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 20-26 October 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty to get through yet again with stories from rugby union, football, cricket, tennis, athletics, hockey, volleyball, golf, netball, boxing and taekwondo, plus the result of the Young Sportsperson of the Year award winner.   Also, from the seriousness of last week’s “And Finally” we come to the ridiculous of this week’s….

Let’s crack on.

Tennis – on the Court

Kremlin Cup

Jo Konta couldn’t quite make it to the final of the Kremlin Cup, succumbing to eventual winner and sixth seed Daria Kasatkina, 6-4 6-3.  In the other semi-final Ons Jabeur beat fifth seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 3-6 6-3.

Daria Kasatkina won the final, 2-6 7-6 6-4.

Luxembourg Open

In the Luxembourg Open semi-finals, Belinda Bencic defeated ninth seed Dayana Yastremska 6-2 3-6 7-6 and top seed Julia Goerges beat Eugenie Bouchard 6-7  7-5 6-1.

Goerges went on to win the final 6-4 7-5.

WTA Finals

Of course all eyes are now on Singapore and the fierce competition at the end of season finals.

Red Group:
Angelique Kerber
Naomi Osaka
Sloane Stephens
Kiki Bertens

Matches so far:
Stephens beat Osaka 7-5 4-6 6-1
Bertens beat Kerber 1-6 6-3 6-4
Kerber beat Osaka 6-4 5-7 6-4
Stephens beat Bertens 7-6(4) 2-6 6-3

White Group
Caroline Wozniacki
Petra Kvitova
Elina Svitolina
Karolina Pliskova

Matches so far:
Svitolina beat Kvitova 6-3 6-3
Pliskova beat Wozniacki 6-2 6-4
Wozniacki beat Kvitova 7-5 3-6 6-2
Svitolina beat Pliskova 6-3 2-6 6-3
Pliskova beat Kvitova 6-3 6-4
Svitolina beat Wozniacki 5-7 7-5 6-3

More news of who eventually triumphed next week.

Tennis – off the Court

After her exit from the WTA Finals at the group stage, Caroline Wozniacki has revealed that she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in August.

She said,

“In the beginning, it was a shock.  It’s obviously not ideal for anybody, and I think when you’re a professional athlete, it’s also not even more ideal.

“I think I didn’t want to talk about it during the year because I don’t want to give anyone the edge or thinking that I’m not feeling well, but I have been feeling well.

“You learn how to just cope after matches. Some days you wake up and you can’t get out of bed and you just have to know that’s how it is, but other days you live and you’re fine. You don’t even feel like you have it.”

There is no cure, but the symptoms of pain and swelling in the joints can be relieved by medication and treatment.

We cannot know at this stage just how and how fast the condition will progress, but Wozniacki is determined to fight through as far as she is able.

Taekwondo

There were a series of excellent results for British women at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester over the weekend.

First, Lauren Williams won gold in the -68kg division, beating Matea Jelic of Croatia in the final 15-10.

Then Bianca Walkden took silver in the +67kg category, losing 6-4 to Olympic champion Zheng Shuyin of China in the final.

And finally, two-time Olympic champion, Jade Jones, won the -57kg title, beating Zhou Lijun of China 11-4 in the final.

Volleyball

Two weeks of Women’s Super League results to catch up on:

13 October
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Sheffield Hallam (25-16, 25-19, 25-15)
Polonia SideOut London 0-3 London Orcas (17-25, 10-25, 10-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-12, 25-4, 25-8)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-22, 22-14, 25-9)

20 October
Sheffield Hallam 3-0 Bristol VC 1 (25-17, 25-14, 25-12)
Team BU Wessex 0-3 Durham Palatinates (25-15, 25-19, 25-11)
Malory Eagles UEL 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-13, 26-24, 25-12)

Most teams have now played two games.  Durham are top with two wins from two with Malory Eagles second, also with two wins from two but with an inferior points quotient.  Three teams have no points, Polonia from two games and Birmingham and Wessex from only one.

Football

Last weekend’s Super League results:

Yeovil Town 1-2 Bristol City
Gaylor 33’
Graham 32’, 73’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-6 Manchester City
Stanway 21’ 64’ 68’, Weir 43’, Parris 87’, Emslie 91’

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea

West Ham 0-1 Liverpool
Sweetman-Kirk 7’

Reading 0-6 Arsenal
Miedema 3’ 49’ 85’, Nobbs 7’, Mead 47’, Van de Donk 76’

It’s as you were at the top with another big win for Arsenal.  Five wins from five for the Gunners and a massive +24 goal difference.  Manchester City are second with 14 from six games and Birmingham third with 13, also from six.  At the bottom, Yeovil are still without a point and Brighton sit just above them with one point from six games.

Championship results:

London Bees 3-2 Lewes
Beckett 11’ 44’, Gould 63’
Quayle 17’, Kempson 26’

Charlton Athletic 2-0 Sheffield United
Stobbs 42’, Clifford 72’

Durham 2-0 Crystal Palace
Roberts 57’, Watling 89’ OG

Leicester City 1-1 Aston Villa
Axten 43’ (Pen)
Hutton 20’

Tottenham Hotspur 8-0 Millwall Lionesses
Addison 21’ 83’, Dean 29’ 50’ 71’, Wiltshire 30’, Neville 37’, Baptiste 62’

Tottenham are top of the Championship with their stunning 8-0 win over the Lionesses.  They have 15 points from five games.  Manchester United are second with 13 from five.  At the bottom, Millwall have a single point from five games and Aston Villa are just above them on two from five.

World Cup Build-up

More friendlies have been announced this week.

Scotland will play USA in Paisley on 13 November.  It will be the US’s first game in Scotland.  The question is, can the US do it on a wet Tuesday in Paisley?

England, meanwhile, will face Austria in Vienna on Thursday 8 November and then Sweden at Rotherham’s New York stadium on Sunday 11 November.

Hockey – on the Pitch

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

20 October
Surbiton 6-0 Bowdon

21 October
Holcombe 1-2 East Grinstead
Clifton Robinsons 1-1 Slough
Buckingham 1-2 Beeston
University of Birmingham 1-1 Canterbury

Surbiton march on.  Four wins from five and top of the table with 13 points.  Holcombe and East Grinstead lie second and third on 10 points.  Bowdon are bottom on two points.  Slough also have two points but are second from bottom on goal difference.

This weekend’s fixtures:

Saturday 27 October
Slough v Holcombe (12.30pm, Slough Hockey Club)
Bowdon v University of Birmingham (13.45pm, Bowdon Club)
East Grinstead v Clifton Robinsons (2pm, East Grinstead Hockey Club)
Beeston v Surbiton (4pm, Nottingham Hockey Club P1)
Canterbury v Buckingham (4pm, Polo Farm SC – P1)

Hockey – off the Pitch            

Women’s Hockey will finally have a new European league, launching in 2020.

The men’s league, which features the top 24 teams in Europe, has been in existence since 2007.

European Hockey is yet to finalise details, but it’s a great move and one that has been a long time coming.  We look to hockey to be a leader in sporting equality, so it is good to see that the women will, at last, get their chance.

Rugby Union – Off the Pitch

The long-running dispute between Coleraine Rugby club and Ulster Rugby seems to be at an end.  The authorities have now fined the club £5,000 for the incident in which a female referee was verbally abused at the club last season.

Colleagues of the referee, thought to be Grainne Crabtree, staged a protest and refused to officiate at Coleraine’s home matches until a satisfactory result had been reached.  They have now ended this protest, but it still is not clear whether the official has received an apology from the club.

The club has refused to comment as to what reparations have been made.

In a statement, the club somewhat disingenuously said,

“Coleraine Rugby Club is pleased that there has been a resolution to the long-running dispute involving rugby’s Ulster Branch Referees Society and the club,” a spokesperson said.

“The club has accepted the decision of the Ulster Branch review into this matter.

“We are now looking forward to giving a warm welcome to all referees and teams visiting our club for matches this week and in the future.”

It is unlikely that we will ever know just what the “resolution” has been.

Rugby Union – on the Pitch

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

20 October 2018
Wasps Ladies 31-15 Richmond Women
Loughborough Lightning 59-3 DMP Sharks
Gloucester-Hartpury 67-3 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins 20-17 Saracens
Bristol Bears 75-13 Firwood Waterloo

It was a chastening weekend for both Worcester and Firwood Waterloo at the bottom, while at the top a shock defeat for Saracens sees a new leader.  Loughborough Lightning are now top with six wins from six and 29 points, including five bonus points.  Saracens are second with 25 and Harlequins third on 22.  At the bottom, there is no respite for Worcester who still have only two bonus points and Firwood Waterloo just above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures:

27 October
Firwood Waterloo v Loughborough Lightning (12.30pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Bristol Bears (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
DMP Sharks v Wasps Ladies (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

28 October
Richmond Women v Harlequins (3.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Gloucester-Hartpury (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Rugby Sevens

New Zealand powered their way to yet another win in the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series in Glendale, Colorado.

They defeated USA 33-7 in the final.  There was a hat-trick of tries for Portia Woodman, and one each for Sarah Goss and Niall Williams.  Tyla Nathan-Wong kicked four conversions.  The US scored one try, through Nicole Heavirland which was converted by Alev Kelter.

Canada beat France 28-0 in the bronze final.

Australia took fifth, beating Ireland in the fifth place play-off 21-19 and England finished eighth, beaten in the seventh place play-off by Russia 17-14.

The next round is in Dubai on 29-30 November.

Boxing

Katie Taylor retained her IBF and WBA titles at the weekend with a unanimous points victory over Cindy Serrano in Boston.

Taylor has now won all 11 fights since turning professional in2016.

BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year

Kare Adenegan has been named 2018 BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.

Adenegan has had a storming year, taking Hannah Cockcroft’s world record in the T34 100m.  She also took gold in the same event at the Para-athletics European games in Berlin, again beating Cockcroft in the process and also took silver in the T34 800m.

The original shortlist was whittled down to three, the other two being swimmer Freya Anderson and jockey James Bowen.

The shortlist and winner were chosen by a panel including BBC presenters, current and former sporting stars and two representatives from the Youth Sport Trust.

Athletics

Great South Run

Eilish McColgan won the Great South Run at her first attempt last weekend.

The race, run over 10 miles (16 km) was held in Portsmouth and Southsea.

McColgan won in a time of 54:43 with Steph Twell in second in 55:15 and last year’s champion Gemma Steel in third in a time of 56:56.

Netball

England Netball Investment

We all know that the seemingly best-supported women’s sport actually usually hangs precariously over a precipice, so news of any investment is welcome.

In January England Netball revealed it had a shortfall in funding which could have resulted in cuts to the England programme, but this week came the announcement that Vitality will extend its sponsorship of English netball for another three years.

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive of England Netball said,

“We want netball to be a career, and a career option for players and coaches. We want it to be a fully professional sport with a fully professional Superleague and we want to keep our young athletes in netball.

“As women’s football, cricket and rugby grow, we just can’t be left behind as a sport.”

“The Australian league is still the best in the world,” Adams added.

“But in the next three to four years we want to be as competitive as Australia, we want our top English stars playing in this league and we want to attract some of the top internationals too.

“We need more investment in Superleague so it is a similar environment to the national squad.”

So the immediate future for netball in England is bright.  I’m not sure about the England team being now known as the “Vitality Roses”, but needs must, I suppose.  Possibly marginally less bizarre than the Samsung Diamonds….

Fast 5 World Series

This weekend sees the third edition of the Fast 5 World Series.  It takes place at the Melbourne Arena in Melbourne, Australia on 27-28 October.

New Zealand won the first event in 2016 and England the second in 2017.  This will be the third and last time (for now) that the tournament will be held in Australia.

All teams will play six 24 minute games across the two-day series. Each team will feature on both days of competition, with finals held on Sunday.

The countries taking part are Australia, New Zealand, England, Malawi, Jamaica and South Africa.

The whole event is live on Sky Sports.

Cricket

Australia sealed a 3-0 win over Pakistan in their ODI series this week.  After skittling Pakistan for 95 in the first ODI, they pressed home their advantage to take the series easily.

Second ODI – Kuala Lumpur
20 October
Australia 273/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 123 all out (40.1 overs)
Australia won by 150 runs

Captain Meg Lanning hit 124 and put on a stand of 181 runs with Rachael Haynes, who scored 79 as the Southern Stars made a fine 273/7 in their 50 overs.

In response Nahida Khan made 66, but no-one else could muster a score as Pakistan were all out for 123.  Sophie Molineux took 4/14 off nine overs.  Ash Gardner and Megan Schutt took two wickets each.

Third ODI – Kuala Lumpur
22 October
Australia 324/7 (50 overs)
Pakistan 235/7 (50 overs)
Australia won by 89 runs

Alyssa Healy fell three short of a century before she was bowled by Diana Baig.  Nicole Bolton was the only player to miss out, lbw for a duck to Sana Mir.  Everyone else got into double figures as the Australians put on an imposing 324/7.  Sana Mir took 3/53 from her 10 overs, and in doing so became number one ranked bowler in women’s ODIs.

Pakistan started well in response.  They had reached 49 before the first wicket fell, Muneeba Ali caught by Molineux off Gardner for 15.

Most of the Pakistanis got starts, but they soon fell behind the required rate.  Aliya Riaz top-scored with 51, but Pakistan fell short by 89 runs.  Gardner was again in the wickets, taking 3/44 off her 10 overs.

Golf – on the Course

Indian Open

Becky Morgan won her first professional tournament at the weekend, at the 119th time of asking.  She took the Indian Open title by two shots, finishing on -7.  Caroline Hedwall (Swe), Christine Wolf (Aut), Nicole Broch Larsen (Den) and Felicity Johnson (Eng) tied for second on -5.

In her 18-year professional career Morgan has had 22 top-10 finishes.

Golf – off the Course

The fourth oldest golf club in the world, the Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society in Edinburgh, has voted to accept women members.  It has only taken them 257 years.

The club announced that 83.7% of members who voted were in favour of admitting women. The turnout was 67%.

We’re getting there, folks.

And Finally

The judging panel for World Rugby’s Women’s 15s Player of the Year has been announced.  And you couldn’t make it up.  Maggie Alphonsi (so far, so good), then it’s Fabien Galthié, George Gregan, Richie McCaw, Brian O’Driscoll, Agustín Pichot, John Smit and Clive Woodward.  Hmmm.  Call me cynical (and I’m not the only one), but how many of these esteemed names will have watched enough women’s rugby to reach an informed decision on this issue?  Well, probably one.

This is the governing body that not so long ago, last year in fact, produced its strategy for women and girls’ rugby, Accelerating the Global Development of Women in Rugby 2017-25.  Obviously the strategy doesn’t extend to participation on judging panels.

Of course I’m not saying that men don’t watch women’s rugby, but these seven?  I don’t think so.  Could they not at least have a fifty-fifty male/female split?  Obviously not.  But good luck to the poor souls that have to provide the panel with its crib notes so that they can come to a Verdict.

Come on World Rugby, you can do better. Can’t you?

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 6-12 January 2018

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the brevity of this week’s offering, but a bout of sickness has meant I’ve been a bit pushed for time.  Hopefully there’s enough here to keep you entertained.  Stories this week come from tennis, hockey, boxing, rugby union, cricket, football and sports politics.

So here we go.

Tennis

Australian Open

The draw for the first round of the Australian Open has been made and Jo Konta, fit again after pulling out of the Brisbane International, has a tough draw.  She faces American Madison Brengle, 92 in the world.

Heather Watson’s first opponent is Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan who, at 50, is ranked 24 places higher than Watson.

Naomi Broady is through the first round of qualifying, beating Kathinka von Deichmann of Liechtenstein 7-6 5-7 6-3.  She plays Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the next round and needs to win three to get through to the first round proper.

The tournament begins on Monday 15 January.

Hobart International

Heather Watson seems to be getting into her stride before the start of the first Grand Slam of the year.  She made it to the semi-finals of the Hobart International, losing to the 2017 champion and second seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-4 1-6 6-2.

Mertens will play Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine of Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania in the final.

Boxing

Irish boxing star, Katie Taylor, will fight her first professional Dublin bout on 14 April.  It will be her second defence of her WBA World Lightweight title.

The venue is yet to be decided.

Football – off the pitch

Eni Aluko

The big news this week is that Eni Aluko is in discussion with Paris St-Germain over a possible transfer.  Aluko, 30, has five months left on her Chelsea contract.  PSG lie currently in the French division one behind Lyon.

Lionesses

Drew Spence has been recalled to the England squad for their 10-day training camp in Spain; it will be the first time she has been involved since the debacle with Mark Sampson last year.  The squad is preparing for the SheBelieves Cup in the US in March.  The full squad is as follows:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea).

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Gilly Flaherty (Chelsea), Gabby George (Everton), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Drew Spence (Chelsea), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal).

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Melbourne City), Ellen White (Birmingham City).

Meanwhile, although we are assured by the FA that the search for the new England Head Coach is well underway, some of the best candidates are slipping through their fingers.  John Herdman, the Canadian women’s coach has just left his post, but has gone directly to take over the Canadian men’s team.   One name that is, apparently, in the hat, is that of Phil Neville.  As the current parlance would have it, I’ll just leave that here.

Football – on the pitch

FA Cup Fourth Round

After the excitement of last week’s third round, the fourth round draw has been made and this is where the WSL sides make their first appearance.  Ties will be played on Sunday 4 February.  There is one outstanding tie from the third round this Sunday (14 January) when Derby County take on Brighouse Town fourth round fixture away to Sunderland AFC.

The New Saints v Chichester City
Durham v Sheffield
Aston Villa v Middlesborough
Sunderland AFC v Derby County/Brighouse Town
Keynsham Town v Lewes
Tottenham Hotspur v Doncaster Rovers Belles
Liverpool v Watford
Cardiff City v Oxford United
Reading v Birmingham City
Plymouth Argyle v Leicester City
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester City
Blackburn Rovers v Charlton Athletic
Yeovil Town v Arsenal
London Bees v Chelsea
Everton v Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses v Coventry United

For fixture times and venues please see the FA Website.

Rugby Union – off the pitch

Rugby Australia

Good news from Australia this week as it was announced that a deal between Rugby Australia and the Rugby Union Players’ Association means that its men’s and women’s sevens sides will be paid the same (at entry level), at least until 2020.

The fifteens team, the Walleroos, will be covered by the new deal and will receive payments for Tests for the first time.

There will be a new Pregnancy Policy to ensure players have the security to return to their contracts if they have children.

Rugby Union – on the pitch

There was one game in the Premier 15s last weekend:

Worcester Valkyries 7-38 Loughborough Lightning

We’re all-guns-blazing again this weekend with a full programme of fixtures:

Saturday 13 January

Wasps v DMP Sharks (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Saracens v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Allianz Park)
Harlequins v Loughborough Lightning (2pm, Surrey Sports Park)

Sunday 14 January

Richmond v Gloucester-Hartpury (2.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

Cricket

WBBL latest scores:

6 January
Melbourne Renegades 142/6 (20 overs)
Melbourne Stars 145/3 (19 overs)
Stars won by 7 wickets

Jess Duffin top-scored for the Stars with 40, ably supported by Claire Koski, who finished 33 not out.  Erin Osborne took 2/14 from her four overs.  In response Georgia Elwiss scored 58 not out and Mignon du Preez 45 from 35 balls as the Stars took the game with an over to spare.

7 January
Hobart Hurricanes 111/4 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 114/2 (14.2 overs)
Heat won by 8 wickets

The Hurricanes’ total never looked like being enough.  Jess Jonassen took 2/17 off her four overs.  Beth Mooney scored an unbeaten 62 from 43 balls as the Heat got home easily.

Sydney Thunder 145/6 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 144/6 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 1 run

Scorchers needed three runs off the last ball, but as Mathilda Carmichael came back for the second, ‘keeper Rachel Priest took the ball and broke the bails, denying the second run and super over and claiming the win for the Thunder.  Earlier Priest had also top-scored with the bat with 42 from 32 balls.

But it was Rene Farrell who took the player of the match award for her dismissal of the two Scorchers openers.  She also effected the run out of Perth’s English batter Nat Sciver.

8 January
Brisbane Heat 168/4 (20 overs)
Hobart Hurricanes 126 all out (18.5 overs)
Heat won by 42 runs

Kirby Short starred for the Heat with 79 of 55 balls as they posted an excellent total.  In response the Hurricanes lost Hayley Matthews for just eight and after the top four had been dismissed, no-one else got into double figures.  All of the Heat’s seven bowlers, excepting bizarrely, Deandra Dottin, all picked up wickets to contribute to the win.

Sydney Thunder 134/4 (20 overs)
Perth Scorchers 136/2 (18.1 overs)
Scorchers won by 8 wickets

The Scorchers were back to winning ways on Monday as they beat the Thunder with nearly two overs to spare.  Alex Blackwell starred for the Thunder, scoring 81 off 58 balls, as their openers faltered with Priest bowled for a duck by the in-form Katherine Brunt.  Stafanie Taylor also contributed with 31.

Elyse Villani was run out early on for just nine for the Scorchers, but Nicole Bolton scored 28 and then England pair Nat Sciver and Brunt took it on, scoring 61 and 17 not out respectively to ensure the win.

9 January
Melbourne Stars 132/5 (20 overs)
Adelaide Strikers 134/9 (20 overs)
Strikers won by 1 wicket

Lizelle Lee top-scored for the Stars with 52 with Katie Mack backing up well with 42 from 32 balls

Although the Strikers all got starts, none went on to make a big score and with the Stars taking regular wickets it looked as if they had the game sewn up.

When the ninth wicket went on 129 with just two balls to go it was down to last recognised bat Tabitha Saville to score the winning runs.  Beams bowled a dot for the fifth ball but then committed the cardinal sin of bowling a no-ball on the sixth; one run for the no-ball and a free hit.  Saville tonked the free hit for four and the Strikers had won the game.

12 January
Melbourne Stars 133/3 (20 overs)
Brisbane Heat 134/5 (18.1 overs)
Heat won by 5 wickets

Beth Mooney is in fearsome form, as the Stars found to their cost on Friday.

Katie Mack put in her second big score of the week with 57 off 48 for the Stars with Mignon du Preez backing her up with 30.  Deandra Dottin took 2/13 off three overs for the Heat.

But there was no stopping Mooney.  She hit seven fours in an innings of 57 off just 38 balls.  She was ably supported by Jess Jonassen who scored 23 not out from 21 balls as the Heat won with nearly two overs to spare.

As it stands

Thunder are top with 12 points from 8 matches.  The Heat are second with the same number of points, but from nine matches.  They are followed by the Sixers and then the Strikers.  Hobart Hurricanes are still to get off the mark and are bottom with no points from eight games.

Hockey

Jaffa Super 6s Finals

The four qualifiers for Finals Day at the Copperbox Arena have been decided.  The men’s and women’s tournament will be played on Sunday 28 January and the semi-final line-up is as follows:

10.45 am – East Grinstead v Leicester
12 noon – Bowdon Hightown v Holcombe

The women’s final will be at 15.45pm.

Saudi Arabia

It’s finally happening.  Today women will watch a football match from inside the stadium – legally.

From now on, there will be areas for women fans in the grounds at Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.  There is a large female fanbase for men’s football in Saudi Arabia, but until now they have had to follow games on the television only.

The three grounds expect a big turnout at their first inclusive matches and also expect crowds to build over time.  Make no mistake, this is a significant step for sports-loving women in the country, and while we realise it’s a drop in the ocean compared to many indignities women have to suffer, it is, however, a very definite drop.

And finally,

Well done and commiserations to Ipswich Town Ladies in their third round FA Cup defeat to Charlton Athletic.  The Blues took the lead through Cassie Craddock in the second-half, but Charlton equalised and then took the lead.  Craddock was in again late on to take the game into extra time.  Charlton, top of the league above Ipswich, took their chances, scoring three during extra time to take the game 5-2.

 

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 9-15 September 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column and it’s good to be back!  I don’t know about you, but I often think that following women’s sport must be one of the most frustrating things you can do.  Two steps forward, one back and throughout everything there still permeates the hideous whiff of misogyny.

In this summer that some are calling a “watershed moment” for women’s sport, I can’t help thinking that some will never ever be able to view women’s sport with an unjaundiced eye.  And while this is the case, will those in a position to make the biggest changes needed, i.e., the companies and marketers with the money for sponsorship and the high-ups in the media to report on it ever do what is needed?

Sorry, let’s crack on before the pall of doom becomes too overwhelming!  More than a tinge of autumn this week as cricket fades and football and rugby begin to take centre stage.  Stories this week come from football, cricket, tennis, cycling, boxing, netball and basketball.  Plus a humorous but poignant “And finally”, in case you haven’t already caught it elsewhere.  Here we go.

Football

Lots of football news this week.

England

With everything that’s going on off the pitch it’s easy to forget that England are about to embark on a new World Cup qualifying campaign next week.  Up first is Russia at Prenton Park, Merseyside, on 19 September.

Mark Sampson

As I said a couple of weeks ago, this one is going to run and run.  I get the feeling Sampson is now on borrowed time.  I don’t propose to go into the finer details as you’ve probably all been following it – ironically it’s the one women’s sports story that has garnered plenty of column inches.  The situation is developing and changing every day so whatever I write here is likely to be out of date by the time you read it.  So, as I say, keep up with it via other means and when a conclusion is finally reached, perhaps I’ll dissect it further.  The only thing I would say is that it could be a game-changer, now that Drew Spence has come out to say that it was she who was asked by Sampson “How many times have you been arrested?”

Scotland

New Scotland Head Coach, Shelley Kerr, announced this week that Seattle Reign defender Rachel Corsie will take over the captaincy of the Scottish national side after the retirement of Gemma Fay.  Arsenal midfielder, Kim Little, will be Vice-captain.  Little missed Scotland’s Euros campaign with a cruciate ligament injury.

Lorraine Watson has become the first woman to referee a senior men’s match in Scottish football. She took charge of Edinburgh City v Berwick Rangers in League Two on 9 September.

After the game, in an interview with BBC Scotland, Watson said,

“It was brilliant. There was absolutely no reaction, they just treated me the same as they would any other referee.

“When they disagreed [with decisions], they shouted at me just the same as if it was a male in the middle.”

FA’s Women’s Football Awards

Jodie Taylor was named England’s player of the year at the FA Women’s Football Awards on Friday 8 September.

Taylor took the Golden Boot at this summer’s Euros with 5 goals.

Jordan Nobbs took the WSL Players’ Player of the Year award and Fran Kirby was also rewarded for finishing as top scorer in the WSL Spring Series.

Transfers

Courtney Sweetman-Kirk has joined Everton from Doncaster Belles on a two-year deal.

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norwegian international defender Maria Thorisdottir in a contract until 2019.

Wales internationals Laura O’Sullivan (Goalkeeper) and Hannah Miles (full-back) have signed for Yeovil Town Ladies.

Sunderland

Not sure what’s happening at Sunderland.  Having announced earlier in the year that they have gone part-time again, now they have been moved from their ground and training ground due to “scheduling conflicts”.

The club has put a good spin on it, I have to admit. The Lady Black Cats will now play their home games at South Shields’ Mariners Park, moving from the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground.  They will train at the Northumbria University in Newcastle, leaving the Academy of Light, Sunderland’s men’s training facility.

The clashes have come about due to the WSL moving to a winter season.  And while I can see the value in training at Northumbria University, which is one of eight designated FA Women’s High Performance Football Centres, I am seriously worried if they have been ejected from Eppleton so that under-8s don’t have to.

FA WSL 1 & 2

Needless to say, without a ball being kicked, there is already talk that the FA is planning to restructure elite women’s football (yet again –everyone got that guinea pig feeling?).  There is an exploration of what the FA may (or may not) be planning on the BBC website.  I suggest you all read it and pick the bones out of it yourselves – and good luck with that.  Here’s the link.

The new winter season begins on Friday 22 September.

Friday 22 September

FA WSL1

19:45 Everton Ladies FC v Liverpool Ladies FC (Select Security Stadium)

Sunday 24 September

FA WSL1

12:30 Chelsea Ladies FC v Bristol City Women (Kingsmeadow Stadium)
14:00 Arsenal v Birmingham City Ladies (Boreham Wood FC)
14:00 Reading FC Women v Sunderland AFC Ladies (Wycombe Wanderers FC)
14:00 Yeovil Town Ladies FC v Manchester City Women (Yeovil Town FC)

FA WSL2

12:00 Durham Women FC v Tottenham Hotspur Ladies FC (New Ferens Park)
14:00 Aston Villa Ladies FC v Brighton & Hove Albion (Tamworth FC)
14:00 London Bees v Doncaster Rovers Belles (The Hive)
14:00 Millwall Lionesses v Watford Ladies FC (St Paul’s Sports Ground)
14:00Oxford United Women v Sheffield FC Ladies (Oxford City FC)

Friday 29 September

FA WSL1

19:00Liverpool Ladies FC v Reading FC Women (Select Security Stadium)

TV and radio coverage is set to be more comprehensive than ever with games on the BBC Sport website, BBC 5 Live Sports Extra, the BBC Red Button and BT Sport.  14 games will be broadcast in some format before 12 November.

WSL One on the BBC

Friday, 22 September
Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 24 September
Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online
Saturday, 30 September
Manchester City Women v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 1 October
Birmingham City Ladies v Everton Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 8 October
Reading Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Arsenal Women v Bristol City Women: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Sunday, 29 October
Manchester City Women v Birmingham City Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button
Everton Ladies v Arsenal Women: BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra
Sunday, 12 November
Reading Women v Chelsea Ladies: BBC Sport Online & Red Button

I would like to have done the same for BT Sport, but couldn’t find for the life of me which fixtures are being covered.  Apologies.

Cricket

Jan Brittin

We start the cricket news with some sad news.  Jan Brittin, England’s top female Test run scorer died this week, from cancer, aged just 58.

Brittin scored 1,935 runs in 27 Test matches, including five centuries.

She was part of the World Cup-winning squad in 1993, top-scoring with 410 runs in eight innings.

Her entire domestic career was spent at Surrey and she is still their leading female run scorer.

Director of England Women’s Cricket, Clare Connor, said,

“She was a legend and a class apart… For girls of my generation, she was our first real female role model. JB was born to play Test cricket and it’s unlikely that her record in this format will ever be beaten.”

England

Car makers Kia have announced it is to extend its sponsorship of the England women’s cricket team until 2020.

It will also continue its sponsorship of the Kia Super League for another two years.

Kia is one of the few (currently) companies actively looking to sponsor women’s sport.  Earlier in 2017 they bought the rights to sponsor the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), covering seven tour events annually, including two majors – the ANA Inspiration and the KPMG Women’s PGA.

Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Award

It was one of the most reproduced images of the Women’s World Cup this summer.  And it has now led to Anya Shrubsole being given the CMJ Spirit of Cricket Award for 2017.

When England defeated South Africa in the semi-final with only two balls left, captain Dane van Niekerk was so devastated that she remained crouched at the edge of the pitch, clearly in tears.

England bowler Anya Shrubsole’s first move, before any celebrating, was to go to van Niekerk, put a hand on her shoulder and offered her commiserations.

It’s the first time a female cricketer has won the award.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships take place in Bergen, Norway from 17-24 September.  Britain is fielding a full team of women for the road race and the time trial.  As I suggested a few weeks ago, Lizzie Deignan has recovered sufficiently from her appendectomy to take part in the road race.  The full team is as follows:

Time Trial
Elinor Barker
Hannah Barnes

Road Race
Elinor Barker
Alice Barnes
Hannah Barnes
Lizzie Deignan
Dani King
Mel Lowther
Hayley Simmonds

Tennis

US Open Singles Final

It was a fitting end to a bizarre US Open that the women’s semi-finals should be between four players from the USA.

The final was between unseeded Sloane Stephens and 15th seed Madison Keys.

To be honest, it was a bit of a damp squib (as was the men’s the next day).

Stephens dismantled the Keys game admirably and won 6-3 6-0.

Both of them were making their Gran Slam final debuts and it showed, especially in Keys whose unforced error-count – 30 to Stephens’ six was a telling factor.

The result, and the semi-final line-up will certainly serve as a fillip for US women’s tennis and let’s hope that both finalists go on to more Grand Slam success as they have promised so much for so long.

US Open Mixed Doubles

The doubles phenomenon that is Martina Hingis again took centre stage at Flushing Meadows.  She and Britain’s Jamie Murray, seeded one at this championships, took the Mixed Doubles title 6-1 4-6 10-8 against third seeds Michael Venus and Hao-Ching Chan.

US Open Women’s Doubles

Hingis then completed a stunning double of doubles when she and partner Chan Yung-jan, seeded second took the Women’s Doubles title, defeating Lucie Hradecká and Kateřina Siniaková of the Czech Republic, who were seeded seven, 6-3 6-2.

Hingis now has 24 Grand Slam titles over singles and doubles.

Rugby

As I said in my introduction, winter cannot be far away and this weekend sees the start of the new Premier 15s competition. I’m really hoping the buzz caused by the World Cup translates into bigger crowds and more media coverage for this excellent product.  The lower two divisions – Championship 1 North and Championship 1 South – are already underway.  Checkout www.womenseliterugby.co.uk for details.

The first round of Premier 15s fixtures is as follows:

16 September

Loughborough Lightning v Worcester Valkyries – 12.00pm
Firwood Waterloo Ladies v Saracens 2.30pm
Wasps Ladies v Harlequins Ladies 3.00pm
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury Women 4.00pm

17 September

Bristol Ladies v Richmond Women 2.00pm

Boxing

Out of the Ring

The Inspiration Awards for Women

Katie Taylor has won the Sky Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Sport in 2017.

Taylor has won all six of her professional bouts since turning professional 10 months ago.

The Inspiration Awards were founded by Sky Andrew, who said that they were about

“Giving the next generation role models that show it is possible to have a sense of status, achievement and success by conducting oneself in a manner that is inspirational.”

In the Ring

It was also announced this week that Katie Taylor will fight for the WBA World Lightweight title on 28 October at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.  She will take on Anahi Sanchez and the fight will be on the Anthony Joshua undercard.

Nicola Adams, meanwhile, fights this weekend in Las Vegas – the first time she has competed in the USA.  She fights Alexandra Vlajk of Hungary.

Netball

Taini Jamison Trophy

England Roses went down 2-1 in the three-match series to decide the Taini Jamison trophy in New Zealand.

Game One – 7 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

The Silver Ferns had only a two goal lead going into the final quarter, but eased away in the last 15, England’s woes compounded by a series of handling errors.  Top scorer for New Zealand was Maria Tutaia who netted 31 as did Jo Harten for England.

Game Two – 10 September
New Zealand 46-49 England

The Roses drew level in the series in dramatic fashion in Napier.  England had a four-goal cushion at half-time but the Ferns brought it back to lead by one going into the fourth quarter.  With three minutes to go it was all square on 45-45, until goals from Jo Harten took it away from the home side.

Game Three – 13 September
New Zealand 62-55 England

Unfortunately for the Roses, the third and deciding game was to go the way of the first, even down to the score!

England were four ahead at half-time, but again the Ferns roared back as England tired.  By the end of the third they were one-up, and although with ten minutes to go the teams were level, the Silver Ferns then drew ahead again to win, in the end, fairly comfortably.

With England defeating New Zealand in the Quad Series, they would have been confident of competing well in this competition.  On the whole they were three good performances and Geva Mentor was outstanding at GK, but Tracey Neville will have to tackle the handling error-count.

Basketball

There was an excellent piece on women’s basketball in Somalia last week in the most unlikely of places – New Yorker magazine.  It’s a good read and here is the link.  It’s a timely reminder that however bad we think women have it here, having to fight off the “back to the kitchen” and “who cares?” crowd, we have it easy compared to other women in the world.

And finally,

Thanks to all those who pointed out this video to me – I actually came to it first through George Takei’s Twitter feed!  (I love all the unexpected sources this week).  So here it is – enjoy.

Women’s Sports Column 15-21 April 2017

Welcome to this week’s column.  This week we have stories from swimming, golf, football, cricket, boxing, lacrosse, gymnastics, athletics, netball and tennis plus two “And Finally” pieces that have been featured far and wide in the mainstream media, but nonetheless bear repeating in this column.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Top Story

This one just broke this morning (Friday 21 April).  Notts County Ladies have folded just two days before they were due to play their first match in the Spring Series.

Anyone who knows this column or my Twitter feed will know that County is my biggest local team and I have been happy to promote them wherever possible.  I am both saddened and angry that this has been allowed to happen and I believe the FA should take a long hard look at themselves – I know the sport has to be sustainable in the long-term, but the FA are all talk.  I’ve said it before that they come up with all these “initiatives” but forget that clubs need everyday support.  Shame on you, Football Association.

Last year I visited Meadow Lane to interview the then Chief Executive, Matthew Alexander.  It was such an enjoyable morning – the staff was all very upbeat and friendly.  Matt gave me full access and a tour.  I was unable to sell the resultant article, but published it on my website some time afterwards when Matt left.  Here’s the link: Interview

I realised when he left so suddenly that all was not well, but was sure the club would come out of it.

But this is not the case.

There are four Lionesses currently playing for the team – Carly Telford, Laura Bassett, Jade Moore and Jo Potter – and it is unclear what will happen to them as the transfer window is now closed.

It did seem that new Notts County FC owner, Alan Hardy, was going to pay the debts of both the men’s and women’s clubs owed to HMRC, but now it appears that it he is unable to do so.

I know no-one has bottomless pockets, but this is disaster for the FAWSL.  County were a club on the up – I saw it firsthand and it is short-sighted in the extreme that the money could not be found to save them.

On the Pitch

FA Cup Semi-finals

Manchester City 1-0 Liverpool

Melissa Lawley scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute.  The win should have been more convincing with both Jill Scott and Carli Lloyd missing good chances.

Birmingham City 1-1 Chelsea
Birmingham win 4-2 on penalties

After a goalless first half Birmingham took the lead in the 68th minute through a Meaghan Sargeant header.  It looked as if this was going to be the winner until Drew Spence popped up two minutes from time to score the equaliser and take it into extra time.

With no further scoring in extra time, the tie went to penalties.  Both Eni Aluko and Millie Bright missed their spot kicks and England striker Ellen White stepped up to score to send Birmingham through.

The final will be at Wembley Stadium on 13 May.

Off the Pitch

European Women’s U17 Championships

England has announced an 18-strong squad for next month’s tournament in the Czech Republic.

Goalkeepers: Hannah Hampton (Birmingham City), Emily Ramsey (Manchester United).

Defenders: Meg Boydell (Liverpool), Shannon Cooke (Arsenal), Esme Morgan (Manchester City), Grace Neville (Millwall), Poppy Pattinson (Sunderland), Olivia Smith (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Beth O’Donnell (Manchester City), Aimee Palmer (Bristol City), Amy Rodgers (Liverpool) Emily Syme (Bristol City), Miri Taylor (Chelsea).

Forwards: Nicole Douglas (Chelsea), Jess Ngunga (Arsenal), Lauren Hemp (Bristol City), Ella Rutherford (Millwall), Gabby Ravenscroft (Oxford United).

England’s campaign begins on Tuesday 2 May.

Group Fixtures

v Republic of Ireland (2 May)
v Netherlands (5 May)
v Norway (8 May)

The top two in the group go into the semi-finals.

Sponsorship

Liverpool Ladies have signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with Avon Products Inc.

The company’s logo will make its first appearance on the Liverpool shirts during the Spring Series, which begins for the Reds on 23 April against Yeovil Town Ladies at Huish Park.

Transfers

Liverpool have also been busy in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Jess Clarke from Notts County Ladies and Laura Coombs, who had been on a season-long loan at the Merseyside club from Chelsea.

Netball

Well, it’s still all going swimmingly for Loughborough Lightning in the Vitality Super League.  Hoping I don’t put the curse on them, they are still unbeaten after 10 rounds.  There were two rounds over the Easter weekend and this week and the results were as follows:

Round Nine

Monday 10 April

Celtic Dragons 55-53 Sirens

Friday 14 April

Team Bath 45-46 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 68-46 Team Northumbria

Saturday 15 April

Manchester Thunder 66-58 Surrey Storm
Severn Stars 47-56 Loughborough Lightning

Round Ten

Monday 17 April

Surrey Storm 65-56 Team Northumbria
Loughborough Lightning 49-40 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 50-59 Severn Stars
Sirens 66-76 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 51-58 Wasps Netball

Loughborough are top of the table on 30 points with Wasps second, having lost two games and are on 28.  Third on goal difference are Manchester Thunder.

The next live Sky game will be Severn Stars v Surrey Storm on 24 April at 7.30pm.

Swimming

The British Swimming Championships have been taking place this week at Ponds Forge in Sheffield.

Standout performances so far have been from Imogen Clark from Loughborough University, who set a new British record to win the 50m Breaststroke in a time of 30.21 and Jocelyn Ulyett who broke the British record to take the 200m Breaststroke title.

Results:

50m Breaststroke: Imogen Clark (Loughborough University), Sarah Vasey (National Centre Loughborough), Corrie Scott (Edinburgh University)

400m Individual Medley: Hannah Miley, Aimee Willmott (London Aquatics Performance Programme), Abbie Wood (National Centre Loughborough)

200m Freestyle: Eleanor Faulkner (City of Sheffield), Kathryn Greenslade (Edinburgh University), Jazz Carlin (National Centre Bath)

50m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Sophie Yendell, (City of Derby), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics)

100m Backstroke: Georgia Davies (Loughborough University), Kathleen Dawson (University of Stirling), Jessica Fullalove (Bath University)

200m Breaststroke: Jocelyn Ulyett (Loughborough University), Molly Renshaw (Loughborough University), Chloe Tutton (City of Cardiff)

200m Butterfly: Charlotte Atkinson (Loughborough University), Alys Thomas (Swansea Aquatics), Emily Larger (Newcastle)

50m Freestyle: Anna Hopkin (Ealing), Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (Bath University), Lucy Hope (Edinburgh University)

Two days to go.

Lacrosse

An 18-strong England squad has been announced for the Women’s World Cup in July.  National Team Director, Phil Collier, has gone for a blend of youth and experience with eight players who played in the 2013 World Cup in Canada included, but there also three players who will be taking part in their first major tournament.

There are also eight reserves, should they be needed.

Goalkeepers
Sally Keogh, Isabel McNab

Defenders
Emma Adams, Chloe Chan, Ashleigh Gloster, Annie Hillier, Emma Oakley

Midfielders
Camila Hayes, Kirsten Lafferty, Lucy Lynch, Charlotte Lytollis, Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith

Attackers
Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Olivia Hompe, Jenny Simpson, Megan Whittle

If you haven’t experienced lacrosse in the flesh, this is the ideal opportunity to do so.  The tournament takes place at Surrey Sports Park.  Tickets can be purchased here: www.2017worldlacrosse.com

Tennis

Good news from the WTA tour this week as Petra Kvitova has announced that she may make a comeback as early as the French Open in May.

 

She has been out since December since being stabbed in the left hand by an intruder in her home.

She suffered damage to both nerves and tendons and was expected to be out for at least six months.  But she has put her name forward for Roland Garros in the hope that she will be there.  There is no guarantee that she will be able to play, but this is definitely a move in the right direction.

The French Open begins on 28 May.

Boxing

Nicola Adams

After winning her first professional bout 40-36 against Virginia Carcamo, it has been announced that Nicola Adams’ next fight will be over three-minute rounds as opposed to the two-minute rounds that are standard in the women’s sport.

Under WBC rules women are not allowed to fight three-minute rounds in title fights but as this is a non-title fight it will go ahead.

The fight is in Leeds on 13 May on the undercard of Josh Warrington’s featherweight title bout against Kiko Martinez.

Adams is also leading the quest for women to wear lighter gloves.  At the moment all women fighters wear 10z gloves, whereas male fighters from flyweight to welterweight are allowed to wear 8oz gloves.

The British Boxing Board of Control is still to comment on this proposed change.

Katie Taylor

Ireland’s Katie Taylor’s next bout will be the undercard of the Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko fight at Wembley Stadium on 29 April.  She faces Nina Meinke in a WBA lightweight world title eliminator.

Natasha Jonas

Natasha Jonas has announced she is to come out of retirement to turn professional.  She got to the quarter-finals at the London 2012 Olympics and won World Championships bronze also in 2012.

Cricket

Isa Guha

Former England bowler and TV and radio broadcaster, Isa Guha, has become the first woman to be appointed to the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) board.

PCA chief executive David Leatherdale said,

“Isa has a vast knowledge of the game from a men’s and women’s perspective.

“With our international women players now full members of the PCA, Isa will bring real insight to the PCA board.”

Sarah Taylor

There was good news from the England set-up this week as it was announced that Sarah Taylor would join the training camp in the UAE.

Her goal is still, according to coach Mark Robinson, to be fit to play in the World Cup in June and July.

Gymnastics

Ellie Downie has become the first British gymnast to qualify for every final at a major championships.

She led the all-round standings at the European Gymnastics Championships in Romania on 56.198.

Alice Kinsella has also qualified for the all-round competition, with Becky Downie in the finals of the beam and uneven bars and Claudia Fragapane in the final of the floor.

Golf

Cristie Kerr won the Lotte Championship at the weekend.  She finished -20, three shots ahead of New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun of Korea and third-round leader Su-Yeon Jang.

Kerr hit an amazing third round 62 to take her into contention and didn’t drop a shot in the fourth to maintain her good form.

Becky Morgan of Wales finished tied 16th on -10 and England’s Bronte law tied 39th on -6.

Athletics

American sprinter Brianna Rollins has been banned for one year after missing three drug tests in 2016.

Rollins won the 100m hurdles gold in Rio.

She can, perhaps, be considered unlucky as for one test she was at the White House meeting President Obama and for another she was in her home town in Florida attending “Brianna Rollins Day”……

She will miss the World Championships in London in August and will be eligible to compete again on 18 December.

And finally (1)

It has been everywhere this week (and good to see), that Kathrine Switzer, first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon in 1967, has run it again this year, 50 years on at the age of 70.

She registered for the race under KV Switzer, therefore avoiding exposing her gender.  She was not noticed at the start-line, although some miles in an official tried to drag her off the course.  But she was not to be removed and finished the race in four hours 20 minutes.

Women were not allowed to race officially until 1972.

Last week she ran it again finishing in a time of 4 hours 44.31 – just under 25 minutes slower than in 1967.

Switzer wore the same number, 261, in both races and the organisers have now decided to retire the number in her honour.

And finally (2)

Serena Williams announced this week that she is pregnant.  Anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know that I am a complete Serena devotee and so I would like to congratulate her on this happy news.  I’m not going to say “Wow, wow, wow, she won the Australian Open while she was pregnant”, not because it’s not an achievement, but because pregnant women do amazing things every day.  Nor am I going to question how she might feel if and when she returns to tennis – who knows how she will feel?  I do take issue with certain “news” papers that have pronounced that Serena’s competitive edge or what some people see as unseemly strength power will be taken away by motherhood.  Why?  There can be absolutely no scientific basis for such a statement and why should anyone want it to be?  Let us just allow Serena to enjoy the moment and hope that she has the best experience possible in her pregnancy.

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 December

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

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

Rugby Union

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

The scores were:

10 December

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 17-24 Lichfield Ladies

Wasps Ladies 33-12 Richmond Women

11 December

Worcester Valkyries 15-22 Saracens Women

Bristol ladies 48-0 DMP Sharks

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

Bowls

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

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

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

Australian Rules Football                                                                                   

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

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

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

Australasian Sports Administration

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

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

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

Cricket

New England central contracts

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

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

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

Australian contracts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch this space for further fallout.

WBBL

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

10 December

Perth Scorchers 119/6 off 20 overs

Hobart Hurricanes 120/5 19 overs

Hurricanes won by 5 wickets

 

Adelaide Strikers 116 all out (19.3 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 102 all out (19.1 overs)

Strikers won by 14 runs

 

Melbourne Stars147/8 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 141/4 (20 overs)

Stars won by 6 runs

 

11 December

 Adelaide Strikers 128/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 131/3 (19.3 overs)

Renegades won by 7 wickets

 

Perth Scorchers 142/4 (20 overs)

Hobart Hurricanes 125/9 (20 overs)

Scorchers won by 17 runs

 

Sydney Sixers 138/6 (20 overs)

Brisbane Heat 142/5 (19.2 overs)

Heat won by 5 wickets

 

12 December

Brisbane Heat 83/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 86/2 (16 overs)

Sixers won by 8 wickets

 

13 December

Melbourne Stars 116/9 (20 overs)

Sydney Thunder 121/2 (18.5 overs)

Thunder won by 8 wickets

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

BT Action Woman Awards

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

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

Boxing

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

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

Netball

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

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

Sports Personality of the Year 2016

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

Swimmer Ellie Robinson is this year’s winner.

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

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

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

Taekwondo

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

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

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

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

Speed Skating

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

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

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

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

Golf

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

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

Cycling

The dispute between British Cycling and cyclist Jess Varnish continues.

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

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

Football

Birmingham City Ladies

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

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

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

Casey Stoney

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

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

Liverpool manager Scott Rogers said,

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

New rules for WSL2

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

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

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

FA funding will increase as follows:

WSL1 up to £92,500 (up from £70,000)

WSL2 up to 62,500 (up from £35,000)

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

Nigeria’s continued protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stalemate continues.

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

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

Pink whistles

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

Allowing girls breaks so they can check their phones.

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

Slogans to attract girls could include:

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

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

 

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 19-25 November

boxing_gloves-2Welcome to this week’s column.  Don’t think I missed much last week – well I certainly didn’t read much anywhere else, so there couldn’t have been much going on.…

Anyway, stories this week come from golf, football, cricket, rugby, sports leadership, boxing and an “and finally” giving you the BT Action Woman Award shortlist (and wow, what a shortlist!).

Golf

Top billing this week goes to Britain’s Charley Hull who won her first LPGA tournament on Sunday.  She won the CME Group Tour Championship in Florida.

She finished her four rounds on -19, two ahead of South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon, with Jennifer Song of the US third on -15.

Fellow Britons Jodie Ewart Shadoff finished on -3 in a share of 36th place and Catriona Matthew level in 46th.

Hull had a one shot lead going into the final round.  She shot a fourth round 66 with six birdies and no bogeys to take the win with a tournament record score.

She took $500,000 in prize money and finishes the year as world number 29.

Boxing

In the ring

Katie Taylor makes her professional debut on Saturday at Wembley Arena.

She fights Poland’s Karina Kopinska.  Result and report next week.

Out of the ring

 Nicola Adams appeared on Desert Island Discs on Sunday 20 November on Radio 4.  If you missed it, it’s well worth a listen and is still available on the BBC I-player.

Football

On the pitch

Manchester City continued their great form (actually last week, but I feel I should report on it for the sake of continuity), as they made it into the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League.

They took a 1-0 first leg lead to Danish side Brondby and managed to secure a 1-1 draw away from home to take a 2-1 aggregate win.

In the 64th minute City took the lead through a fabulous curling shot from Toni Duggan, but the lead didn’t last long as Nanna Christiansen poked the ball in to make it 1-1.

City’s defences were not breached again and  they will now play in the last eight in March.

Off the pitch

Chelsea Ladies have signed Norway captain Maren Mjelde on a two year contract.

Mjelde, who plays in central midfield, has won 107 caps.  She will join the Blues on 1 January.

Football Association Women’s Football Awards

Jordan Nobbs was named England player of the year the FA Women’s Football Awards this week, while Chelsea’s Millie Bright was voted England young player of the year.

Manchester City manager Nick Cushing was named WSL manager of the year and City also won club of the year.

Manchester City defender Lucy Bronze took the WSL 1 player of the year.

Former England manager, Hope Powell, was also honoured, receiving the award for Outstanding Contribution to Women’s Football.

Cricket

On the pitch

England v Sri Lanka

England duly completed a 4-0 series whitewash over their much weaker opponents, sealing automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup in the process.

India v West Indies

After the home side took the three-match ODI series 3-0, it was West Indies turn in the three-match T20 series.

1st T20 18 November

India 150/4 (20 overs)
West Indies 154/4 (19.1 overs)

West Indies won by 6 wickets with 5 balls to spare.

2nd T20 20 November

West Indies 137/5 (20 overs)
India 106 all out (18.1 overs)

West Indies won by 31 runs

3rd T20 22 November

West Indies 139/4 (20 overs)
India 124/3 (20 overs)

West Indies won by 15 runs

New Zealand v Pakistan

New Zealand completed a clean sweep in their five-match ODI series against Pakistan.

They also played one T20 which they also won.

T20 ODI 21 November

New Zealand 118/9 (20 overs)
Pakistan 104 all out (20 overs)

New Zealand won by 14 runs

Australia v South Africa

With two more ODIs to play in a five-match series, Australia have already clinched it.  They won the first three:

1st ODI 18 November

South Africa 226/5 (50 overs)
Australia 230/8 (49.5 overst)

Australia won by 2 wickets with 1 ball remaining.

2nd ODI 20 November

Australia 278/4 (50 overs)
South Africa 119/5 (31.2 overs)

Australia won by 66 runs by D/L method

Meg Lanning scored 134 for Australia.

 3rd ODI 23 November

South Africa 173/8 (50 overs)
Australia 174/1 (27.1 overs)

Australia won by 9 wickets with 29 balls to spare.  Lizelle Lee made her maiden century, scoring 102 off 89 balls.

Off the pitch

The ICC has awarded Pakistan six points towards the ICC Women’s Championship for the three-match series that should have been played against India before the end of October.

The series was never played and so considered forfeited by the ICC.

This now means that both India and Pakistan will have to qualify for the World Cup as both are in the bottom four of the championship table.

The PCB was due to host the series in the UAE, but the BCCI did not respond to the PCB’s queries regarding the series and a scheduling agreement could not be reached.

The ten-team qualification tournament will take place in Colombo in February 2017.

It also means that West Indies gain the last automatic qualification place.

There are four World Cup places up for grabs and the qualification tournament participants will be: Pakistan, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Thailand and Zimbabwe.

Rugby union

On the pitch

England 20 – 25 New Zealand
19 November

England lost a tight match to World Cup favourites, New Zealand, at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

Rochelle “Rocky” Clark set a new international caps record as she won her 116th to beat the record held by Scotland’s Donna Kennedy.

On the field things didn’t go so well for the Red Roses.  England started confidently with Fiona Pocock scoring a try in the first minute.  It went unconverted.

The Black Ferns came back and scored a try through Renee Wickliffe just before half-time which was converted by Kendra Cocksedge to make it 7-5 to the visitors at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour.  First Harriet Millar-Mills and then Lydia Thompson went over for two more tries and with one conversion by Katy McLean the score was 17-7 to the home side.

Enter Cocksedge again.  The scrum-half scored two tries in five minutes, converting one to take them ahead again 17-19.

Emily Scarratt then kicked a penalty for England and they were in front again on 20-19.

But New Zealand and Cocksedge were not to be outdone.  She kicked two late penalties to secure the win – the Black Ferns’ ninth in a row and their fifth unbeaten against England.

Ireland 7-48 Canada
19 November

Canada are currently second in the world rankings, and from this performance it’s easy to see why.

It was all over as a contest by half-time as Canada ran in tries from DaLeaka Menin, Julianne Zussman and Karen Paquin, all of which were converted by Andrea Burk.   Burk also popped over a penalty to make it 0-24 to the visitors at the break.

Seven minutes into the second half Ireland had their first score, a try from Nikki Caughey which she then converted.

But then normal service was resumed as Canada scored another four tries; Emily Belchos, Laura Russell, Magali Harvey and a second for Sussman.  Burk converted two from four to make the final score a chastening one for Ireland.

Canada 10-20 New Zealand
22 November

In a shoot-out between the top two the Black Ferns came out winners at Donnybrook on Tuesday.

It was 8-0 to New Zealand at half-time with an unconverted try from Selica Winiata and a penalty from Kendra Cocksedge.

In the second-half Canada scored a try of their own through Magali Harvey after an interception by Latoya Blackwood.  This went unconverted and the score was 5-8.

Almost immediately New Zealand were over again, this time through Aotearoa Mata’u.

Both sides were reduced to 14 after first Canada’s Brittany Waters and then New Zealand’s Eloise Blackwell were sin-binned.

Canada’s Laura Russell came off a driving maul to go over the line to bring the score back to 10-15 with 15 minutes left.

But New Zealand struck straight back once more.  Cocksedge missed a penalty, but Winiata scored her second try of the match to seal the win for the Black Ferns.

Remaining Fixtures:

26 Nov: England v Canada (Twickenham Stadium)
27 Nov: Ireland v New Zealand (The Bowl, Dublin)

Sports politics and leadership

Christine Ohuruogu has commented on the barriers faced for BAME people wanting to get into sports administration – male or female.  We already know how hard it is for women to get onto sports boards or into senior administrative roles.  You can multiply this several times when you add ethnicity to the mix.

Sporting Equals, an organisation that promotes ethnic diversity in sport has completed an audit and found that of 601 board members, just 26 (just over 4%) are from BAME backgrounds.   Only two chairs or chief executives are from BAME backgrounds.

When interviewed, Ohuruogu said,

“Talking to other athletes and sportspeople, they are expressing concern that it is a world not open for them.

“They won’t be welcomed, won’t be valued and it is very negative. They have gone as far as they can as athletes but they don’t feel there is any more room for them to go.”

The scary thing (if these figures were not scary enough) is that the 26 board members figure is UP BY 17 from last year!

It is in everyone’s interest that wider society is reflected in the boards and organisations that run our sports.  While my main is to campaign for greater inclusion for women, it is good to be reminded that there are other groups who also need a voice.

And finally,

The BT Action Woman 2016 shortlist is out.  And what a list it is!  It has been a stellar year for women’s sport and this shortlist reflects some of the best performances, breakthroughs and results of the year.

The shortlist is:

Nicola Adams

Defended her Olympic boxing title in Rio, the first British boxer to do so since 1924.

Rachel Atherton

Won all seven rounds of the UCI Downhill Mountain Bike World Cup and the world title for the fouth time.

Hannah Cockcroft

Three more sprint gold medals from Rio to add to her Paralympic tally.

Kadeena Cox

The first British Paralympian to win golds in multiple sports in the same Games for 32 years.  She won gold on the track in the T-38 400m and then in the cycling C4-5 time trial.

Charlotte Dujardin

Defended her individual dressage gold in Rio, taking her total to three Olympic golds.

Maddie Hinch

GB’s hockey goalkeeping superstar helped her team to win gold in Rio.  She save four penalties in the final shootout against Netherlands.

Jade Jones

Another woman who successfully defended her Olympic title in Rio.  She took -57kg gold, to be the first British athlete to win more than one taekwondo Olympic medal.

Johanna Konta

The first British female tennis player to reach the world top 10 since 1984.  Won her first title on the WTA tour in Stanford, beating Venus Williams in the final.  Truly a breakthrough year.

Dame Sarah Storey

Overtook Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson as Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian after winning the C5 3000m individual pursuit gold medal to take her total to 14 golds.

Laura Kenny ( formerly Trott)

Britain’s most successful female Olympian.  She repeated her London golds in the omnium and team pursuit to have a total of four.

To vote for your favourite, go to http://sport.bt.com/vote-action-woman-2016-01364108169407. The closing date is 5 December, with the awards ceremony, shown live on BT Sport 1 on Monday 12 December.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 October

mount-everest-413_640

It’s that time again – more women’s sports news than you can shake a stick at.   This week we have stories from cycling, cricket, football, tennis, rugby, horse racing, boxing and golf.  Also some sad news in “And finally”, but hopefully it will also give us the chance to recognise some particular achievements from a very particular woman.

Cycling

There were more medals for Britain’s women in the European Track Championships in Paris.  The day two tally stood at three.

Katie Archibald won two golds to add to her silver in the elimination race.  In the individual pursuit she finished four seconds ahead of her opponent, Justyna Kaczkowska, from Poland

She had already posted a personal best in qualifying.

Then she won her second gold in two nights as she took the omnium title with Dutch rider Kirsten Wild in second and Lottie Kopecky from Belgium in third.

Emily Kay and Emily Nelson won silver in the Madison.  They lay fourth with just 10 laps to go when they took maximum points in the final sprint to take the silver.  The winners were Lotte Kopecky and Jolien D’Hoore of Belgium.

In other events Elinor Barker finished fifth in the points race, but Rachel James fell in the final of the keirin.

Horse racing

 Josephine Gordon has become only the third woman to become Champion Apprentice jockey.

But it’s good to see her ambitions do not rest there.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I think in the next 15 years there will be a woman who becomes champion jockey,

“Hopefully it will be me. At this time, it’s probably quite unrealistic for me but that would be the biggest dream. I didn’t think I could achieve being champion apprentice.”

Female winners of the Champion Apprentice Jockey:

2005 Hayley Turner (tied with Saleem Golam) – 44 wins

2012 Amy Ryan – 40 wins

2016 Josephine Gordon – 50 wins

Football

Scottish football

Glasgow City Ladies have been crowned Scottish Women’s Premier league champions for the tenth successive season.

They only needed a point to ensure the title stayed at the Excelsior Stadium, but it was clear they wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than a win.  This they accomplished, defeating Hibernian Ladies 3-1.  Sarah Crilly opened the scoring after ten minutes and the lead was doubled when Savannah McCarthy headed a second.

Claire Shine put the tie past Hibs with the third before the away side pulled back a consolation goal through Siobhan Hunter.

Glasgow City could still make it a league and cup double when they face Hibs again in the Scottish Cup final on 6 November.

 Scotland 0-7 Netherlands

Scotland began their warm-ups for next year’s Euros with a crushing defeat against Netherlands in a friendly at Livingston.

Bayern Munich striker Vivianne Miedema got the first, but there were no further scores until first-half stoppage time when first Lineth Beerensteyn and then Miedema with her second put the visitors 3-0 up going into the break.

It was more of the same in the second-half with Scotland rarely venturing up the field.  On 66 minutes Netherlands made it four when Renee Slegers poked in, and then it was five through Ellen Jansen.

Scottish goalkeeper, Shannon Lynn was injured in the scoring of the fifth and had to be substituted with Gemma Fay taking over.

But things did not improve as the Netherlands put another two past the home side, Shanice van de Sanden scoring the sixth and Jackie Groenen the seventh to make it a thoroughly miserable night for the Scots.

 English football

By contrast, the Lionesses have seen their unbeaten run stretch to nine matches with two decent performances in friendlies against France and Spain this week.

 England 0-0 France

England knew the visitors would provide a tough test and so it transpired.  It was a tight first half of few chances, with England’s Lucy Bronze having the best, but she headed wide from a free kick.

The second half was equally tense with both defences on top and neither able to break the deadlock.  Toni Duggan did put the ball in the net but was adjudged to have used her hand in the build-up.

It was a good defensive display, but up front England lacked bite.  France were not fielding a full-strength team and Mark Sampson will be aware that, certainly in attack, France will be much more of threat in the Championships next summer.

 Spain 1-2 England

Spain may some way below England in the world rankings, but they are always a tough opponent, particularly at home.

England took the lead when a shot (or possible cross) from Karen Carney was deflected into the net by Marta Torrejon Moya.

England captain Steph Houghton then curled in a peach of a free-kick to double the lead.

Torrejon pulled one back, but England held on for the win.

Off the Pitch

Arsenal Ladies have announced that their three Spanish players, striker Natalia and midfielders Marta Corredera and Vicky Losada, are to leave the club at the end of the season.

Corredera has signed for Atletico Madrid, but both Losada and Natalia have not yet revealed their new clubs, although Natalia said on social media that she was looking for a new challenge in Madrid.

Losada and Corredera had been at Arsenal for just one season, while Natalia signed from Bristol Academy in December 2014.

The FA has announced it aims to double the number of women involved in football by the end of the decade.

FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, announced that the women’s game is the “prime candidate” for investment.

There is due to be a statement on an FA Cup TV deal worth more than £800m over six years.

The FA also helps that moving the FAWSL from summer to winter will improve coverage and gates.

My favourite line of the interview is with reference to England’s third place at the 2015 World Cup

“Unusually for an England team, we overperformed at a tournament.”

For that sentence alone I applaud the FA’s thinking.  But, and I’ve said this many times before, the announcements, initiatives and money have to be backed up with ongoing support.

He says all the right things; breaking down barriers, changing perceptions, getting support from parents and clubs, but the talk is not enough.

I implore the FA not to just fling money at the situation and hope that some of it sticks – back up your monetary input with time, personnel, expertise and anything else women’s football needs to actually come through with the targets.  Don’t expect money alone to do the job.

Cricket

The England squad for the Sri Lanka tour has been announced.

There is a recall for middle-order batter Fran Wilson.  Sophie Ecclestone is unavailable due to school commitments and Anya Shrubsole is still recovering from her neck injury and is not included.

Before they reach Colombo the squad will be in Abu Dhabi for a six day training camp that will also include some of the England Senior Academy.

England will play four ODIs in Sri Lanka, the final three of which will count towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

England squad:

Heather Knight, captain (Berkshire)
Tammy Beaumont (Kent)
Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire)
Georgia Elwiss (Sussex)
Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire)
Alex Hartley (Middlesex)
Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire)
Amy Jones (Warwickshire)
Beth Langston (Yorkshire)
Laura Marsh (Kent)
Natalie Sciver (Surrey)
Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire)
Fran Wilson (Middlesex)
Danielle Wyatt (Sussex)

Additional player for Abu Dhabi camp

Georgia Adams (Sussex)
Kate Cross (Lancashire)
Alice-Davidson-Richards (Kent)
Sophia Dunkley (Middlesex)
Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire)
Georgia Hennessy (Warwickshire)
Hannah Jones (Surrey)
Emma Lamb (Lancashire)
Bryony Smith (Surrey)

Sri Lanka fixtures:

9 November – 1st ODI (Sinhalese Sports Club)
12 November – 2nd ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium)
15 November – 3rd ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium)
17 November – 4th ODI (R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium

South Africa v New Zealand series

At the point of last week’s column, New Zealand had taken an unassailable 4-1 lead with two games to go.  Here’s what happened in the last two matches:

22 October Paarl

South Africa pulled one back in the sixth game in Paarl.  In a rain-affected game reduced to 39 overs, South Africa won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  This proved to be a good decision as they skittled out the tourists for 130 in 33.3 overs.  Katey Martin provided sole resistance with 65 not out with Masabata Klaas taking 3/32 off eight overs and Moseline Daniels and Odine Kirsten two each.

South Africa replied in sensible fashion and reached their target with eight balls to spare.  Top scorer was Mignon du Preez with 44 and South Africa won by five wickets.

24 October Paarl

New Zealand were not to be outdone though and won the seventh match in Paarl by 126 runs.  Suzie Bates won the toss and batted.  They posted an excellent 273/7 off their 50 overs with Katey Martin again starring with 81.  She was well supported by Amy Satterthwaite with 53 and Maddy Green with 46.

This was too stiff a target for South Africa to chase and they were all out for 147 in 45.5 overs.  Joint top scorers were Lizelle Lee and Odine Kirsten with 22.  The bowling damage was done by Erin Bermingham with 3/18 off 10 with Lea Tahuhu 2/36 off 7 and Satterthwaite 2/15 off 4.5.

New Zealand took the series 5-2.

Tennis

WTA Finals in Singapore

We now know three of the four quarter-finalists in the WTA Finals in Singapore.

In the red group Angelique Kerber has finished top with three wins from three, with Dominika Cibulkova in second.

In the white group Svetlana Kuznetsova has qualified with the final place to be decided between Agnieszka Radwanska and Karolina Pliskova, who play each other in the last round robin game on Friday.

Semi-final line-up

Kuznetsova v Cibulkova

Kerber v Radwanska or Pliskova

Off the court

British number one, Johanna Konta, has won the WTA award for Most Improved Player 2016.  It has indeed been a breakthrough year for Konta; reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January and then winning her first WTA Tour title at Stanford in June.

Her rise through the rankings has been marked; in 2015 she was at 147 in the world.  This year she has made it has high as ninth and is currently tenth.

The WTA Player of the Year award went to Germany’s Angelique Kerber.  She is currently world number one and won her first and second Grand Slams (Australian and US) this year.  She won a silver medal at Rio and was runner-up to Serena Williams at Wimbledon.

In other news, Maria Sharapova has been excluded from the WTA singles rankings as she has not competed in enough tournaments in 2016 to be eligible for a ranking.

She will return to the rankings after she has served her ban and has played three tournaments next year.

Boxing

Irish boxer Katie Taylor will make her professional boxing debut in November.

She has signed a professional contract with Matchroom boxing and will appear at the SSE Arena, Wembley on 26 November.

The fight will be live on Sky Sports.

Taylor has been considering her options for some time after failing to win an Olympic medal in Rio.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said,

“Today marks a significant day for our sport with the news that Katie is joining the professional ranks,

“She is one of the most decorated amateur boxers of all time and a public icon in Ireland. I met Katie for the first time last week and was fascinated by her desire to not just win world titles but to break down the barriers of women’s boxing; she is an incredible role model.”

Golf

Blue Bay LPGA tournament (China)

After leading from the off, Australian Minjee Lee duly took the title at the Blue Bay tournament at the weekend.   She carded a final round 70 to finish on -13, winning by just one shot from USA’s Jessica Korda.

Third was Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, with her compatriot Pornanong Phatlum tying with Caroline Masson of Germany for fourth.

Britain’s Charley Hull finished a further place back in sixth on -5.

Rugby Union

It was round six of the Women’s Premiership last weekend.  Bristol are looking nigh-on invincible as they won again, but the chasing pack haven’t given up as the weekend saw wins for second placed Lichfield and another big win for Worcester Valkyries who lie in third.

Results were as follows:

Wasps Ladies 19-66 Worcester Valkyries
Richmond Women 27-33 Bristol Ladies
Lichfield Ladies 42-16 DMP Sharks
Saracens Women 15-31 Aylesford Bulls Ladies

For a more detailed review of last weekend’s game please read my report for WSUK here.

New Zealand Black Ferns 67-3 Australia Wallaroos

This is a massive result, and not just by number of points for New Zealand as they continue to dominate their antipodean neighbours.

They scored 11 tries to nil in their 14th consecutive victory over the Wallaroos.

Full back Selica Winiata scored four tries and Kendra Cocksedge a try and four conversions.  The Kiwis were 31-3 up at half-time and there was no way back.

Ash Hewson put over a solitary penalty for the visitors.

There is a great deal of argument in Australia at the moment regarding the clash of Sevens v fifteens.  There has been plenty of comment that Australia is guilty of concentrating their efforts and resources in the shorter form to the detriment of the full game.  This may have brought home the Rio gold in Sevens, but Australia hadn’t played a full test since 2014.  And seeing this score, it’s no wonder the comments have been made.

And finally,         

And finally, the death was announced this week of Junko Tabei.   Not heard of her?  Neither had I.

But Tabei was the first woman to climb Mount Everest.

The Japanese climber had been suffering with cancer and died in a hospital near Tokyo at the age of 77.

Tabei was the first to reach the summit of Everest in 1975 when she was 35.  She was part of a 15 strong party – all women.  When they left, she said, they faced criticism,

“We were told we should be raising children instead.”

In the end she did both, carrying on family life and climbing in parallel.

She founded the Ladies Climbing Club of Japan, which had the slogan, “Let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves.”  No mean feat for women living in a restrictive Japanese society.

In 1992 she became the first woman to climb the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on the seven continents.

By 2008 she had climbed the highest mountains of 56 countries.

But she was also involved in environmental campaigning, was a major voice in the campaign for sustainable mountaineering and was the Chair of the Himalayan Adventure Trust of Japan, which is dedicated to the protection of mountain environments.