Women’s Sports Column 20-26 May 2017

county2Welcome to this week’s column.  We’re heading towards some exciting stuff this summer – but then there’s always exciting stuff in the world of women’s sport, isn’t there?  Well I think so, and I’m glad to see my followers do too.  This week I have stories from football, netball, tennis, athletics, hockey, cricket and lacrosse.  Plus a disheartening “And finally” from cricket – remember I said I was going to stop reading the comments sections after articles?  Well I haven’t yet, but this week has made me even more resolved to do so.

Onward!

Netball

Round 16 of the Super League was completed over the weekend.  Loughborough are still top of the pile after a convincing win over Celtic Dragons on Saturday.  Lightning lead the table by nine points.  The others in the top four are Wasps, Thunder and Storm.  Bath are still in the hunt for a Final Four place as they are level with Bath on 30 and lie in fifth.  This week’s scores were:

Friday 19 May

Severn Stars 64-47 Team Northumbria
Team Bath 63-47 Sirens

Saturday 20 May

Loughborough Lightning 74-44 Celtic Dragons
Hertfordshire Mavericks 46-60 Manchester Thunder

Monday 22 May

Wasps Netball 64-70 Surrey Storm

This Bank Holiday weekend it is round 17.  I will be at Loughborough v Team Northumbria on Saturday, so if you see me come and say hello!

This round’s televised match is on Monday 29 May and is Manchester Thunder v Team Bath.  It will be live on Sky Sports at 7.30pm.

Lacrosse

As usual thanks to Martin for keeping me on my lacrosse toes.  Last week Centaurs were crowned National Club Champions.

The three winners of the North, South East and South West leagues played in a round-robin format tournament to decide the champions.

The scores were as follows:

Oxton 15-4 Bristol Bombers
Centaurs 25-3 Bristol Bombers (15-3) Mercy ruling
Centaurs 10-10 Oxton

Thinking of the Lacrosse World Cup, which is only 50-odd days away, there were several England and Wales players on show.  Oxton had England players Torz Anderson, Sophie Brett, Charlotte Lytollis and Olivia Wimpenny.  The Centaurs had five Wales players in their team as well as England player Sophie Morrill.

Although the two teams could not be separated at the final whistle, the title went to Centaurs on goal difference.  As the mercy ruling had been applied at 15-3, the difference was just one goal.

Tennis

Off the Court

Injuries

Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from the Strasbourg Grand Prix with a back injury.  She retired during the second set of her first-round match against American Shelby Rogers.

With the French Open only a week away there must be a doubt as to whether Wozniacki will take her place in the draw.

World number four Simona Halep may also be a doubt as she tore an ankle ligament during the Italian Open final.  She has described her chances as “50-50”.

Players returning

Petra Kvitova is hoping to play at Wimbledon, she has revealed this week.  We still do not know if she will play in Paris, but if not she definitely has her sights on a return at Wimbledon.  She has already won the title twice and it will be good to see her back on the court as soon as possible.

Another player who may make her return at Wimbledon is Victoria Azarenka.  She gave birth to a son in December and now she says she is “ready to start competing” again.  She will play in one of the warm-up tournaments and then hopefully take her place in the main draw.

If she plays her first tournament within 12 months of giving birth she will retain her ranking of six in the world.

Qualifying for Roland Garros

Heather Watson is through to the second round of qualifying after beating Russian Anastasiya Komardina 3-6 7-5 6-1.   She has to win two more matches to make it to the main draw.  However, British numbers three and four, Naomi Broady and Tara Moore lost in the first round of qualifying and will not compete.

Laura Robson

Laura Robson is still on the comeback trail. Her persistence and tenacity cannot be denied, and it seems to be paying off.  She won the ITF 60k Kurume tournament in Japan last week and now moves back into the world top 200.  She moves from 218th to 169th.  She defeated fellow Briton Katie Boulter in the final 6-3 6-4.  It is hard to believe she is still only 23.

On the Court

Italian Open

Eighth seed Elina Svitolina won the Italian Open last weekend.  She defeated sixth seed Simona Halep 4-6 7-5 6-1.  As mentioned earlier, Halep tore an ankle ligament during the match and is now a doubt for the French Open.

Strasbourg Grand Prix

The quarter-finals took place on 25 May and the results were:

Samantha Stosur(6)  beat Carla Suarez Navarrro(4) 7-5 6-4
Daria Gavrilova (7) beat Ash Barty 6-4 6-7 7-6
Caroline Garcia (5) beat Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-2
Peng Shuai (8) beat Shelby Rogers 6-0 6-4

The semi-finals will be on 26 May and the draw is:

Peng v Stosur
Garcia v Gavrilova

Hockey

Hannah Macleod has announced her retirement from international hockey.

She was part of the GB team that won gold so thrillingly at Rio in 2016.

Macleod will now concentrate on her coaching role with the England Under-21 squad.

Cricket

Quadrangular Series

19 May

South Africa 323/8 (50 overs)
Ireland currently 203/6 (50 overs)
South Africa won by 120 runs

Third place play-off

Ireland finished their tournament on a winning note as they beat Zimbabwe in the third place play-off.

Ireland 254/5 (50 overs)
Zimbabwe 235 all out (49.4 overs)
Ireland won by 19 runs

Captain Laura Delaney led from the front as she scored 81 for Ireland with Shauna Kavanagh backing her up with 67.  But Ireland will be really happy that they were able to take 10 Zimbabwe wickets.  Pick of the bowlers was seamer Aoife Beggs who took 5/52.

Final

India continued their excellent form in the final as they reduced South Africa to 156 all out in just over 40 overs.  They then reached their target losing only two wickets and with 102 balls to spare.

South Africa 156 all out (40.2 overs)
India 160/2 (33 overs)
India won by 8 wickets

Top scorer for South Africa was Sune Luus with 55.  The phenomenal Jhulan Goswami was in the wickets again taking 3/22 off 8 overs, while Poonam Yadav took 3/32 off 9.

India lost Deepti Sharma early on for 8 and Mona Meshram for 2, but the in-form Punam Raut with 70 and captain Mithali Raj with 62 saw them home. South Africa also bowled 15 wides.

Athletics

The news came this week that Welsh discus thrower Philippa Roles has died at the age of 39.  Roles competed at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 for Team GB.  She finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Delhi and sixth in Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

No cause of death has yet been revealed.

Her personal record was 62.89 metres, which is fourth in all-time British rankings.

Football – On the Pitch

Spring Series

Saturday 20 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-2 Birmingham City Ladies

Arsenal are now second in the table with this win over the Blues at the Hive.  The away side took the lead in the first minute when Rachel Williams headed home a Sarah Mayling cross.  Heather O’Reilly equalised for the Gunners two minutes before half-time from a through-ball by Danielle Van De Donk.

After the break Van De Donk got a goal of her own to put the home side ahead, but just three minutes later Williams was on the scoresheet again to equalise for Birmingham.

But in an inspired substitution saw Arsenal take the points as Louise Quinn headed in from a free kick in the 78th minute to make it 3-2 and again from a corner in the 90th to make the final score 4-2.

Bristol City Women 1-1 Liverpool Ladies

It was honours even at the Stoke Gifford stadium as Bristol took a valuable point from the Spring Series’ early pace-setters, Liverpool Ladies.

The away side were on top throughout but were held until the 80th minute when Katie Zelem fired in after a poorly-cleared cross.

It looked as though Liverpool had secured the win, but City weren’t beaten and five minutes later Lily Agg headed in from Claire Emslie to see the points were shared.

Sunday 21 May

Manchester City Women 5-1 Yeovil Town Ladies

It is safe to say that City have hit their straps.  Things started badly for Yeovil when on 10 minutes Ann-Marie Heatherson turned a Lucy Bronze cross into her own net.  Two minutes later City were two up when Jill Scott lobbed keeper Megan Walsh.

On 20 minutes Lucy Quinn got one back for the Lady Glovers, but there was to be no comeback.

Jane Ross scored the Champions’ third before half-time and the game was effectively over as a contest.

In the second-half Ross grabbed a second and Kosovare Asllani City’s fifth.  Ellie Roebuck saved a penalty from Sarah Wiltshire for Man City.

The only fly in the ointment for City was Carli Lloyd’s 89th minute straight red card for an elbow.

Sunderland AFC 0-7 Chelsea Ladies

Chelsea were five-up by half-time in this match and even had time to miss a penaly – a complete mauling for the Lady Black Cats.

Gemma Davison missed the spot kick that would have put Chelsea one-up, but it obviously did not knock their confidence.

Erin Cuthbert scored the first on 17.  Karen Carney doubled the lead on 31 after a precise pass from So Yun Ji.  Three minutes later Maren Mjelde got their third and substitute Ramona Bachmann the fourth on 41.  Cuthbert scored her second just before half-time and a dejected Sunderland team left the field.

Sunderland’s defence performed much better in the second-half, but they couldn’t stop the returning Fran Kirby from scoring a double on 80 and 85 minutes to complete the rout.

Chelsea would have been very heartened to welcome back Kirby after injury but disappointed to see Eni Aluko limp off in the first-half.

Thursday 25 May

Manchester City Women 1-0 Chelsea Ladies

After their stunning win on Sunday, Chelsea would have been fancying their chances against the champions.  There was, unsurprisingly, an emotional atmosphere at the Academy Stadium as a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the attack on the Manchester Arena on Monday.

But it was Chelsea who had trouble in settling.  They were defence-minded in the first-half and by the time they decided to take the attack to City it was too late and Manchester had got into their stride.

The only goal of the game came from Toni Duggan just before the half-hour.  How Chelsea must be sick of the sights of Duggan who has now scored 10 goals in 10 games against them.  Nikita Parris also looked lively for City although her finishing left something to be desired.

Off the Pitch

Notts County

Well, I didn’t see this coming.  New Notts County owner Alan Hardy has confirmed that he plans to bring women’s football back to the club.

As you will know, I have had plenty to say on this subject and could say plenty more, but this new announcement has thrown me somewhat.  I don’t want to be sceptical or cynical and would be more than happy to see a new team, so I’ll hold my thoughts until we see just what comes next.

This is what Hardy has said so far:

  • He wants to put together a sustainable model, which first sees a girls’ academy being set up.
  • He wants a clear pathway for academy players to progress through to a women’s first team.
  • He sees it as a long-term project
  • He knows they will have to work through the leagues and divisions but is willing to commit to that

On the problems he had with the previous set-up:

“Unfortunately, the ladies’ team I inherited was an entity on its own. There was just the first-team; there was nothing that was attaching it to the club in any way – probably because it was brought over from Lincoln and it had no structure or foundations.

“As of next season, we will have an under-nines, under-10s and under-11s girls’ academy, which will be playing in the boys’ Young Elizabethan League (YEL).”

All good words so far.  I just hope that the FA offers as much support as it can – very often (and I know I’ve said this before) I feel the FA has all the ideas (the “initiatives” – ugh beginning to dislike that word) regarding women’s football, then sets everyone adrift to fend for themselves with little or no back-up.  And before you all yell that clubs have to sustain themselves and why should they be propped up by the governing body – I don’t mean that they should be propped up – just that the FA should be aware of potential problems or issues and should be available to provide assistance.

It’s not just football that does this, but I would suggest the ECB and RFU are equally culpable.  And to support this, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had her say about the FA this week.

Emma Hayes

The Chelsea manager pulled no punches on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.  She said that the FA is guilty of treading women’s football as an “afterthought” – something with which I would heartily agree.

She made the claim with reference to the training and pay of match officials.  She said that the pool of referees is too big and when it comes to payment, officials at WSL matches are paid around half the amount of those in the men’s National League (the top division of which is the fifth tier of English football).

The FA was quick to issue a response to the criticisms.  With respect to the officiating “problem” it has a “Gameplan for Growth” strategy:

“We acknowledge there is more to do but our commitment is clear”, it said.

“The FA is also: developing a pathway to recruit, train, deploy and mentor more women and men, from all walks of life, to referee at every level of the women’s game, and we’re reaching out to everyone involved, including clubs, to get a clearer understanding of peoples’ perceptions of officiating and seeking ways in which standards could be improved.”

It’s very interesting that the FA felt the need to issue a statement only hours after the interview.

Bibiana Steinhaus

The Bundesliga will see its first female referee next season.  38-year old policewoman Bibiana Steinhaus had previously been a fourth official at a Bundesliga match and has been a German FA referee since 1999.

She has already refereed the 2011 Women’s World Cup final and the women’s 2012 Olympic final.

Did I read some of the comments after this article on the BBC?  Yes I did.  Were they as bad as you think?  Yes, they were.

Signing

Arsenal have signed Netherlands international Vivianne Miedema from Bayern Munich for the new 2017/18 winter WSL season.

Miedema, a forward, already has 48 caps for the Netherlands and had been at Munich for three seasons.

And finally,

The BBC released a “Breaking news” item online this week that said that both Heather Knight and Sarah Taylor are included in Mark Robinson’s World Cup squad.  Any genuine cricket fan will see this as great news.  It is a real result that Taylor is available for selection and that Knight looks to be overcoming injury.

So, and yes, I know I should know better by now, I thought I’d look at the congratulatory comments after the article.  Except at that point, there weren’t any.  There were just four or five from men saying this was not news and why were the BBC covering it?

For a brief, fleeting but naive moment I thought the comments meant that both players were so good they couldn’t be left out.  Alas no.  What they were actually saying was that the article was not news because there was no competition for places in the squad and they just put anyone available in it, and of course, by implication, that women’s cricket was beneath notice.  They were, of course, displaying their total ignorance of the subject: Sarah Taylor has been out of the England set-up for a year, dealing with her anxiety issues, whilst Captain Heather Knight sustained a stress fracture in her foot at the training camp in the UAE and was (and still may be) a doubt for the World Cup.

So what makes these men think they are qualified to comment?  Do they care that they are so spectacularly wrong?  Probably not, but I just wish the wilfully uninformed would stay out of it.

If you can’t be bothered to get your facts right, don’t be bothered to comment.  Thanks.

And finally (2)

I’m currently writing a short four-part history of cricket for WiSP Sports.  If you would like to read part one here’s the link:  WiSP Sports.

There will be no column next week as I’m away watching the Champions’ Trophy – yes I do watch men’s sport too…..

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 29 April – 5 May 2017

Squash-racquet-and-ballIt’s that time again!  Not quite sure where the week has gone, but gone it has and so here comes the column.  Plenty of news again this week with stories from cycling, football, badminton, boxing, squash, hockey, tennis, cricket, rugby and netball.  This week’s “and finally” comes from basketball.

Cycling

Tour de Yorkshire

Lizzie Deignan won the Tour de Yorkshire at the weekend.  She finished the 122.5km course in three hours, nine minutes, 36 seconds.

Deignan was part of an eight-strong group that broke away with 60km to go.  Then three riders, including Deignan pulled ahead.  Deignan then made her move with 14km left and was never headed.

Top five finishers

  • Lizzie Deignan (GB/Boels Dolman) 3hrs 09mins 36secs
  • Coryn Rivera (US/Team Sunweb) +55secs
  • Giorgia Bronzini (ITA/Wiggle High 5) Same time
  • Amy Pieters (NED/Boels Dolman)
  • Hannah Barnes (GB/Canyon SRAM Racing)

Squash

England’s women won the European Team Championships last weekend.  They beat France in the final 2-0.  Wales beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the third place play-off.

Final:
England beat France 2-0
Sarah-Jane Perry beat Camille Serme 11/8, 8/11, 9/11, 14/12, 11/7
Fiona Moverley beat Laura Pomportes 14/12, 11/5, 4/11, 7/11, 11/8
Victoria Lust v Coline Aumard (match withdrawn)

Third place play-off:
Wales beat Netherlands 2-1
Tesni Evans beat Milou van der Heijden 11/6, 11/4, 11/7
Lowri Roberts lost to Tessa ter Sluis 5/11, 13/11, 6/11, 8/11
Deon Saffery beat Natalie Grinham 9/11, 11/7, 13/15, 11/6, 11/8

Boxing

Katie Taylor’s winning run now stretches to five.  She stopped Nina Meinke of Germany in the seventh round of her latest bout at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

She is now able to challenge for the WBA world lightweight belt currently held by Cecilia Comunales of Uruguay.

Rugby Union

The news Lichfield fans dreaded came this week when the RFU announced that they have been unsuccessful in their appeal against being excluded from the new Women’s Super League.

An independent panel heard the appeals from both Lichfield, who finished second in this year’s Premiership and Thurrock, who finished top of the second flight and should have been promoted.  The panel found that the RFU had followed correct procedure in selecting the teams for the new Super League, but it should also be noted that the panel was not constituted to decide whether the decisions made were the correct ones, just that correct procedure had been followed.

Lichfield will now play in the second tier of English rugby and may, in all probability, lose the services of their current internationals, such as Emily Scarratt and Amy Cokayne.

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won silver at the European Championships this week.  She was defeated in the singles final by Spain’s Carolina Marin, 21-14 21-12.

It was Gilmour’s second final defeat in a row and three successive wins for Marin.

Cricket

Good and bad news on the cricket front this week.

Bad news first.  England captain Heather Knight has fractured a metatarsal whilst training for the World Cup in the UAE.

She will be out for five to six weeks, hoping to be back in time for the beginning of the tournament, which starts on 24 June.  Fingers crossed her rehabilitation goes to plan.

The good news also concerns the World Cup with the news announced this week by the ICC that every match will be broadcast live for the first time.  The prize money will also be doubled.

It’s all a bit last minute, as with so much surrounding women’s sport, but not perhaps one shouldn’t be churlish.

The prize fund goes up from $1m to $2m.

The ICC is also to publish plans later in the year for growing the women’s game with the aim

“To move towards equality across the game within 15 years”

Bold words – can they live up to it?  Call me cynical, but let’s see the full document before we leap in the air with joy.

Ten games will be broadcast live on TV, with the other 21 streamed live on the ICC website.  There will also be radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Xtra and highlights on the BBC Sport website.

Tennis

There was heartening news this week as Petra Kvitova took her first steps on the practice court after the attack which left her with a career-threatening hand injury last December.  She posted a photo of herself on the court in Monaco.

It is still unclear whether she will be fit to play in the French Open at the end of May.

Football

Off the Pitch

BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year

The shortlist for the 2017 has been announced:

Melanie Behringer (Bayern Munich and former Germany midfielder)

Ada Hegerberg (Olympique Lyonnais and Norway striker)

Hedvig Lindahl (Chelsea and Sweden goalkeeper)

Marta (Orlando Pride and Brazil forward)

Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns and Canada forward)

You can vote via the BBC website.  The closing date is Monday 15 May.

Notts County Ladies

It’s good to see that clubs are busy snapping up former Notts County Ladies players.

Reading Women have been the biggest beneficiaries signing England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter and Kirsty Linnett.  Both Moore and Potter are in the England squad for this year’s Euros.

Carly Telford and Laura Bassett are the two remaining England internationals from Notts County’s squad yet to find a new club.

Carly Telford has rejoined Chelsea Ladies until the end of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town Ladies have signed County’s second ‘keeper, Megan Walsh for the rest of the Spring Series.

Yeovil Town

It is likely that Walsh will go straight into the side as first choice goalkeeper Charlotte Haynes will be out for up to eight weeks after breaking her hand against Chelsea on Sunday.

On the Pitch

Women’s Champions League

Manchester City were beaten 3-2 on aggregate by cup-holders Lyon this week.  They trailed 3-1 after the first leg – the damage was done.  They put up a creditable performance in Lyon to win the leg 1-0 with a goal from Carli Lloyd, but it was not enough to take them through.  A crowd of 19,214 saw the home favourites progress to the final.

In the other tie, Paris Saint-German beat Barcelona 5-1 on aggregate.  They won the second leg in Paris 2-0 with an own goal and a penalty.

The final is on Thursday 1 June at the Cardiff City Stadium at 7.45pm.

FA Women’s Spring Series

Friday 28 April

Liverpool Ladies 4-2 Reading Women

Liverpool took the lead through Tash Harding after just two minutes.  But Reading hit straight back just a minute later when Liverpool ‘keeper Siobhan Chamberlain spilled a Brooke Chaplen shot, which went into the net.

The away side took the lead four minutes later when Melissa Fletcher fired in from ten yards.  Liverpool pulled level on 24 with Harding’s second and went ahead again ten minutes later when Caroline Weir tapped in from an Alex Greenwood cross.  The teams went in with the home side leading 3-2.

Laura Coombs dealt the telling blow scoring five minutes after the restart and giving Liverpool all three points.

Sunday 30 April

Chelsea Ladies 6-0 Yeovil Town Ladies

Chelsea demolished newly promoted Yeovil in their first game of the Spring Series, but it took them until nearly half-time to take the lead.

In the 45th minute and in first-half injury time Ji So-Yun scored twice to demoralise Yeovil who had held out in the face of repeated Chelsea chances up to this point.

In the second-half the home side cashed in on their superiority with goals from Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert, Crystal Dunn and Ramona Bachmann.

Sunderland AFC 0-0 Arsenal Ladies

There were chances for both sides but neither could break the deadlock at the Hetton Centre on Sunday.

Wednesday 3 May

Manchester City Women 1-1 Birmingham City Ladies

City underperformed in this match and deserved nothing more than a draw.  In contrast, Birmingham played to the best of their potential to take the point.

Carli Lloyd missed several chances for the champions, but Birmingham’s resolute defence held out.

The away side took the lead in the 14th minute with a header from Emily Westwood.

It took until the second half for Man City to get going and when they did they had periods of sustained pressure.  The pressure told in the 58th minute when Lucy Bronze ran at the defence, beating two defenders to score the equaliser.

Yeovil Town Ladies 2-3 Bristol City Women

It looked set be Yeovil’s first point of the Spring Series until an unfortunate own goal from Nicola Cousins deprived the home side of the draw.

Bristol took the lead after just five minutes from the penalty spot.  Lucy Quinn brought down Claire Emslie, who got up to convert the resulting spot kick herself.

The home side drew level in the 27th minute with a header from Annie Heatherson and it was all square at the break.

In the second –half the home side took the lead as Sarah Wiltshire scored from 25 yards.

But Bristol weren’t finished.  Three minutes later they equalised through Chloe Arthur.

It was level until two minutes from time when Cousins’ deflection of an Arthur shot took the ball past goalkeeper Walsh.

Reading Women 0-4 Chelsea Ladies

Another day, another impressive win for Chelsea as they scored four without reply at Reading.

Karen Carney got the first on the half-hour, the only score in the first-half.

After the break Drew Spence scored from a few yards out, Ji So-Yun struck the away side’s third and a fourth came from Hannah Blundell with nine minutes to go.

Thursday 4 May

Arsenal Ladies 4-4 Liverpool Ladies

In a pulsating match at The Hive, Arsenal came back from 3-1 down and looked to have snatched all three points when a late equaliser for Liverpool gave the away side a deserved draw.

Liverpool took the lead on the 13th minute when Alex Greenwood scored straight from a corner.  It was, perhaps, an indication of how the match was going to go.

The Gunners equalised on the half-hour through Chloe Kelly.

Then Liverpool moved up a gear with goals from Tash Harding and Caroline Weir before the break to take the away side 3-1 up at half-time.

After the break Danielle Carter got one back and the game was on again.

On the hour Carter was in for a second and the score was 3-3.

Arsenal looked to have completed a famous victory when a Jordan Nobbs stunner took them 4-3 ahead.  But Liverpool were determined to have the last word as on the 84th minute Gemma Bonner made it 4-4 with a header from a Greenwood corner.

Netball

Rounds 12 and 13 of the Vitality Netball Super League were played over the bank holiday weekend.  True to the commentator’s curse that I knew must come, I put the complete mockers on the league leaders, Loughborough Lightning as they lost their showcase game, held in front of a packed house in Leicester, to title rivals Wasps.  They were back on form on Monday, beating Sirens comfortably and now lead the table by three points from Wasps with five rounds to go before the semi-finals.

Round 12 results:

Friday 28 April

Team Bath 59-33 Severn Stars

Saturday 29 April

Sirens 69-47 Team Northumbria
Celtic Dragons 53-55 Manchester Thunder
Hertfordshire Mavericks 56-63 Surrey Storm
Loughborough Lightning 54-57 Wasps Netball

Round 13 results:

Monday 1 May

Surrey Storm 49-56 Team Bath
Celtic Dragons 41-45 Hertfordshire Mavericks
Wasps Netball 62-46 Severn Stars
Manchester Thunder 56-47 Team Northumbria
Sirens 46-57 Loughborough Lightning

Round 14 is this weekend and the televised match is on Monday 8 May, Team Bath v Wasps Netball, 7.45pm live on Sky Sports.

Hockey

Surbiton completed the league championship and cup double at the weekend with a 5-0 win over Clifton Robinsons in the Investec Women’s Cup final at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre last weekend.

Surbiton have lost only one game this season, 3-2 to Leicester in February, and have now won four successive league titles and three of the last four cup finals.

Surbiton took the lead through Giselle Ansley and they were two up when Emily Atkinson bagged their second with Hollie Webb a third before half-time.

They didn’t let up in the second-half with Ansley scoring a second, and Hannah Martin the team’s fifth two minutes from time.

Surbiton now go into the Euro Hockey Club Cup in Den Bosch, Netherlands, facing Spanish side Complutense on 2 June.  If they win this they will play the winners of the Den Bosch v Hermes-Monktown tie.

Canterbury are also involved and will play Hamburg on the same date.

And finally 

And finally, some good news!  I was despairing that I would ever be able to report this, but happily I was wrong.

After four long years of campaigning, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has approved the wearing of headcoverings under certain conditions.

The decision was supposed to have been made in August 2016, but was postponed until January 2017.  It was postponed again in January.  But, finally the ruling has been released.  The conditions are:

  • it is black or white, or of the same dominant colour as that of the uniform
  • it is one same colour for all players on the team
  • it does not cover any part of the face entirely or partially
  • it is not dangerous to the player wearing it and/or to other players
  • it has no opening/closing elements around the face and/or neck
  • it has no parts extruding from its surface.

We must also remember this has a bearing not only for the wearing of the hijab for women, but also turbans for men.  More than 130,000 people signed a petition to end the headgear ban.

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 4-10 February 2017

12928352_10201803729532769_8195423317764149816_nWelcome to this week’s column.  There are things good and bad this week, as usual.  I have found it difficult to be upbeat this week, some of the reasons for which I outline in “And finally”, but I hope that the news I give here is largely positive and makes you all feel positive about women’s sport.

This week’s stories come from rugby, football, cricket, golf, athletics, netball, winter sports and tennis.

Football

Notts County

Things are looking up for Notts County.  I reported a couple of columns ago that a winding-up order had been issued.  This threat now seems to be receding.

The petition has now been adjourned for 49 days.  The new Notts County owner, Alan Hardy, attended the hearing.

They still have to find the money to pay off their debt to HMRC.

But there seems to be no exodus of players from the club – in fact they are still making signings.  They are also advertising for a physio, so hopefully they will pull through.

Watford

Another club seemingly in trouble is Watford Ladies.

Last week they conceded their FA Cup tie against Doncaster Belles without a ball being kicked.  The club statement said that this was done,

“in order to ensure necessary preparations were fully in place ahead of the start of the league fixture programme”.

But since then they have appointed a new head coach, Keith Boanas, and held a series of meetings to discuss the future.  They have assured the league and their fans that “we believe we’re now on a very firm footing”.

Hopefully the club is in the process of ironing out its problems and will be back on course soon.

Indian Women’s League results

5 February

FC Pune City 0-5 Rising Student FC 

6 February

Aizawl FC 0-3 Eastern Sporting Union FC

Jeppiaar Institute 1-1 Alakhpura FC

8 February

FC Pune City 4-0 Aizawl FC

Rising Student FC 7-0 Jeppiaar Institute

9 February

Alakhpura FC 0-1 Eastern Sporting Union FC

That concludes the league stage.  The semi-finals, which take place on 11 February line-up as follows:

Rising Student FC v FC Pune City

Eastern Sporting Union FC v Alakhpura FC

I’m sorry I’ve only been able to bring the bare results, but it is all the information I have been able to glean.  I wish I could have seen some of the action, but I think it’s important just to mention it.

Cricket

The Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament is underway in Colombo.  The top three finishers go through to a “Super-6” section (it’s never simple with the ICC).  This is how it stands at the moment:

Team Matches played Won Lost tied No result Points
GROUP A            
India 2 2 0 0 0 4
Sri Lanka 2 1 1 0 0 2
Ireland 2 1 1 0 0 2
Zimbabwe 1 0 1 0 0 0
Thailand 1 0 1 0 0 0
GROUP B
Pakistan 3 2 1 0 0 4
South Africa 2 2 0 0 0 4
Bangladesh 3 2 1 0 0 4
Scotland 2 0 2 0 0 0
Papua New Guinea 2 0 2 0 0 0

Tennis

Great Britain have made a fine start to the Fed Cup this week.

Britain are seeded third out of the 14 nations taking part in Tallinn and first in their group.

They began their group C campaign with a 3-0 win against Portugal:

Both Heather Watson and Johanna Konta won their singles matches and then Jocelyn Rae and Laura Robson won the doubles to make it 3-0.

Heather Watson beat Ines Murta 6-1 6-1

Johanna Konta beat Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-2 6-4

Rae and Robson beat De Brito and Murta 6-2 6-3

The team then went on to beat Latvia by the same margin

Heather Watson beat Diana Marcinkevica 6-3 6-0

Johanna Konta beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-3

Rae and Robson beat Daniela Vismane and Marcinkevica 6-0 6-7 6-2

Great Britain play Turkey today (Friday).   The four group winners will play promotion play-offs on Saturday.  The two winning nations will then qualify for World Group II play-offs in April .

The group winners will play-off against the Group B winners on Saturday.

The groups line-up as follows:

Pool A: Poland, Georgia, Austria

Pool B: Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia/Herzegovina

Pool C: Great Britain, Turkey, Latvia, Portugal

Pool D: Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, Estonia

Golf

Britain’s Laura Davies equalled the course record with an eight-under-par 65 in the first round of the Oates Vic Open in Victoria, Australia.  She hit six birdies and one eagle in the process.

She heads the leaderboard by two going into the second round:

-8 L Davies (Eng), -6 N B Larsen (Den), H Clyburn (Eng), S Gal (Ger), W Hillier (Aus), M Reid (Eng), -5 H-J Choi (Kor), K Kirk (Aus), M Parra (Spa), A Yin (US)

Speed Skating

 Elise Christie will miss a second World Cup event because of concussion.  She was unable to compete in Germany last week and will also miss this weekend’s event in Belarus.

Christie is now focussing on the World Championships which take place in the Netherlands from 10-12 March.

Athletics

 US athlete and former Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson has been banned from athletics for three months after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

She said she was given hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure but didn’t understand the ramifications regarding doping.   Her ban has been in place since 1 December.

Netball

England were disappointingly well beaten by New Zealand in their second game of the Quad series in Liverpool.  They lost the game 61-37.  By half-time they were 11 behind and were never going to make up the difference.

They needed to improve greatly if they were to make it a game against Australia.  And this they did.  They still lost 47-46, but the improvement in their work-rate, shooting and defending will give coach Tracey Neville great heart.

With 10 seconds to go England only needed one goal to take into extra time, but Sharni Layton, so often the thorn in her opponents’ side intercepted to prevent the goal and win the game.

As expected, Australia retained their Quad series title this week, but they were made to fight for it every step of the way by the England Roses.

To some extent Neville will be frustrated.  She will wonder how three such different performances were produced.  They won in extra time against the Proteas, lost catastrophically to the Silver Ferns and ran the Diamonds close.  I don’t envy her trying to draw conclusions from this.

It was also good to see the BBC covering some of the games.

Wales v New Zealand

After the Quad series was over the Silver Ferns played two tests against Wales this week.  Although Wales are improving as a netballing nation, in truth it wasn’t much of a contest.  It was, however, a chance for netball fans to see Wales play one of the world’s best teams in Wales.

Wales 27-92 New Zealand

Wales 39-72 New Zealand

Wales were somewhat overawed in the first game, but fought well in the second to produce a much-improved display.  Wales will now be working towards the Commonwealth Games which take place on the Gold Coast in 2018.

Rugby

 Six Nations

There were wins for England, Wales and Ireland in the first round of the Six Nations last weekend.

Scotland 15-22 Ireland

Broadwood Stadium 3 February

Ireland took a bonus point win in the first game of the 2017 Championship to leave them top of the table after the first round of matches.

Scotland scored first through Jade Konkel, powering over after just five minutes.  Sarah Law scored the conversion to make it 7-0 to the home side.

Then Ireland had a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Sene Naoupu going over from close range.  The conversion was missed.

Ireland then scored their second, this time through Alison Miller, who went over in the corner, but the conversion was missed again.

Scotland hit back as Player of the Match Konkel went over again.  Law missed the conversion but then put over a penalty to make it 15-10 to the Scots at half-time.

After the break the Scots went down to 14 when Lindsey Smith was sin-binned.  Ireland took advantage and scored a try through Lindsay Peat that went unconverted.  The score was tied at 15-15.

Scotland had their chances to take the game away from the visitors, but first Law then Helen Nelson missed kickable penalties.

But Ireland made them pay and in the 82nd minute, Jenny Murphy crashed over under the posts to take the game.  Stapleton kicked the conversion and it was 15-22.

Scotland will see this as a definite chance missed to win their first championship game in seven years.

Italy 8-20 Wales

Stadio Comunale Pacifico Carotti, 4 February

Wales scored first with a penalty from Elinor Snowsill after eight minutes.

Prop Caryl Thomas then crashed over for the first try of the afternoon with Snowsill adding the conversion and it was 10-0 after 20 minutes.

Italy came back into it with a penalty from the boot of Michela Sillari, which was followed up soon after by a try for the home side through Manuela Furlan after good work from Isabella Locatelli.

Italy were unable to convert the try, however, and went in at the break 8-10 down.

Early in the second-half Wales stretched their lead as Dyddgu Hywel went in and then a third try came soon after from a driving Welsh maul and scored by captain Carys Phillips.

Italy did their best to pull it back, but were unable to breach the Wales defence again.

England 26-13 France

Twickenham 4 February

England came from 13-0 down at half-time to take the win at Twickenham on Saturday.

Shannon Izar drew first blood for the French as she intercepted a Katy McLean pass and ran 70m to score.  The conversion was missed but it was 5-0.

Emily Scarratt missed a penalty, but then Christelle Le Duff put one over in front of the posts to take it to 8-0.

Gaelle Mignot powered over from a maul for France’s second try of the half to go in 13-0 up at the break.

England came out for the second-half with renewed vigour and took the initiative from the off.

First Scarratt scored a penalty, then Danielle Waterman went in for England’s first try, converted by Scarratt to take it to a 10-13 game.

France then conceded another penalty for a high tackle.  Scarratt slotted home again and the game was level.

Another penalty saw England go in front for the first time and a second for another infringement at the scrum took the lead to six.

Amy Wilson-Hardy scored England’s second try, again converted by Scarratt to make the final score 26-13.

This weekend Tamara Taylor will make her 100th appearance for England when they face Wales on Sunday.

This weekend’s Six Nations fixtures:

 Saturday 11 February

Wales v England

Cardiff Arms Park

11.30am

France v Scotland

Marcel Deflandre

8pm (GMT)

Sunday 12 February

Italy v Ireland

Stadio Tommaso Fattori

1pm (GMT)

And finally,

I have to confess I’m feeling a bit low about the women’s sports world at the moment.  I won’t turn it into a rant as I don’t think I’ve got the energy, but it just seems to me that for every step forward there are two back.  Those in the “bubble” (I have mentioned this before), still maintain that great progress is being made, but you only have to look at two things to see that it’s not quite as easy as that; one is media coverage, the other the response to media coverage.

I’ve seen both that has caused me pain this week.  Firstly, the success of the expansion of netball has led Sport England to reward it with £16.9m of funding.  How was this greeted in the press?  I saw two articles, by women, one which said that no amount of money would make her go back to netball and the other by a woman who plays netball, who wrote a supposedly tongue-in-cheek piece on why netball isn’t “cool” and not “as much fun” as basketball.

The responses to coverage are even more depressing.  Women’s cricket journalist, Raf Nicholson, wrote a great piece this week for Cricinfo on the pros and cons of cricket double-headers.  There were some good and interesting comments on the piece at the bottom.  But the one that stood out was a man who thought this would be the correct platform to tell us all that women (in general, not cricketers or any specific group) will never be any good at sport because they get pregnant.   This wasn’t a one sentence reply either – it was lengthy.  Why this chap thought this was the place to air this view isn’t clear, but it was the comment that drew the eye.

Consequently, this week my store of optimism is at a low ebb.  Hopefully next week I’ll be back to my normal self and celebrating the world of women’s sport to the full!

 

 

The Matthew Alexander Interview – It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m a quick learner.

notts-countyIn May I went to Meadow Lane to meet up with and interview the then CEO of Notts County Ladies, Matthew Alexander.  As you will all know, Matthew has now left the club, but the piece I wrote bears publishing, I think.  I never managed to sell it to a publication and I never quite finished it – there was so much more I could say.  Matthew contacted me the other week and I said I was happy for him to read it – he did and loved it.  So, I feel I can publish it here now without reservation.

The future of Notts County Ladies may be currently in some doubt, which I consider to be a terrible pity, and the club will certainly suffer for not having Matthew at the helm. 

 

The Matthew Alexander Interview – It’s a steep learning curve, but I’m a quick learner.

Notts County Ladies’ CEO talks business on and off the pitch, the pleasures and frustrations of running an FAWSL1 club and how to take on the big guns.

Notts County FC is the oldest professional football club in Britain.  It was created in 1862, playing its own brand of “football” until it became one of the eleven founding members of the Football League in 1888.  By contrast, Notts Counties Ladies only came into being in 2014 after it moved from Lincoln, rebranding from Lincoln Ladies along the way.

The move was not without controversy; Lincoln was an established team, formed in 1995, with its own identity and fanbase.  But the qualifying criteria for the new two-tier FAWSL meant clubs had to be linked to a men’s club and so something had to change.  And now, with the resources of Meadow Lane open to them, and increased support, few can maintain that the change was anything but for the good of the club.

In fact you only have to visit the Notts County to see it is an up-and-coming enterprise.  And some of this is directly down to CEO Matthew Alexander.

It is early days.  Alexander has only been in post since December 2015, but when you’ve talked to him for five minutes you feel his commitment and passion for both the club and the role he has taken on.  When I arrive, he’s outside the main entrance emptying his office rubbish bin into a larger one – very glamorous.

“It’s a steep learning curve, but I’ m a quick learner.  There is nothing that will put me off.  Nothing will phase me,” he says and I immediately believe him.

Asked whether he is a “business man” or a “football man” he does not hesitate – it is the latter.  Indeed how can it not be?  His father, to whom he refers regularly during our discussion, was Keith Alexander, a professional footballer, but probably more well-known as loved and respected manager of Lincoln City and Peterborough United.  He was managing Macclesfield Town when he died suddenly, aged just 53, in 2010.

His son, therefore, was steeped in football from an early age.  He cut his footballing teeth in scouting for Bradford City, moving to Notts County in 2011.  His commercial experience came as an agent, at first securing boot deals for his clients.  He went into the business of running a football club with Notts  County in March 2015 as Interim Commercial Manager and Head of Business Development, before taking on his current role in December.

Chairman and owner, Ray Trew approached Alexander and asked him to take on the job of CEO.  His quarry was just about to take a job with a Premier League club working on their under-21 recruitment, but Trew didn’t have to wait long for his answer.  And there’s no sign that Alexander is regretting his decision; he’s enjoying (nearly) every minute.

But there are frustrations – many of them.

He knows he has a small squad and limited resources.  With these he has to build a club that can take on Manchester City and Chelsea – the “millionaires” of women’s football and Arsenal and Liverpool – the big four.  But he insists this is not necessarily a bad thing,

“It’s a tight-knit team.  When we sign new players we have to consider how their personalities are going to fit.”

But this, he says, gives them the edge over others.

“For a club this size we should be aiming to stay up every year,” he says .

But this is not enough for him.  He knows it’s ambitious, but he is desperate to break the monopoly of the top four.  But not just that – his ultimate aim is Champions’ League football for Notts County Ladies.

Although he is very clearly a football man, he realises he has to hone his own business skills and the business skills of Notts County Ladies if they are to survive and progress.   This is where his major frustrations lie.

His frustrations go from having to ask the Football Association (FA) for basic guidance on employee rights and human resources issues (what should a “new starter” form look like, for example), to why they can’t secure the levels of sponsorship they need.

“I could do with employing someone full-time just to ring round companies and talk to them about sponsorship,” he says ruefully.

The club now has its first accountants to look after the books – another innovation since Alexander took over.  But it’s a case of needs must as they strive to compete.

The Club Development Fund money that comes from the FA isn’t enough to pay for two players’ wages for a year, never mind about contributing to any “development”.

“The FA needs to get on top of the commerciality of the game,” he says.

Things are proceeding too slowly for him and he clearly feels that the FA should be doing more.

At this point, Alexander reveals he has a small daughter.

“I’m one of the parents who tells their daughter they can do whatever they want.”

And he is determined that if she wanted to be a professional footballer she should have a pathway to achieving just that.

“We want our players to be role models for women all over the world.  I’ve never been prouder of being involved in anything than this.”

“We’re on the verge of creating something really special,” he says.  And I come away thinking that yes, he probably is.

 

Women’s Sports Column – 2-8 July

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get through this week including football, cricket, athletics, tennis, golf, rugby league, netball, transgender rights, sailing and, I’m afraid, another corking “And finally”.

It’s about time that people realised that when it comes to football it’s no use relying on England’s men to come up with the goods (brilliant stuff from Wales, by the way). Last year we cheered, yelled and cried along with the Lionesses as they brought home a bronze medal from the World Cup in USA. Well, this week, Team GB’s deaf women footballers did their thing and won a bronze at the Deaf World Cup in Italy.

It was a tough tournament as when China withdrew at the last minute the format was changed from two groups to just one round-robin first stage.

Each of the six teams played five times in nine days!

The top two played for the gold, while the third and fourth finishers played for bronze.

Team GB had a mixed first stage; they began with at 2-2 draw against Poland, then they beat hosts Italy 5-0, lost 4-0 to USA and beat Turkey 6-0. They needed to beat Russia in the last game to play in the gold medal match. However, Russia scored in the last minute to win the game 1-0 and send GB to the bronze medal match.

They faced Poland again for bronze and this time a draw was never on the cards. They went 1-0 up and held on until five minutes from the end when Ceara Toal from Leicestershire scored a second to secure the medal.

The eventual winners were USA who beat Russia in the final 3-0.

This achievement should not be underestimated. The women had to raise every penny to get to the championships. There was quite a lot of publicity when Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland contributed 5k to help get the women there, but there were hundreds of other people who gave what they could by chucking into collection buckets at the FAWSL (and other ) games.

 

England’s women cricketers completed a clean sweep over Pakistan on Thursday with a sixth win in a row. They won all of their ODIs comfortably and were equally good in the three T20s. Before the series started I expressed concern at the route new coach Mark Robinson was taking by dispensing with the services of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway. England were also without Sarah Taylor for the whole series.

In my preview for Women’s Sports UK I suggested that if ever England were there for the taking by Pakistan, this would be the time. So from now on I’m going to cease with the punditry and just present the facts! I’ll be writing a suitably chastened review for WSUK which I would encourage you to read but just to point out the records broken in the series:

    • Highest ODI total: 378-5 (Lauren Winfield 123, Tammy Beaumont 104, Natalie Sciver 80), 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
    • Highest IT20 total: 187-5 (Tammy Beaumont 84, Lauren Winfield 72), 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
    • Highest ODI opening partnership: 235 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 2nd Royal London ODI, Wednesday 22nd June, New Road Worcester
    • Highest IT20 opening partnership: 147 (Lauren Winfield & Tammy Beaumont) 1st NatWest IT20, Sunday 3rd July, The Brightside Ground, Bristol
    • Heather Knight became the first player in the world (male or female) to take 5 wickets (5-26) and score a half century (50*) in a ODI
    • Tammy Beaumont’s 342 run aggregate in the Royal London ODI series was the highest ever in a three-match ODI series (male or female)

In other exciting cricket news, the ICC has applied for women’s cricket to be included in the 2022 Commonwealth Games in South Africa.   If it happens, it will be yet another showcase for women’s cricket, so fingers crossed that the ICC will be successful in their application.

ICC Chairman, Shashank Manohar, said

“The Board has taken a strategic decision to support the inclusion of women’s cricket in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as it will enhance the profile of the sport and create additional exposure and experiences for female cricketers, as well as opportunities to engage with the Commonwealth Games on important social justice issues and initiatives.”

He went on to say that the Olympic Games will be another target for women’s cricket and the ICC will be meeting with the IOC later on this year.

 

The European Athletics Championships have been happening this week in Amsterdam. Dina Asher-Smith claimed a stunning gold on Thursday in the 200m with a season’s best 22.37 seconds.

Tiffany Porter could not defend her title, but took a creditable bronze in the 100m hurdles.

And we have to say all hail Jo Pavey (again). She has just run the Olympic qualifying time for the 10,000m at the age of 42. She finished in fifth in Amsterdam with a season’s best 31 minutes 34 seconds. She will now have to see if she is selected, but it will be a crying shame if she isn’t.

The only sad news to report is that after missing out on the 800m final and picking up an injury, Jenny Meadows has decided to retire.

 

Not much to cheer about for British women’s tennis at Wimbledon over the last fortnight (so far).

As I suggested in my last column, Angelique Kerber was far too strong for Laura Robson in the first round and she lost 2-6 2-6. It may be some consolation to Robson that Kerber has now reached the final and will play Serena Williams on Saturday 9 July.

More disappointingly, British number two Heather Watson also went out in the first round to Annika Beck 3-6 6-0 12-10, having squandered three match points.

Katie Swan lost in the first round to Timea Babos, 6-2 6-3. She was also playing in the Girls’ singles, but had to retire with a leg injury in the first round.

Naomi Broady was the fourth Briton to go out in the first round, losing 6-2 6-3 to 17th seed, Elina Svitolina.

British number one Johanna Konta went out in the second round, losing to Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, 6-3 1-6 6-1.

Tara Moore had an excellent win over Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium in the first round, 6-3 6-2, but succumbed to 13th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second, 1-6 6-2 3-6.

Most exciting this Wimbledon week is that the championships is, for the first time, including wheelchair singles.

Wheelchair ace (no pun intended) Jordanne Whiley drew fellow Briton and doubles partner Lucy Shuker in the quarter final. She won the match 6-1 6-1 and will now face Aniek van Koot in the semi-final.

 

The football transfer window closed this week with Notts County Ladies making the most signings. There are mutterings and mumblings about just what is going on at Birmingham City Ladies, which reached a peak a couple of weeks ago when England internationals Jade Moore and Jo Potter revealed they had bought themselves out of their contracts. In very similar statements they expressed a kind of nebulous dissatisfaction with the club – this is Jo Potter’s:

ClGKFzvWEAAd5Zu

Notts County also signed goalkeeper Lizzie Durack from Harvard University.

England international Natasha Dowie and midfielder Becky Easton have left Doncaster Belles. Easton has decided to retire to concentrate on her studies, while Dowie has not signed elsewhere yet as she is concentrating on recovering from injury.

 

In excellent news for women’s rugby league this week, Wakefield Trinity Wildcats have become the first Super League side to launch a women’s team.

Wakefield Trinity Ladies will be part of the Women’s Premier League from 2017. Championship sides Featherstone Rovers and Bradford Bulls already have teams, but Wakefield will be the first Super League side.  It is a sign of the growth of women’s rugby league, but it is a shame that the ladies will not be playing at Wakefield’s Belle Vue ground, but will be based at local amateur club Sharlston Rovers.

 

Royal Troon Golf club has left the stone-age and voted “overwhelmingly” to allow women to join as members. In a statement they said that a recent consultation of current membership showed that over three-quarters were in favour of the move. While it is obviously a sound result, it’s probably only at “Two cheers” as E.M. Forster would have it, as it shouldn’t even be an issue in the 21st century.

 

The new line-up for the 2017 Vitality Netball Superleague has been announced, not without controversy. There will be three new teams; Severn Stars, Scottish Sirens and Wasps Netball. There will, however, be no place for Yorkshire Jets. Apparently the new line-up was published in error on England Netball’s website.

Jets finished bottom of the league last season, without a win to their name, and it is unclear what their future will be. Their captain, Stacey Francis, spoke to Sky Sports:

“It’s really sad and it’s really hard to get your head around.

“I’m a very loyal person and the core of Superleague franchises have been around for a long time now. I envisaged playing for the franchise for as long as I possibly could and absolutely building on last season.

“The performances and the results were poor but at no point did anyone say we were a lost cause in terms of performance, and the debrief at the end of season was incredibly productive and lots of conversations were already happening about how we would move forward next season.”

Let’s hope that the Jets keep their team together and their fanbase expanding. If they do this I can’t see how the Superleague could block their return in 2018.

 

As I predicted some time ago (and it gives me no pleasure to say this), the next big story in athletics will surround transgender athletes. As we near the Rio Olympics there are going to be more scare stories and general hysteria (word deliberately used) about the issue. I’m not saying that it’s not a serious issue, but the amount of ignorance and misinformation printed or published in the next few weeks will far outweigh any scientifically-based, thoroughly researched and balanced pieces.

Most recently I have seen:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3671937/Transgender-British-athletes-born-men-set-make-Olympic-history-competing-games-women.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/11903290/Eight-of-Irans-womens-football-team-are-men.html

I suggest you all read up on it – the facts not the fiction and make your own decisions. This is such a grey area that needs some sensible discussion. One thing we don’t need is the demonising of transgender athletes, whose lives and decisions, you can guarantee, will be under the microscope to the nth degree before they are allowed to compete at any event.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler:

In sailing this week, Team Magenta 32 competing in the World Match Race Tour were eliminated early in the qualifying series, much to their disappointment.  The team has continually been making positive ground in the 2016 circuit, racing against some of the worlds best match racers, and as the Tour’s first all-female team they have have certainly made their mark on the course.  Results aside there are many positives to take away from their involvement in this particular circuit including the inspiration provided to others, one supporter wrote in “You have together opened up another door for more women sailors to compete in what is a male dominated arena and you continue to inspire in so many more ways that you can imagine to so many.”  The team hope to secure funding to be able to continue their course in the high performance sailing world.

The ‘La Solitaire Bombard Le Figaro’ Race concluded on Thursday 7th July in La Rochelle following 1525 miles of coastal single handed racing split into 4 stages.  What makes this race so unique is that is requires the sailors to be excellent short course racers, skilled navigators and weather routers and able to pace themselves to manage the sleep deprivation and hard living conditions, whilst maintaining the boat at sea and above all being competitive and determined to get through all the challenges that this Race entails! There were a total of 39 competitors, 5 of which were women: Justine Mettraux (SUI), Cecile Laguette (FRA), Sophie Faguet (FRA), Claire Pruvot (FRA) and Mary Rook (GBR).  Justine Mettraux has finished the event 3rd in the Rookie division, a great achievement in her first attempt at this hardcore race!

 

And finally, curse of the creepy middle-aged man strikes again! Most of you will now have heard of British men’s player and number 772 in the world, Marcus Willis. He did wondrous things to reach round two of Wimbledon. And behind every great man, so they say, is a great woman – enter girlfriend Jenny Bate. Bate, a dental surgeon by profession, was apparently largely responsible for Willis not giving up on his tennis career when it seemed it was not going anywhere.

Unsurprisingly the BBC and newspapers committed many column inches and footage to the attractive woman. Not too worried about that, although we could have done without a shot of her after every point.

But BBC commentator Andrew Castle just couldn’t help himself,

“It’s a pity my dentist doesn’t look like that,” he snickered like a lecherous schoolboy.

And it’s a pity you don’t realise you’re old enough to be her father, Andrew…..