Women’s Sports Column 9-15 December 2017

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome 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.  

Horse Racing

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.

Tennis

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.

Rugby Union

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

The weather claimed just one victim in the Premier 15s last weekend.  The scores were:

9 December
Harlequins 27-8 Wasps
Saracens 45-6 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 DMP Sharks

10 December
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)

Australia

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

WSL Licences

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.

Tier 1

Arsenal Women
Birmingham City Ladies
Brighton & Hove Albion Women
Bristol City Women
Chelsea Ladies
Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies
Manchester City Women
Reading Women
Yeovil Town Ladies

Tier 2

Aston Villa Ladies
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Durham Women
London Bees
Millwall Lionesses
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

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

WSL2

London Bees 2-1 Oxford United

Sunday 10 December

WSL1

Yeovil Town p-p Reading

Arsenal p-p Liverpool
Birmingham City p-p Bristol City
Everton 5-1 Sunderland
Chelsea p-p Manchester City

WSL2

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.

7 December

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.

9 December

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.

11 December

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.

Cricket

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.

9 December

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)

10 December

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)

12 December

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)

15 December

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)

Golf

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.

Para-athletics

 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.

Boxing

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.”

SPOTY

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).

And finally,

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.

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 August

netball2Welcome to this week’s sports column.   The Rio Olympics may be over and we are all crying into our beer because of it, but life (and sport) goes on – plus the Paralympics are just around the corner.

So, in addition to my last few Rio highlights, we also have stories from cricket, football, indoor netball (Nets), netball, rugby union and tennis.

As regards Rio highlights, for me it’s the hockey, first and foremost.  I was pacing up and down the room for most of the second half of the final and watching through my fingers for the penalty shoot out.  Maddie Hinch!  What guts, what calm, what a player.

Nicola Adams also is on my list.  Wish she’d stop doing that thing running her hand through her hair, but a great performance from a great champion – and an amazing role model.

I’m going to come back to Simone Biles again and again, because she was so stunning.

Also Jade Jones.  Taekwondo  is a bizarre sport I’m never actually going to understand, but I know that Jade Jones is flipping good at it.  And good on Bianca Walkden for overcoming the disappointment of her semi-final to take a bronze.

From a political point of view there is a case for saying the Olympics should never have been awarded to Rio – the levels of poverty, the money spent on venues that may or may not be redundant in the coming years, and all of the problems leading up to the Games – it’s a wonder they ever took place at all.  But as a spectacle it was excellent – not sure if I’ll ever get over that green pool though……

On to other sports news..

In cricket, the inaugural Kia Super League has come and gone.  By and large it was a success, but far too short.

Finals Day took place on Sunday 21 August at Chelmsford.  As described last week, it was a slightly strange format in that only the top three teams qualified.  The second and third place teams played each other in a “semi-final” for the right to meet the Vipers, who finished top of the league, in the final.

Western Storm v Loughborough Lightning

Lightning 124/7 (20 overs)

Storm 128/5 (19.3 overs)

Storm won by 5 wickets

Lightning never looked to have enough runs on the board as they struggled to post a paltry 124 off their 20 overs.  Ellyse Perry made a sparkling 64 (she was just coming into form as the tournament ended), but there were no other significant batting contributions.  The Storm bowling was tight with Stafanie Taylor the pick of the bowlers taking 3/31 off her four overs.

In the end it was tighter than it should have been as the Storm didn’t chase too hard to reach their target.  Taylor again took the lead with 34, then Heather Knight with 52 and Fran Wilson broke the back of it.  There were a few nervous moments when Lizelle Lee (0) and Knight were out in the space of three balls, but really the result was never in doubt.

 

Southern Vipers v Western Storm

Western Storm 140/5 (20 overs)

Vipers (143/3 18.5 overs)

Vipers won by seven wickets

The final followed a similar format to that of the semi.  The Vipers won the toss and inserted the Storm.  Although they posted 140, there was a general feeling that this would not be enough.  Taylor scored 35 and Rachel Priest 57, but Knight was out for only six, and this was, in the end, the key wicket.    Fran Wilson chipped in again with an unbeaten 16.  Arran Brindle, looking rejuvenated in this tournament, took 2/15 off her four and Suzie Bates 2/37.

The Vipers never seemed phase by their chase.  Bates and Charlotte Edwards put on an opening partnership of 78 with Georgia Adams, Sara McGlashan and Lydia Greenway all contributing as they won with seven balls to spare.

In the end the title went to the best, most consistent team.  They were favourites before the competition started and never looked like being bested.

 

In other cricket news, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has voted to increase the daily allowance of the Indian women’s team to be in line with the men’s.  They will now receive $125 per day on international tours and $100 during a home series.

 

In tennis, Laura Robson is through to the third and last round of qualifying for the US Open.  World number 247, Robson, beat Su Jeong Jang of Korea 6-3 6-2 in round one and world number 142 Isabella Shinikova of Bulgaria in round two 6-4 6-4.  She will now face Tatjana Maria from Germany for a place in the first round.

Tara Moore lost in second qualifying match to Germany’s Antonia Lottner 1-6 6-3 6-2, after beating Tereza Mrdeza 6-4 6-1 in the first.

No such travails for Johanna Konta who is seeded 13 in the US Open main draw, her highest seeding to date.  Top seed is Serena Williams.

The last grand slam of the year starts on Monday 29 August.

 

I don’t mind admitting that I am a complete newcomer to the world of indoor netball, otherwise known as “Nets”.  Many of you will know I have been writing a four-part history of netball for the WiSP Sports and as I was researching the final part – netball in the 21st century, I came across the phenomenon that is Nets.

And, as it happens the Nets World Cup is taking place in New Zealand as we speak!    There is so much going on and so many categories that I haven’t got time or space to go into detail.   So can I suggest you check out the World Indoor Netball Association’s (WINA) Facebook page for all the details: https://www.facebook.com/worldindoornetballassociation/. (It’s safe to say that Australia and New Zealand will win everything).

 

The first ever (traditional) Netball Quad series begins at the end of the month and will be televised on Sky Sports.

The four teams involved are England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and it will be held in Australia and New Zealand.

Four of the games will be shown on Sky’s new channel, Sky Sports Mix.  Part of Mix’s remit is to show more women’s sport, so watch this space to see if they come through with this promise.

Saturday 27 August

0400-0600: Live – Australia v South Africa (Sky Sports 3)

0600-0800: Live – England v New Zealand (Sky Sports 3)

 Wednesday 31 August

0800-1030: Live – South Africa v New Zealand (Sky Sports Mix)

1100-1300: Live – England v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)

 Sunday 4 September

0430-0630: Live – England v South Africa (Sky Sports Mix)

0630-0830: Live – New Zealand v Australia (Sky Sports Mix)

 

England Women U20 39-12 Canada Women U20

In the second of this three-match series in Nottingham, England ran in seven tries to emerge victorious again and give them an unassailable lead in the series.

They were 22-5 up at the break through a hat-trick of tries from Abi Dow and a fourth from Sally Stott.  Zoe Harrison kicked one conversion.

Kasselle Menin scored Canada’s only points of the half.

In the second half Poppy Leitch went over again for England and Dow scored her fourth.  Sarah Bern scored England’s seventh try with Lagilagi Tuima kicking a conversion to seal a convincing win.

Jordyn Orlando scored a consolation try for Canada.

 

In football, US goalkeeper, Hope Solo has been suspended from international football for six months as a result of her outburst after the States’ defeat to Sweden in the quarter-finals of the Olympic football tournament.

She called the Swedes a “bunch of cowards” and that the better side did not win on the day.  US Soccer President, Sunil Gulati called the comments “unacceptable”.

In reality Solo will only miss two games against Thailand and Netherlands in September, although it is possible more matches will be scheduled.  She will be eligible for selection again in February 2017.

 

And finally, Ryan Lochte’s punishment for “exaggerating” the mugging incident in Rio is apparently to be chosen to be on Dancing with the Stars (the US version of strictly Come Dancing).  This is a somewhat different punishment from the six months ban handed out to Hope Solo.  Some have made this a sexist issue, but actually I feel it may be the respective governing bodies that may be at the heart of it.

USA Swimming released a statement:

“The last five days have been difficult for our USA Swimming and United States Olympic families. While we are thankful our athletes are safe, we do not condone the lapse in judgement and conduct that led us to this point. It is not representative of what is expected as Olympians, as Americans, as swimmers and as individuals.

“That this is drawing attention away from Team USA’s incredible accomplishments in the water and by other athletes across the Olympic Games is upsetting. The athletes and their remarkable stories should be the focus.

“We’re extremely thankful of the support and efforts from the USOC, Department of State and U.S. Consulate General throughout this process. USA Swimming will undergo a thorough review of the incident and determine any further actions, per our Code of Conduct.”

So they’re certainly not in any hurry to dole out sanction, unlike US Soccer, who were very quick off the mark.  Mind you, Hope Solo has form…..

So although I’m usually the first to shout “Sexist foul!”, on this occasion I may just think twice.

No column for the next couple of weeks as I am away, but will hopefully be back on 16 September.