Welcome to this week’s column. There’s still plenty going on and this week’s stories come from football, tennis, horse racing, boxing, para-athletics, rugby union, golf and cricket. There are a couple of rather good “first” stories, unfortunately balanced out by another example of the “does this still happen” school of misogyny in this week’s “And finally”.
So let’s crack on.
After I reported that jockey Hayley Turner had been suspended pending an inquiry into alleged illegal betting. As a result of the inquiry Turner has been banned from racing for three months.
Although Turner retired in 2015, she kept up her licence, which is why she has found herself in hot water.
In an interview with the BBC, Turner said,
“It is a bitter pill to swallow…I accept there had to be some sort of punishment, I was in the wrong, but three months is quite harsh.”
She is banned until 13 March 2018, but is allowed to be at racecourses and working in the media.
Victoria Azarenka has been handed a wildcard to the Australian Open.
She has already won the tournament twice, but has recently been struggling to compete due to an ongoing custody battle with her ex-partner.
The Australian Open begins on 15 January.
Tyrell’s Premier 15s
The weather claimed just one victim in the Premier 15s last weekend. The scores were:
Harlequins 27-8 Wasps
Saracens 45-6 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 DMP Sharks
Worcester Valkyries P-P Loughborough Lightning
Richmond 5-32 Bristol
It’s ten from ten for Saracens and they top the table with 49 points. Harlequins lie second on 45, with Wasps third, way back on 33. Worcester Valkyries are bottom on just two points, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on seven, with Richmond above them on 14.
This weekend’s fixtures, weather permitting, are as follows:
Loughborough Lightning v Saracens (12pm)
Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.30pm)
DMO Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Bristol v Worcester Valkyries (7pm, Portway Rugby Development Centre)
Rugby Australia has announced its new chief executive will be Raelene Castle, the first woman to hold the position – and indeed the first woman to hold such a post across the whole of world rugby.
At the press conference announcing her appointment Castle was keen to play down the “first” tag,
“The reality is sport has gender equity in it. There’s people from both really delivering, particularly at grassroots level… so I don’t think it’s an enormous step to have a female chief executive, I’m excited about the opportunity.”
She brings a wealth of sports administration experience to the job, including previous chief executive roles at Netball New Zealand and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Castle has been appointed on her capabilities and on merit, which is as it should be, and I really look forward to the time when such an appointment doesn’t create shockwaves. But currently this is not the situation, so let’s celebrate it for the breakthrough it is – let’s shout it from the rooftops, not only to congratulate Castle, but to encourage others to recognise their talents and put themselves forward for the big jobs.
Football – Off the pitch
The big news, domestically this week is the announcement of the first tranche of WSL licences. As we know, no Watford, no Sunderland. The only team not currently with a WSL1 licence that has been granted a provisional Tier 1 licence is Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion, who clearly mean business.
Birmingham City Ladies
Brighton & Hove Albion Women
Bristol City Women
Manchester City Women
Yeovil Town Ladies
Aston Villa Ladies
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Sheffield FC Ladies
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies
There will now be a second phase of applications, an “open” phase when clubs that are currently outside the FAWSL can apply for both Tier 1 and Tier 2 licences.
There are a minimum of two Tier 1 licences available and a minimum of five in Tier 2. Closing date for applications is March 2018.
Decisions will not be announced until after the end of the FAWPL season and Championship Play-off.
As you can imagine, I read plenty about the state of women’s football in England and there is a huge amount of disquiet about these plans. Women’s football needs a period of stability and consolidation, not another reorganisation that requires, if you’ll excuse the expression, moving the goalposts yet again. I know I bang on about this (a lot) but it is clear that the FA has no long-term plan for women’s football and it is subject to the whims of whoever is the latest person to be in charge. The women’s game deserves better, and it’s clear that as it stands this governing body is not going to deliver.
Hope Solo has announced she is to run for president of the US Soccer Federation. On her Facebook page she said,
“I know exactly what US Soccer needs to do, I know exactly how to do it, and I possess the fortitude to get it done.
“I have always been willing to sacrifice for what I believe in and I believe there is no greater sacrifice then fighting for equal opportunity, integrity and honesty, especially in an organisation like the USSF that could give so much more to our communities across the nation.”
There are now nine names in the hat. There are two women in the running; Solo and Kathy Carter, marketing president of Soccer United.
Football – on the pitch
WSL1 & 2
The weather hit both divisions pretty hard at the weekend.
Saturday 9 December
London Bees 2-1 Oxford United
Sunday 10 December
Yeovil Town p-p Reading
Arsenal p-p Liverpool
Birmingham City p-p Bristol City
Everton 5-1 Sunderland
Chelsea p-p Manchester City
Durham p-p Aston Villa
Brighton & Hove Albion p-p Watford
Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-2 Sheffield FC
Millwall Lionesses p-p Tottenham Hotspur
After this weekend’s Continental Cup games, there is a short winter break with the league resuming on 6 January 2018. The quarter-finals are:
Saturday 16 December
Everton v Reading (6pm, Select Security Stadium)
Sunday 17 December
Arsenal v Sunderland (2pm, Boreham Wood FC)
Bristol City v Manchester City (2pm, Oaklands Park Stadium)
Chelsea v Liverpool (2pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)
Nike international Tournament, Florida
England’s Under-20s have been competing in Florida in a tournament of friendly matches. You may not have seen anything at all about it in the media, but I am pleased to report that the young Lionesses won the tournament, winning two games and drawing one.
USA 3-3 England
England came from 3-2 to snatch a last minute draw with the hosts. Sophia Smith scored two, her second in the 87th minute, for the USA with their third coming from an own goal from Grace Fisk. But England were not to be outdone.
Ellie Brazil scored England’s first and Anna Patten the second, before Alessia Russo sealed a share of the points with her last minute goal.
England 1-0 Brazil
Alessia Russo was on the scoresheet again as England squeezed past Brazil in their second game of the tournament.
Brazil had plenty of possession in the first-half, but couldn’t convert.
The only goal of the game came on 50 minutes as Charlie Wellings put Russo through and she kept her nerve to put it past the ’keeper.
England 6-0 Finland
The young Lionesses completed a convincing victory over Finland on Monday, thereby taking the tournament title.
Goals came from Kess Elmore 7, Zoe Cross 18, Rianna Dean 38, 55, Georgia Allen 79 and Ellie Brazil 89.
England finished top with seven points from their three games. Brazil came second with six and USA third with four. Finland failed to win a point.
The WBBL is in full swing and there have already been some monster scores. The standout batting contribution so far has come from Ash Gardner, who scored 114 off 57 balls for the Sydney Sixers against the Melbourne Stars. The innings included nine fours and 10 sixes, including one to take her to her century.
Sydney Thunder 200/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Renegades 189/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 11 runs
Top scorer: Jess Cameron 81 (Renegades)
Best bowling: Stafanie Taylor 2/30 off four overs (Thunder)
Adelaide Strikers 183/3 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 138/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 45 runs
Top Scorer: Sophie Devine 46 not out (Strikers)
Best bowling: Tahlia McGrath 2/15 off three overs (Strikers)
Sydney Sixers 242/4 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 156/7 (20 overs)
Sixers won by 86 runs
Top Scorer: Ash Gardner 114 (Sixers)
Best bowling: Sarah Aley 2/30 off four overs (Sixers)
Perth Scorchers 188/6 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 170/9 (20 overs)
Scorchers won by 18 runs
Top Scorer: Delissa Kimmince 87 (Heat), honourable mention Nat Sciver 84 (Scorchers)
Best bowling: Katherine Brunt 3/23 off four overs (Scorchers)
Adelaide Strikers 176/6 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 93 all out (18.5 overs)
Strikers won by 83 runs
Top Scorer: Suzie Bates 102 (Strikers)
Best bowling: Amanda-Jade Wellington 3/9 off four overs (Strikers)
Sydney Thunder 142/6 (20 overs)
Sydney Sixers 146/4 (18.4 overs)
Sixers won by six wickets
Top Scorer: Alex Blackwell 58 (Thunder)
Best bowling: Ellyse Perry 2/15 off four overs (Sixers)
Sydney Sixers 122/8 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 123/1 (18.2 overs)
Scorchers won by nine wickets
Top Scorer: Elyse Villani 74 (Scorchers)
Best Bowling: Katherine Brunt and Emma King 2/19 off four overs (both Scorchers)
Melbourne Stars 114/8 (20 overs)
Sydney Thunder 115/2 (14.3 overs)
Thunder won by eight wickets
Top Scorer: Rachael Haynes 54 (Thunder)
Best Bowling: Harmanpreet Kaur 3/18 off four overs (Thunder)
Perth Scorchers 112/7 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 116/4 (18.5 overs)
Heat won by six wickets
Top Scorer: Kirby Short 50 not out (Heat)
Best Bowling: Katherine Brunt 2/17 (Scorchers), Delissa Kimmince 2/17 (Heat)
Another first this week came in golf, where Sarah McDonald was appointed as Kent County Golf Union’s first female county secretary. Her appointment is just part of a shake-up of the county’s organisation with the job also changing to reflect the changing needs of the 85 clubs the Union represents.
Kent county chairman Peter Long said,
“It’s going to be quite different. We are trying to get away from the old style approach and the view that golf is just a male led club – it isn’t.”
This may be quite a parochial story, but actually golf is one of those hide-bound sports that has always been reluctant to change and to recognise that there may be anyone other than white males over 40 who want to play at club level. If Kent is starting to realise that if the game is going to survive, its membership base has to diversify, then there is hope that others will follow suit. It’s a sport that inspires such passion in people; it would be a shame if others missed out because they didn’t feel there was a place for them to play.
After undergoing a re-classification from T37 to T38 in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, Paralympian Kadeena Cox is facing yet another re-examination next year.
All athletes in the T31-38 categories will be reassessed. These are the categories that include conditions that cause involuntary muscle contractions and affect co-ordination, such as strokes, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and brain injury.
In an interview with the BBC, Cox said,
“It’s not a nice process – it’s exhausting and a very draining thing to go through,
“But they want to make it as fair as possible.”
The reassessment will also affect Sophie Hahn, Georgie Hermitage and Hannah Cockroft.
Katie Taylor beat American Jessica McCaskill on points on Wednesday to defend her WBA world lightweight title.
She took the bout unanimously, 97-92 97-92 98-91.
In an interview with Sky Sports she said,
“It was probably the toughest fight of my career….I had to be at my very best. I knew she was tough and I was prepared for that.”
A quick reminder that it’s the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday. Don’t forget to vote for Anya Shrubsole. Er, I mean, don’t forget to vote, obviously for whomsoever you wish…. (as long as it’s Anya Shrubsole).
Just when you thought it was safe (well no, I never feel it’s that safe), this week Ebony Rainford-Brent was trolled on Twitter by a ridiculous man who thought it was his right, after she had made a point about Alastair Cook – and a point quite a few (men) have already made – to say “I can never take a woman’s view on cricket seriously”. Well, I’ve got news for you, Neanderthal man is dead and, guess what, women have opinions on just about everything. You name it, we’re going to speak about it! Unfortunately, he didn’t quit while he was way behind, either, decrying women’s cricket in general and saying “I’ve no idea who you are” to Ebz. He’s supposed to be an ex sports journalist. Very ex, I would imagine, with his 47 followers to her 15k. Lots of support (men and women) for Ebz on Twitter – hopefully he’s regretting starting this now.