Women’s Sports Column 11-17 August 2018

IMG-20160720-00581Welcome to this week’s column.  There’s a lot of positive news this week, which makes a change. Maybe it’s because I’ve been weaning myself off the comments sections of any piece on the BBC website (or even a Tweet) that pertains to women’s sport.  Long may it last.

Stories this week include a round-up of the last few days of the European Championships, cricket, football, hockey, tennis and netball.

Hockey

Danny Kerry has left his role as head coach of the GB and England women’s hockey teams to take up a similar post with the men’s.

He had been in the role for 13 years.

There has been no indication as to who will take over from him.

European Championships

The remaining days of the European Championships produced some excellent performances from Team GB.

Gold
Dina Asher-Smith in the 200m and was part of the 4x100m team that also won gold with Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot and Bianca Williams.
Grace Reid in the 3m springboard diving.
Laura Muir 1,500m

Silver
Alicia Blagg in the 3m springboard diving.
Michele Thomson, Connor Syme, Liam Johnston and Meghan Maclaren  in the mixed team golf competition.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson in the heptathlon
Eilish McColgan 5,000m

Bronze
Zoey Clark, Anyika Onuora, Amy Allcock and Eilidh Doyle in the 4 x 400m relay
Shara Proctor won bronze in the long jump.
Meghan Beesley in the 400m hurdles.
Laura Weightman in the 1,500m

Tennis

Rogers Cup

Last weekend saw number one seed Simona Halep win the final of the Rogers Cup.  She defeated third seed Sloane Stephens in three sets, 7-6 3-6 6-4.

Britain’s Jo Konta reached the third round.  She had a good win over French Open champions Jelena Ostapenko in the first round, 6-7 6-1 6-2.  In the second round she beat Viktoria Azarenka 6-3 6-1, but lost in the third round to fifth seed Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-4.

Cincinnati Masters

This week it is the Cincinnati Masters and they have been suffering with the weather.  There are still three games to complete in the third round.  Only two quarter-final line-ups have been decided so far: Petra Kvitova (8) v Elise Mertens (15) and Madison Keys (13) v  Aryna Sabalenka.

Jo Konta went out in the first round to Sabalenka 4-6 6-3 6-4.

Football

Under-20 World Cup

England have finished top of Group B as they beat Mexico 6-1 in their last group game.

The Young Lionesses were behind at half-time through a Jacqueline Ovalle goal.  But after the break Alessia Russo drew them level and Chloe Kelly scored the second to take them ahead.

Georgia Stanway got the third and then Lauren Hemp bagged a hat-trick to make it a convincing win.

England now face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals on 17 August.

Two quarter-finals have already taken place:

Spain 2-1 Nigeria
Aitana (13)
Patri 45+2

France 1-0 Korea DPR
Delabre (29 pen)

The semi-finals are on 20 August.  Spain play against France and the winner of the Netherlands/England match play the winner of the fourth semi between Germany and Japan.

The final is on Friday 24 August.  There is TV coverage on Eurosport.

Manchester United

BT sport has revealed that it will show Manchester United Women’s first match, against Liverpool in the Continental Cup group game, live at 2pm on Sunday 19 August.

They will be covering WSL, FA and Continental Cups this season.

First fixtures:
Sunday 19 August: Liverpool v Manchester United (Conti Cup) – BT Sport 2 from 2pm
Sunday 9 September: Chelsea v Manchester City (WSL) – BT Sport 3 from 2pm
Sunday 23 September: Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool (WSL) – BT Sport 1 from 12.15pm
Sunday 14 October: Chelsea v Arsenal (WSL) – BT Sport 1 from 2pm

Signings

Kirsty Linnett has signed for Liverpool, having been released by Reading at the end of her contract.
Liverpool have also signed goalkeeper Fran Kitching from Sheffield United.
Manchester City have signed Canadian international forward Janine Beckie on a one-year contract.
Birmingham City have signed full-back Harriet Scott from Reading on a one-year contract.
Defender Megan Alexander has moved from Millwall to Yeovil.
Bristol City have also been busy signing striker Ella Rutherford from Millwall and defender Poppy Pattinson from Manchester City this week.

Champions League

Glasgow City played their second Champions League group game this week, beating FC Martve of Georgia 7-0.

Abbi Grant scored two in the first-half, Kirsty Howat bagged a hat-trick and the other goals came from Jenna Clark and Jo Love.

City are now joint second in the group and play their last game against Polish side Gornik Leczna on Monday.  If they win that game by two goals they will top the group and go into the last 32.

In the other game in the group Gornik Leczna beat Anderlecht.

Netball – on the court

World Cup Regional Qualifiers – Africa

Six teams are vying for two places at next year’s World Cup at the African regional qualifier in Lusaka, Zambia.   The teams taking part are Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

All of the teams have played three matches now and Uganda are top with three wins from three.  Zimbabwe lie second on the same points but with an inferior goal average.  Zambia lie third on four points.

Malawi have already qualified for the World Cup by right.

The tournament ends on 18 August.  More news next week.

Netball – off the court

Great news for the Vitality Super League – Serena Guthrie will be back to play in UK for the 2019 season.

The England centre who was, in my opinion, the outstanding England player of the Commonwealth Games in April, has been playing Super Netball in Australia for Giants since 2017.

Guthrie has given no indication as to which club she will join, although I’m sure many will be vying to sign her up.

Cricket
Kia Super League

We already know two out of the three teams that have made it to finals day at Hove on 27 August.  Western Storm and Loughborough Lightning have been battling it out for top spot all tournament and it’s not over yet!  Lightning scored a famous victory against the Storm this week which took them back to the top of the table, but there’s still time for it all to change.  The race is still on for third, although Southern Vipers, usually a safe bet to reach finals day, are out of it.

Here’s what has happened so far this week:

11 August
Lancashire Thunder 136/7 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 137/1 (14.3 overs)
Lightning won by 9 wickets with 33 balls remaining

Amy Satterthwaite top-scored for the Thunder with 47 from 41 balls with back-up Georgia Boyce (38 from 33) and Nicole Bolton (19 from 20).   But Loughborough’s bowling was disciplined as they restricted the Thunder to under 140.  Sophie Devine took 2/22 from her four and Kirstie Gordon 2/29 off her four.

Loughborough knocked off the total with over five overs to spare as Lancashire took only one wicket.  Amy Jones, having a great tournament, scored 66 from 39, Rachael Haynes 40 from 37 and Sophie Devine, unluckily run out, scored 22 from 12.

Southern Vipers 62/2 (8.5 overs)
Western Storm (did not bat)

Match abandoned.

12 August
Surrey Stars 66 all out (16.4 of 20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 67/1 (9.3 overs)
Diamonds won by 9 wickets with 63 balls remaining

Disaster for the Stars as they were skittled by Yorkshire for just 66 at York.  Only Lizelle Lee (13) and Marizanne Kapp (13) got into double figures.

Beth Langston took 3/14 off 3.4 overs.

In response Lauren Winfield’s was the only wicket taken as she was caught by Sophia Dunkley off the bowling of Laura Marsh for 14 but by then the Diamonds already had 55 on the board.  Beth Mooney top-scored with 44 off 30 as Yorkshire won easily.

14 August
Southern Vipers 147/9 (20 overs)
Surrey Stars 148/6 (19.3 overs)
Stars won by 4 wickets with 3 balls remaining

Just two days after their thrashing at the hands of Yorkshire, the Stars made a great return to form, beating the Vipers and thus ending the Vipers’ chances of qualifying for finals day.

Without Suzie Bates the Vipers’ scorecard would have been grim reading.  The New Zealander scored 82 from 57 balls.  The next best score was from Danni Wyatt who scored 15.

Best bowling figures came from Nat Sciver, who took 4/32 off her four overs.

It was a competitive target, though.  Surrey tackled it steadily and all contributed.  Sciver top-scored with 46 from 33 and as wickets fell as they headed towards the target, it was a little too close for comfort.  The Stars finally closed it out with three balls to spare.

Lancashire Thunder 154/9 (20 overs)
Yorkshire Diamonds 145/8 (20 overs)
Thunder won by 9 runs

Harmanpreet Kaur stole the show at Blackpool as she struck 74 from 44 balls to take the Thunder to a good total of 154.  Nicole Bolton also scored 46.

The Diamonds battled valiantly, ultimately just falling short.  Winfield fell for just two at the top of the order, but Beth Mooney and Thea Brookes then put on a partnership of 47 before Brookes fell for 22.  Down the order Brunt top-scored with 44 and Alice Davidson-Richards 33, but Yorkshire lost wickets at crucial stages.  Kate Cross effected two run outs and Yorkshire ran out of steam.

15 August
Western Storm 124/6 (20 overs)
Loughborough Lightning 125/1 (12.3 overs)
Lightning won by 9 wickets with 45 balls remaining

A brilliant all-round performance saw the Lightning defeat the Storm and return to the top of the table.

Kirstie Gordon took 3/19 off her four overs and Sophie Devine 2/27.  Even Smriti Mandhana couldn’t quite get it going, scoring 29 from 27 balls until she fell victim to Gordon, caught by Ellyse Villani.

It never looked to be a big enough total.  And so it proved.  Loughborough knocked it off with the minimum of fuss.  Haynes scored 66 not out from 40, Sophie Devine 38 from 30 and Amy Jones saw the end with 6 not out from 6.

Storm had no answer to the Lightning’s performance.  The question is, can Loughborough replicate this on finals day?

It’s safe to say that this season’s tournament has been the best so far by a distance.  I think it was obvious to most of us that a five-game competition was never going to be long enough.  The advent of away and home ties has been brilliant and has produced cricket of a high standard with overseas stars, home favourites and up-and-coming youngsters all having the chance to shine.

If you’re in the Hove vicinity on Bank Holiday Monday, get down there!!

And Finally,

Those of you who have been following the column for a while will remember that I used to have a fairly regular sailing update from Abby Ehler from the Magenta Project, an organisation committed to “accelerate women to the top of sailing”.  Whilst I don’t have the regular updates anymore, I do keep up with what the team at Magenta is doing and I’m thrilled to say they have just announced a new mentoring programme to:

“link up aspiring female sailors with mentors across the industry for the purpose of supporting their sailing development. The mentors will work with the mentees to help plan their sporting development, overcome hurdles, find industry sponsors and inspire them to succeed at the highest level possible.”

All the information on how to apply to be mentored is on the website, and if you’re at all interested I would urge you to take a look.

https://themagentaproject.org/mentoring/

I will hopefully be revisiting this subject in a few weeks to see how it’s going and what the response has been.

That’s all for this week – short and sweet for a change!  More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 December

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netball

England 57-64 Jamaica

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey

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

Sailing with Abby Ehler

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

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

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

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

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

Football

Africa Cup of Nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details in next week’s column.

Chelsea

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

Women in Football Awards

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

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

The awards were given as follows:

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

Kabaddi

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

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

The tournament starts on 14 December.

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

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

Taekwondo

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

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

Cycling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

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

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

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

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

Women’s Big Bash League

And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.

The opening fixtures are:

10 December

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

11 December

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

There are plenty of England players in action:

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

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

Women’s cricket in Bangladesh

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

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

Rugby Union

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

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

For a more in-depth report see here

Golf

Dubai Ladies Masters

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

Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.

Tennis

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

And finally,

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 October

1-7oct.jpg

Welcome to this week’s bumper edition of the Women’s Sports Column.  There’s so much to tell and discuss this week I don’t rightly know where to start.  Plenty of good stuff to come including a few possibly controversial words from me and a pretty impressive (in a bad way) “And finally”.  Stories this week come from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, sailing and Women’s Sports Week.

Football

Continental Cup Final

Sunday 2 October, Academy Stadium Manchester

Manchester City Women 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Manchester City women made it a league and cup double this week as they beat Birmingham City Ladies 1-0 after extra time to clinch the Continental Cup.

The match, unfortunately played on City’s home ground, was never going to be a goal-fest, contested as it was between the league’s two meanest defences.

After a goalless ninety minutes it took a header from Lucy Bronze to seal he victory.

The crowd was an excellent 4,214.

FAWSL1

Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal overran the league’s bottom side at the Keepmoat scoring five in the process.  Danielle Carter opened the scoring after 13 minutes, but they weren’t able to double the lead until midway through the second half when Natalia Pablos Sanchon made it 2-0.  Pablos Sanchon grabbed her second on the 84th minute as the Belles crumbled in the face of relentless pressure.  Carter took her second three minutes from the end and Kelly Smith made it five on the stroke of full-time.

Belles have lost all of their 12 games this season and are doomed to WSL2.  Arsenal are still looking to claim next season’s second Champions’ League place by finishing second in the table.

British clubs also played in the Champions’ League this week:

Chelsea 0-3 Wolfsburg

Chelsea were totally outplayed in the first leg of their round of 32 match in their first ever game at Stamford Bridge.

Hungarian midfielder Zsanett Jakabi scored a hat-trick and in truth there could have been several more in a poor defensive display from the home side.

The first goal was down to a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and England defender Claire Rafferty in the twelfth minute.  Jakabi scored a second before half time and completed her hat-trick just after the break.

A crowd of 3,783 saw Chelsea’s virtual elimination from the competition.  They play the return leg next week.

Hibernian 0-6 Bayern Munich

Munich were far too strong for a young Hibs side at Easter Road on Wednesday.

The German side were 3-0 up at half time through goals from Stefanie Van Der Gragt, Vivianne Miedema and Melanie Leupolz.

Miedema and Luepolz scored again in the second half and even had the luxury of missing a penalty through Nicole Rosler before Melanie Behringer scored a sixth, again from the penalty spot.

A crowd of 2,551 saw the game and the return leg is next Wednesday.

Manchester City 2-0 Zveda 2005

Manchester made a winning start to their Champions’ League campaign with a 2-0 home win.

Jill Scott scored the first and also had another chance before half-time.  But they didn’t double their lead until late on when Lucy Bronze scored a second with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.

The second leg is on 12 October.

Eskilstuna 1-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow endured a narrow defeat in Sweden that they will be hopeful of overturning in the second leg next week.

The only goal of the game came through a header from Mimmi Larrson in the second half.

The second leg takes place next Thursday and will take place at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium.

 

 Better news off the pitch for Chelsea this week as it was announced that winger Gemma Davison has signed a new contract until summer 2018.

In other football news, there have been two instances this week of players or clubs being brought to book for their attitudes to women.  See my “And Finally” for the second, but the first concerns WSL2 club West Ham Ladies.

Things have not been good at West Ham Ladies for some time.  I reported last year that former Hammer Julian Dicks, who managed the women’s team for the 2014-15 season, finally quit the job after revealing the lack of support offered by the parent club to the women’s side.

This week the situation threatened to spiral out of control when the Ladies’ side’s current Chair, Stephen Hunt, lodged a complaint with the FA accusing West Ham of breaking the rules on discrimination.

He told BBC Sport,

“West Ham need to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club.”

He alleges that promised funds never materialised and that his side have been deprived of facilities to the point where they have had to train by the roadside.  They have had to buy their own kit and have not been allowed to find their own sponsors.

He also says they cannot afford a physio or a bus to take them to away games.  They have been playing in last season’s kits with names on the back crossed out.

Needless to say West Ham have disputed this version of events and issued a statement,

“The day-to-day management of West Ham United Ladies FC was transferred to a third party some time ago and unfortunately it is an arrangement that has simply not worked,

“Mr Hunt has refused to align with West Ham’s principles throughout his tenure as chairman and has, on a number of occasions, threatened the club.

“The club have been working for some time on plans to take West Ham United Ladies FC ‘in house’ and, in light of Mr Hunt’s most recent deeply concerning comments, we will now be seeking to do so at the earliest opportunity.”

This one is obviously going to run and run and we need to see the parent club taking action as soon as possible to right an embarrassing and unacceptable situation.

Tennis

British number one Johanna Konta is through to the China Open semi-finals after beating home favourite and world number 36, Zhang Shuai, 6-4 6-0.  Zhang had caused the biggest upset so far in the last round when she beat Simona Halep.

Konnta was 4-0 down in the first set, but won 12 games in a row to take the match in style.

She faces eighth seed Madison Keys in the semis.

Her performances this week again put Konta in contention for the WTA Finals in Singapore.  She currently lies 11th in the ranking, with the top eight qualifying.

World number one, Angelique Kerber, on the other hand, is out of the China Open after losing to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-3 7-5.

 

Off the court, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year ban for doping was released this week.  She has had her ban cut to 15 months.

She will be able to return to the court on 26 April 2017.

“I am counting the days until I can return,” she said.

 

Rugby Union

 Big news for rugby in England this week as the RFU has announced its new focus for the development of the women’s game over the next four years.

Currently over 26,000 women and girls play rugby regularly in England.  The 2017 target was actually 25,000 and so it has been reached and surpassed a year early.  There are 300 clubs with a women’s or girls’ side.

They also unveiled the “Red Roses” as the new identity for the England national side.

RFU head, Ian Ritchie commented,

“England Rugby has demonstrated its commitment to the women’s game.

“We wanted to create an identity for England Women that would inspire more people to get involved whether playing or supporting the women’s game.”

England Rugby has already announced 48 professional contracts for women players and the first-ever sponsored women’s series takes place in November with the Old Mutual Wealth Series against France, New Zealand and Canada.  Also for the first time, and not to be underestimated, this season the Red Roses will wear the first custom-designed kit.

 

Cricket

Some bizarre news and some good news from cricket this week.  In an abrupt about-turn, the ECB announced this week that the Women’s Super League 50 overs tournament, due to start in 2017 will now not happen.

In a statement, the ECB said,

“As we start to map out the 2017 schedule ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup, we also firmly believe that we must factor in sufficient time for the women’s county 50-over competition and for club cricket.”

2017 is going to be a big season with the World Cup taking place in England in July.

 But what on earth was the ECB thinking?  Did they not see this coming?   There was plenty of comment at the time the tournament was announced about fixture congestion and the availability of players.  Expect more fall-out from this to follow.

 Australian women’s cricket, however, seems to have a good news story every week.  Cricket Australia this week announced that the Lendlease Breakers will become Australia’s first fully professional domestic women’s sports team.

The Breakers, based in NSW, have signed a major sponsorship deal with Lendlease ensuring that players will earn a minimum wage of $35,00pa.

 In a statement, Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones said,

“This truly is a landmark moment.  Cricket NSW has always been a leader in women’s sport and today we are proud to announce another first.

“Every member of the Lendlease Breakers squad now has the opportunity to pursue a professional sporting career.

“I am confident that every state in Australia will now follow the lead of Cricket NSW by giving their female cricketers the opportunity to earn a living wage.”

This move comes hard on the heels of the new pay deal received by the Southern Stars, with their payment fund doubled to $4.23m from April 2016.

It’s impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and the ECB need to be having a close look at what their antipodean counterparts are doing, in real terms, to progress their women’s teams.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler

The Magenta Project takes a significant step towards realizing its ambition to bring more professional female sailors into high performance racing, this week. The entry into the Extreme Sailing Series™ Lisbon Act marks an exciting opportunity to provide some hard-core experience in the highly-charged, highly-competitive environment of stadium sailing.  The driving force behind the entry, called Thalassa Magenta Racing, is New Zealand’s Sharon Ferris-Choat a Magenta Project Ambassador and currently the only female racing in the GC32 circuits. The entry is the culmination of work behind-the-scenes to secure sponsorship, as-well-as on the water: providing practical training opportunities, which took place last July in the Solent.

Sharon Ferris-Choat says,

“It’s been a journey to get to this point, but having this team competing in the penultimate Act of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series™ in Lisbon is a massive achievement.

“Our squad get the chance to hone skills both in handling the GC32 and as a team, going head to head with nine, all male teams who’ve been racing regularly in the series throughout the year. And that’s what we are aiming for – the chance to provide top women sailors with exactly this kind of experience. Eventually we would like to see an all-female team taking part in the whole series rather than as a wildcard.”

The event is currently under way and can be followed at www.extremesailingseries.com  or www.themagentaproject.org

 

Women’s Sports Week 2016

3-9 October has been the second Women’s Sports Week, in case you missed it.  There has been plenty of media coverage for the event with the great and the good of women’s sport making one appearance after another to push the women’s sporting agenda.

The highlight for me was been the 5Live discussion on team sport with Kate Richardson-Walsh, Katy McLean, Tracey Neville and Casey Stoney (and Mark Sampson).  Another welcome announcement is the new England Rugby plan for the women’s game and the national side renamed as the “Red Roses”.

I’m yet to be convinced by “Team Up”, yet another initiative (as I tweeted somewhat wearily last week, “another day, another initiative”) which brings together England cricket, hockey and netball as they host world cups in England in 2017, 18 and 19 respectively.  Seems a bit of a tenuous link, but, as I say, I’m here to be convinced.

It has been a largely positive week, although I suggest you check out my blog next week when I devote a whole piece to it – the positive and the negative.

 

And finally, two players from Sparta Prague’s men’s side may think twice before they speak from now on.

After their 3-3 draw on Sunday, Sparta’s goalkeeper, Tomas Koubek tweeted that “women belong at the stove,” after the female referee missed an offside and their opponents equalised.  He added “Women should not officiate men’s football.”  His teammate, Lukas Vacha, tweeted a picture of the referee captioned “to the stove”.

Neither his club nor the Czech footballing authorities were not impressed.  The two players have been ordered to train with the women’s team (should be fun) and the Czech FA’s disciplinary committee will consider punishment in due course.

 

Women’s Sports Column 23-30 September

womens-sport-week-portrait-e1469449420244Welcome to this week’s column.  Plenty of things to talk about again this week including stories from tennis, football, cricket, sailing and rugby.  The “And finally” this week is another good new story – and a call to action to all of you out there!

Tennis

It’s been a big tennis week as the world’s top players are still fighting for the right to play in the WTA Finals tournament in Singapore.

On Sunday, former world number one Caroline Wozniacki beat Japan’s Naomi Osaka 7-5 6-3 to claim the Pan Pacific Open title in Tokyo for the second time.

It was Osaka’s biggest game and she fought hard, especially in the second set when she came from 5-0 down to take it as far as 6-3.

The Wuhan Open began this week and we are now at the quarter-final stage.

Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta had been playing well up until this stage but she met an in-form Petra Kvitova on 29 September and was blown away.  Kvitova had already put paid to the top seed, Angelique Kerber, in the third round, 6-7 7-5 6-4.

Konta met Kvitova at exactly the wrong time and was well beaten, 6-3 6-4.

In the other quarter finals fourth seed Simona Halep beat eighth seed Madison Keys 6-4 6-2, ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova beat third seed Agnieszka Radwanska 1-6 7-6 6-4 and tenth seed Dominika Cibulkova beat the unseeded Barbora Strycova 6-3 3-6 6-4.

The semi-final line-up will be Kuznetsova v Cibulkova and Kvitova v Halep.

Britain’s number two, Heather Watson did not even make it through her first match as she was forced to pull out through illness.  She withdrew complaining of dizziness and a stomach bug.  She had already suffered with dizziness at the US Open.

 

Cricket

Indian cricket’s governing body, the BCCI has announced that opening batter Smriti Mandhana will become only the second Indian player to be signed up for Australia’s Women’s Big Bash.  The 20- year old will play for Brisbane Heat.

“It feels great t be a part of Big Bash,” she is quoted as saying.

“I’ve always been looking forward to playing in that tournament. And getting this opportunity to participate at such a young age and getting to gain good experience from it, will help me immensely in the future.

“I’m very fortunate to have been signed with them.”

In other cricket news, Charlotte Edwards has been awarded the Cricket Writers’ Club Women’s Cricket Award at the club’s 70th anniversary ceremony.

This is the first time the women’s prize has been awarded.  Yes, you read correctly – the first time in 70 years.  To put it into context, the first CWC Young Player of the Year Award (this year won by Ben Duckett) was first awarded in 1950……..

The judging panel was chaired by the BBC’s Alison Mitchell.

“Charlotte Edwards has spent much of her career breaking new ground so she is a highly appropriate first winner,” she saidl.

At the Professional Cricketers’ Association (PCA) Awards, Tammy Beaumont was named Women’s Player of the Summer.  Her aggregate of 342 runs was a record for a three-match series.  She followed this with 142 runs in the T20 series and played in the Kent team that won both the Royal London County Championship and the Natwest T20 competition.

 

Sailing with Abby Ehler

Big news in high performance sailing: For the first time in the 11 year history of the Extreme Sailing Series™, Sharon Ferris-Choat will lead an all-female team at the penultimate event of the year in Lisbon next weekend. The new team are sure to attract plenty of attention with a Thalassa Magenta Racing crew roster that includes some of the world’s most successful female sailors. The race crew will be selected from a star-studded line-up including ocean racers Dee Caffari (GBR), Elodie Mettraux (SUI) and Abby Ehler (GBR); Olympians Sally Barkow (USA), Annie Lush (GBR) and Gemma Jones (NZL); Olympic Silver medalist Annemieke Bes (NED), Nacra 17 World Silver medallist Hannah Diamond (GBR) and 420 World and European champion Annabel Vose (GBR).

Ferris-Choat commented:

“To be the first all-female crew in the Extreme Sailing Series is a proud moment for all the women in our GC32 Squad. We have so many women wanting to compete at an elite level of sailing – there is a absolute need to create this opportunity.”

The event can be followed here: http://www.extremesailingseries.com

 

Football

Manchester City were crowned champions of FAWSL1 on Sunday after beating Chelsea 2-0 at the Academy Stadium.  They only needed one point to win the title with a game still to go, but they did it in style with a fine win over a lacklustre Chelsea side.

Manchester City Women 2-0 Chelsea Ladies

The first goal came from a Jill Scott header deflected into her own goal by Katie Chapman.  The points, and championship, were sealed five minutes after half-time through a Toni Duggan penalty.  And although the goals sound as if a bit of luck was involved, in truth City were much the better side.

A fantastic crowd of just over 4,000 were there to witness City crowned champions for the first time.

Saturday 24 September

Doncaster Rovers Belles 1-4 Reading FC Women

Another week, another loss for the Belles as they remain rooted to the bottom of the table and yet to take a point.

Reading were also looking for their first win of the season.  The visitors were two up at half-time through as Emma Follis scored in the ninth minute and defender Nia Jones bagged a second in the 37th.  When Emily Simpkins pulled one back for Belles just after the break, there was still everything to play for.

However, a second for Follis and a fourth for the team from Rachel Rowe secured the points for Reading and saw them jump up the table and out of the relegation zone.

 

Sunday 25 September

 Birmingham City Ladies 2-1 Liverpool

 Birmingham will need all the confidence boosting they can get if they are to overcome Manchester City in the Continental Tyres Cup Final this weekend.  The win over Liverpool on Sunday was a perfect warm-up.

Corina Schroder scored the first on her Birmingham debut on 50 minutes.  Liverpool levelled it with a Katie Zelem penalty, but Birmingham were not to be outdone and in the 70th minute defender Kerys Harrop scored the winner that takes the Blues to fourth in the table.

Notts County Ladies 2-1 Sunderland AFC ladies

The Lady Pies had to come from behind at home to beat Sunderland on Sunday.  The visitors took the lead in injury time of the first half through Victoria Williams.

But County regrouped and came out refreshed in the second-half.  A header from Rachel Williams levelled the score and Jess Clarke, again with a header, scored a second on 68 minutes to seal the win for County.

Off the pitch pioneering football journalist and broadcaster, Jacqui Oatley was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Wolverhampton this week.

She received an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree for her contribution to sports broadcasting and for promoting opportunity for women.

 

Rugby Union

Worcester Valkyries 10 -60 Bristol Ladies.

Bristol is still the team to beat in the Premiership as they made it three from three with a thumping win over Worcester Valkyries at Sixways on Sunday.  They ran in nine tries, taking the bonus point on the way.

Other scores

Saracens Women 34-14 Richmond Ladies

Aylesford Bulls Ladies 45-5 DMP Sharks

Wasps Ladies 26-33 Lichfield Ladies

For more information on the above matches, please see my weekend round up for Women’s Sports UK.  

 

And finally, October 3-10 is Women’s Sports Week (I know, we think every week should be women’s sports week). 

The initiative, now in its second year, is the brainchild of Women in Sport.

Next week, individuals, teams, clubs, companies and organisations all over Britain will be going all-out to promote women’s sport.

Obviously I’ll be there to stick my oar in – probably more than once.  Watch out for my “pithy” comments on Twitter @PennyHopkins3 and articles on my website.

The BBC is contributing with Body Talk, as they describe it, “an intimate and interactive discussion on body image issues for women in and around sport.”

Those taking part include Hannah Cockcroft, So Solid Crew’s [sorry lost me there) Lisa Maffia, Joanna Rowsell Shand, boxer Natasha Jones, Katarina Johnson-Thompson and many more.

The event takes place in Liverpool on 6 October at 2pm and will be broadcast live on the BBC Sport and BBC Radio 1Xtra websites.

If this isn’t for you, can I suggest you read about, watch, talk about and generally big-up women’s sport next week with as many people as possible.  We are getting there, but it’s very, very slow.  The more people who realise that a woman on a pitch, on the touchline, in the press box or the boardroom is not only “normal”, but admirable, the better.  Let’s do it!  Let’s shout about it!

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 August

rugby ballWelcome to this week’s column. I’d like to thank you all for your responses to last week’s edition – very kind.  After the thousands of words last week, this one will be a bit shorter!

This week I have another “highs and lows” of the Olympics, plus stories from cricket, rugby union and sailing from Abby Ehler.

Highs

Hockey. Seven from seven as we speak with the gold medal match against Netherlands to come. So, guaranteed silver. But, as you watch them you think they really wouldn’t be satisfied with silver. And you can’t blame them. The semi-final against New Zealand was a stunning performance; New Zealand simply hadn’t got any reply.

The GB team battled, defending incredibly well, but also taking the attack to the black sticks until their opponents crumbled and they realised they were beaten long before the final hooter.

And what strength!  And determination? First Crista Cullen was hit in the mouth, followed shortly afterwards by a head injury to Georgie Twigg.   But after disappearing for treatment they were back into the fray, no messing, no histrionics.

Helen Richardson-Walsh took the penalty stroke that sealed that victory but immediately limped off with a hamstring injury.

Team GB will have to work their socks off and take all their chances to beat a Dutch team going for their third gold in a row. By the time you read this it may be all over, but whatever happens it will be the best performance by a British Olympic women’s hockey team and we can all appreciate that.

Laura Trott. Need I say more? This week Laura became Britain’s most decorated female Olympian as she claimed gold in the omnium to add to the team sprint gold she won with Jo Rowsell-Shand, Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald last week. This took her medal total to four, all gold.

But it was in the omnium that she showed her complete domination of the field. She finished second in the first event, the scratch race and then won the individual pursuit and elimination race to end the first day’s races with an eight –point lead over Belgian Jolien D’Hoore, with American Sarah Hammer in third.

On the second day she was second in the time trial and then won the flying lap. By the time she was into the points race she had a lead of 24 points.

Her opponents were unable to close the gap at all and she ended on 230 points, with Sarah Hammer in second on 206.

She’s an inspiration and a role model and if this doesn’t encourage thousands of youngsters to get on their bikes, then I don’t know what will.

Sophie Hitchon won bronze in the hammer. This is the first time a British woman has won a medal of any colour in this event. She also took the British record with her final throw to move from fifth to third with a distance of 74.54m.

Simone Biles (again). Please overlook, if you can, all of those headlines screaming “she is human” when she took a mere bronze in the beam when she wobbled and put her hands on the apparatus. Actually, Sanne Wevers’ gold medal routine was, in fact, stunning and the win well deserved. Of course she’s human! But Biles recovered and came back to claim her fourth gold medal on the floor. An amazing athlete with the potential to do it all again in four years.

Lows

There have been plenty of instances of sexist commentary and derogatory remarks about female athletes this week. They have been well-documented elsewhere. But here are a couple of my “favourites”.

Inverdale v Murray

Everyone’s number one choice must be John Inverdale. There is a theory out there that people are out to get him, but if he didn’t keep making these gaffes they wouldn’t have any fuel for the fire, would they?

Anyway, he starred this week in an interview with gold medal winning Andy Murray. When he said to Murray,

“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?”

Murray returned with,

“Well, to defend the singles title … I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each but hadn’t defended a singles title before.”

It appears that Inverdale had completely forgotten the Williams sisters!

Some have rushed to his defence, claiming that he was talking about singles, but it’s not that clear. After all, Inverdale has form – remember Marion Bartoli?

Nothando Vilakazi, defender in the South African women’s football team, came in for some disgusting trolling on social media just because she appeared to put her hands over her crotch when she was standing in a defensive wall. This led to such gems as:

“That ain’t no woman!”

“That’s 100% a bloke!

“The look when you forgot to pretend you don’t have balls”

“That’s a boy not a girl – how did they get away with that?”

(all responses from men, by the way).

Vilakazi played for South Africa at London 2012 and plays domestically for Palace Super Falcons. Don’t know about you, but I’m sick of this kind of comment.

Cricket

Away from the Olympics, the Kia Super League finalists have been decided. The remaining results were as follows:

Friday 12 August

Haslegrave

Loughborough Lightning 168/6 (20 Overs)

Surrey Stars 134 all out (19.5 overs)

Lightning won by 34 runs

Taunton

Southern Vipers 137/3 (20 overs)

Western Storm 140/2 (17.5 overs)

Storm won by 8 wickets

Old Trafford

Yorkshire Diamonds 166/6 (20 overs)

Lancashire Thunder 71 all out (15 overs)

Diamonds won by 95 runs

Sunday 14 August

Ageas Bowl, Southampton

Southern Vipers 156/4 (20 overs)

Loughborough Lightning 97 all out (18.5 overs)

Vipers won by 59 runs

Headingley

Yorkshire Diamonds 118 (20 overs)

Western Storm 119/4 (16.3 overs)

Storm won by 6 wickets

The final table looked like this:

Team Played Won Lost tied points
Vipers 5 4 1 0 11
Storm 5 4 1 0 9
Lightning 5 3 2 0 8
Stars 5 2 3 0 5
Diamonds 5 1 4 0 3
Thunder 5 1 4 0 2

Clear favourites must be the Vipers, as they were before the tournament started. But who can say – it will be very much up to who performs on the day.

It has been an excellent first tournament and hopefully it will go from strength to strength next year, particularly when the 50 over competition is introduced.

Finals day is on Sunday 21 August at Chelmsford. It is different from the format of the T20 Blast in that has only three contenders. In the semi-final Lightning will play Storm and the winner of this goes on to play the Vipers who finished top of the group.

BBC Test Match Special is covering finals day on 5Live Sports Extra. The programme begins at 10.45am with the semi-final starting at 11am.

 

In other cricket news, there was a big announcement from New Zealand Cricket this week. It will be offering 15 retainer contracts to its squad (rising from 10) and pay will range between $20,000 and $34,000. The current rate is $10,000 – $12,000. Match fees will be $400 for an ODI and $300 for T20s.

They have signed a new three-year Memorandum of Understanding with the New Zealand Cricket Players Association to this effect.

NZC Chief Executive, David White, said,

“Better remunerating our best women’s players fits in well with NZC’s strategic priority of making cricket a game for all New Zealanders, and our commitment towards inclusivity and diversity. Internationally, women’s cricket is going from strength to strength and this new MoU recognises that evolution.”

The first contracts to be allotted will be announced on 19 August. New Zealand face South Africa away in October, then play a series at home against Pakistan. They then play Australia home and away.

 

Rugby Union

The England Under-20s rugby team are playing a series against Canada in Nottingham over the next couple of weeks.

The first game took place on Thursday 18.

England 46 – 8 Canada

The England U20 scored eight tries in the first of this three-match series in Nottingham.

England scorers:

Jess Breach (3), Kelly Smith, Lottie Holland, Millie Wood, Sarah Bern and Chantelle Miell. Zoe Harrison kicked two conversions and Langi Tuima, one.

Canada scorers:

Taejah Thompson one penalty, Zana Everett one try.  

Understandably, England U20 Head Coach Jo Yapp was happy as she told the England Rugby website,

“We are really pleased with the performance, the girls worked really hard to put into practice what we have been working on in this summer camp.

“It was great to see new players such as Lagi, Hollie and Ellie winning their first U20 caps. We now focus on the next game as we know Canada is a strong side and we are expecting them to regroup and come hard at us on Monday.”

England Women U20 v Canada Women U20 games at Nottingham Trent College remaining games:

Monday 22 August, KO 5.30pm Friday 26 August, KO 5.30pm

 

Sailing by Abby Ehler

The Magenta Project took part in a number of activities during last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, including having the privilege of awarding the Ladies Day Trophy to British Paralympian Helen Stodel.  The trophy recognises the outstanding contribution, commitment, or achievement of women in sailing.  Hannah is a British Paralympic sailor who has represented GB three times in the summer Paralympics and, in September 2016, will compete once again with her team mates John Robertson and Steve Thomas representing GB at the Paralympics, having campaigned tirelessly for selection winning the Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne along the way.  Hannah is a wonderful ambassador for both women in sailing and disabled sailing.  When she’s not Sonar sailing she also lends her skills as a coach and tactician to The Sirens, a privately funded female yacht racing team dedicated to building a presence on the club circuit as a competitively focused all female team.

Another highlight of the week was taking girls from the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation out on the M32 high performance catamaran.  The girls selected, all aged 16-18 years were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to climb on board with world-class and ocean racing sailors: Abby Ehler, Annie Lush, Sam Davies and Cecile Laguette for a 3 hour sail during the Slingsby Gin Ladies Day at the famous Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight.

Annie Lush said on return to shore: “It was such an amazing opportunity for us to sail with these wonderful girls and see them rise to the challenge of handling the super-fast M32. They are an inspiration themselves.”

All in all Cowes Week was a huge springboard to promote the goals of the Magenta project and its aims to raise the profile of women in professional sailing and inspiring the younger generation to follow.

This week in Rye, New York, the International Women’s Keelboat Regatta is taking place following a 3 year gap in the event due to lack of sponsorship.

Twenty-four teams from around the world will be invited to compete, with the intention of an even ratio of North American and intercontinental teams. – See more at: http://www.ussailing.org/racing/championships/adult/iwkc/#sthash.NzBn5TFH.dpuf

 

And finally, women in sport have enough trouble justifying their existence without other women chipping in. When Sweden beat USA in the Olympics football quarter-final, USA goalkeeper, Hope Solo, called their opponents a “bunch of cowards”, adding “the best team did not win today.”

It may have been said in the heat of the moment, but Solo is old enough to know better. Some of her team-mates have distanced themselves from the comments and Solo herself has now had second thoughts. Later she tweeted,

“Losing sucks. I’m really bad at it.”

Yes Hope, you are.

Sweden will be hoping their cowardice will take them through one more game when they face Germany in the Olympic final on Friday 19 August.