Women’s Sports Column 1-7 June 2019

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

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

Tennis

French Open – On the Court

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

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

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

And so to the semis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doubles

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

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

French Open – off the Court

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

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

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

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

Boxing

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

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

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

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

Football

World Cup

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

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

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

Hopefully that’s the blip over.

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

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

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

Other Football News

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

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

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

Selected transfers

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

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

Rugby Union

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

England 40-14 Barbarians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountain Biking

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

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

Netball

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

Tracey Neville

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

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

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

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

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

Other Netball news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf

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

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

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

Rugby League

Last weekend’s Super League results were as follows:

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

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

Athletics

Caster Semenya

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

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

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

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

It also says:

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

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

Cricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to follow as the details are revealed.

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

 

Women’s Sports Column 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 3-9 June 2017

fieldhockeysticksBack to usual this week with a new column.  It’s a relief really after seeing (or not seeing) the rained off Aus V NZ Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston on Friday.  And thanks also must go to the foul-mouthed Kiwi who was sitting behind me f-ing and blinding throughout.   He was so miserable that when the kids came on to play kwik cricket all he could say was “those kids suck at cricket”.  At least he didn’t say “those f-ing kids suck at cricket”.   Hey ho.  Let’s crack on.

Stories this week come from netball, canoeing, judo, cricket, football, tennis, hockey, triathlon, mountain biking and cycling.

Netball

The Final Four line-up is decided.  I went to see Lightning v Team Northumbria on 27 May.  Loughborough won comfortably, having already qualified for the Final Four, but I was a bit concerned about some of the complacent play that took place later on in the game.  It wasn’t very professional, and better opponents would have taken advantage.  Altogether, though, a job well done and on to the Finals.

Results from round 18

Sirens 57-43 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Celtic Dragons 52-47 Team Northumbria

Wasps Netball 49-35 Team Bath

Manchester Thunder 60-45 Severn Stars

Loughborough Lightning 71-63 Surrey Storm

So, in the regular season, Lightning finish top of the table by a whopping nine points on 51.  Wasps Netball, the only team to defeat Lightning, finished second with 42, Manchester Thunder third on 39 and fourth were Team Bath on 33.  Last season’s champions, Surrey Storm, finished fifth on 30 and do not qualify.

The Final Four extravaganza will take place this weekend at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, the event having been moved from the Manchester Arena.  The two semi-finals and the final will be live on Sky and the fixtures are:

Saturday 10 June

Loughborough Lightning v Team Bath (15.30)

Wasps Netball v Manchester Thunder (17.45)

Sunday 11 June

Final (16.30)

There will also be a 3rd-4th place play-off.

 All will be covered on Sky Sports

Judo

Britain’s Sally Conway won a silver medal at the European Judo Open in Romania this week.  She was lost in the final of the -70kg category by Marie Eve Gahie of France.

Conway had beaten fellow Briton Gemma Howell in the semi-final.  Howell went on to take bronze by defeating Carola Paissoni of Italy.

It is all good build-up for them as they work towards the World Judo Championships, which take place in Budapest from 18 August to 3 September.

Cricket

On the Pitch

England played a World Cup warm-up match against West Indies at Loughborough on 7 June.

Nat Sciver was outstanding with both bat and ball.  West Indies won the toss and chose to bat first.  They were bowled out for 150 in the 50th over.  Captain Stafanie Taylor top scored with 59, while for England Sciver took 4/39 from her 10 overs.  Offspinner Dani Hazell took 3/21.

England reached their target with 14 overs to spare, but the teams decided that England would bat out their 50 overs for practice.   Sciver made 85 and Tammy Beaumont a half-century.  Katherine Brunt hit quick 49 and England made 281/7 off their 50 overs.

Off the Pitch

Cricket Australia announced this week that from now on their international sides will be known as “Australian men’s cricket team” and “Australian women’s cricket team”.   This may sound like nothing new, but actually it’s a big deal.  When do you ever hear the Men’s Cricket World Cup described as the Men’s Cricket World Cup and not the Cricket World Cup?  They have also dropped the “Southern Stars” name unless using it colloquially.  It puts the two teams on an equal footing when being spoken or written about.  And that’s got to be good news for women’s sport in Australia. 

Cycling

Women’s Tour

The Women’s Tour started on Wednesday 7 June.  The first stage, from Daventry to Kettering in Northamptonshire was won by Katarzyna Niewiadoma of Poland.  Marianne Vos of the Netherlands came in second with compatriot Christine Majerus in third.  Highest placed Briton was Alice Barnes who came in seventh.

The second stage was through Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and was won by Dutch rider Amy Pieters.  Second was Hannah Barnes, who took over the best-placed Briton position from sister Alice.

In general classification, Niewiadoma is still first with Vos in Second and H Barnes in third.

The third stage on Friday 9 June will be Atherstone to Leamington Spa, while the fourth is on Saturday and is Chesterfield and Derbyshire.

The whole race finishes on Sunday 11 June in London with a route that begins and ends in Regent Street St James.

Full details of the winners and timings next week.

Cicle Classic

There was a tight sprint finish to the Cicle Classic in Melton Mowbray on Sunday.  Katie Archibald took the win with Laura Massey in second and Nikki Juniper, third.

After four of nine rounds, Chanel Mason leads overall.

Football

Chelsea Ladies were crowned Spring Series champions on Saturday.  It went down to the wire on the last day as any one of the top four could have clinched the title.  But Chelsea were in pole position and there was no way they were going slip up.

Saturday 3 June

Sunderland 1-1 Reading Women

Reading had most of the pressure in the first half-hour before they finally took the lead on 30 minutes through Mel Fletcher.

But Reading were rueing their missed chances on 53 when substitute Beverly Leon unleashed a fierce shot which nestled in the bottom corner of the Reading goal, earning the home side a point.

Liverpool Ladies 1-3 Manchester City Women

The visitors took the lead on 29 minutes when Jill Scott headed home a Jennifer Beattie flick from a Toni Duggan corner.  The lead was doubled on the stroke of half-time when Mel Lawley hit a shot from 20 yards into the top corner.

After the break City soon got their third when a Megan Campbell free kick from 25 yards slipped in and the game was over as a contest.

Liverpool grabbed a consolation goal in the 90th minute from another long-range shot.

Liverpool will be disappointed with their season’s end as they were going well as early leaders in the Spring Series.

Bristol City Women 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal ended their campaign with a storming win at Bristol on Saturday, and in doing so ended the Spring Series unbeaten.

It was all square until just before the half-hour when defender Louise Quinn headed home for Arsenal’s first.

Despite pressure, there was no further scoring in the first-half, but after the break it took Jordan Nobbs only four minutes to get their second from a Jodie Taylor pass.

Chloe Kelly scored Arsenal’s third in the 73rd minute with substitute Danielle Van De Donk getting the fourth five minutes later.

Beth Mead was last on the scoresheet when she put away Arsenal’s fifth on 83.

Birmingham City Ladies 0-2 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea sealed the title with a 2-0 win at Solihull Moors on Saturday.

After a tight opening spell Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Birmingham goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger fouled Fran Kirby in the area and Karen Carney scored the resultant penalty.

Gemma Davison and Kirby missed relatively easy chances to increase the lead before half-time, but could not take them and the league leaders went in just 1-0 up.

Kirby turned poacher on 58 when she turned in from close range after Berger lost a Davison cross.

After that the champions-elect never looked in trouble and duly celebrated their deserved win at full time.

The table finished with Chelsea on 19 points from eight games.  Manchester City finished second with an inferior goal difference to Chelsea’s.  Arsenal Ladies finished third a point behind, with early leaders Liverpool fourth on 14.

Triathlon

Lucy Charles won the inaugural triathlon Championship in Samorin, Slovakia at the weekend.   She finished the event in four hours, 13 minutes and 59 seconds.

Annabel Luxford of Australia was second.

Tennis

French Open

The women’s final will be between the unseeded Jelena Ostapenko and number three seed Simona Halep.   Ostapenko becomes the first unseeded woman to reach the final at Roland Garros since 1983.

Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) beat Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (11) 4-6 6-2 6-2

Ostapenko lost the first five games of the match

Tamea Bacsinszky (SWI) (30) beat Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) (13) 6-4 6-4

Karolina Pliskova (CZE) (2) beat Caroline Garcia (FRA) (28) 7-6 6-4

Simona Halep (ROM) (3) beat Elina Svitolina (UKR) (5) 3-6 7-6 6-0

Semi-Finals 8 June

Ostapenko beat Bacsinszky 7-6 3-6 6-3

Halep beat Pliskova 6-4 3-6 6-3

The final is on Saturday.  Radio coverage is on 5Live from midday.

Mountain Biking

There was elation and disappointment for Rachel Atherton this week at the Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill at Fort William.

She qualified well ahead of the field in five minutes 29.222 seconds, a full 13 seconds of Tracey Hannah of Australia, who finished second.

Fellow Britons Tahnee Seagrave and Manon Carpenter both crashed, although Carpenter recovered to qualify in fourth.

Myriam Nicole of France finished qualified third.

But it was not to be for Atherton in the final.  She had to pull out before the race even began after dislocating her shoulder in a practice run.

Tracey Hannah won the race and Manon Carpenter finished fourth.

The next round is this weekend in Leogang, Austria.

Canoeing

The Canoe Slalom European Championships were held in Slovenia from 1-4 June.

Great Britain’s women claimed two golds the individual gold in C1 went to Kimberley Woods and she was also part of the three that claimed top spot in the C1 team event.

Woods won individual gold with 110.31 points, ahead of Tereza Fišerová of the Czech Republic on 112.90 with Nadine Weratschnig of Austria on 116.19 in bronze.

The C1 team of Woods, Mallory Franklin and Eilidh Gibson won the event for the second year in a row.  Their points tally was 153.24.  Silver went to Germany on 157.32 with the Czech Republic winning bronze on 158.48.

Hockey

Surbiton’s and Canterbury’s women were in action representing English hockey in the EuroHockey Club Cup in Den Bosch last weekend.

Eight teams took part with Surbiton finishing fourth and Canterbury sixth.

Surbiton beat CSV Complutense of Spain to reach the semi-finals, but couldn’t overcome hosts HC‘s-Hertogenbosch, losing 7-1.  They lost the 3rd/4th place play-off to the other Dutch team, AH&BC Amsterdam 3-1.

Canterbury lost their 5th/6th place play-off to CSV Complutense.

Final standings:

  1.  HC’s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands)
  2. UHC Hamburg (Germany)
  3. AH&BC Amsterdam (Netherlands)
  4. Surbiton (England)
  5. SPV Complutense (Spain)
  6. Canterbury Ladies HC (England)
  7. Hermes – Monkstown HC (Ireland)
  8. CSP Krylatskoye (Russia)

And finally

Long jumper Jazmin Sawyers admitted this week that she pulled out of a competition in Boston because of the “very bad periods” from which she suffers.

And boy did she pay for that admission on social media.

Even though she said,

“Can’t walk, intense pain radiating down my legs, head spinning, full body sweating, shouting, crying kind of bad,”

It brought out all the “boys” with their “ugh – too much information” kind of comments.  Fabulously Sawyers bit back,

“Ah so lovely to see so many men with insightful things to say in response to this article.”

And interestingly she also said that those making comments on the BBC site are usually the worst.  Funnily enough this is what I have also found.  It seems to be a platform for jokers and fools (and worse).

At last women in sport and in all walks of life are beginning to speak out about their period problems. And it’s only by discussing, analysing and gaining more information that we are going to be able to develop possible solutions.  Sorry chaps if it offends your delicate sensibilities, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to deal with it.

Women’s Sports Column 21-27 May

boxing_gloves-2

 

This week’s stories come from football, tennis, athletics, boxing, horse racing and hockey. There are also not one, but two “and finally” snippets for your delectation – couldn’t decide which one was worse so I thought I’d feature both.

 

The last FAWSL fixtures before the mid-season break took place this week. Manchester City have had their lead cut to four points.

Saturday 21 May

The game between Doncaster Belles and Arsenal was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. No date has been announced for the re-arranged fixture.

Wednesday 25 May

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City

Liverpool had the better of the game, with their best chance coming 12 minutes from the end of the match with Rosie White heading against the bar from a Laura Coombs corner.

These are the first points dropped by City this season.

Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland

Chelsea kept the heat on City with a 2-1 triumph against Sunderland, who are still looking for their first win of the season.

Steph Roche gave the Lady Black Cats the lead after just six minutes, but Chelsea captain Katie Chapman equalised with a fine header from Karen Carney’s free-kick just 90 seconds later.

In truth, Chelsea could have had six if they hadn’t been so profligate in front of goal. As it was, Fran Kirby scored in the 21st minute to seal the three points. She perhaps deserved another in the second half, for sheer audacity if nothing else, when she bicycle-kicked just over the bar.

Sunderland remain second from bottom.

 

Kim Little has been voted BBC World Service Women’s Footballer of the Year 2016. The 25-year old Scotland midfielder beat Gaell Gaelle Enganamouit (FC Rosengard, Sweden), Amandine Henry (Olympique Lyonnais), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash) and Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City) to win the award.

This is not the Seattle Reign’s first award. She was named the FA’s Women’s Player of the Year in 2010 and was the first winner of the PFA Women’s Players’ Player of the Year award in 2013.

 

Thursday 26 May

Women’s Champions League final

Wolfsburg 1-1 Lyon
Lyon win 4-3 on penalties

Lyon won their third Champions League title on penalties after keeper Sarah Bouhaddi saved two spot kicks to seal the win.

Lyon took the lead in just the 12th minute through the competition’s top scorer, Ada Hegerberg. It looked as though this could be the winner until Alex Popp equalised with a fine header two minutes from time.

The teams couldn’t be separated in extra time, and the tie went to penalties. Although Hegerberg missed hers, the Lyon keeper saved from Nilla Fischer and Bussaglia. The winning penalty was converted by player of the match, Saki Kumagai.

 

Not much to be cheery about if you’re a British tennis fan. As I suggested last week, all four British women had tough first round draws at the French Open at Roland Garros. The only one of the four to get through to the second round was British number two, Heather Watson.

Most disappointing was the performance of British number one, Johanna Konta, who lost in straight sets by Julia Goerges, 6-2 6-3.

Laura Robson, who faced the hardest task, was ousted by 28th seed, Andrea Petkovic, 6-2 6-2.

Naomi Broady also perished in the first round, although she did manage to take it to three sets against American Coco Candeweghe, before losing 4-6 6-3 3-6.

Heather Watson beat her doubles partner, Nicole Gibbs, 5-7 6-2 6-2 in the first round, but couldn’t cope with 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second, 6-1 6-3. She tried hard, especially in the second set, but was outclassed by the 13th seed.

 

In other tennis news, Maria Sharapova, who is currently serving a suspension for doping, has been named in the Russian Olympic team for Rio in August. Sharapova is only provisionally suspended at the moment, and is waiting for the result of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) investigation.

If she is given a confirmed ban she will be replaced in the team by Ekaterina Makaraova.

 

Jockey Michelle Payne suffered a serious fall this week which will put her out of action until at least August. She is currently in hospital recovering from abdominal surgery. It means she will not be able to compete in the Shergar Cup team event at Ascot on 6 August.

 

The race to Rio is hotting up with athletes of all disciplines still working on qualifying. However, one athlete this week has expressed a doubt as to whether she wants to compete in the Games if Russia are allowed to take part. Russian athletes are currently banned due to allegations of widespread state-organised doping.

Goldie Sayers, British javelin record holder has said that she would think long and hard about competing if Russia were re-admitted for Rio. But she admits,

“But if they are reinstated and I didn’t compete I’d be cheating myself out of another opportunity at the Olympics.”

Let’s hope she doesn’t have to make the choice.

 

Brilliant news from boxing on 27 May. Nicola Adams has claimed gold in the flyweight division at the AIBA World Championships in Kazakhstan.

She beat Thailand’s Peamwilai Laopeam by a split decision.

Surprisingly this is Adams’ first World Championships gold, with three previous silvers in the bag. It now completes her set; Olympic, Commonwealth, European and World titles.

She has already qualified for Rio and who would bet against her taking gold again?

 

One event of which I have been made aware (thanks Martin) is the Euro Hockey Club Champions Cup (EHCCC). This is the hockey equivalent of the football Champions’ League. This year’s was won by Den Bosch in an all-Dutch final against SCHC – a replay of the 2015 final.

16 May
Bilthoven
Den Bosch 1-1 SCHC
Den Bosch win on penalties

Den Bosch opened the scoring through a penalty corner converted by Pauman. They held the lead until the 40th minute, when SCHC were awarded a penalty stroke, which was taken and scored by van Massakker.

Den Bosch took the title in a shoot out.

The teams for next year’s tournament have already been announced. England’s representation will be from Canterbury and Surbiton, who also took part in this year’s competition, finishing fifth and sixth respectively. The countries are allotted a number of places as a result of their ranking.

Currently the Netherlands are top of the tree and will have two places, as will England. Germany, Spain, Ireland and Russia have one place each. This is the position at the moment, but Belarus and Belgium are closing fast in the rankings and could yet take one of the spots for next year’s contest.

 

Take your pick of “and finally” stories this week. The first is all too familiar and possibly a bit too predictable, but the second is something special – and no, I’m not providing photos.

Chris Gayle has struck again this week with another embarrassing interview with a female journalist. He bragged to Charlotte Edwardes from The Times that he has a

“very, very big bat….You think you could lift it? You’d need two hands.”

He asked Edwardes “how many black men I’ve had” and whether she had ever been in a threesome.

Don’t think I need to say anymore about that.

 

And finally (2), Ayr United plumbed the depths this week in launching their new kit for next season. They have done it by having a topless model with the “shirt” painted on in body paint, posing in several provocative situations. They have form. They have done it before regardless of the criticism faced, which shows a complete lack of sensibility. And of course, in reporting the story – yes you Daily Mail and Independent, the pictures had to be reprinted. This gives more publicity to a grimy idea – which is exactly what they want.

So Ayr United, who do you want at your games. Is it women? Is it children? Er no, probably not. I would suggest that they probably don’t matter to you.

This time they could be fined by the Scottish FA. Hit them in the pocket, I say.