s early days.  The results so far are as follows:

10 December

Perth Scorchers 119/6 off 20 overs

Hobart Hurricanes 120/5 19 overs

Hurricanes won by 5 wickets

 

Adelaide Strikers 116 all out (19.3 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 102 all out (19.1 overs)

Strikers won by 14 runs

 

Melbourne Stars147/8 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 141/4 (20 overs)

Stars won by 6 runs

 

11 December

 Adelaide Strikers 128/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 131/3 (19.3 overs)

Renegades won by 7 wickets

 

Perth Scorchers 142/4 (20 overs)

Hobart Hurricanes 125/9 (20 overs)

Scorchers won by 17 runs

 

Sydney Sixers 138/6 (20 overs)

Brisbane Heat 142/5 (19.2 overs)

Heat won by 5 wickets

 

12 December

Brisbane Heat 83/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 86/2 (16 overs)

Sixers won by 8 wickets

 

13 December

Melbourne Stars 116/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 121/2 (18.5 overs)

Thunder won by 8 wickets

Live matches and highlights are on BT Sport and the WBBL also has a very detailed website:  www.bigbash.com.au/wbbl

BT Action Woman Awards

The ceremony for the BT Action Woman of the year took place this week.  Winners of Team of the Year were the GB Hockey team for their brilliant gold medal in Rio.  Katherine Grainger won a Lifetime Achievement award, which she knew nothing about and looked a bit grumpy about to start off with!

Winner of Action Woman of the Year 2016 was mountain biker Rachel Atherton.  She won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup this year and took the world title for the fourth time.

Boxing

Katie Taylor won her second professional bout against Viviane Obenauf of Brazil last week.  She won on points 60-53.

Obenauf was knocked down in the second round and also suffered a cut near her left eye, but she managed to take it distance before being outpointed.

Netball

It was announced this week that New Zealand will play Wales in two test matches in February 2017.

The two games will take place at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff on 7 and 8 February.

Sports Personality of the Year 2016

Although the main event is not broadcast until 18 December, the winner of the Young Sports Personality of the Year award has already been announced.

Swimmer Ellie Robinson is this year’s winner.

She won a gold medal and a bronze at the Rio Paralympics aged just 15.

She won the S6 50m butterfly in a Games record time and broke the British record in the 100m freestyle to take bronze.

Earlier in the year Robinson had bagged one silver (50m butterfly) and three bronzes (50m, 100m and 400m freestyle) at the IPC European Championships.

Taekwondo

There was plenty of success for Britain’s women at the World Grand Prix Final in Baku last weekend.

Charlie Maddock set the ball rolling as she beat Olympic champion Sohui Kim in the -49kg to take gold.

Jade Jones and Bianca Walkden followed suit on Saturday as Jones beat Hedaya Malak of Egypt in the -57kg final and Walkden defeated Zheng Shuyin of China to take gold in the +67kg category.

Rachelle Booth lost to South Korea’s Lee Ah-reum in -62kg bronze-medal match.

Speed Skating

Great Britain’s Elise Christie won double gold at the World Cup event in Shanghai last weekend.

She won the first of two 500m races in 43.590 seconds and took the second in 42.590.

Christie leads the 500m overall ranking from Fan Kexin from China and Marianne St-Gelais of Canada.

Shanghai is the third in the series of World Cup events.  The fourth is in Gangneung, South Korea, from 16-18 December.

Golf

Shanshan Feng won a record fourth Dubai Ladies Masters at the weekend.  She took the title on -10, two ahead of England’s Charley Hull.

Going into the final round, Felicity Johnson was leading, but she faded in the last carding a three over 75 to finish six shots off the lead.

Cycling

The dispute between British Cycling and cyclist Jess Varnish continues.

After last week’s revelation that only one of nine of her complaints against Shane Sutton was upheld, Varnish has now requested that British Cycling release her personal data under the Data Protection Act so that she can see Sutton’s text messages and the organisation’s report into his conduct.

I feel there’s still probably plenty to come out of this story yet.

Football

Birmingham City Ladies

David Parker resigned as Birmingham City ladies’ manager on Monday.  He had been in charge for five years.

There was no delay in announcing his successor as the WSL1 club announced they have appointed Marc Skinner to the post.

Skinner had been director of the Blues Ladies’ centre of excellence.

Casey Stoney

After a period of silence it has been announced that former England captain, Casey Stoney, has signed for Liverpool Ladies.

She left Arsenal at the end of the season causing much speculation as to her future plans.

Liverpool manager Scott Rogers said,

“Her reading of the game and ability on the ball is fantastic so I have no doubt that she will prove to be a great signing for us.”

New rules for WSL2

It was announced this week that WSL2 will introduce relegation for the first time in the 2017-18 season, when the league swaps to a winter season.

This means that the bottom team will drop into the Women’s Premier League.

In other WSL news, the league has also revealed that applications for WSL licences for the 2018-19 season will only be open to the existing clubs.  If, however, a club fails to meet the specified criteria, other clubs will be allowed to apply.

FA funding will increase as follows:

WSL1 up to £92,500 (up from £70,000)

WSL2 up to 62,500 (up from £35,000)

Whilst any increase is welcome, make no mistake, this money is still just a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a WSL club. 

Nigeria’s continued protest

As I reported last week, the Nigerian women’s football team is currently fighting for outstanding payments due to them after they won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations on 3 December.

On Tuesday, one of the players, quoted anonymously by the BBC, said that they are prepared to continue their sit-in at the Agura hotel until they receive all bonuses, believed to total £23,650 USD per player.

“We are tired of the lies and false promises from the NFF,”

The NFF is directly funded by the Nigerian government and is currently strapped for cash after Nigeria slipped into recession in August.

But the Super Falcons coach, Florence Omagbemi and her assistants have only received one month’s pay since March.

The NFF general secretary, Mohammed Sanusi, met with players and officials at the hotel on Tuesday. In a statement he said,

“The NFF is not happy owing players and coaches, but present severe economic challenges inform that it can only continue to seek the understanding of these persons, as well as hoteliers, travel agents, management and staff until the situation improves,”

“We know we have financial commitment to you (players and officials of Super Falcons) and we have not at any time stated otherwise. But the money is not readily available.

“I have come to appeal to you, to understand the situation of the federation, to understand the situation of the country at the present and exercise patience.

“We will pay you all monies you are being owed as soon as we receive same from the government.”

The stalemate continues.

And finally, I’m sure you’ve all seen it already but it’s three boos for the Football Association this week (God bless ‘em).

In their wisdom, the FA have revealed their ideas for attracting more girls into football.  The plan, posted on the Sussex FA website includes:

Pink whistles

Nice smelling bibs (we all want those, don’t we?)

Allowing girls breaks so they can check their phones.

Advertise “where girls go” such as “coffee shops or the backs of toilet doors”

Slogans to attract girls could include:

“You won’t even notice you’re getting fit!” and “Who needs Facebook friends?”

Not saying anything else.  Don’t need to, do I?

 

As I said at the beginning, that’s all for this year.  I’m currently writing a history of women’s field hockey for WiSP Sports, so please check in to read that if you’re so inclined.

Also next week, although there will be no column, I am publishing something which means a lot to me.  Earlier this year I interviewed someone and got some great copy.  I tried to sell the resultant article but to no avail.  Although he has now moved on from his post, the subject of the article has just read it and he loved it, so I would like to reproduce it on my site.  Look out for it – I’m really happy with it and I hope you like it too.

Hoping you all have a lovely, peaceful and sporting Christmas and let’s all wish for more sporting success in 2017