Women’s Sports Column 4-10 November 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  I hope you’ve all managed to satisfy your women’s sports craving somehow while I was away. I can’t begin to cover all that’s happened in those two weeks, but this week has been full to bursting with news; some good, some bad and some just downright baffling.

This week’s stories come from football, rugby, golf, hockey, winter sports, athletics and cricket.  My “And finally” comes from tennis – yep you can probably guess the one.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Off the Pitch

What on earth is happening to football?  Is the FA determined to scupper its progress?  And there has, undoubtedly, been progress.  I know this is a well-worn hobby horse of mine, but it seems that every time I look away, when I turn back another nail has been bashed into the women’s football coffin.

The 99th restructuring of the women’s game is the story of the week making the headlines and dividing lovers of women’s football throughout the country.

Firstly this week we heard that Watford, who play in WSL2, will not reapply for as WSL licence when their current one expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

I think it’s worth reproducing the club’s statement in full:

“Watford FC will be seeking to re-energise a more community-focused approach to its ladies’ football offering at all ages, once its FA Women’s Super League licence expires at the end of the current 2017/18 campaign.

Over recent months, the Hornets have carefully considered all available options with regards to how it shapes a fully sustainable future provision of ladies football.

The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels and is pleased to have already begun the research and planning phase.

This involves creating a clear pathway towards adult football provision, which will include an offering for 16-18 year-old players who are currently all-too-often lost to the sport through lack of realistic opportunities in the senior game.

This move will include an application to The Football Association for election of the senior team into the regional Women’s Premier League structure.

Watford FC will continue to work closely with its Community Sports & Education Trust to ensure all possible routes into football for enthusiastic local players are both maintained and enhanced.

There will also be the chance for both affiliated and independently-run organisations to partner with Watford FC with a view to extending the reach and breadth of the positive impact of this approach.

The stability the current Watford FC Ladies operation enjoys means that supporters can expect a vibrant and active community-led offering from summer 2018 onwards.”

This statement has sparked furious debate – on one side some say it is the club being pragmatic, still showing commitment to the game but realising its limitations at this time.  On the other side (and, you will probably not be surprised to read that I adhere to this) there are those who see it as a complete abdication of responsibility and a shocking lack of ambition.  If, as the statement says, “The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels”, why are they not going to apply for a licence?  The infrastructure is in place for WSL2, so there is no extra input needed?  What exactly does “community-led” mean?  Is it a euphemism for “run by volunteers”?  Obviously all sport relies on the strength of its volunteers, very often even to make it viable, but you cannot run a club in the second tier of football with volunteers.

Wales international striker, Helen Ward, was a high profile signing for the Hornets.  She obviously saw the ambition in the club when she signed.  On 7 November she tweeted, “280 characters still isn’t enough to say what I want to say right now…so it’s best I don’t say anything at all.”

In a similar vein, yesterday Sunderland AFC also issued a statement:

“Sunderland AFC has today confirmed that the club will not be applying for an FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) Licence in the first wave of applications. Instead, the club will focus on a joint bid for a Tier One licence in March.

Applications are currently open to existing FA WSL clubs, but due to the collaborative nature of Sunderland’s intended bid it would not be appropriate for the club to apply at this stage.

A club spokesperson said: ‘Sunderland AFC are committed to supporting women’s football and a joint approach, with combined resources, makes for a better and more sustainable model.

‘We have been working with our partners to ensure that we continue to provide the opportunity for elite female footballers in the North East to compete at the top level.’”

So that’s one WSL1 and one WSL2 effectively saying they’re not buying into the restructure.

And then you have Yeovil, desperate to be involved with the WSL but destined to be denied because they can’t raise the arbitrary £350k figure needed to qualify to apply for a licence.  But is it really because they’re not “fashionable”, or that they’re not affiliated to a men’s club (and we all know how well that worked for Notts County, don’t we)?   I ask you to read the Yeovil Chairman’s view: http://www.yeoviltownladies.com/news/views_from_our_chairman.html#IumCMSUCX7IFsW48.97

If you have any love for the women’s game I would also urge you to check out the Facebook Group, “FAWSL Fans United”

Something’s got to give here – let’s hope it’s not the whole future of women’s football in this country.

Right, now I’ve thoroughly depressed everyone, let’s carry on with what else has been happening in football this week.

Laura Harvey

Seattle Reign head coach, Laura Harvey, has resigned, re-igniting speculation that she is to take over as England Manager.

Harvey, who comes from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, has not indicated what her next move will be saying she will “take a little bit of time to reflect”.

She was boss at Seattle for five years, winning two NWSL Shields.  Her successor will be Vlatko Andonovski and Harvey will stay on for a period to see him settle in.

Joe Montemurro

Australian coach Joe Montemurro has been named as new Arsenal manager, after Pedro Martinez resigned in October.

He was manager at Melbourne City Women, winning two titles during his time there.

Manchester City

Nikita Parris has signed a new contract with Manchester City which runs until the end of the 2018-19 season.

They have also signed Swedish international forward, Julia Spetsmark, from KIF Örebro DFF.  She will be available to play in January 2018.

Jade Moore

Reading midfielder Jade Moore suffered a serious ankle injury during her side’s 5-0 win at Bristol City on Saturday.

She could be out for four months and requires surgery.

On the Pitch

Continental Cup Results:

4 November
Bristol City Women 1-2 Chelsea Ladies

5 November
Durham Women 0-0 Liverpool Ladies
Arsenal 1-2 Reading Women
Aston Villa Ladies 2-2 Sheffield FC Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies 3-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
London Bees 3-4 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester City Women 2-1 Everton Ladies

Champions League

This week saw the first leg ties of the last 16.  There were big wins for some of the tournament favourites, effectively sealing the ties before the second leg is played.  Both English teams had fine wins and the second legs are next week.  The scores were as follows:

8 November
BIIK-Kazygurt 0-7 Lyon
Gintra 0-6 Barcelona
Fiorentina 0-4 Wolfsburg
Brescia 2-3 Montpellier
Sparta Praha 1-1 Linköping

Chelsea 3-0 Rosengård

Chelsea’s excellent home form continued on Wednesday.  They dominated a useful Rosengård side and now should be through to the quarter-finals.  Fran Kirby scored the only goal of the first half.  In the second, Ramona Bachmann scored the second and Gilly Flaherty pounced on an error by former England international Anita Asante, to put away the third.

9 November
LSK 0-5 Manchester City

Manchester City are effectively into the quarter-finals with a good away win at LSK of Norway.  If I tell you City had 22 attempts at goal, to the home side’s three, you’ll probably understand the course of the match.

City took the lead on 26 minutes through Demi Stokes.  They doubled their lead just before half-time when Jane Ross was brought down in the box and Izzy Christiansen converted from the spot.

There was more of the same in the second period.  Claire Emslie scored City’s third on 69, while Jane Ross bagged a brace in the space of five minutes to complete the rout.

Stjarnan 1-2 Slavia Praha

Cricket

It’s pretty much make or break time for England’s cricketers as they take on Australia in the sole Test match of the Women’s Ashes.  After the three ODIs Australia lead 4-2.  With four points riding on the result of this Test match England really need to win.

After two days at the North Sydney Oval it’s fairly even.  Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat.

England 280 all out

Tammy Beaumont top-scored with 70, while captain Heather Knight chipped in with 62.  Plenty of others got starts – Elwiss 27, Taylor 29 and Shrubsole 20, but no-one could make the bit score that could take a big total to an excellent one.

Australia 177/5 (stumps day 2)

In response Australia started well with Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney falling in the twenties.  But it’s the best all-rounder in the world, Ellyse Perry, who is holding England up and is currently on 70 not out.  England will have to get her out, and quickly, on the third morning.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of Korea has become the first LPGA Tour rookie to go to number one in the world rankings.

Park won two titles in the summer – the US Women’s Open in July and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

She has finished in the top-10 nine times this year and has not missed a cut in 29 tournaments.

Athletics

Kenyan marathon runner, Jemima Sumgong has been banned for four years after having tested positive for EPO.

The Olympic marathon winner claimed she had been given the drug in hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.  The claim was rejected by a Kenyan court who said that the paperwork offered in her defence has been supplied by “an imposter” and that her claim was “not authentic”.

Sumgong had admitted her “unfortunate offence and unintended mistake” when she was initially suspended in April, but the court found her uncooperative during the investigation.

There is still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of the administering of the substance, but the ban means she will unable to compete in Tokyo in 2020.

New York Marathon

Shalane Flanagan won the New York Marathon at the weekend – the first American woman to do so for 40 years.

She won in a time of two hours 26 minutes 53 seconds.

Mary Keitany of Kenya was second, 61 seconds behind the winner.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the women’s wheelchair race, beating five-time champion Tatyana McFadden into second.  She finished in a time of one hour 48 minutes nine seconds, almost three minutes ahead of McFadden.

Cycling

Jess Varnish will sue both UK Sport and British Cycling over the sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal she allegedly suffered at their hands in 2016.

Apparently UK Sport had applied to have her case dismissed, but on Monday a judge rejected the application and now Varnish can go to an employment tribunal.

A preliminary hearing will begin in April.  Expect this one to run and run.

Winter Sports

The Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup is underway in Lake Placid, USA.

Lizzy Yarnold won a bronze medal in the first race of the new Skeleton season.  She moved from fifth after the first run, to third after the second.  The winner was Janine Flock of Austria.

Fellow Briton Laura Deas finished fifth.

In the bobsleigh, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore, who you will remember had their funding cut and started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their bid to race at the Olympics in 2018, finished eighth in both of their runs to finish eighth overall.  Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz of Canada took gold.

Rugby Union

Joy Neville will become the first woman to referee a European men’s professional club fixture in December.

She takes charge of the Bordeaux-Begles v Enisei-STM match in the Challenge Cup on Friday 15 December.

She has been making marked progression in the game and refereed the Women’s World Cup final in August.

Last weekend’s Women’s Premier 15s scores were as follows:

4 November
Saracens Women 29-12 Bristol Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 27-15 Richmond Women
Wasps Ladies 31-3 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
DMP Sharks 39-5 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 39-12 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

After seven matches Harlequins are now top with 35 points, that’s seven bonus point wins.  Saracens are a point behind.  Wasps lie third, but the gap to second is 11 point.  At the bottom Worcester Valkyries are yet to claim a point, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on four points with the Sharks just above them on 13.

The eighth round is this weekend.  Get y ourselves out there to see some live action if you can.  It’s such a competitive league:

11 November
Richmond Women v Harlequins Ladies (2pm Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens Women v DMP Sharks (2pm Allianz Park)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps Ladies (TBC Sixways Stadium)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (TBC)
Bristol Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (7pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)

Hockey
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The results from last weekend were as follows:

4 November
Canterbury 1-1 Holcombe
Leicester 1-2 Bowdon
East Grinstead 0-2 Surbiton
Slough 0-1 University of Birmingham
Buckingham 3-2 Clifton Robinsons

After seven games Surbiton are still top with 16 points.  University of Birmingham are second with 13 with Buckingham third on 12.  Canterbury are bottom with just two points with Bowdon just above them on 7.

And finally,

It’s tennis in 2017 – is it?  Really?

Not technically a women’s sport story, but one that resonates with us all.  At the Next Gen ATP Finals draw in Milan, female models revealed the letters of the groups under their clothing, had to hang on the arm of the participants and other generally degrading stuff under the guise of “entertainment”.

When it was pointed out to the organisers that it probably wasn’t in the best of taste, they first suggested that they were just trying to refer to Milan’s place in the fashion world, but on further consideration (and a lot of bad press) a joint statement from sponsors Red Bull and the ATP said “Our execution was in poor taste and unacceptable.”

D’ya think?

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Women’s Sports Column 3-9 December

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Not so much in the way of results this week, plus lots of news from around the world.  It’s a truly global column this week as you’ll see.  So read on for stories from football, cricket, rugby, golf, netball, tennis, taekwondo, cycling, sailing and, wait for it, kabbadi!  Also an “And finally” guaranteed to make you say, “Not before time….”  Let’s crack on.

Firstly this week, it’s official, “This Girl Can” (as if we didn’t know this already).

Figures published by Sport England this week have revealed that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21m.

This is an increase of 250,000 on the figures before the “This Girl Can” campaign was launched in 2014.

The gap between men’s and women’s participation has narrowed to 1.55m.

This is obviously good news but is not reflected by the coverage given to women’s sport in the media, which is still at a woeful seven per cent.

Netball

England 57-64 Jamaica

I was there at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 4 December to see a tight, excellent game between two well-matched sides.

It was my first in-person experience of a netball international and I can thoroughly recommend it.  I must say hell hath no fury like a crowd of mainly young girls when their team is behind……

England were ahead by two after the first quarter.  Jamaica came back to lead at half-time by four.  During the third quarter the crowd really got behind the Roses, stamping and cheering for all they (we) were worth.  The Jamaican goalkeeper and captain Malysha Kelly incurred the crowd’s wrath as she repeatedly fouled Joanne Harten shooting for England and the game got a bit physical.  In fact I hadn’t seen that much bumping and boring in netball since I played goalkeeper for my school against our local convent school.

Anyway, the barracking worked as Jamaica had a loose period and England pressed.  It was all square going into the final quarter and the noise was deafening.

Unfortunately for England, they couldn’t maintain their form and Jamaica pulled away with the final score 57-64.  They also took the series 2-1.  Epic stuff.

Special mention must go to England’s defence, Ama Agbeze and Ebony Beckford-Chambers who had the unenviable task of marking the Sunshine Girls’ goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, who is just the six feet six inches tall.  And she jumped too (unlike Peter Crouch).

Hockey

Shameless piece of self-promotion, I’d like to tell you about my latest series for WiSP Sports.  This time I’m writing a four-part history of women’s field hockey.  The first part has just been published, so here’s the link:  History of Hockey part 1

Sailing with Abby Ehler

Team Magenta 32 is the second match racing team to receive their Tour Card for the World Match Racing Tour season 2017. Sally Barkow from USA is together with her all-female team preparing for their second full season and their challenge for the World Championship title in match racing.  Founded in 1999, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the world’s leading professional sailing series. It features world class sailors and Olympic champions, with tour events staged around the globe.  Each stage, or World Championship event, now takes place in identically supplied one-design M32 high-performance catamarans to place the focus on teamwork and skill.

British professional sailors Dee Caffari and Hannah Diamond are this week working with Oman Sail to train and prepare 2 all-female Middle East teams for next year’s Sailing Tour of Arabia.

Since 2008 Oman Sail has been running sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani women and men. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is contested in a fleet of identical Farr 30 yachts – one of the most exciting boats on the professional sailing circuit – along a course, which stretches each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility.

In its short history, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has gained global recognition, attracting top amateur and professional sailors from four continents and blue-chip sponsors. Now in its seventh year, The Tour has become one of the most respected and dynamic sailing regattas on the international circuit.

Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3 crossed the finish line in, Grenada at recently to take Monohull Line Honours and win the International Maxi Association (IMA) Trophy for the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race.  The Maxi yacht was navigated by Britain’s Libby Greenhalgh, the only women in the crew of 17.  Libby Greenhalgh was the navigator onboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and it is fantastic to see her continuing in that role at the elite level of the sport.

Football

Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria won their eighth Cup of Nations this week with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, in front of a 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.

Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal late in the game to ensure Nigeria retained the trophy they won in Namibia in 2014.

Cameroon were runners-up for the second tournament in succession.

Ghana finished third after they beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match on Friday.

In a further development, the Nigerian squad refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until they were paid allowances and bonuses for winning the Cup.

The total owed to each player amounts to $23,650 per player.

More details in next week’s column.

Chelsea

Chelsea Ladies have signed Swiss international striker Ramona Bachmann until 2019. She will join the Blues in January 2017 when the transfer window opens.  All the early signs are that Chelsea will be the big spenders (relatively speaking) going into the new season.

Women in Football Awards

On Tuesday I attended the Women in Football Awards, which were held at the BBC TV Centre in London.

It was a night not without its hitches, but discretion forbids me from saying more….

The awards were given as follows:

Woman of Inspiration Award: Lucy Oliver
Journalist of the Year: Amy Lawrence
Club Best Practice Award: Susan Whelan (Leicester City)
Coach of the Year: Kelly Chambers (Reading LFC)
Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Performance of the Year: Scotland Women for qualifying for 2017 Euros
Referee of the Year: Mary Harmer
Women in Football Business Award: Amy O’Brien (Fulham FC)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sylvia Gore
Woman of the Year: Dr Eva Carneiro

Kabaddi

Pakistan will be holding its first ever women’s Kabaddi National Championships in Lahore this December.

At least seven clubs are expected to take part including Islamabad, WAPDA, Higher Education Committee and the Pakistan Army.

The tournament starts on 14 December.

Pakistan Kabaddi Federation Secretary, Muhammad Sarwar is excited about the move:

“The event is a huge step forward.  We want to encourage girls to develop an interest in the sport and even represent the national side in the future,” he said.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones will be part of the British taekwondo team that is taking part at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix finals in Baku on Saturday.

The other women in the team are Bianca Walkden, Rachelle Booth and Charlie Maddock.

Cycling

The BBC revealed this week that British Cycling only found its former technical director Shane Sutton guilty on one of the charges laid against him by cyclist Jess Varnish.

He was found guilty of using the word “bitches” to Varnish but eight other charges were dismissed including Varnish’s key complaint that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.”

Sutton was also cleared of using any other offensive or discriminatory language and all bullying allegations.

Varnish has responded to the report with shock.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I am shocked and upset by this latest news and have instructed my solicitor to appeal against the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf.

“Having provided substantial evidence to back up my complaints, to now learn that the majority were not upheld is heartbreaking. I know what was said, and I know I’ve told the truth.

“I have requested from British Cycling the full investigation report to understand why the weight of evidence provided by me and others wasn’t sufficient for the board to uphold my complaints.”

Unfortunately, this story shows no sign of ending, with both sides unhappy with the results and British Cycling’s reputation taking a battering.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

Well it didn’t take long for former England captain Charlotte Edwards to announce her next move.  She has joined Hampshire.  She already sits as a non-executive director with Hampshire and Southern Vipers, so this clearly fits into the plan.

It will be a different experience for Edwards who is used to winning County Championships with Kent as Hampshire play in division two.

I surmise she will move into a coaching role once she finally hangs up her boots, but currently she clearly has an on-field contribution to make.

She will also be playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the upcoming WBBL.

Women’s Big Bash League

And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.

The opening fixtures are:

10 December

Hobart Hurricanes v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars

11 December

Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat

There are plenty of England players in action:

Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont are at the Strikers, the Hurricanes have England captain Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt is at the Renegades and the Stars have Dani Hazell and Nat Sciver.  Becky Grundy comes in for Anya Shrubsole until 29 December and will play alongside Katherine Brunt at the Perth Scorchers.

If you have access to BT Sport keep an eye out as they are covering some of the matches.

Women’s cricket in Bangladesh

This is a great initiative.  Please read this piece on developing women’s cricket in Bangladesh.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/04/breaking-boundaries-bangladesh-women-cricketers-charity

Rugby Union

Bristol were back to winning ways at the weekend.  The scores were as follows:

Lichfield Ladies 75-17 Wasps Ladies
DMP Sharks 15-29 Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Richmond Women 10-52 Saracens Women
Bristol Ladies 34-10 Worcester Valkyries

For a more in-depth report see here

Golf

Dubai Ladies Masters

After two rounds of the Dubai Masters, there are two English players at the top of the leaderboard.  Top is Felicity Johnson on -7 with Florentyna Parker two behind on -5.  Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Aditi Ashok of India are tied in third on -4.

Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.

Tennis

There will be three women in the main draw of the Australian Open in January.  They are Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady.  It was at the 2016 tournament that Konta made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.  Let’s hope she can repeat this form in 2017.

And finally,

Three cheers for the Government of South Australia which this week decided to withdraw its support for the hideous tradition of “podium girls” at the 2017 Tour Down Under.

You will have seen them – I’m not going to produce images – of scantily clad young women doing nothing much but providing “window dressing” for the presentation parties at cycling events.  And not before time, at least at this event, they will be no more.

Instead there will be a number of junior cyclists helping to present the prizes.

The same authority has already withdrawn its funding of “grid girls” at the Clipsal 500 motor race.

Let’s hope that’s the kick that other governments/governing bodies need.

Women’s Sports Column 29 October – 4 November

gambia-goalkeeper

Welcome to this week’s column.  As usual there are plenty of great stories and good news out there this week, but I start with a crushingly awful story – something I never thought I’d have to write.  And it’s back to the sexist rubbish we all have to put up with for this week’s “And finally” to send you all off in a good mood!

Let’s crack on.  Stories this week from football, rugby, Fast5 netball, ice hockey, golf, cricket, cycling, tennis and speed skating.

Fatim Jawara

This week it was announced that the goalkeeper of the Gambia’s women’s national side died crossing the Mediterranean on a migration boat from Libya.  More than 3,300 migrants have died in this crossing in 2016.

Jawara, who was just 19, made her debut in 2015 in a friendly against a team from Glasgow.

According to UN figures, 60% of the population of the Gambia live in poverty and a third live on $1.25 or less a day.

While we in Britain campaign for better pay in sport for women, we should perhaps remember that Britain’s women are in clover compared to others throughout the world.  This doesn’t mean we should stop campaigning, but perhaps sometimes we should take a wider view.  Mind you, perhaps those male footballers who “live” on hundreds of thousands of pounds a week should also think about it too.

Football

We now know that it’s Yeovil and Bristol Academy who will be promoted to FAWSL1 next season.

London Bees 2-0 Yeovil Ladies

The Lady Glovers secured promotion at the London Bees at the weekend with a 2-0 win.  They still have the chance to win the title, but at the moment have to be satisfied with the fact they will be playing in WSL1 next season.

After a goalless first half, Yeovil took the lead in the 56th minute through Kayleigh Green.  They doubled their lead ten minutes from the end with a goal from Nadia Lawrence.

All teams have just one game to go and it is between Yeovil and Bristol Academy for the title.  At the moment the Somerset side are top on goal difference.

WSL1

Arsenal Ladies 2-0 Doncaster Rovers Belles

It was also a goalless first half at Boreham Wood, although Arsenal were always in control.  The deadlock was finally broken in the 65th minute when Jodie Taylor finished from close range.  She got her second eight minutes later to seal the win for the home side.

Manchester City Women 1-1 Birmingham City Ladies

WSL1 champions, Manchester City drew in their last match to ensure they went through the season unbeaten.

Birmingham took the lead in the sixth minute through an Aoife Mannion penalty after Andrine Hegerberg was brought down in the box by Lucy Bronze.

It took Manchester City until the 54th minute to equalise when Demi Stokes hit the top corner.

Chelsea Ladies 3-2 Reading Women

Chelsea have ensured they will finish as runners-up in WSL1, securing their Champions’ League place in the process.

Eni Aluko scored Chelsea’s first and Ana Borges doubled the lead before Lauren Bruton pulled one back from the penalty spot.

Aluko scored a second from close range to take the Blues 3-1 up.  Melissa Fletcher got Reading’s second in second-half stoppage time, but it was merely a consolation.

Off the pitch

FiFA has announced the shortlist for Women’s Player of the Year.  No British representation, but an impressive line-up.

Camile Abily (FRA)

Melanie Behringer (GER)

Sara Däbritz (GER)

Amandine Henry (FRA)

Saki Kumagai (JPN)

Carli Lloyd (USA)

Dzsenifer Marozsán (GER)

Marta (BRA)

Lotta Schelin (SWE)

Christine Sinclair (CAN)

Rugby Union

It was round seven of the Women’s Premiership last weekend.  Bristol won yet again, but it was another thumping defeat for Wasps.

29/10/16

Worcester Valkyries 12-34 Lichfield Ladies

DMP Sharks 20-28 Richmond Women

30/10/16

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 59-0 Wasps Ladies

Bristol Ladies 27-5 Saracens Women

For more details of these games please see my report for Women’s Sports UK.

Netball

The Fast5 World Series was won by New Zealand last weekend as they beat Australia 41-16 in the Grand Final at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne.  The hosts were unbeaten after the league stage, but New Zealand were too strong for the Aussies in the final to take the trophy for the sixth time.

The league table finished:

PL W D L PTS
Australia 5 5 0 0 10
New Zealand 5 4 0 1 8
England 5 2 1 2 5
Malawi 5 2 0 3 4
Jamaica 5 1 0 4 2
South Africa 5 0 1 4 1

 England will be happy with their performance.  They beat Malawi 43-22 and Jamaica 32-19 in the group games.  They only lost by a point to New Zealand, but they lost their second game against Malawi, the play-off, 32-35.

Ice Hockey

Great Britain’s women have never qualified for the Winter Olympics.  Now they are just three stages away from qualification for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

They are currently playing in a qualifying series in Kazakhstan in a round-robin tournament against the home side, Mexico and Poland.

In the first match they came from two goals down to win 3-2.

Kimberley Lane pulled the first goal back midway through the third period.  Saffron Allen levelled the game with just 81 seconds left on the clock and Angela Taylor scored again with a minute to go to clinch the win.

GB couldn’t reproduce this form in the second game as they went down to Poland 3-4.

Schedule:

Thursday, 3 November

Great Britain 3-2 Mexico

Kazakhstan 1-4 Poland

Friday, 4 November

Great Britain 3-4 Poland

Kazakhstan v Mexico

Sunday, 6 November

Mexico v Poland

Kazakhstan v Great Britain

Cycling

On the track

This weekend the Track World Cup takes place in Glasgow.

Katie Archibald will be looking to continue the good form she showed at the European Track Championships in Paris last month.

Archibald will race alongside Emily Kay, Danni Khan, Manon Lloyd and Emily Nelson in the endurance events, but there will be no female sprinters competing.

Off the track

Big news from British Cycling this week as they announced that its ex-technical director, Shane Sutton, was indeed guilty of using sexist language towards Jess Varnish.

Varnish alleged that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby” as he was not going to select her for the world class programme.

The British Cycling Board found that Sutton “used inappropriate and discriminatory language”.

It’s a case that has split British cycling.  Victoria Pendleton backed Varnish in her claims while Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins expressed scepticism at the alleged comments.

Sutton has suggested that he will appeal the decision.

“I can categorically state I never made those comments I was originally alleged to have made,”

he said.

Golf

After two rounds of the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open in Abu Dhabi the leaderboard stands as follows:

-13 O Kristinsdottir (Ice); -10 G Hall (Eng), G Nocera (Fr), B Allen (US), H Clyburn (Eng)

Georgia Hall is currently lying in joint second largely due to her second round course record of 64.  It was a round that contained eight birdies.

Speed Skating

The speed-skating World Cup begins in Calgary on 4 November.

Top British speed-skater Elise Christie will be hoping that she has a better experience than she had at the Olympics in Sochi in 2014 when she was disqualified three times.

Last season she won races at the World Cup and in Europe.

She took some time out of training this week to speak to the BBC about her preparation for Calgary. She has been trying out new ideas including racing against men to improve her overtaking skills in the face of greater power.

The GB women’s squad comprises Elise Christie, Charlotte Gilmartin, Kathryn Thomson, Jennifer Pickering, Samantha Morrison and Hannah Morrison.Top of Form

Tennis

Dominika Cibulkova has taken the end of season WTA Finals title in Singapore.

She beat world number one Angelique Kerber in the final 6-3 6-4.

She had lost to Kerber at the round-robin stage – in fact she only won one game from three, but she secured her place in the final with a three set win over Svetlana Kuznetsova on Saturday.

Meanwhile in Zhuhai, China the top 12 players who didn’t qualify for Singapore are playing in the WTA Elite Trophy.

The players are divided into four pools of three with the woman finishing top of each group going through to the semi-finals.

Britain’s Johanna Konta confirmed her semi-final place this morning after beating Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-2 in her final round-robin match.

She will play Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina on Saturday while the other semi-final will be between Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and home favourite Zhang Shuai.

All games are shown live on BT Sport.

Cricket

England pace bowlers Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt have signed up for the WBBL.  They will both play for Perth Scorchers.

Former England captain Charlotte Edwards has already signed for the Adelaide Strikers, while current England captain Heather Knight will play a second time for Hobart Hurricanes.

The tournament begins in December and will, according to its website, be covered by BT Sport.

England Performance Pathway

This week the ECB announced the restructuring of the women’s performance pathway.  Over 120 players will be involved at some level and the system will now comprise four elements:

  • England Women’s Squad – run by England Women’s Head Coach, Mark Robinson and Assistant Coach, Alastair Maiden, New central contracts will be announced by the end of 2016.
  • England Women’s Senior Academy – John Stanworth will take up the new role of Head Coach of the England Women’s Senior Academy. 19 players have been selected from 13 counties for the Senior Academy programme, which will be based at the National Cricket Performance Centre at Loughborough.
  • England Women’s Academy – Loughborough Lightning coach Salliann Briggs will lead the Academy programme for emerging talent, which is also based at Loughborough. Centre. 17 players from 10 counties have been selected for the Academy.
  • Regional Development Centres – six Regional Development Centres will be directly aligned to the Kia Super League structure, providing a local base for young players to gain experience.

And finally,

Harvard University, that esteemed seat of learning, has had to suspend its men’s soccer team after it was found that its members had been making copious notes about their female counterparts, not about their footballing talent, but a ratings system based on their attractiveness and what sexual positions they thought the players would prefer.

The men’s team, currently lying top of the Ivy League, will now forfeit the rest of its games for the season.

It seems that this ratings document was not a one-off but a tradition stretching back to 2012.

In the University newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, the female players made a statement saying they were

“appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance.

“More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives.”

And so say all of us.

However, the men’s coach Pieter Lehrer did not seem to condemn his players but rather concentrated on the fact that his team would now miss out on a possible title.  He said that the team was,

“beyond disappointed that our season has ended in this way, but we respect the decision made by our administration”.

Hardly a damning indictment of their reprehensible conduct……

 

Women’s Sports Column 16-22 April

ecclestone2I’m back. And not a moment too soon, by the looks of it. So much to go through, both good and bad.

This week’s stories come from snowboarding, cycling, tennis, rugby union, cricket, football, sailing, netball and Formula 1.

Let’s start with the worst –Swiss snowboard champion, 21-year old Estelle Balet, was killed this week in an avalanche. She had been filming above Orsieres, a village in the Swiss Alps when the accident happened.

In 2015 Balet became the youngest champion of the Freeride World Tour. She won it again earlier this year.

 

Bad news for cyclist Jess Varnish this week as she has been dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic progamme.

She and Victoria Pendleton broke the team sprint world record in qualifying at London 2012, but now it appears her track career could be over.

Varnish had been critical of governing body, British Cycling:

“We have been basically playing catch-up for two years after decisions that were [made] above us, and bad luck.”

But she and Katy Marchant finished only fifth in the World Championships last month and Varnish has failed to qualify for Rio.

Performance Director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton insists that the decision not to renew her contract was made purely on performance grounds and has nothing to do with her criticism of the governing body.

“Since her gold medal at the London World Cup in 2012, Jess had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world,” he said.

 

Bad news also for British tennis this week as Laura Robson lost in qualifying for the WTA event in Stuttgart. Robson won her first qualifier against Klara Koukalova, but lost to Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-2 in the second. Robson will use her protected ranking of 58 to enter the French Open in May.

British number one and world 22, Johanna Konta, lost in the first round proper of the same event. She lost in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.

 

Great news from rugby union this week as England beat New Zealand to win the fourth World Sevens Series event in Canada on 18 April. England have been getting better throughout the tournament and although Australia have won the first three events of the series, England were obviously determined not to see them win a fourth.

They beat Australia in the semi-finals and went on to beat New Zealand 31-14 in the final to claim the win.

Australia look to have an unassailable lead overall with one event to go. They stand on 76 points, with New Zealand in second on 64 and England a further 16 points behind on 48. Even if New Zealand win the last event, Australia would have to finish eighth or lower not to win the title.

The final tournament takes place in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, on 28-29 May.

 

The second tranche (one should never turn down the chance to use the word “tranche”) of Kia Super League signings has been announced. The overseas signings are as follows:

Lancashire Thunder: Deandra Dottin (WI), Sarah Coyte (AUS), Hayley Matthews (WI)

Loughborough Lightning: Ellyse Perry (AUS), Sophie Devine (NZ), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Southern Vipers: Suzie Bates (NZ), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Megan Schutt (AUS)

Surrey Stars: Meg Lanning (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Rene Farrell (AUS)

Western Storm: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Rachel Priest (NZ), Lizelle Lee (SA)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Shabnim Ismail (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS), Alex Blackwell (AUS)

There was some furore as the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) asked why their top players hadn’t been invited, but the ECB replied that they had and the BCCI hadn’t put anyone forward.

In other domestic cricket news, England international Jenny Gunn has left Nottinghamshire to join Warwickshire. Nottinghamshire were relegated at the end of last season.

 

The FA Cup semi-finals were played last weekend and produced contrasting matches.

Arsenal 7-0 Sunderland

Both teams ended up with ten players in a one-sided semi-final.   Arsenal were down to ten on the 33rd minute when Emma Mitchell was sent off after collecting a second yellow card, but it didn’t seem to impede them.

Danielle van de Donk scored a hat-trick with Dan Carter scoring two and another from Jordan Nobbs.

Sunderland also went down to ten when Abby Holmes was sent off in the 72nd minute for a foul in the box with Fara Williams scoring from the resultant penalty.

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)

It was altogether closer in the second semi with very little to choose between two top-class teams.

After a goalless first half, City went ahead through a close-range Jane Ross shot.

Ji So-Yun curled a free-kick in to equalise and the tie went to extra time.

Chelsea seemed to take control in extra time but it wasn’t until the 120th minute that Fran Kirby popped up to snatch victory for the Blues.

The FA Cup final will be at Wembley on 14 May. If you haven’t been to Wembley because you don’t fancy the aggressive atmosphere of a men’s game, may I suggest you give this event a try? I was there last year and it was brilliant. Just being there you feel like you’re a part of women’s footballing history.   If you can’t get there, it will be live on the BBC.

In other football news, Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk suffered a broken leg in a friendly game this week and will be out of action for some time.

 

The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague games produced the following results:

16 April

Celtic Dragons 44-45 Yorkshire Jets

This was the Jets’ first win of the season.

Hertfordshire Mavericks 54-55 Team Bath

Surrey Storm 56-64 Manchester Thunder

The table looks as follows:

Played Points
1 Manchester Thunder 13 36
2 Hertfordshire Mavericks 12 30
3 Surrey Storm 13 27
4 Team Bath 13 27
5 Loughborough Lightning 13 18
6 Team Northumbria 13 9
7 Celtic Dragons 13 6
8 Yorkshire Jets 14 3

 

Good news from British sailing this week as British sailor Alison Young won gold in the Laser Radial class at the World Championships in Mexico. In doing so she became the first British world champion in a solo Olympic dinghy class.

Young beat America’s Paige Railey by just one point as she won the 13th and final race to claim the title.

After finishing 5th at London 2012, she will be hoping to take confidence from this win to Rio later on this year.

In an interview with Sky Young said,

“There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it.”

 

And finally, the prize for complete idiot of the week goes, not for the first time, to head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. In an interview at the Advertising Week European conference he said that women drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are not “not physically” able to drive fast. This old, old argument has been disproved so many times I surely don’t have to go into it here, but the main reason that women aren’t taken seriously is because the sport is intrinsically sexist and has a misogynist dinosaur running it.

I, for one, can’t wait until he is ousted from his position and then hopefully women can move forward in Formula 1 as they already are doing in other branches of motorsport.

By the way, in the same interview he also said President Putin “should be running Europe” and expressed his admiration for Donald Trump. Need I say more? I don’t think so…..