Women’s Sports Column 22-28 September 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Tennis

Pan Pacific Open

Karolina Pliskova claimed the Pan Pacific Open singles title by beating US Open champion Naomi Osaka, in the final, 6-4 6-4.

Third seed Osaka had defeated the unseeded Camila Georgi in the semi-final 6-2 6-3, while fourth seed Pliskova overcame Donna Vekic 6-2 4-6 6-3.

There was a surprise result In the doubles with top seeds Barbora Strycova and Andrea Sistini Hlavackova losing out to the unseeded Japanese pairing of Miyu Cato and Makoto Ninomiya 6-4 6-4.

Wuhan

This week we’re on to the Wuhan Open.  Top Briton Jo Konta perished in the first round, losing to Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, 7-5 6-4.

The quarter-finals went as follows:

Anett Kontaveit beat Katerina Siniakova 6-4 6-6
Wang Qiang beat Monica Puig 6-3 6-1
Aryna Sabalenka beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-5 6-3
Ash Barty (16) beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 5-7 6-4

So Barty is the final seed standing and the semi-finals are on 28 September.  One has already happened with Wang unfortunately having to retire with an injury:

Anett Kontaveit v Wang Qiang 6-2 2-1 (retired)
Aryna Sabalenka v Ash Barty (16)

Netball

Australia duly claimed their fourth Quad Series title as they won all three of their matches.  The third round comprised two closely fought matches, ending in wins for the Diamonds over the Silver Ferns and the Roses over the Proteas.

Round Three – 23 September
Melbourne Arena
England 45-42 South Africa

Helen Housby scored 31 points from 35 attempts as England came back from a seven-goal deficit (20-27) at half-time to take the tie.

By the end of the third quarter England trailed by only one point, 32-33.

But South Africa came again and were 38-41 up until the Roses scored seven without reply to take a 44-41 lead and the game ended 45-42.

Australia 60-55 New Zealand

Caitlin Bassett lead from the front once more as she scored 46 points from 50 attempts (92%) as Australia took their third win in three games, and with it the Quad Series title.  The Diamonds were as many as 10 goals ahead in the final quarter, but the Silver Ferns pulled it back to make the gap just five by the end.

The new Vitality Super League season is getting nearer and there have been plenty of signings, re-signings and moves over the close season.  For all the latest news see the Super League website.

Table Tennis

Li Qian of Poland won the women’s singles final at the European Table Tennis Championships in Alicante, Spain.  She defeated Margarita Pesotska of Ukraine 8-11 10-12 11-6 11-6 11-2 11-2.

Nina Mittelham and Kristin Lang of Germany won the Women’s Doubles, beating Sofia Polcanova of Austria and Yana Noskova of Russia 10-12 11-8 11-6 4-11 11-9 7-11 12-14.

The Mixed Doubles title went to Han Ying and Ruwen Filus of Germany.  The number two seeds beat the number four seeds Stefan Fegerl and Sofia Polcanova of Austria, 11-7 9-11 11-4 9-11 11-8.

Football
Champions League

There were mixed fortunes for Britain’s sides in the last 32 of the Champions League this week.  Chelsea went through comfortably, Glasgow City also qualified, but Manchester City went out.

The results in full:

Brondby 1-0 Juventus
(Brondby win 3-2 on aggregate)

Wolfsburg 2-0 Thor/KA
(Wolfsburg win 3-0 on aggregate)

Barcelona 3-0 BIIK Kazygurt
(Barcelona win 4-3 on aggregate)

Sparta Praha 1-2 Ajax
(Ajax win 4-1 on aggregate)

Linkoping 4-0 Zhytlobud-1
(Linkoping 10-1 on aggregate)

Fortuna Hjorring 0-2 Fiorentina
(Fiorentina win 4-0)

Rosengard 2-0 Ryazan
(Rosengard win 3-0 on aggregate)

Bayern 4-0 ZFK Spartak
(Bayern win 11-0 on aggregate)

Manchester City 0-2 Atletico Madrid
(Atletico Madrid win 1-3 on aggregate)
With the score 1-1 after the first leg, City would have been confident of doing the job and progressing into the last 16.  But they were behind within four minutes through Silvia Meseguer.  They were two ahead before half-time when Ludmila da Silva slotted home.  Jen Beattie had had a goal disallowed towards the end, but the tie was already lost.

Chelsea 6-0 Sarajevo
(Chelsea win 11-0 on aggregate)
It was an easy and convincing win for Chelsea as they carried through a 5-0 lead from the first leg to score another six at home.  Drew Spence got the first, and they were two-up by half-time as Fran Kirby bagged the second.  After the break there were further scores from Maren Mjelde, Kirby with her second, Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert.

Zvezda 2005 0-1 Lillestrom
(LSK win 4-0 on aggregate)

Lyon 5-0 Avaldsnes
(Lyon win 7-0 on aggregate)

Slavia Praha 4-0 Gintra
(Slavia Praha win 7-0 on aggregate)

Zurich 5-1 Honka
(Zurich win 6-1 on aggregate)

Paris SG 2-1 St Polten
(PSG win 6-1 on aggregate)

Glasgow City 0-1 Barcelona FA (Cyprus)
(Glasgow City win 2-1 on aggregate)
Glasgow did the hard work in the first leg, sealing a 2-0 win so that a home defeat still saw them go through.  Krystyna Freda gave the away side the early lead, but they couldn’t score again and indeed in the second-half Glasgow had plenty of chances to stretch further ahead on aggregate.

There was a full Super League and Championship programme at the weekend:

FAWSL
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Liverpool
Arsenal 4-3 West Ham United
Everton 0-0 Chelsea
Manchester City 2-2 Bristol City
Reading 0-1 Birmingham City

Most teams have now played three games.  Arsenal are top with three wins from three and a goal difference of +13.  Birmingham City are second; they have nine points but a goal difference of only +3.  Manchester City are in third with five points.  At the bottom Yeovil and Brighton are yet to take a point, although Yeovil have only played two games.

FAWC
Durham 2-2 Charlton Athletic
Tottenham Hotspur p-p Sheffield United
Lewes 4-3 Leicester City
London Bees 0-5 Manchester United
Millwall Lionesses 1-1 Crystal Palace

Needless to say Manchester United top the Championship with three wins from three and a whopping goal difference of +20.  Lewes are second with nine points but a vastly inferior goal difference of just +5. Tottenham are third on six points, but from only two games.  At the bottom Aston Villa and Sheffield United have yet to take a point.

The SSE FA Cup third round of qualifying draw was made on Monday 24 September.  The fixtures are as follows:

West Didsbury & Chorlton v Bolton Wanderers
Leeds United v Boro Rangers
Norton & Stockton Ancients v Redcar Town
FC United of Manchester v Bridlington Rovers
Chorley v Crewe Alexandra
Chesterfield or Burton Albion v Stockport County
Brighouse Town v Burnley
Newcastle United v Chester Le Street Town
Sporting Khalsa v Long Eaton United
Kidderminster Harriers v Solihull Moors
Leicester City Women Development v Oadby & Wigston
Birmingham & West Midlands v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Leafield Athletic v West Bromwich Albion
Nettleham v Histon
Norwich City v Enfield Town
Acle United v Cambridge City
Cambridge United or Harlow Town v Stevenage
Wymondham Town v Billericay Town
Chesham United v Denham United or Crawley Wasps
Islington Borough v New London Lionesses
Ashford Town (Middx) v Kent Football United or Burgess Hill Town
AFC Wimbledon v Godalming Town
Whyteleafe v Queens Park Rangers Girls or Royston Town
Luton Town v Oxford City
Newhaven v AFC Bournemouth
Buckland Athletic or Ilminster Town v Marine Academy Plymouth
Eastleigh v Poole Town
Keynsham Town v Southampton Saints or Warsash Wasps
Southampton FC Ladies v Larkhall Athletic
Cheltenham Town v Exeter City

Ties take place on Sunday 7 October, with the first round proper on Sunday 11 November.

Euro 2021 Finals

The FA has submitted a bid to stage the UEFA Women’s Euro 2021 finals in England.  The decision on who will host the tournament will be made at the UEFA Executive Committee meeting on 3 December 2018.

It has been proposed that Wembley Stadium will host the final and the eight cities and towns to be included in the bid are:

Brighton & Hove – AMEX Stadium
London – Wembley Stadium connected by EE and Brentford Community Stadium
Milton Keynes – Stadium MK
Manchester – Manchester City Academy Stadium
Nottingham – Meadow Lane
Peterborough – ABAX Stadium
Rotherham – AESSEAL New York Stadium
Sheffield – Bramall Lane

Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s director of women’s football, said:

“We have made great strides in growing participation, support and success at all levels throughout women’s and girls’ football, of which we can be rightly proud.

“In ‘The Gameplan for Growth’ strategy, launched in March last year, we set ourselves some challenging targets which we are on course to achieve, but we are impatient to accelerate the development of the sport.

“There is no question that the opportunity to host such a prestigious tournament would provide us with an incredible catalyst for the future growth of the game at all levels.”

You know my views on the FA and its capabilities, or lack thereof.  I have no doubt, however, that it (and the clubs/grounds involved) could host a brilliant tournament.  Apparently, there were no other bidders within the closing date.  So, let’s hope the FA put a sufficiently convincing case forward – it would be a bit embarrassing if it was the only bidder and still couldn’t be awarded the event.

Best Fifa Football Awards

Brazil and Orlando Pride forward, Marta was adjudged Best Female Footballer at the weekend.  It is the sixth time she has won the award.

The awards ceremony, the voting system for which drew plenty of criticism, was held in London.

Marta drew 14.73% of the votes, Dzsenifer Marozan was second with 12.86% and Ada Hegerberg, third with 12.60%.

The Best Women’s Coach award went to Lyon manager Reynald Pedros.  In his first season at the club they won the French league and Women’s Champions League double.

Pedros took 23.15% of the vote.  Sarina Wiegman (Head Coach of Netherlands) was second with 15.31% of the vote and Asako Takakura (Head Coach of Japan) third with 12.80%.

More on this – the sad, misogynist side in this week’s “And Finally”.

In other awards news, France Football has created a new women’s Ballon d’Or.  The winner will be voted for by a panel of specialist women’s football journalists (a move that will, no doubt, go down like a lead ballon with the Neanderthals out there).

The Ballon d’Or was first awarded in 1956 so I think it’s pretty much about time there was a women’s equivalent.

The nominees for the award will be revealed on Monday, October 8.

World Judo Championships

It has been a difficult week for Britain’s women at the World Judo Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan this week.

It began well with a silver medal for Nekoda Smythe-Davis in the -57kg category – Britain’s first silver medal at the championships since 2009.  Smythe-Davis, who is the world number five, lost in the final to world number two Tsukasa Yoshida of Japan.  The Briton beat world number one Sumiya Dorjsuren from Mongolia in the semi-final.

But Natalie Powell (world number two) went out in the third round of the -78kg category, losing to world number 14 Klara Apoteker of Slovenia.

Sally Conway missed out on a bronze as she lost to Yoko Ono of Japan in the -70kg repechage and Sarah Adlington lost at the same stage in the +78kg class, losing to world number two Larisa Ceric of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

It was the start of the season last weekend and reigning champions Surbiton got off to a fine start in defence of their title.

22 September
Holcombe 2-0 Bowdon
Canterbury 0-1 Clifton Robinsons
Beeston 2-2 University of Birmingham
Slough 0-4 Surbiton
Buckingham 2-1 East Grinstead

This weekend’s fixtures are:
29 September
University of Birmingham v Slough (1pm, Birmingham Uni, Pitch 1)
Bowdon v Canterbury (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
East Grinstead v Beeston (4pm, East Grinstead Hockey Club)
Holcombe v Buckingham (4pm, Holcombe Hockey Club, Pitch 1)
Surbiton v Clifton Robinsons (4pm, Surbiton Hockey Club)

Rugby Union

There was a full round of Tyrell’s Premier 15s fixtures at the weekend:

22 September 2018
Firwood Waterloo 14-52 Wasps
Worcester Valkyries 12-43 Richmond Women
DMP Sharks 0-61 Saracens
Bristol Bears 43-5 Gloucester Hartpury
Loughborough Lightning 41-17 Harlequins

After three games, Saracens are top on 15 points including three bonus points.  Loughborough are second on 14 and Wasps third on 10.  At the bottom Worcester have only two bonus points and DMP Sharks are just above them on five.

This weekend’s fixtures are:

29 September
Bristol Bears v DMP Sharks (12pm, Shaftesbury Park)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Loughborough lightning (1pm, venue TBA)
Wasps v Worcester Valkyries (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
Harlequins v Firwood Waterloo (3.30pm, Surrey Sports Park)

30 September
Richmond Women v Saracens (3.30pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)

It was announced this week that the Tyrell’s Premier 15s final will be held at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton on Saturday 27 April 2019.  Kick-off will be 5.45pm.

Rugby League

Just one result from the Super League from the weekend:

Castleford Tigers 34-8 Featherstone Rovers

So Leeds Rhinos are still top on 18 points from 11 games, with Wigan Warriors just one point behind on 17 from 11.

York City Knights and Featherstone Rovers are still on two points apiece at the bottom.

Cricket

Sri Lanka v India

India ended up 4-0 winners in their five-match T20 series, with one no result due to rain.

Third T20 – Colombo
22 September
Sri Lanka 131/8 (20 overs)
India 132/5 (18.2 overs)
India won by 5 wickets

Siriwardene top-scored for Sri Lanka with 35 and captain Atapattu 28, but the home side lost eight wickets including two run outs as they posted 131.

In response, although Raj and Mandhana made only 13 and six respectively, Jemima Rodrigues took it on, scoring 57 off 40 balls.  Captain Harmanpreet Kaur also chipped in with 24 off 19, and India won it with 10 balls to spare.

Fourth T20 – Colombo
24 September
Sri Lanka 134/5 (17 overs)
India 137/3 (15.4/17 overs)
India won by seven wickets

A similar match to the third, the fourth was cut to just 17 overs.  Sri Lanka posted 134 with Siriwardene top scoring again, this time with 40 from 32 balls.  Atapattu scored 31.  Anuja Patil took 3/36 off four with her off-breaks.

Again the top two went cheaply; Raj (11) and Mandhana (5), but Rodrigues continued her fine vein of form, scoring 52 not out from 37 balls.  Top scorer was Patil with 54 not out.

Fifth T20 – Katunayake
25 September
India 156 all out (18.3 overs)
Sri Lanka 105 all out (17.4 overs)
India won by 51 runs

This time India batted first, but for the third match running the openers did not perform.  Raj went for 12 and Mandhana a duck, but again Rodrigues, this time joined by Kaur put on a third wicket partnership of 75.  But Sri Lanka kept going and were rewarded by getting India all out in the last over.  Siriwardene took 3/19 from 3.3 overs and Fernando 3/24 from her four.

In response Sri Lanka made an equally bad start with Atapattu falling for a duck and Mendis just 10.  They lost wickets at regular intervals and after the fourth wicket went (Ranasinghe for 22), no-one else got into double figures.  Pick of the Indian bowlers was Poonam Yadav, who took 3/18 off her four overs.

West Indies v South Africa

Third ODI – Bridgetown
22 September
West Indies 292/5 (50 overs)
South Africa 177 all out (42.3 overs)
West Indies won by 115 runs

South Africa were one-up going into the third ODI, with the second having been washed out.  And what a game the crowd were treated to!

The home side made a fantastic 292/5 in their 50 overs.  Hayley Matthews secured player of the match with 117 from 146 balls.  Fellow opener Kycia Knight went for only five, but Stafanie Taylor made 46 and Deandra Dottin 56 as they piled on the runs.  Marizanne Kapp took 4/55 from her 10 overs, but the others all took some punishment.

Lizelle Lee went for just two in the first over.   Laura Wolvaardt scored 54, albeit from 82 balls and captain Dane van Niekerk 77, but no-one else made double figures and it was a convincing win for West Indies.  Dottin took 4/36 off 9.3 overs.

So the ODI series was squared and on to the five-match T20 series.

First T20 – Bridgetown
24 September
West Indies 124/6 (20 overs)
South Africa 107/7 (20 overs)
West Indies won by 17 runs

First blood to the home side in the T20 series.  After her fine century in the last match, Matthews could only make eight in the first T20, but opening partner Natasha McLean top-scored with 38 as the Windies posted a fair score.

In response, the South African openers went cheaply (Lee 1, Wolvaardt 8) and they never really recovered as they dropped behind the required run rate.  The rest of the side all made contributions, but all too slowly.  Stafanie Taylor took 3/16 from her four overs.

The remaining T20s are on 29 and 30 September and 4 and 7 October.  More news next week.

And finally,

Sorry, but it’s back to the usual.  And yes, I know I shouldn’t do it, but I did.  Let’s face it, no-one has a good word to say about Fifa, so I thought it would be interesting to look at the comments on the BBC coverage of the Fifa Best Football Awards to see what people were saying.  Big mistake.  I actually thought it would be several pages of rants about Fifa’s iniquities, but it wasn’t.  It was largely populated by those who though Marta should not be ALLOWED to share a podium with Modric.  I’ll say it again – not ALLOWED.  Like she shouldn’t be allowed to breathe, like Fifa should not have any truck with women’s football, should not promote it, should not even mention it.  There was at least one who actually said “women shouldn’t be allowed to play football”.  Real, proper, outrage.  Really?  Is that still, as the common parlance would have it, a thing?  Since when were these Neanderthals appointed arbiter of what is “allowed?”

And not only did Fifa come into the firing line, but then the BBC also copped it for having the temerity to mention the women’s award.  If I saw the words “PC brigade” once, I saw it a hundred times.

Come on folks, it’s not funny anymore (not that it ever was). Please get over yourselves.  Women are here, women will play whatever sports they want to.  And, if they’re good enough, they will receive plaudits and awards for doing so.  Move on, chaps.

More news and views next week. 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 20-26 January 2018

gavelWelcome to this week’s column.  No prizes for guessing what’s been bugging me beyond endurance this week.  But actually there’s a bigger story that should be given prominence – the conviction of US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.  But there is plenty of news from other sports this week – news that, thanks to Mr Neville, has received even less (if that were possible) coverage than usual.

Stories this week come from netball, cricket, rugby union, football, Winter Olympics, tennis, bowls and Commonwealth Games.

Larry Nassar 

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years imprisonment for the abuse of girls and young women he was supposed to be caring for in his role as US Olympic gymnastics team doctor.

Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault.

The 54-year old had already been sentenced to 60 years for the possession of child pornography.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina delivered a devastating speech in sentencing Nassar.

“As much as it was my honour and privilege to hear the sister survivors, it was my honour and privilege to sentence you.

“Because, sir, you do not deserve to walk outside of a prison ever again.”

156 girls and women accused Nasser and the court heard seven days of testimony.

In response to the accusations Nassar said,

“What I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling.

“There are no words to describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred.”

 Football

Now let’s just get the next subject over with so we can move on other things as there is a lot to get through.

 FA appoints Phil Neville as new England Women’s Head Coach

It’s all been said.  I can add nothing new, but it won’t stop me putting my two penn’orth in.  The FA’s job advert said it was looking for:

“an outstanding football coach with a track record of consistent and successful management and development of elite players and coaches to high-performance levels.”

Or, alternatively, we can hire Phil Neville.  As I said last week, I’m ready to be converted, but if things do go well, will it because of Neville or in spite of him?

And, it never ceases to amaze me that hundreds of men who have never given a second’s consideration to women’s football unless it is to dismiss it as irrelevant, now feel it is their right, nay their duty, to give their opinion on this topic.  Should I be grateful that the “great and the good” of the men’s game now have an opinion – largely that the appointment is wrong?  No, I should not.  You’ve never shown any interest before – don’t pretend you’re commenting because you feel outrage at this appointment.  Can’t quite believe I’m going to say this, but at the moment those saying “who cares?” are the ones I want to read – at least they’re consistent……

Many of the social media comments over the last few days have been unpleasant and personal about Neville and have no place in any reasoned argument.  Neville’s tweets from way back have been a distraction from the real issues.  I don’t have much of an opinion either way on Neville as a person, but if the FA couldn’t find anyone better qualified for this role they are doing something wrong and Baroness Sue Campbell coming out and saying that the other candidates were “nervous” about the media grilling they would receive is not going to convince me otherwise.

Right, enough and onwards.

FAWSL

We’re up and running again in the WSL this weekend.  These are the fixtures:

Saturday 27 January

FAWSL1

Liverpool v Bristol City (5.30pm, Select Security Stadium)

FAWLS2

London Bees v Watford FC (2pm, The Hive)

Sunday 28 January

FAWSL1

Chelsea v Everton (12.30pm, Kingsmeadow Stadium)

Birmingham City v Yeovil Town (2pm, Solihull Moors)

Reading v Arsenal (2pm, Wycombe Wanderers FC)

Sunderland v Manchester City (2pm, Mariners Park)

FAWSL2

Millwall Lionesses v Durham (12 noon, St Paul’s Sports Ground)

Sheffield v Tottenham Hotspur (1pm, Sheffield FC)

Doncaster Rovers Belles v Brighton & Hove Albion (2pm, Keepmoat Stadium)

Oxford United v Aston Villa (2pm, Oxford City FC)

Other Football News

There has been a mixture of good and bad in the other news this week; I’m afraid it’s been one step forward, at least two back:

Manchester City

Manchester City are signalling their clear commitment to women’s football by launching their new “Same City, Same Passion” campaign.

As part of this they are merging their men’s and women’s social media channels and say that the campaign is,

“Focused on promoting women’s football by demonstrating that the same skills, same excitement and same passion exist wherever a ball is kicked”.

The club statement went on to say,

“Despite the rapid growth the sport has experienced since then, the general public perception of women’s football does not always match the reality of what can be seen on the pitch.

“In 2014, FIFA’s women’s football survey found that only 13 per cent of its member associations believed women’s football was perceived as a quality sport.

“Same City, Same Passion has been created to combat this misconception and to show that the similarities to the men’s game are far greater than the differences, and that men’s, women’s, boys’ and girls’ football can be enjoyed by everyone.”

“Same City, Same Passion aims to highlight that the similarities between men’s and women’s football are far greater than the differences and, regardless of who’s playing, it’s just football.

“Merging social media channels as part of this campaign offers us a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our women’s team and to offer our supporters the chance to enjoy the excitement and passion that defines every Manchester City team.”

Let’s face it, the club is often accused of “buying” success, but, to be honest I say let them buy it if they are going to put this much faith in their women’s team.  Let it show the others how it’s done.  Hopefully, others will follow suit with similar commitment.  I’m not holding my breath, but it’s a definite step forward.

Boston Breakers

Bad news from the US this week as it has been announced that Boston Breakers have gone out of business.

The details are still sketchy, but it is believed that the players were told by email on Thursday.

England striker Natasha Dowie plays for the Breakers and the manager is former Liverpool boss Matt Beard.

More news in next week’s column.

Yeovil Town

It was announced today that Yeovil manager Jamie Sherwood will leave the club at the end of the season.  Sherwood has been doing the job part-time and with the league going fully professional from next season, he cannot carry on his other job in Wales and this one.  So he has opted to stand down from his role at Yeovil.

In a similar position is Ellie Curson, who is also to leave Yeovil to concentrate on her teaching career as she does not want to commit to a full-time professional team.

 Transfers

  • Chloe Kelly and Taylor Hinds have left Arsenal for Everton
  • England under-20 forward, Rinsola Babajide, has signed for Liverpool from Watford.

Netball

World Cup Qualifying

Scotland and Northern Ireland have qualified for the 2019 World Cup after the qualifying tournament at the weekend.

Friday, 19 January

Wales 40-52 Scotland

Wales were ahead at half-time 23-21, but the Scots came back and by the end of the third quarter were 32-31 up.  Then Nia Jones was sent off for Wales, the match had turned for good, Scotland extended their lead and took the match by 12.

 Saturday, 20 January

Northern Ireland 57-42 Wales

Northern Ireland were always ahead in this game.  They led 16-11 after the first quarter and 28-21 at half-time.  They were never headed and they took the match comfortably.

Sunday, 21 January

Scotland 52-31 Northern Ireland

Both sides had already qualified by beating Wales.  Scotland went on the offensive early and were 14-6 ahead at the end of the first quarter.  By half-time they were 27-14 up.

Scotland’s defence was stronger and their attackers more accurate as they stretched away to make the final gap 21 points.

Wales

The Welsh coach, Trish Wilcox, has already paid the price for failing to qualify for the World Cup as she was sacked this week.  She also leaves her role as Celtic Dragons coach.

Wales are now looking to appoint an interim head coach for the Commonwealth Games, before they make a permanent appointment later on in the year.

Wilcox had been in post for three and a half years.

Quad Series

 20 January (Copper Box)

South Africa 50-54 Australia

The Diamonds’ shooting was the difference in this match.  And yet, it could all have been different.  At half-time South Africa were one point ahead.

But they couldn’t maintain their form as Australia found theirs.  Going into the final quarter the Diamonds had reversed the deficit and were one point ahead 39-38.

The gap was stretched to four points by the end, but it was a whole lot tighter than expected.

England 64-57 New Zealand

What a game!  What a comeback from the Roses!

England came back from six down as the fourth quarter started, to tie the game 49-49 at the final hooter.  And so into extra time.

But it needn’t even have got that far, as Kadeen Corbin missed a shot in the last seconds which would have won the game in normal time.

The Roses powered through extra-time, forcing the Silver Ferns into mistakes and turning the ball over.  New Zealand seemed to visibly wilt as England got stronger and there was only going to be ne winner by the end.

Player of the match was Serena Guthrie, a ball of furious energy throughout.

 22 January (Copper Box)

England 46-50 Australia

But it was the same old story against Australia as England fell short.

The Roses were 28-21 down at half-time, a gap too large to come back from against the World’s number one side.

They brought it back to 37-34 at the end of the third, but Australia held on for the win.

25 January (Johannesburg)

South Africa 46-51 New Zealand

The Silver Ferns led by five after the first quarter, 14-9.  They maintained the gap with the score at 25-21 at half-time.

The gap was five 39-34 going into the final quarter, and although the Proteas fought in the fourth, New Zealand took the game by five.

There are two games to go: 28 January (Johannesburg)

Australia v New Zealand

South Africa v England

Tennis

The Australian Open final will be between the top seed, Simona Halep and second seed, Caroline Wozniacki.

Halep overcame 21st seed Angelique Kerber in a semi-final epic, 6-3 4-6 9-7

Wozniacki defeated Elise Mertens in straight sets, 6-3 7-6

The final is on Saturday 26 January.

Winter Olympics

The GB team for Pyeongchang has been announced.  The games begin on 9 February.  It’s great to see the crowdfunded “Micas” on the list.  The women taking part are:

Skeleton

Lizzy Yarnold, Laura Deas

Bobsleigh

Mica McNeill (Pilot), Mica Moore (Brakewoman)

Curling

Team Muirhead (In with a great chance of a medal)

Eve Muirhead (Skip), Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Lauren Gray, Kelly Schafer

Figure skating

Penny Coomes (with partner Nick Buckland) (ice dancing)

Short Track Speed Skating

Elise Christie (500m, 1000m, 1500m) – (Great chance of a medal if she can stay out of trouble)

Charlotte Gilmartin (500m, 1000m, 1500m) (outside chance of a medal)

Kathryn Thomson (500m, 1000m, 1500m)

Biathlon

Amanda Lightfoot (7.5km Sprint)

Alpine skiing

Charlie Guest, Alex Tilley

Cross-country skiing

Annika Taylor

Freestyle skiing

Izzy Atkin, Rowan Cheshire, Emily Sarsfield, Katie Summerhayes, Molly Summerhayes

Snowboarding

Aimee Fuller, Zoe Gillings-Brier, Katie Ormerod.

Bowls

The World Indoor Bowls tournament is underway at Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk and the women’s singles has been won by Katherine Rednall from Ipswich.

This is Rednall’s third title.  She beat Rebecca Field from Norwich in the final 13-3 13-6.

She now goes on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Commonwealth Games

Wales have already announced their team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, which take place 4-15 April 2018.  Included is 11-year old Anna Hursey, who be representing the Principality in table tennis.

The hockey, sevens and netball squads are still be finalised.

Aquatics: Jazz Carlin, Georgia Davies, Kathryn Greenslade, Ellena Jones, Harriet Jones,  Beth Sloan, Alys Thomas, Chloe Tutton, Harriet West.

 Athletics: Hollie Arnold (para), Olivia Breen (para), Rebecca Chapman, Melissa Courtney, Bethan Davies, Seren Bundy Davies (still to reach qualifying standard), Caryl Granville, Beverley Jones (para), Caryl Jones, Elinor Kirk, Heather Lewis, Carys Parry-Evans, Sally Peake,

Boxing: Rosie Eccles, Lynsey Holdaway, Lauren Price.

Cycling: Elinor Barker, Eleanor Coster, Joe Holt, Ciara Horne, Rachel James, Manon Lloyd,  Dani Rowe (having switched from representing England to representing Wales),

Lawn bowls: Anwen Butten, Laura Daniels, Jess Sims, Caroline Taylor, Julie Thomas (para), Pauline Wilson (para), Emma Woodcock.

Shooting: Sian Corish, Coral Kennerley, Sarah Wixey.

Squash: Tesni Evans, Deon Saffery.

Table Tennis: Charlotte Carey, Anna Hursey, Chloe Thomas.

Triathlon: Olivia Mathias, Non Stanford.

Weighlifting & Powerlifting: Tayla Howe, Laura Hughes, Catrin Jones, Holly Knowles, Nerys Pearce (para), Faye Pittman, Hannah Powell, Christie Williams.

Rugby Union

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

20 January

Firwood Waterloo 0-29 Loughborough Lightning

Gloucester-Hartpury 34-17 Bristol

Wasps 5-0 Saracens

DMP Sharks v Harlequins Postponed

Worcester Valkyries 5-22 Richmond

Just the one fixture this weekend:

27 January

DMP Sharks v Richmond (4pm, Northern Echo Arena)

So Saracens lose their unbeaten record at Wasps.  They are still top on 60 points from 13 games.  Harlequins are second on 54, with Wasps third on 47.  At the bottom, luckless Worcester lie on two points with Firwood Waterloo above them on seven.

Sevens

It’s the Sydney round of the World Sevens this weekend.  Check out http://www.sydney7s.com.au/ for details.

Standings: Australia are top on 20 points, USA are second on 18, Russia third on 16 with Canada next on 14 and New Zealand fifth on 12.

England lie eighth on six points and Ireland are one further back on four.

Cricket – off the Pitch

 History will be made this year as Anya Shrubsole will become the first woman to appear on the cover of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.  It is the bible for cricket fans worldwide and this will be the 155th edition of the book.  Another small step in the right direction for women’s cricket.

Cricket – on the Pitch

WBBL

20 January

Melbourne Stars 118/6 (20 overs)

Melbourne Renegades 118/6 (20 overs)

Stars won in Super Over

It was a thriller at the MCG as the teams finished dead level after 20 over and the game went into Super Over.

Stars won the toss and elected to bat.  Lizelle Lee top-scored with 31, with contributions from Alana King (22), Anna Lanning (21 not out) and Georgia Elwiss (18).  The wickets were evenly distributed between the Renegades bowlers.

In response, Amy Satterthwaite scored 31 not out, Sophie Molineux 25 and Claire Koski 19 as the Renegades managed to finish on exactly the same score.

In their Super Over, the Renegades scored a healthy 10 runs, but lost four wickets in the process, including ducks for Molineux, Brown and Satterthwaite.

Lee and du Preez took it on for the Stars.  Lee scored seven and du Preez, three and won the game having lost fewer wickets.

Sydney Thunder 148/4 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 111 all out (19.2 overs)

Thunder won by 37 runs

Rachel Priest scored 51 from 27 balls and Naomi Stalenberg 41 from 30 as the Thunder put on a good total of 148.

The Strikers lost wickets at regular intervals with Bridget Patterson scoring 30 from 20 balls.  But it wasn’t enough.  Samantha Bates took 3/21 from four overs and Stafanie Taylor and Nicola Carey two each.

Hobart Hurricanes 122/4 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 126/1 (16 overs)

Scorchers won by 9 wickets

Isobel Joyce top-scored for the Hurricanes with 52 not out and Georgia Redmayne 43, but no-one else made a significant contribution.  Katherine Brunt continued her good form with 2/22 off her four overs.

Elyse Villani attacked in response with 70 not out from 48 balls, Nicole Bolton scored 34 and Nat Sciver 18 not out as the Scorchers won with four overs to spare.

21 January

Sydney Thunder 114/5 (20 overs)

Adelaide Strikers 114/4 (20 overs)

Strikers won by 1 in the Super Over

Strikers won the toss and chose to bat.  They struggled to 114 with Suzie Bates top-scoring on 40.  The Thunder top four all got into the twenties, but were unable to get over the line and the game went to a super over.

Sophie Devine bowled for the Strikers, conceding just six runs and taking one wicket. She then opened the batting for the Strikers – she scored six and Suzie Bates one and Adelaide had won by one run.

Melbourne Stars 106/7 (20 overs)

Sydney Sixers 107/5 (18 overs)

Sixers won by five wickets

The Stars’ top four managed only 15 between them, but Erin Osborne scored 39 and Anna Lanning 18 as they limped to 106.  Marizanne Kapp took 2/13 from her four overs.

Alyssa Healy scored 21 from 16 and Ellyse Perry 39 not out from 45 as the Sixers took the win.

Hobart Hurricanes 130/7 (20 overs)

Perth Scorchers 134/4 (18.5 overs)

Scorchers won by six wickets

Georgia Redmayne scored 53 from 49 before she was caught and bowled by Katherine Brunt.

But 60 not out from Nicole Bolton, 21 from Elyse Villani and 24 from Nat Sciver were the telling innings for the Scorchers who got home with seven balls to spare.

24 January

Melbourne Renegades 68 all out (15.5 overs)

Sydney Thunder 69/6 (16 overs)

Thunder won by four wickets

Renegades were skittled by the Thunder as five players scored only one and Amy Satterthwaite top-scored with 17.  Nicola Carey took 3/10 off 3.5 overs, while Rene Farrell and Stafanie Taylor chipped in with two each.

Thunder took it easy in response and lost wickets along the way.  Rachel Haynes scored 37, keeping her head as wickets fell.  She was fifth wicket to fall and it was up to Stafanie Taylor and Rene Farrell to see it home.

After 12 matches, Sydney Thunder are top on 18 points.  The Sixers and Strikers are second and third respectively on 16 and Perth Scorchers lie fourth on 14.

Women’s Sports Column 18-24 November 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s monster offering, hopefully this one will be a bit more manageable – but there is so much being contributed by women in the world of sport that I have to get it out there – both my pleasure and my duty!

Stories this week come from tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, speed skating, football, weightlifting and hockey.

Let’s crack on…

Tennis

Sadly, only one place to start this week and that’s with the sad news of the death of former Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna at the age of 49.

One of the saddest, but most heartwarming sporting moments I can remember is watching the Duchess of Kent consoling Novotna after she had just the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf in 1993.

And didn’t we all cheer and cry with her in 1998 when she finally got her Wimbledon win against Nathalie Tauziat?

She was certainly an accomplished tennis player, particularly in doubles, where she won 12 grand slam titles and four mixed doubles titles.

In later years she became a knowledgeable and likeable expert voice in the commentary box.

Johanna Konta

Rumour has it that Michael Joyce is set to become British number one, Johanna Konta’s next coach.  Joyce had previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Hockey

Apologies to all you hockey fans out there as I completely missed the Women’s Hockey World League Finals starting last week in New Zealand.  So here’s what happened to England over the course of the tournament.

It was a mixed event for England, but somehow they still managed to get through to the semi-final.

They were drawn in Pool B against Germany, Argentina and China.

They lost their opening match to Germany 2-0.  Germany’s goals came from two penalty corners scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst just after the half-hour, with Nike Lorenz grabbing the second.  England had a goal from Lily Owsley disallowed for dangerous play.

Things went no better in their second pool match as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Argentina.  Delfina Merino scored the winning goal in the 56th minute.

But things improved for England in their third pool game as they beat China 4-1.  Alex Danson scored the first and Sophie Bray the second to make it 2-0 at half-time.  Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft were also on the score sheet, while Mengling Zhong scored China’s solitary goal.

Somewhat fortunately this meant that England, in finishing third in their pool, managed to avoid the Netherlands in the quarter-final.  Instead they played the USA.

Quarter-final
England 2-1 USA

Sophie Bray scored twice to take England through to a meeting with the hosts in the semis.

Alyssa Parker scored in the fourth quarter to give the USA hope, but in the end there was no way back.

Semi-final
England 0-1 New Zealand

New Zealand qualified even after losing all three pool matches.  They beat Argentina 2-1 in the quarter-final.

It was a good, end-to end match, with both sides earning chances.   Lily Owsley had a second disallowed goal of the tournament, while Sophie Bray hit the bar.

But in the end it was New Zealand who were more clinical.  With just five minutes to go Olivia Merry scored from a penalty corner to take the win.  They now play Netherlands or South Korea in the final.

Meanwhile England will play-off for bronze on Sunday 26 November against the loser of the other semi-final.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Meanwhile, back in the domestic league, last weekend’s results were as follows:
Bowdon 0-0 Surbiton
Leicester 1-1 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Canterbury
Slough 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Buckingham 1-3 East Grinstead

It was very nearly draws all round as University of Birmingham went to the top of the league on goals scored with 17 points.  Surbiton lie second also on 17, with East Grinstead just one point behind in third.  Canterbury are bottom with six points from nine games, with Bowdon and Leicester just above on eight points.

Football

No news from on the pitch this week as it’s the international break with two World Cup qualifiers for England.  Tonight (Friday 24) they face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Banks’ Stadium in Walsall.  The game is apparently a sell-out, but if you haven’t got tickets you can watch it live on BBC2 or listen to 5Live Sports Extra at 7pm.

Wales are also in action tonight, playing Kazakhstan at the Cardiff City Stadium.  Kick-off is 7pm and you can follow it live on the BBC red button and the BBC website.

Both sides then play again on Tuesday, with Wales facing the trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England are at home again, this time to Kazakhstan.

Champions League Draw

Hot off the press or out of the pot, this is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  And wow, there is certainly one standout tie – holders Lyon v Barcelona.  The draw in full:

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
Lyon (FRA) v Barcelona (ESP)

The semi-final draw was also made:

Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia Praha
Manchester City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona

Jodie Taylor

England striker Jodie Taylor is to leave Arsenal, firstly to play in the Australian W-League with Melbourne City and then to go on to join Seattle Reign.

She is no stranger to playing abroad, having already had spells in the USA, Australia and Sweden.

It is sad that she seems to be itching to get away.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“After two seasons I was ready to get back abroad.

“I think I’m better suited in a league like America and the lifestyle as well away from football.”

 Jonna Andersson

Chelsea are to sign Swedish international defender Jonna Andersson from Linköping.

She will join the West London club when the transfer window opens on 29 December.

Andersson had been with Linköping for nine years, winning three league titles and three Swedish Cups in that time.  

Denmark Women

UEFA has handed Denmark women’s side a four-year suspended ban from UEFA competition matches “for which it would otherwise qualify” after their refusal to play a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Denmark are still in dispute with their governing body.

UEFA also issued a fine of £17,871.

Sweden were awarded the win by a margin of 3-0.

This one isn’t over yet.

Rugby League

England are through to the World Cup semi-final even though they were beaten 22-16 by the Cook Islands in their final group game.  Do not ask me to explain the format of this tournament, but I’m sure the game’s governing body is rubbing its hands at the sheer labyrinthine deviousness of it all.

After winning their first match against PNG, they were well beaten by Australia in their second, 38-0.  Australia’s points came through tries from Ward (2), Kelly, Davis-Welsh, Baker, Walton, Apps and Moran.  Baker (2) and Moran chipped in with the goals.

England suffered a surprise loss to the Cook Islands in their third game.  England’s 16 points came through tries from Slowe, Hardcastle and Bulman with two goals from Garner, while the Cook Islands scored four tries through Koiatu, Arona, Strickland and Ngata-Aerengamate, while their three goals came from Schofield.

It was only due to the fact that the Cook Islands suffered heavy defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, that England went through from Pool A on points difference.

To be honest, as with the men’s, I think we can probably hand the trophy to the Australians now.  The Jillaroos are through to the semis undefeated with their last third pool game an 88-0 thrashing of Canada.   They face them again in the semi-final!

Semi-final draw Sunday 26 November

Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney
New Zealand v England
Australia v Canada

The final is on 2 December in Brisbane as part of double-header with the men’s final.

Rugby Union

Off the pitch

Big, big, big news this week from World Rugby.  This is the headline on their website:

“Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25

OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”

We’ve all heard the words before.  And words are usually all they are.  Many governing bodies talk a good game when it comes to women’s sport (I may have said this before), but this statement and strategy document is something else entirely.

And it’s not just on the field that the differences will be made.  The World Rugby Council will expand its membership from 32 to 49 next year.  The 17 new members will be women.

On the pitch they want to see one million women and girls registered to play by 2025.  Check this out.  I don’t often say this but it’s a game-changer – it’s also concise and to the point (another point in its favour):

https://www.worldrugby.org/womens-rugby/development-plan

Old Mutual Wealth Series

England have comfortably won the Test series against Canada.  They lead 2-0 with one match to play.  The first was an absolute exhibition by England, with Canada improving in the second.

First Test
England 79-5 Canada

Jess Breach scored six tries on her debut as England thrashed Canada in the first Test at Allianz Park.

Other tries came from Rachael Burford, Abigail Dow (2), Amy Cockayne, Marlie Packer, Rocky Clark and Ellie Kildunne.  Amber Reed kicked five conversions and Zoe Harrison kicked two.

Canada’s five came from a try by Cindy Nelles in the second-half.

Second Test
England 49-12 Canada

Although Canada were not able to put a score on the board until the 74th minute, it was a much improved performance from the visitors that saw them score tries through Janna Slevinsky and McKinley Hunt, while Brianna Miller put over one conversion.

England’s try count stood at eight; Heather Kerr, Rachael Burford (2), Ellie Kildunne (2), Danielle Waterman, Hannah Botterman and Jo Brown all went over the whitewash, while Amber Reed kicked two conversions and a penalty and Zoe Harrison one conversion.

Captain Sarah Hunter also won her 100th cap.

There is one game to play in the series on Saturday 25 November

Speed Skating

Elise Christie came away from Seoul with a gold medal last week as she took the 500m title, in a time of 43.27 seconds. Choi Min-jeong of South Korea was second with Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais finishing third.

Cricket

England’s women came back to draw the Ashes series 8-8 in Australia last week.  But, in truth, this will not compensate for seeing the trophy remain with Australia.  Fine performances in the final two T20s will encourage Mark Robinson and the management team, but on balance, they didn’t do enough to earn the series victory.

Second T20
England 152/6 (20 overs)
Australia 112 all out (18 overs)

Katherine Brunt finally made a contribution to this Ashes with a player of the match performance, making 32 not out and taking 2/10 from her four overs.

Knight won the toss and decided to bat.  Beaumont went cheaply, but Wyatt showed the way with 19 before she was caught by Haynes off the bowling of Schutt.

Taylor was run out for a useful 30 and then Sciver and Brunt took it on.  Sciver scored 40 before she was caught by Haynes off Perry.  It was then up to Brunt to anchor the innings and England posted a useful total of 152.

The Australian reply started well and they had made 45 before the first wicket fell.  Mooney was run out for 17 and Villani soon followed after scoring just one.  From then on wickets fell regularly as the home side found it difficult to put together a meaningful partnership.

Jenny Gunn starred again with the ball, taking 4/13 in three overs, but it was Brunt’s all round performance that swung the day as England won by a massive 40 runs.

Third T20
Australia 178/2 (20 overs)
England 181/6 (19 overs)

England left it until the last game to show the crowd and watching audience what they really can do.  But it was up to the batters to do the job.

Australia posted a massive 178/2 with Mooney finishing on 112 not out from 70 balls, scoring 19 fours and a six in the process – the first woman to score a T20 century in Australia, and only the fifth in all.  She was supported ably by Healy (19), Villani (16) and Perry (22).

It looked like a winning score and England would have to complete the highest T20 run chase by a women’s team to win.   They got off to a stuttering start with Beaumont and Taylor dismissed early on.  But Wyatt has been a revelation in these T20s and she took on the challenge with a vengeance.

She scored 100 from 57 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes – the second century of the match.  She was backed by Knight, who scored 51.  By the time Wyatt was dismissed England needed only eight runs to win off 11 balls.  They lost a couple of quick wickets, which kept us all on the edge of our seats, but Fran Wilson hit the winning runs with a cheeky four scooped over Healy behind the stumps.

Brave, bold and exciting stuff from England, but all too late to save the Ashes.

Weightlifting

A quick note of an important piece of news pertaining to women’s weightlifting.

As we know, barriers to women’s sport in the Muslim world are more stringent and profound than most, but recently women’s sport has begun to make great strides.  The latest of these is in weightlifting.

From next year, Iran and Saudi Arabia will allow their women to compete internationally for the first time.

Women have competed at the World Championships since 1987.  Several Islamic countries have never taken part including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Somalia and Libya.

What the first competition featuring Saudi women will be is unclear, but the first for Iranian women, may be a friendly tournament against the United States in February or March 2018.

There will be no column next week as I’m out and about, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 November 2017

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

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

So let’s crack on.

Football

Off the Pitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Harvey

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

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

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

Joe Montemurro

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

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

Manchester City

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

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

Jade Moore

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

She could be out for four months and requires surgery.

On the Pitch

Continental Cup Results:

4 November
Bristol City Women 1-2 Chelsea Ladies

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

Champions League

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

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

Chelsea 3-0 Rosengård

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

9 November
LSK 0-5 Manchester City

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

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

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

Stjarnan 1-2 Slavia Praha

Cricket

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

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

England 280 all out

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

Australia 177/5 (stumps day 2)

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

Golf

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

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

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

Athletics

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

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

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

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

New York Marathon

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

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

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

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

Cycling

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

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

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

Winter Sports

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

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

Fellow Briton Laura Deas finished fifth.

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

Rugby Union

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The results from last weekend were as follows:

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

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

And finally,

It’s tennis in 2017 – is it?  Really?

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

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

D’ya think?

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 October 2017

camerawomanWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s short, but perfectly formed column, this week promises to be another bumper effort!  Good grief, women, what are you doing playing/officiating in/running/campaigning about all this sport?  Whatever next?  In fact there’s so much to put in I’m going to have to leave it to you to find this weekend’s fixtures for the various sports leagues.  No room!!

Anyway, on to the news.  Stories this week come from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, football, netball, gymnastics, hockey and tennis.  Plus, a tiny rant from me for this week’s “And finally”.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

It was a clean sweep for England as they retained their Netball Europe Open Championships title at the weekend.  They were the clear favourites to take the title and put together a fine series of wins to remain unbeaten by the end of the tournament.

Results:
5 October
Fiji 34-52 Scotland
Wales 46-47 Northern Ireland

6 October
England 61-48 Scotland
Fiji 40-61 Wales
England 75-44 Northern Ireland

7 October
Fiji 46-58 Northern Ireland
Wales 49-58 Scotland
England 94-31 Fiji

8 October
Scotland 45-46 Northern Ireland
England 72-50 Wales

Final Standings:

P W D L PTS
England 4 4 0 0 8
Northern Ireland 4 3 0 1 6
Scotland 4 2 0 2 4
Wales 4 1 0 3 2
Fiji 4 0 0 4 0

Football

Off the pitch

Eventually….

Manchester City have apparently asked to talk to the FA about the response of the officials and services available after Pauline Bremer broke her leg in the game against Everton on Saturday.

According to Sportsmail City are unhappy at the lack of emergency services available at the game.  The ambulance apparently did not arrive for an hour and her teammates had to carry her off on a stretcher.

Both clubs had medics available, but there were no emergency services and there is no FA requirement for them to be even at top flight women’s games, whereas they must be available at all men’s professional games.

So, hey ho FA, here we go again.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s all a part of their half-brained thinking.  Last week it was the announcement of a fully professional first tier of women’s football; this week it’s revealed there’s not even an ambulance present at current matches.  Just who is putting these schemes and ideas together?  Are they even aware of the present situation?  Before we move on to the next big thing, can we get the present middle-sized thing right first, please?

Yeovil

Yeovil Town Ladies announced this week that they were going to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £350,000 necessary to put in a bid to be part of the new fully-professional top tier.

As reported a couple of weeks ago, the deadline to apply is 10 November.

The club has said,

“We have the structure, facilities and ambition to become a full-time professional club given time, but we currently do not have the financial support to do this.

“We do not have the budget to allow our players and coaches to become full-time athletes, unless further investment comes our way soon.”

And while you can applaud the club’s ambition and appreciate that it is currently where it is on merit, you have to wonder about the wisdom of building a long-term future on a crowdfunding campaign.  If they don’t have the investment now, is a one-off injection of £350,000 make the club any more sustainable?

I’m hoping they’ve done the sums and I apologise if I am wrongly doubtful. It’s a great club that has come so far and deserves a shot.

Here’s the link to the campaign should you wish to contribute:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/turning-professional-in-the-top-tier-of-the-fawsl

And it’s not just in this country that women’s football is sadly underestimated and treated with contempt:

Brazil

A number of former Brazilian women internationals have sent an open letter to their federation to protest at some of their recent actions.

And although they attack some specific issues, such as the sacking of head coach Emily Lima, their key complaint is one heard again and again throughout women’s sport –

“We, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport”.

Lima’s sacking led to five members of the current Brazilian squad to retire from international football; Cristiane, Francielle, Rosana, Andreia Rosa and Maurine have all given up on their international careers.

But it’s the set-up and governance of the women’s game that is the main focus of the protest.  FIFA has guidelines in place that say women must be included at all levels of governance of the game.  But the Brazilian Football Association (CBF) does not follow these guidelines – indeed there are no women on its governing board.

Can we expect FIFA to intervene?  Impose sanctions?  I suspect not.  But both the CBF and FIFA will have to respond in some way.  And when they do, I’ll be covering it.

England

Mo Marley has named her first squad as interim England Manager.  A squad of 24 has been named for the friendly against France, which takes place on Friday 20 November at the Stade du Hainaut.

The match will be shown live on the BBC red button – friendlies on the TV, whatever next?

Goalkeepers: Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool) 

Midfielders: Izzy Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Reading), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Dan Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal)

Norway – Good News!

And some good news to round off the “off the pitch” section.

The Norwegian Football Association announced this week that it is to pay the same to both male and female internationals.

Head of the Norwegian Players’ union, Joachim Walltin, said,

“Norway is a country where equal standing is very important for us, so it is good for the country and for the sport.

“For the girls, it will certainly make a difference. Some of them are working and studying, as well as playing football, and it’s hard to improve then.

“The feeling of being really respected is very important for them. The federation can see it as an investment to increase the level of the women’s team.”

And so say all of us.  Norway is taking the lead here – it would be good to see others follow suit.

On the Pitch

It’s been a busy week with WSL, Continental Cup and Champions League action all taking place.  After this week’s results we’re now down to the last 16 in the Champions League and it’s good to report that both English clubs went through, but Glasgow City went out on the away goals rule.  

Bayern Munich 2-2 Chelsea
Chelsea win 3-2 on aggregate

This was a fine result for Chelsea after being only one up after the home leg.  It was tight all the way through, but when Fran Kirby stuck away an excellent goal on 60 minutes, thereby securing an away goal, the task seemed much easier.

Bayern needed three in 30 minutes and were stung into action.  They pulled one back after sustained pressure as substitute Gemma Davison deflected the ball into her own net and then Lucie Vonkova pounced on some poor goalkeeping from Lindahl to poke home from close range.

Chelsea resisted wave after wave of attack, much as they did in the first leg.  The home side had a good shout for a penalty when the ball seemed to strike Millie Bright’s arm, but the referee waved it away.

Bayern did put the ball in the net in injury time, but it was disallowed for a push in the box and Chelsea held on for the win.

The Bayern staff and manager were not happy with what they perceived as Chelsea time-wasting as player after player went down.  And while there certainly was an element of this, the players had also played themselves into the ground and were genuinely feeling the effects.  Several times Chelsea were down to ten and playing on.  Ramona Bachmann appeared to have pretty constant cramp for the last half-hour!

Manchester City 3-0 St Polten
Manchester City win 6-0 on aggregate

It was an altogether easier night for Manchester City as they cruised past Austrian champions St Polten and into the last 16.

With a healthy 3-0 cushion from the away leg, City matched the tally with goals from Nikita Parris, Jill Scott and Mel Lawley.

In truth, it wasn’t a flowing performance from City and a better team would have made them pay.  Jane Ross missed a penalty in the first-half and was then anonymous for the rest of the game.  The defence, still adapting after losing Lucy Bronze to Lyon, looked creaky at times.  But they’re through and will, no doubt, take confidence from the tie to go on into the last 16.

Glasgow City 4-1 BIIK Kazygurt
4-4 on aggregate, but BIIK Kazygurt go through on the away goal

It was heartbreak for Glasgow City as they so nearly came back from a 3-0 away deficit to complete a miraculous win.

Their task was made so much harder as BIIK took an early lead through Chinwendu Ihezuo and the home side needed five.

Abbi Grant scored a hat-trick and Noelle Murray one to bring the sides level on aggregate.

Then Glasgow were awarded a penalty with eight minutes to go and the chance to win the tie.  But Leanne Ross hit the post and the chance was lost.

City had further chances to score but the ball refused to go in the net and Glasgow had gone out at the round of 32 stage for the third year running.

Round of 16

There are eight seeded teams and eight unseeded in the last 16 and the good news for Manchester City is that they have snuck into the seeded pot.  Chelsea are not so lucky:

Seeded
Lyon (FRA, holders)
Wolfsburg (GER)
FC Rosengård (SWE)
Barcelona (ESP)
Manchester City (ENG)
Brescia (ITA)
Slavia Praha (CZE)
Sparta Praha (CZE)

Unseeded
Linköping (SWE)
Chelsea (ENG)
Montpellier (FRA)
LSK Kvinner (NOR
BIIK-Kazygurt (KAZ)
Gintra Universitetas (LTU)
Stjarnan (ISL)
Fiorentina (ITA)

The draw will be made on Monday 16 October with everyone wanting to avoid Lyon and Wolfsburg!

FAWSL1

7 October
Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool
Everton 2-3 Manchester City

8 October
Arsenal 1-1 Bristol City
Reading 2-2 Birmingham City
Yeovil Town 0-1 Sunderland

Chelsea are top on goal difference with three wins from three.  Manchester City are equal on points, but five behind on goal difference.  Sunderland are third on six points.  Neither Everton nor Yeovil have yet taken a point, with the Lady Glovers bottom with a worse goal difference.

FAWSL2

8 October
Durham 4-0 Watford
London Bees 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses 4-3 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield FC 2-1 Aston Villa
Oxford United 2-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles

Millwall are top of division two on goals scored.  Both they and Oxford United are on seven points from three games.  They have the same goal difference, but Millwall have scored three more goals.  Durham are third on six points.  Aston Villa, London Bees and Watford are still to register a point with Watford bottom of the pile on goal difference.

Continental Cup

The Cup begins in a group stage this year with four groups, the top two from each going through to the knockout stage.

The Groups are Groups One and Two (North) and Groups One and Two (South).  If games end in a draw at 90 minutes, they go straight to penalties.

Group 1 (N)
Liverpool 6-0 Sheffield FC
Durham 0-0 Sunderland (Sunderland won 3-2 on penalties)

Group 2 (N)
Birmingham City 4-0 Oxford United
Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-3 Everton

Group 1 (S)
Arsenal 7-0 London Bees
Watford 1-0 Millwall Lionesses

Group 2 (S)
Brighton & Hove Albion 4-2 Yeovil Town
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Bristol City

Gymnastics

Claudia Fragapane claimed bronze in the floor at the World Gymnastics Championships in Montreal at the weekend.

Japan’s Mai Murakami took gold with a score of 14,233, Jade Carey of the USA, silver, 14,2 with Fragapane coming in with 13.933.

Amy Tinkler finished 17th in the all round final with a total of 50.899.  It was quite an achievement as she was taking part just seven weeks after ankle surgery.  Morgan Hurd of the USA took gold with 55.232, with Ellie Black of Canada in silver position and Elena Eremina of Russia taking bronze.

Hockey

This week’s Investec Women’s Hockey League results were as follows:

7 October
Buckingham 0-0 Holcombe
Slough 1-0 Canterbury
Bowdon 0-2 East Grinstead
Surbiton 1-0 Leicester

8 October
Clifton Robinsons 1-4 University of Birmingham

This means that with three games gone, Surbiton are still top on goals scored from Slough.  Both are on seven points.  In third lie Holcombe with five.  Canterbury are still bottom with one point.

Rugby League

I realise I have been somewhat remiss in my coverage of women’s rugby league – in fact I’ve just never covered it.  I have no defence.  I love rugby league – in fact the first piece I ever wrote for the Sheffield University newspaper was on Sheffield Eagles.  So, in an attempt to redeem myself, there were two big stories this week.

Grand final
Bradford Bulls 36-6 Featherstone Rovers

Bradford Bulls scored seven tries through seven different players to ensure they won the inaugural Women’s Super League Grand Final at the Manchester Regional Arena on Saturday.

It also ensured a league and cup double for the Bulls who won the Challenge Cup earlier in the season and meant they completed the season with a 100% record.

At half-time it was still all to play for as Bulls led 16-6.  The Bulls began with tries from captain Kirsty Moroney and Lois Forsell.  Georgia Roche scored for Rovers, who then took and scored the conversion. Bulls then scored their third through Charlotte Booth.

But Rovers couldn’t score again in the second-half as the Bulls ran away with it.  Claire Garner, Amy Hardcastle, Charlene Henegan and Haylie Hields all crossed for tries, while Garner put over four conversions.

World Cup Squad

England have named 23 players in the squad to take part in the World Cup in November in Australia.

Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls), Andrea Dobson (Featherstone Rovers), Beth Sutcliffe, Charlotte Booth, Claire Garner (all Bradford Bulls), Danielle Bound (Thatto Heath St Helens), Danika Priim (Bradford Bulls), Emily Rudge (Thatto Heath St Helens), Emma Slowe (Featherstone Rovers), Faye Gaskin, Jenny Welsby (both Thatto Heath St Helens), Jessica Courtman(Bradford Bulls), Jodie Cunningham (Thatto Heath St Helens), Katherine Hepworth (Castleford Tigers), Kayleigh Bulman (Featherstone Rovers), Kirsty Moroney, Lois Forsell (both Bradford Bulls), Rachel Thompson(Thatto Heath St Helens), Rhiannon Marshall, Sarah Dunn (both Featherstone Rovers), Shona Hoyle, Stacey White (both Bradford Bulls), Tara-Jane Stanley (Thatto Heath St Helens).

England’s group fixtures begin against Papua New Guinea Orchids on 16 November.

The tournament final will be before the men’s at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on 2 December.

Group fixtures will be played at the Southern Cross Stadium, Woolooware, NSW.

16 November: Papua New Guinea Orchids (kick-off 09:30 BST)
19 November: Australian Jillaroos (04:45 BST)
22 November: The Cook Islands (04:45 BST)

 Belinda Sleeman

 Meanwhile, the men’s Rugby League World Cup has appointed its first female official.  Australian Belinda Sleeman is one of 24 officials selected.

Needless to say she has already accomplished a series of first – the most recent being the first woman to officiate at a Test Match, when she was a touch judge at the Fiji v Tonga match in May.

Watch out everyone – female officials are on the march at last.  They are progressing as never before in rugby (both codes), football and cricket.  Coming to a match near you!

Rugby Union

 Barbarians Women’s Team

The invitational team, the Barbarians are to introduce a women’s team.

The side’s first game will be against Munster on 10 November at Thomond Park, with further fixtures to be announced in due course.

Giselle Mather will coach the team and Fiona Stockley will manage it.

So far Susie Brown (Scotland), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Claire Cripps and Megan Goddard (England), Elen Evans (Wales), Emma Jenson (New Zealand), Christelle Le Duff (France) and Kelly Russell (Canada), have accepted invitations to play.  These eight start with 440 international caps between them.

Tyrell’s Premier 15s

Last weekend’s scores were as follows:

Saracens Women 30-0 Wasps Ladies
Harlequins Ladies 36-10 DMP Sharks
Loughborough Lightning 30-19 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Women 28-20 Gloucester-Hartpury Women
Richmond Women 48-12 Worcester Valkyries

Harlequins Ladies are top with four from four and maximum bonus points.  Saracens lie second, a point behind, with Bristol three points further back on 16 after winning three of their first four matches.  At the bottom, Worcester Valkyries remain pointless, with Firwood Waterloo and DMP Sharks on one and two points respectively.

Cricket

Australia have announced their squad for the Ashes, which start on 22 October.  As we know, captain Meg Lanning is out and her place is taken by Rachel Haynes, a decision that has raised some eyebrows as it has been suggested that Haynes has been picked mostly for her captaincy skills rather than her cricketing skills.  We’ll see in just over a week whether this proves to be an inspired decision (or not).

There are six uncapped players in the squad, two of whom are just returning from long-term injury; Lauren Cheatle has been out for six months with a shoulder injury, while Tahlia McGrath has been out for eight months with a stress fracture.

The squads in full:

Test squad: Kristen Beams, Alex Blackwell, Nicole Bolton, Lauren Cheatle, Ashleigh Gardner, Rachael Haynes (Capt), Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Belinda Vakarewa, Elyse Villani, Amanda-Jade Wellington.

ODI squad: Beams, Blackwell, Bolton, Cheatle, Gardner, Haynes, Healy, Jonassen, McGrath, Mooney, Perry, Schutt, Villani, Wellington.

ICC Women’s Championship

The quest to qualify for the 2021 World Cup began this week.  Four teams qualify automatically. The first round of fixtures is between West Indies and Sri Lanka and the first game was played on Wednesday 11 October:

Brian Lara Cricket Academy, Tarouba
Sri Lanka 136 all out (49.4 overs)
West Indies 138/4 (39 overs)

It was a comfortable win for the home side in the first game of three on Wednesday.  Yasoda Mendis top scored for Sri Lanka with 34.  Fletcher, Matthews and Taylor took three wickets each.  The only downside for West Indies was Hayley Matthews retiring hurt during the West Indies innings.  Kycia Knight made only one and captain Stafanie Taylor, two, but the middle order all contributed to see the Windies home.

The second game is on Friday 13 October.  Each game is worth two points in the Women’s Championship.

Tennis

On the Court

China Open

Caroline Garcia of France took the China Open title, beating new world number one Simona Halep in the final, 6-4 7-6.  She then pulled out of the Tianjin Open with injury.

Tianjin Open

Of course, at this stage of the season, it’s another week, another tournament.

The quarter-finals of the Tianjin Open have just been decided:

S Peng (3) beat S. Sorribes Tormo 6-0 6-1
M Sharapova beat S. Vögele 6-3 6-1
S Errani beat S McHale 5-7 7-6 6-1
A Sabalenka beat L. Zhu 6-3 6-4.

The semi-finals, which take place on Saturday 14 October, will be Errani v Sabalenka and Sharapova v Peng.

Off the Court

Johanna Konta is still suffering with a foot injury and has been forced to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup, which takes place next week.  It means she will no longer be able to qualify for the end of season Singapore tournament.

The places have been decided for Singapore and are:

  • Simona Halep (Romania)
  • Garbine Muguruza (Spain)
  • Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic)
  • Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)
  • Venus Williams (USA)
  • Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)
  • Caroline Garcia (France)

And finally

First, let me start by saying God bless the BBC for its efforts in promoting women’s sport in the face of all the bile produced by the Neanderthals every week, who feel their “No-one cares”, or more usually “Who the **** cares?” postings are the sharpest, wittiest comments since Oscar Wilde put pen to paper.

However, (and you knew this was coming) I do have to take issue with their Women’s Champions League coverage.  Last week Chelsea’s first leg match against Bayern Munich was on 5 Live Sports Extra. And very good it was.  The match, which Chelsea won 1-0, was excellent, and the tie was left on a knife-edge.  So it was with some excitement that I tuned in for the second leg on Wednesday, only to find that it wasn’t being covered.  So what was being covered?  The Manchester City v St. Polten tie on Thursday.  So what do these two matches have in common?  They’re the HOME legs.

So the BBC can “splash the cash” to send a reporter to London and Manchester, but can’t stretch to Germany or Austria.  Can you imagine John Murray being told he could cover Manchester United at Old Trafford, but couldn’t travel to an away leg – anywhere in Europe?

I did find the Chelsea game, by the way; excellent coverage, commentary and pictures via Chelsea TV on YouTube.  Would recommend.

Meanwhile, BBC, cover both legs will you?

And, and finally – a special shout out to Ipswich Town Ladies who annihilated Norwich City Ladies 8-1 in the Premier League South East Division One this week.  Fabulous hat-trick for Zoe Cossey.  Good one, ladies.  Come on you Tractor Girls!!

Women’s Sports Column 10-16 June 2017

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  I got the feeling when I was preparing this that it would be a big one – so much news from so many different sports.  So forgive me if I’m brief with each piece – just trying to get as much in as possible.

So here we go.  Stories this week come from athletics, hockey, diving, netball, football, rugby union, cycling, tennis, triathlon and cricket.  It’s also Women’s Sport Week next week, so this makes my “and finally”, with my usual combination of enthusiasm and cynicism.

Netball

Super League Final Four

I made no secret of it as I nailed my colours firmly to the Loughborough Lightning mast at the beginning of the season.  But I could not help but have that sinking feeling at the weekend when both Lightning and Wasps won well to go into the Final Four final.  And so it was borne out by the final result.  Loughborough will have the satisfaction of winning the league (by a whopping nine points), but they will be angry that the only team they couldn’t beat during the whole season was Wasps – twice.

Saturday 10 June

Semi-Finals

Loughborough Lightning 66-45 Team Bath

Wasps Netball 63-48 Manchester Thunder

Sunday 11 June

Third place play-off 

Manchester Thunder 56-48 Team Bath

Final

Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

So congratulations to Wasps.  It’s been a great Super League season.

Tennis

French Open

Twenty-year old Jelena Ostapenko became French Open champion on Saturday.  She defeated third seed and tournament favourite Simona Halep 4-6 6-4 6-3.

The unseeded Ostapenko was one set and 3-0 down before she came roaring back and in doing so became the first unseeded woman to win at Roland Garros since 1983. She also became Latvia’s first Grand Slam champion.

It was an amazing performance and hopefully the world number 47 will have a great future.

Surbiton Trophy

Magdalena Rybarikova won the Surbiton trophy, beating Britain’s number two Heather Watson in in the final in straight sets, 6-4 7-5.

Nottingham Open

Laura Robson exited the Nottingham Open in the first round.  She went out to American Julia Boserup 6-4 6-3.

Heather Watson also lost in the first round, going out to fourth seed Alison Riske of the USA 6-2 6-3.

Meanwhile Britain’s number one, Johanna Konta is through to the quarter-final.  Her first round opponent, fellow Briton Tara Moore, retired with a foot injury.  At the time Konta was up 6-2 3-0.  It was Konta’s 300th career singles win.

She played Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in round two, winning comfortably 6-4 6-1.

Konta plays Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the last eight.

Aegon Trophy, Manchester

Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady is through to the quarter-finals with a second round win over American Maria Sanchez 7-6 7-6.

She will play top seed Kai-Chen Chang of Chinese Taipei in the last eight.

Injuries

Simona Halep

The French Open runner-up has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham next week with an ankle injury.

This means that wildcards will now be given to Naomi Broady and Heather Watson and there will, therefore, be three Britons, including British number one Johanna Konta, in the draw.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has pulled out of the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and Wimbledon qualifying at Roehampton due to a thigh injury.  She had been awarded a wildcard to compete in Birmingham.

She is not expected to return until the end of July.

Cycling

The Women’s Tour

Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma claimed the overall Women’s Tour at the weekend, after the final stage in London.

The Stage Five results were:

  1. Jolien D’Hoore – 1hr 28mins 23secs
  2. Hannah Barnes – same time
  3. Christine Majerus – same time
  4. Roxane Fournier – same time
  5. Katie Archibald – same time

Overall standings:

  1. Katarzyna Niewiadoma – 16hrs 34mins 53secs
  2. Christine Majerus – +1min 18secs
  3. Hannah Barnes – +1min 30sec

Other British finishers were Alice Barnes in 6th, Dani King in 9th, Katie Archibald in 18th and defending champion Lizzie Deignan who finished in 42nd place.

Hockey

England had a disappointing international weekend at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre.

10 June

England 1-5 Argentina

Argentina took the lead through an Agustina Habif penalty corner on 17 minutes.  Lily Owsley almost equalised a couple of minutes later but her shot went wide.

On 22 minutes England were level from Surbiton’s Hannah Martin’s well worked penalty corner.

The teams went in all square and with all to play for in the second-half.

But it was all downhill for England as two penalty corners, from Martina Cavallero on 44 and Magdalena Fernandez on 48 took Argentina well in front.

And English misery was complete when Delfina Merino on 56 and Eugenia Trinchinetti on 60 scored field goals to make it 5-1.

It was a somewhat experimental England side with several new faces but it was also an excellent performance from the Argentinians.

11 June

England 2- 2 Netherlands

Netherlands won 4-3 on penalties

As always seems to be the way between these two, this was a game to savour as England came from 2-0 down to force the game into a penalty shootout.

The Dutch took the lead on just three minutes with a goal from Laura Nunnink after a pinpoint Frederique Matla cross.

They doubled their lead on 15 minutes after some fine counter-attacking hockey – the shot from  Laurien Leurink to powerful for Maddie Hinch to keep out.

But England were not out of it.  Alex Danson scored on 42 minutes and and then Sophie Bray pulled them level on 52 from a great cross by Susannah Townsend.

The shootout went to sudden death.  Hollie Webb thought she had scored the winning goal, but it was disallowed for having touched her foot.

Matla put the next Dutch penalty away, Nicola White’s was saved and the Netherlands had won.

 EuroHockey Club Cup (EHCC)

With German teams finishing as runners-up in the top division of the women’s EHCC and winning the second division (the Trophy), they will have two places for next year’s event and England will only have one.

Surbiton Ladies will be the England’s representatives in 2018.

Rugby Union

Red Roses on Tour

England 53-10 Australia

England started their International Women’s Rugby Series with a convincing win over Australia at Porirua Park, New Zealand.

Although the Wallaroos took the lead in the third minute when Ashleigh Hewson went over for a try, it was pretty much all Red Roses action from then on.

They scored nine tries in all with Sarah McKenna bagging a hat-trick and Kay Wilson a brace.  The other tries came from Izzy Noel-Smith, Abbie Scott, Vicky Fleetwood and Harriet Millar-Mills.  Emily Scott put over four conversions.

Canada 20-27 England

The Red Roses continued their fine form against Canada in Christchurch.  They scored four tries; two from Lydia Thompson and one each for Abbie Scott and Kay Wilson.  Emily Scarratt kicked seven points.

Canada’s tries came from Carolyn McEwen and Karen Paquin, while Magali Harvey kicked two penalties and two conversions.

New Zealand are also in fine form.  They defeated Canada in their first match, 28-16 and Australia in their second, 44-17.

The two unbeaten sides, the Black Ferns and the Red Roses meet on Saturday at the Rotorua International Stadium in a winner-takes-all shoot-out.

Japan

Just as Japan were the surprise package at the men’s World Cup in 2015 (who can forget their incredible win over South Africa?), it seems the Japanese women should not be underestimated in this year’s tournament in Ireland.

They have just undertaken a short tour of Ireland and Wales and although they lost narrowly twice to an Ireland XV, they defeated Wales 52-10 this week.

They have been drawn in Pool C with Australia, France and Ireland.  And all should ensure they don’t take the points for granted when playing the Asian Champions.

Sevens

England’s sevens squad, meanwhile takes part in the Malemort Sevens at the weekend.  The squad is Natasha Brennan, Katie Mason, Alice Richardson-Watmore, Millie Wood, Olivia Jones, Deborah Fleming, Heather Fisher, Kelly Smith, Lotte Clapp, Jo Richardson-Watmore, Holly Aitchison and Chantelle Miell.

Malemort is the first leg of Rugby Europe Women’s Grand Prix Series.

Pool A: Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Spain

Pool B: France, Belgium, Wales, Sweden

Pool C: England, Ireland, Italy, Portugal

England’s pool games will be as follows (all times BST):

Saturday 17 June
v Portugal, 9.44am
v Italy, 12.29pm
v Ireland, 3.14pm

It’s an important two-part series for England as it will be their last chance to quality for the Rugby World Cup Sevens in San Francisco in July 2018.  Qualification through the HSBC Rugby Women’s Sevens Series is unlikely as England are currently eighth after five of the six rounds.

Football

On the Pitch

England’s Euros warm-up

Switzerland 0-4 England

England put in another impressive display in Biel to win comfortably against Switzerland this week.

After a first half-hour’s stalemate Jordan Nobbs broke the deadlock with a fine 20-yard curler.

Ten minutes later they were two-up when Fran Kirby went round the Swiss Goalkeeper, Gaelle Thalmann to score from close range.

In the second-half Jodie Taylor scored twice and England could have had more.

Scotland’s Euros warm-ups

Mixed fortunes for Anna Signeul’s side as they prepare for the Euros next month.

Scotland 2-0 Romania

Lisa Evans started the scoring for the home side after just two minutes, when she headed in from a Fiona Brown cross.  They went in 1-0 up and then doubled their lead just after half-time when Jane Ross headed in another cross from Brown to seal the win.

It was a good, positive, attacking performance from the Scots.

Sweden 1-0 Scotland

Scotland’s second game was against altogether tougher opponents.

Although Sweden dominated the game they were unable to break through the Scottish defence until the 84th minute, when Caroline Seger headed home after almost constant Sweden pressure.

Off the Pitch

News broke this week that Dame Heather Rabbatts has announced she is to step down from her role as an FA non-executive director and board member.

In her resignation letter she cited her frustration “at the lack of progress for BAME coaches.”

The FA will now have to recruit three, not two women to its board in time for the beginning of the 2018/19 season, in order to adhere to the new Code for Sports Governance.

She made such a significant contribution in what must have been, at the very least, an unhelpful atmosphere.  She will be missed and I hope those women that come after her can harness some of her confidence and strength and will be able to make their own telling contributions.

Signings

Manchester City have made their first signing of the summer.  They have signed defender Mie Jans from Brondby for next season.

City fans will also be relieved that captain Steph Houghton has signed a new contract.  The club’s website stated:

“I’ve only ever seen my future at the club.

“This will be my fourth season and I’ve loved every single minute of it. I had no intention of going anywhere else and this is my home now.”

The length of the contract has not been disclosed.

Bristol City Women have also been dabbling in the transfer market this week.  They have signed Belgian striker Yana Daniels from Anderlecht.

WSL Structure

Everton will be the team to replace Notts County in WSL next season.

Only they and Doncaster Rovers Belles applied.  Everton finished top of the WSL2 Spring Series.

The Belles have seven days to appeal the decision.

Cricket

England continued their World Cup warm-up with a match against India this week.

They beat India by 140 runs in Loughborough.  Returning captain Heather Knight took three wickets, as did left-arm spinner Alex Hartley.  Nat Sciver continued her fine form with 69.  Lauren Winfield also put in a good knock of 50.

England 243 all out

India 103 all out

Next warm-up will be against Sri Lanka on 19 June in Chesterfield.

Triathlon

Leeds Triathlon (World Triathlon Series)

The winner of the Leeds event was Flora Duffy of Bermuda in a time of one hour 57 minutes, 02 seconds.  Second was Taylor Spivey of the USA in one hour 58 minutes, 32 seconds and in third was Alice Betto of Italy in one hour 59 minutes, 36 seconds.

First Briton home was Jessica Learmonth, who finished sixth in a time of two hours, one minute and 06 seconds.

Non Stanford finished in 11th.

Speaking of whom, Stanford has had to withdraw from the European Championships in Kitzbuhel, Switzerland at the weekend, due to illness.  No further details have been given, but she is believed to have been feeling ill since competing in Yokohama in May.

Diving

Britain’s Lois Toulson won 10m platform gold at the European Championships in Kiev this week.

She scored 330.70, with Russians Anna Chuinyshena (326.90) and Iuliia Timoshinina (313.3) capturing silver and bronze.

The World Championships take place from 14 July in Budapest.

Athletics

There was sad news this week as it was revealed that double Paralympic champion Kadeena Cox has had two of her gold medals stolen.

She had left the medals, from the 2015 IPC World Championships T37 100m and T35-38 4 x 100m relay, in her car outside her house in Prestwich.

Let’s hope they are returned.

And finally,

It’s that time again!  It’s Women’s Sport Week next week.  And those of you who have been with me for some time will know of my mixed feelings about this.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for shouting about women’s sport (as well you know), but I still think every week should be “Women’s Sport Week”.

But until this is the case, and let’s face it this is a long, long way away, let’s celebrate.  I want you all to go out and talk about women’s sport next week.  Tweet about it, Facebook it.  Do all those lovely social media things.  But also watch it and read about it.  I know you’ll have to make a bit of an effort to find it (hence this column), but I promise you it will be worth it.

And of course, if you’re a female reader of this column, you can always get out and play something!  Book a court, go for a run, go bowling, walk up a hill, have a kickabout in the park – then shout about it!

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to celebrate Women’s Sport Week.  Let me know and I’ll Tweet the best and check out www.womeninsport.org for more ideas and information.

 

 

 

Women’s Sports Column 13-19 May 2017

wembleyWelcome to this week’s column.  There’s plenty to get through to again this week so let’s go straight into stories from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, netball and boxing.

Netball

The Final Four extravaganza is nigh.  And Loughborough Lightning are still top of the pile.  After round 15, they have 42 points, six points ahead of Wasps in second with Thunder back on third with 33 and Storm six points further back on 27.  But just behind are Bath on 27 and it seems to be between these two for the last place.

Monday 15 May

Team Northumbria 44-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 57-69 Surrey Storm
Sirens 59-45 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 44-58 Wasps Netball
Loughborough Lightning 72-51 Hertfordshire Mavericks

There are three rounds to go.  It’s round 16 this weekend and the Sky televised match is on Monday 22 May when Wasps Netball take on Surrey Storm at 8pm.

Football – On the Pitch

FA Cup Final

Birmingham City Ladies 1-4 Manchester City Women

After securing an encouraging draw the previous week, Birmingham City should have been in with a chance on Saturday, but truth be told they never looked as if they believed they could win the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

A crowd of 35,271 was there to see the WSL1 champions take Birmingham apart.

It was all too easy for Lucy Bronze to head home from Megan Campbell’s cross to take the lead on 18 minutes.  Seven minutes later they were two up, this time Bronze the provider and Izzy Christiansen firing home.

Carli Lloyd grabbed the third on 32 and it was really all over as a contest by this point.

In the second half Birmingham battled hard, pulling a goal back in the 73rd minute through Charlie Wellings, but Manchester City were to have the last word, scoring a fourth through substitute Jill Scott.

And now Manchester City women have not done the treble as some uninformed journalists would have it, but they do hold all three domestic titles.

Spring Series

Liverpool continued their storming start with a convincing win over Sunderland.  They are six points ahead of Chelsea in second, but have played two games more.  One of the strange things about WSL football is the distribution of games.  Thus some teams have now played five, while others only three.  Manchester City have only played three and lie third.

Wednesday 17 May

Liverpool Ladies 4-0 Sunderland AFC Ladies

The Black Cats had no reply to this in-form Liverpool side.  The home side took the lead on 10 minutes with Caroline Weir hitting the corner from 30 yards out.  Thwere two up on 21 with Natasha Harding getting her name on the score sheet.  It was 2-0 at half-time.

After the break Sunderland fought hard.  Maddie Hills hit the post just after the resumption and perhaps if her strike had gone it things might have been different.

But it was not to be.  Weir got her second and her side’s third on 57 minutes, with former England captain Casey Stoney rounding off the scoring ten minutes from time.

Yeovil Town Ladies 0-1 Reading FC Women

Yeovil are still yet to register a point as Reading took all three points at the Viridor Stadium.  The only goal of the game came on seven minutes when defender Mandy Van Den Berg  poked the ball over the line from a corner.

Chelsea Ladies 2-2 Arsenal Ladies

It was an excellent topsy-turvy match at Staines, which luckily was shown live on the BBC red button.

The away side took the lead on 34 minutes when keeper Carly Telford brought down Danielle Carter in the box.  It was a soft one, but Jodie Taylor stepped up to take the resultant penalty.  Telford looked to have redeemed herself as she saved the spot-kick but couldn’t keep out the rebound that Taylor put away to make it 1-0 to Arsenal.

There was no further scoring in the first-half although it was tightly fought and there were chances for both sides.

After the break Chelsea upped their game.  They drew level when the imposing Millie Bright met a Hannah Blundell free-kick in the box, heading it firmly past van Veenendaal.

The last ten minutes were frantic.

Chelsea looked to have taken the points when Drew Spence, scoring off the bench for her sixth in six games fired into the corner from a pinpoint pass from Crystal Dunn one minute into injury time.

But Arsenal were to have the last word as Jordan Nobbs deflected a Carter shot into the goal in the 95th minute to level the game.

It was clear by the body language of the team and of coach Emma Hayes, that Chelsea viewed the result as two points lost.

Birmingham City 2-0 Bristol City

Birmingham put the disappointment of the FA Cup final behind them on Wednesday as they took their first Spring Series win against Bristol City at Solihull Moors.

England striker Ellen White scored twice before half-time to put the home side two up and although Bristol tried hard in the second period, they could not break down the Birmingham defence.

Off the Pitch

Signings

The fallout from the Notts County debacle continues.

Defender Amy Turner has signed for Liverpool Ladies, while Wales international Angharad James has joined Yeovil Town Ladies.  Striker Rachel Williams has signed for Birmingham City Ladies again.  She previously played for them between 2011 and 2013.

England defender Laura Bassett meanwhile has decided not to sign for a new club before the Euros in the summer.

She is currently training with her previous club, Birmingham City, and is in Mark Sampson’s squad to go to the Netherlands.

She has decided to delay making any further decisions about her future until after the tournament.

Replacing Notts County

The Football Association has invited WSL2 clubs to apply to join WSL1 for the 2017-18 season to replace Notts County Ladies.

Whoever does fill the gap will have to meet WSL1 criteria around licences and finance (they should have perhaps checked Notts County for this).

Doncaster Belles, who were relegated last season, have released a statement expressing their disappointment that the FA is going through this process.  They consider that as a relegated side they should have had priority.

A decision will be made in June.

Scotland

Scotland’s women will play three warm-up matches in their preparation for this summer’s Euros:

9 June: Scotland v Romania (Falkirk)
13 June: Sweden v Scotland (Vaxjo)
7 July: Scotland v Republic of Ireland (venue to be confirmed)

Barcelona

Top Catalan women’s team, Barcelona, are in negotiations with the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) with a view to entering a team into the2018 competition.

The club already has an office in New York and six academies across America.

There are currently 10 franchises in the NWSL, but none from Europe.  However, the noises coming from the League seem positive and it looks as if this proposal could have legs.

Motor Cycling

No, no new staggering news about a new women’s motor cycling initiative, but it’s that old, old story of the “grid girls”.

It seems that, at least in Spain, their days could be numbered – or curtailed.

Catalan political party Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds have called for new rules on the use of grid girls at the Moto GP Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona in June.

The party would not ban the girls outright, but would impose a dress code and ensure that there were an equal number of “grid boys” employed.

This is the last in a number of attempts by various groups to alter or ban the practice.  Progress is slow, but progress there is.  Let’s hope that persistence pays and this outdated and ridiculous practice bites the dust soon.

Cricket

India seem to be playing themselves into fine form just in time for the World Cup.  The final of the Quadrangular series will be between India and South Africa.  The round robin section is now complete and the rest of the scores were as follows:

15 May

Zimbabwe 113 all out (40.2 overs)
South Africa 114/3 (21.2 overs)
South Africa won by seven wickets

A record-breaking game then took place between India and Ireland!

India 358/2 (50 overs)
Ireland 109 all out (40 overs)
India won by 249 runs

Some of the staggering statistics from that game:
Openers Deepti Sharma (188) and Punam Raut (109) shared a first-wicket stand of 320 runs.  This was the first 300+ stand by any pair in women’s cricket.  It was also higher than the current men’s record of 286 between Upul Tharanga and Sanath Jayasuriya for Sri Lanka in 2006.  Sharma’s 188 came off 160 balls, the second –highest individual score in women’s ODIs, bettered only by Belinda Clark’s 229 not out for Australia.

In the next game the top two played a thriller.

17 May

South Africa 269/5 (50 overs)
India 261/9 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 8 runs

Ireland 150 all out (45 overs)
Zimbabwe 154/5 (41 overs)
Zimbabwe won by 5 wickets

19 May 2017

Zimbabwe 98 all out (42.3 overs)
India 99/0 (16 overs)
India won by 10 wickets

Also in action as we speak, Ireland unlikely to chase down this total but,

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 67/1 off 17
Ireland need 257 off 33 overs

Both the third place play-off and the final take place on 21 May.  Results and report next week.

Tennis

Off the Court

Maria Sharapova has not been given a wildcard for the French Open, which begins later this month.  There has been some hoo-hah in response to this, but the French Tennis Federation has defended its position,

“There can be a wildcard for the return from injuries – there cannot be a wildcard for the return from doping,” (FFT) chief Bernard Giudicelli Ferrandini .

Quite right – the FFT was under no obligation to grand this wildcard to Sharapova, but the WTA has chosen to say they had “no grounds to penalise” her.

On the Court

Madrid Open

The Madrid Open duly ended with an exciting climax, with third seed Simona Halep victorious over fourteenth seed Kristina Mladenovic 7-5 6-7 6-2.  Halep seemed to be heading for a straight sets win, but Mladenovic fought hard to level the match at one-all.  But the Frenchwoman had perhaps pushed herself to exhaustion in the process and could not maintain her form to take the third.

Italian Open

Another week, another tournament.  The Italian Open is now well underway

British number one Johanna Konta started well with a straight-sets win over Yulina Putinseva of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-0.

She had a bye in the second, but went out in the third round (last 16) to the rejuvenated Venus Williams, 6-1 3-6 6-1.

World number one Angelique Kerber made a surprise exit in the second round as she was comprehensively defeated by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4 6-0.

The quarter-final match-ups look like this:

Kontaveit v Halep (6)
V Williams (9) v Muguruza (3)
Bertens (15) v Gavrilova
Svitolina (8) v Pliskova (2)

Rugby Union

Harriet Millar-Mills was crowned Aviva Premiership Women’s Premiership Player of the Year 2017 this week.  It is the second year in a row that she has won the award.

Boxing

Nicola Adams won her second professional fight at the weekend.  She stopped Mexican Maryan Salazar in the third round in Leeds on Saturday.

It was Adams’ first fight over three-minute rounds, rather than the usual two.

Her partner, American boxer Marlen Esparza also won her second fight the previous week and now (according to a nicely cosy BBC article) the two are in a “battle” to see who will win a world title first.

And finally

And finally, there was a blue plaque unveiled this week to the most successful women’s team ever – the Dick, Kerr Ladies.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies were founded in Preston at the Dick, Kerr & Co munitions factory in 1917.  Its original aim was to raise money for wounded troops.

In 1920 a crowd of 53,000 saw them play at Goodison Park.  In the same year they played in the first women’s international against a French XI, winning it 2-0.

Who knows what they could have gone on to do?

But in 1921, in their wisdom, the FA banned women’s football as apparently “unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”

The team actually carried on regardless, playing all over the world and chalking up a 200-match unbeaten run in the process.

The Dick, Kerr Ladies disbanded in 1965 due to lack of players, just four years before the Women’s Football Association was founded.  If you are interested in their story, check out Gail Newsham’s book, In a League of their Own.

There are only two statues to sportswomen in the UK.  There is a new campaign surrounding blue plaques and general recognition.  On Twitter you can follow @blueplaquerebel or check out www.blueplaquerebellion.com and the hashtag #recogniseher.  Send them your nominations for women in sport who should be celebrated.

Women’s Sports Column 22-28 April 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  There is so much to get through this week I’m going to crack straight on!  Stories come from football, tennis, athletics, netball, squash, gymnastics, taekwondo, cricket, hockey and rugby.  You can probably guess my “And finally” again this week….

Football – Off the Pitch

World Cup 2019

The draw has been made for the European section of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.  England have been drawn in the same group as Wales along with Russia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

The seven group winners will qualify automatically with the four best runners-up going into a two-round play-off to fill the last qualifying spot.

Qualifiers take place between 11 September 2017 and 4 September 2018

The draw in full:

Group 1: England, Russia, Wales, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kazakhstan.

Group 2: Switzerland, Scotland, Poland, Belarus, Albania.

Group 3: Norway, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland.

Group 4: Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Hungary, Croatia.

Group 5: Germany, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Faroe Islands.

Group 6: Italy, Belgium, Romania, Portugal, Moldova.

Group 7: Spain, Austria, Finland, Serbia, Israel.

PFA Awards

Lucy Bronze was awarded PFA Women’s Player of the Year this week.  The other shortlisted candidates were Jane Ross, Jill Scott, Ellen White, Karen Carney and Caroline Weir.

Jess Carter won the Women’s Young Player of the Year award.   Nikita Parris, Georgia Stanway, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir and Millie Bright were also shortlisted.

Kelly Smith was given a PFA Special Achievement Award.

On the Pitch

European Champions League

Saturday 22 April
Manchester City 1- 3 Lyon

Manchester City face an uphill battle if they are to overcome cup holders Lyon and qualify for the Champions League final.

Lyon went ahead after only two minutes after Carli Lloyd handled in the penalty area.  Saki Kumagai stepped up to score the penalty.

Kosovare Asllani equalised for City but the away side were quick to take the lead again, this time through Dzsenifer Marozsan.

French striker Eugenie Le Sommer scored a third in the second half.

The second leg takes place on Saturday 29 April.

Spring Series

The Spring Series is underway – without Notts County Ladies.

Saturday 22 April

Bristol City 1-3 Reading

After a goalless first half the visitors took the lead on 49 minutes when Rachel Furness headed home from a Rachel Rowe corner.

They were two up ten minutes later when Rowe carved out a chance to score herself and the tie was effectively over on 61 minutes when Melissa Fletcher poked home from a mistake in the Bristol defence.

Lauren Hemp pulled one back for the home side, but the points were gone.

Sunday 23 April

Birmingham City 0-0 Sunderland

With most of the possession and scoring opportunities, Birmingham City will be rueing missing their chances in this game, while Sunderland will be more than happy with a point.

Yeovil Town Ladies 1-4 Liverpool Ladies

The day started in a comedic fashion when it was revealed that Liverpool had forgotten to bring their away kit and so had to play in the home side’s away kit.  However, this was the end of the comedy for Yeovil Town’s as their first experience of the WSL1 was a tough one.

Liverpool took the lead on 23 minutes as Yeovil were penalised for handling in the box.  Alex Greenwood converted the penalty.

The away side doubled their lead in first-half injury time as Gemma Bonner poked home from a corner.

Yeovil were three down after 65 minutes when Katie Zelem scored from a Shanice Van De Sanden corner.  Zelem got her second on 75 to take it to 4-0.

Yeovil pulled one back in the 78th minute through a Sarah Wiltshire penalty.

Athletics

World Relays

Great Britain’s 4x400m team missed out on a bronze medal by 0.23 seconds in the Bahamas this week.  The team of Emily Diamond, Laviai Nielsen, Eilidh Doyle and Christine Ohuruogu finished fourth behind USA in first, Poland and Jamaica.

Germany took the 4 x 100m title ahead of Jamaica and China.

Kelly Sotherton

Heptathlete Kelly Sotherton has received her second upgraded bronze in five months after Russian athlete Tatyana Chernova was stripped of the bronze she won at Beijing in 2008 after she tested positive for a steroid.

She had already moved up to fourth from fifth after Ukrainian Lyudmila Blonska was disqualified.

London Marathon

Kenyan Mary Keitany won the women’s elite race, breaking Paula Radcliffe’s women-only record in the process.  She ran the marathon in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes 1 second, breaking the record by a massive 41 seconds.

Alyson Dixon was top British finisher in 12th, thus securing her World Championships place.   Jo Pavey was forced to pull out at around the 17 mile mark.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the wheelchair race, with Amanda McGrory of the USA in second and fellow American Susannah Scaroni in third.  Britain’s Jade Jones finished fifth.

 Cricket

It’s all change on the Subcontinent as both India and Pakistan have named new coaches just two months before the World Cup.

Pakistan

Sabih Azhar is the new Pakistan coach, taking over from Kabir Khan.  Pakistan also announced their squad for the upcoming tournament:

Sana Mir (Capt), Sidra Nawaz (wk), Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan, Marina Iqbal, Bismah Maroof, Javeria Khan, Nain Abidi, Kainat Imtiaz, Asmavia Iqbal, Diana Baig, Waheeda Akhtar, Nashra Sandhu, Ghulam Fatima, Sadia Yousuf.

India

In a surprise move, Purnima Rau has been sacked by the BCCI and replaced by Tushar Arothe.  Arothe was women’s fielding coach and then head coach between 2008 and 2012.

Rau has voiced concern that she only found out about the sacking via the media.

“I was preparing the team for the World Cup when I heard of this from elsewhere.  I wasn’t given any explanation or reason by the board. In fact they didn’t even have the courtesy to inform me. In terms of results, we were successful. To be axed this way is disappointing and insulting.”

Arothe’s first test will be in May in a series in South Africa in a limited overs tournament that also features Ireland and Zimbabwe.

England v Ireland Series

England are currently playing Ireland in a three-match series in Abu Dhabi as their World Cup warm-up continues.

24 April

England XI 397/4 (50 overs)
Ireland 103 all out (44 overs)
England won by 276 runs

Jenny Gunn hit 94 not out and Georgia Elwiss 81 as England comfortably won the first match of the series.

The England bowling was equally impressive with Anya Shrubsole taking 3-11 and Alex Hartley 3-24.

Hockey

Surbiton did the double last weekend as both their men’s and women’s teams won their respective Hockey League Finals.

For the women it was their fourth title in a row as they beat Holcombe 3-1.  Giselle Ansley scored Surbiton’s first and Rebecca Middleton the second before Eleanor Watton pulled one back for Holcombe.

Naomi Evans scored the third to ensure the title went to Surbiton.

Netball

Last weekend saw round 11 of the Netball Superleague.  Loughborough Lightning are still unbeaten and top the table by five points from Wasps as they won a thrilling game against the Thunder by just one point on Saturday.

Saturday 22 April

Team Bath 58-48 Celtic Dragons
Manchester Thunder 57-58 Loughborough Lightning
Team Northumbria 58-55 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Sunday 23 April

Wasps Netball 65-41 Sirens

Monday 24 April

Severn Stars 66-62 Surrey Storm

The next Sky televised game is on Saturday 29 when Mavericks take on the Storm (6pm), but all eyes will probably be on what happens an hour later when the top two, Lightning and Wasps, take on each other in Loughborough’s showcase game at the Leicester Community Arena.

Tennis

Lots of tennis news this week – mostly off the court, unfortunately.   Mr Nastase makes his appearance in my “And finally” comment, but there are other stories to cover.

Fed Cup

In amongst all the controversy and ill-feeling, there was actually some Fed Cup tennis going on last weekend.

Great Britain lost their World Cup Group II play-off against Romania, which means they are back in the Europe/Africa Zone.

Heather Watson lost the first rubber to Simona Halep 6-4 6-1.  Jo Konta levelled the tie when she beat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 6-3.

On day two, though, Halep beat Konta 6-1 6-3 and Britain’s fate was sealed when Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Watson 6-4 7-5

In other Fed Cup news, it will be a USA v Belarus final.

USA beat the Czech Republic 3-2 and Belarus defeated Switzerland by the same margin.

Maria Sharapova

She’s back.  More pictures, film, social media comment and interviews have been devoted to Sharapova’s return this week than any other subject.

And she’s playing well.  After being given a wild card for the Stuttgart tournament she is now into the quarter finals.  She beat Roberta Vinci in the first round and powered past Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-1.

She faces Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit in the last eight.  Kontaveit put out fifth seed Garbine Muguruza in the previous round.

But not everyone is happy about her return.  Eugenie Bouchard has labelled Sharapova a “cheater” and said she should not be allowed back on the WTA tour.  The crowds have been respectful but cool.  It’s up to Sharapova to prove herself on the court if she is to win back the more general tennis watcher.

Stuttgart

In other Stuttgart news, Johanna Konta was knocked out in the second round by Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 7-5.

The last eight looks like this:

K Mladenovic v C Suárez Navarro
A Kontaveit v M Sharapova
A Sevastova v S Halep (4)
L Siegemund v K Pliskova (2)

Squash

England’s women’s squash team are through to the semi-finals of the European Team Championships after finishing top of their qualifying group.

They beat Denmark 3-0, the Netherlands 3-0 and Wales 3-0 and will now face the Netherlands again in the semi on Friday 28 April.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones has won gold at the World Taekwondo Federation President’s Cup in Athens.  It was her first competition since December 2016.

She won five contests to take the -57kg title.

Gymnastics

After reaching every final in the European Championships last week, Ellie Downie made good and took the all-round gold at the weekend.

She was in silver position going into the final rotation, but ended up beating Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs by 0.333 points.   Downie scored 55.765 and Kovacs 55.432.  Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France finished in bronze on 55.065.

To cap a stunning weekend Downie also won a silver in the vault and floor and bronze in the uneven bars in the individual competition.

Ellie’s older sister Becky fell and injured her hands and was unable to participate in the beam final.  Her place was taken by Claudia Fragapane, but she fell in the final and finished eighth.  Fragapane also finished seventh on the floor.

Rugby

Premiership Finals

Aylesford Bulls Ladies were the perhaps surprise winners of the last Premiership final before the new Super League starts next season.

Aylesford Bulls 17-8 Bristol

Although they finished third in the table in the regular season, Bulls brought their best rugby to finals day to beat top of the league Bristol.

Aylesford took the lead in the third minute with a try from Hanna Field under the posts.  Jess Wooden converted to make it 7-0.

Bristol were then awarded a penalty, which Amber Reed kicked, but Aylesford hit straight back with their second try, this time from Michela Sillari in the corner.  The conversion was missed and the half-time sc ore was 12-3.

In the second half Bristol got their game together.  On 54 minutes Chantelle Miell went over in the corner.  The conversion was missed, but the deficit was cut to just four points.

But it was not to be for Bristol as Sillari scored her second to take the match away from them and take the game 17-8.

In the 3rd/4th play-off Lichfield took the honours as they beat Saracens 41-14.

Lichfield went ahead in the 16th minute when Emily Braund went over.  Emily Scarratt then added a penalty.

Saracens came back with a try from Lotte Clapp.

But Lichfield hit back themselves with a second try from Braund just on half-time to take the score the 15-7 at the break.

In the second-half Lichfield consolidated their lead with tries from Sarah Bonar and Carys Williams.  Tash Jones and Amy Cockayne scored two more for Lichfield taking the game, with Saracens having the last word with a try from Bryony Cleall.

And Finally

And finally, let’s talk Ilie Nastase.  Great player and entertainer in his time, yes.  But last week he showed that his off-court behaviour is not all it should be.  Firstly he made a racist comment about Serena Williams’ baby (not going to repeat it here), and then he seemingly had a complete meltdown at the Fed Cup tie between Great Britain and Romania.  In my relatively sheltered, liberal world I watched and listened to the unfolding events with shock and, I’m afraid, disbelief.  Do people really speculate about the colour of someone’s baby?  Naive I am, possibly, and if so I apologise, but I’m still struggling to understand why anyone would even say what he did.

As regards his Fed Cup behaviour, I feel pretty much as I did about the David Moyes situation.  Not acceptable in any sense, ever.  I listened to BBC Tennis correspondent Russell Fuller as her tried to make sense of what was going on and you could hear the shock in his voice.  He couldn’t believe what he’d heard and when he interviewed the head of the Romanian Tennis Federation who said basically it was “Ilie being Ilie” you could tell Fuller was biting his tongue to prevent himself giving an inappropriate response.

It is not acceptable that anyone reduces an opposing player to tears.  It is not appropriate that anyone is called “F****** bitches” on a tennis court.  It is up to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to see that it doesn’t happen again.  Will they?  I hope so.

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 1-6 January 2017

2012adidasrunningshoesmenssize40-45_012Welcome to the first column of 2017 and a Happy New Year to all my readers.   It’s going to be (yet another) big year for women’s sport with world cups in rugby union (in Ireland), rugby league (Australia), lacrosse (UK) and cricket (UK) as well as the football Euros and EuroHockey, both taking place in the Netherlands.  It’s going to be tricky (and fun) keeping up with it all!

So let’s start with a relatively gentle first column of the year with stories from tennis, cricket, football, athletics, skeleton, UFC and “The Jump”.  In place of the usual “and finally” section, I’ll go through some of the highlights of the New Year’s Honours.

Tennis

Johanna Konta made it to the semi-final of the Shenzhen Open before she was defeated, somewhat surprisingly, by world number 52 Katerina Siniakova.

Konta won the first set 6-1 in just 22 minutes.  Siniakova drew level , winning the second 6-4.  Konta was 4-2 up in the third when Siniakova put together a run of four games to take the set 6-4 and thus the match.

Altogether, though a good warm up for the first grand slam, the Australian Open, which takes place later this month.

Siniakova, who also beat Simona Halep in the second round, will face the American Alison Riske in the final.

Riske, 39 in the world rankings, beat Camila Giorgi 6-3 6-3 in her semi-final to reach the final of the Shenzhen tournament for the second year running.

At the ASB Classic in Auckland Serena Williams was knocked out by fellow American and world number 72 Madison Brengle  4-6 7-6 4-6.  It was her second game back after four months out through injury.

In the same round Venus Williams also retired with an arm injury.

The final will be between Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who beat Julia Goerges in her semi-final 6-3 4-6 6-3 and Lauren Davis of the USA, whose semi-final opponent Jelena Ostapenko retired in the third set at 1-4, the other two sets going 6-4 4-6.

Football

Bad news for women’s football as it was announced yesterday that Sunderland Ladies are to revert to being a part-time club.

In a statement the club said that after three years of employing some players full-time and some part-time was not working,

“Having a mix of full-time and part-time players was not working as effectively as the club, and indeed the players, had envisaged.

“With a number of the squad committed to careers or study, full-time football careers were not an option for them.

“A part-time model for players therefore ensures that students and those with careers such as teaching, can continue to be committed members of the first team squad, without having to make a choice between their career and football.”

The Lady Black Cats finished fourth in their first season in WSL1 in 2015 and seventh last season.

But whatever way you dress it up (and make no mistake, this is dressing it up), this is a backward step.

Sunderland saw a dramatic drop in their attendances last season, down nearly 24%.  Surely it’s no coincidence that they have now gone part-time?

The FA needs to see this for what it is – a backward step and a cry for help.  WSL1 clubs are receiving an increase in their central funding from £70,000 to £92,500.  It’s a drop in the ocean when it comes to running a football club.  If the women’s leagues are to thrive the FA needs to look into this.  But not just look into it, but to act.  They need to make ongoing plans for support – not just one-off payments, go away sort yourselves out and we’ll see you next season.

It seems to me that (and I’ve said this before), that when it comes to women’s sport, governing bodies talk a good game.  They introduce one initiative after another and don’t back it up.  They tinker with the format season after season meaning no consistency for supporters.

This is not just in football, but in all of the major team sports.  There are no easy answers, but governing bodies need to stop the talk and put their “real” backing into women’s sport.

Rant over.

Transfer window

Chelsea continue to strengthen their squad.  This week they signed US international Crystal Dunn from Washington Spirit on a contract until 2018.

Arsenal, meanwhile, seem to be losing players rather than signing them.  Former England player Rachel  Yankey and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne have both been released by the Gunners.

Current WSL1 champions Manchester City Women have signed England under-23 forward Melissa Lawley from Birmingham City Ladies on a two-and-a-half year contract.

Skeleton

Lizzie Yarnold now lies joint third in the World Cup standings after finishing ninth in the third race in Altenberg, Germany.

She had been leading the field, but the winner of the third race, Germany’s Jacqueline Loeling, has now taken her place.

Tina Hermann took silver with Janine Flock taking bronze.  Britain’s Laura Dees finished sixth and is now eighth in the standings.

The next race, number four of eight, will be on 15 January at Winterberg in Germany.

UFC

I don’t mind admitting I struggle with the idea of this as a sport, but this is big news so it gets into the column.

Ronda Rousey lasted only 48 seconds in her comeback fight against Amanda Nunes.

It is thought that she may now consider retirement.

Nunes landed 27 punches in the 48 seconds.

Athletics

This week Scotland’s Laura Muir broke the British indoor 5,000m record by an astonishing 14 seconds.

The record, previously held by Liz McColgan, had stood for 25 years.

She ran the record at the Glasgow Miler Meet in a time of 14 minutes 49.12 seconds.

“The Jump” 

I’m not quite sure why anyone would want to take part in this after the injuries sustained in the last series, but both taekwondo champion Jade Jones and Paralympic double gold medallist Kadeena Cox have signed up to take part in the new series of the Channel 4 series, “The Jump”.

But this is only half the story.  Cox has had her UK Sport funding suspended while she takes part.  Cox is both an athlete and a cyclist and has had the funding withdrawn by British Athletics with the support of British Cycling.

In a statement, British Athletics said,

“Due to the nature of the activities on the show, the athlete cannot continue to be supported by the WCPP (World Class Performance Programme) during this time.

“Her UK Sport funding will be suspended until she returns to training and proves her fitness.”

It is understood that both governing bodies have advised her against taking part in the show.

GB Taekwondo has also expressed their reservations to Jade Jones, but the Welsh champion will go ahead and her funding remains in place.

UK Sport has announced that it is up to each individual governing body to decide whether to continue funding for the duration of the programme.

Cricket

The Rebel WBBL proceeds apace.  Currently Sydney Sixers are top with five wins from eight games but are ahead only on net run-rate.

  played won lost No result points Net run- rate
Sydney Sixers 8 5 3 0 10 0.395
Perth Scorchers 8 5 3 0 10 0.375
Hobart Hurricanes 8 4 3 1 9 -0.026
Melbourne Stars 8 4 4 0 8 0.306
Sydney Thunder 10 4 5 1 8 -0.022
Brisbane Heat 8 4 4 0 8 -0.237
Adelaide Strikers 9 3 4 2 8 -0.128
Melbourne Renegades 9 3 6 0 5.5 -0.628

England opener Lauren Winfield has been drafted in by Brisbane Heat to replace the injured Deandra Dottin.

Dottin fractured a cheekbone after she collided with team mate Laura Harris on 27 December.

And finally,

The honours system may not be to everyone’s taste, but this year’s New Year’s Honours have been good for sportswomen.  Among those honoured include Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katherine Grainger, who are awarded dame-hoods.  There were CBEs for Laura Kenny, Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Christiansen.  OBEs went to Kate Richardson-Walsh, Katie Archibald and Nicola Adams and MBEs to the whole GB hockey team, Saskia Clarke and Kadeena Cox.