Welcome to this week’s column. Not so much in the way of results this week, plus lots of news from around the world. It’s a truly global column this week as you’ll see. So read on for stories from football, cricket, rugby, golf, netball, tennis, taekwondo, cycling, sailing and, wait for it, kabbadi! Also an “And finally” guaranteed to make you say, “Not before time….” Let’s crack on.
Firstly this week, it’s official, “This Girl Can” (as if we didn’t know this already).
Figures published by Sport England this week have revealed that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21m.
This is an increase of 250,000 on the figures before the “This Girl Can” campaign was launched in 2014.
The gap between men’s and women’s participation has narrowed to 1.55m.
This is obviously good news but is not reflected by the coverage given to women’s sport in the media, which is still at a woeful seven per cent.
England 57-64 Jamaica
I was there at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 4 December to see a tight, excellent game between two well-matched sides.
It was my first in-person experience of a netball international and I can thoroughly recommend it. I must say hell hath no fury like a crowd of mainly young girls when their team is behind……
England were ahead by two after the first quarter. Jamaica came back to lead at half-time by four. During the third quarter the crowd really got behind the Roses, stamping and cheering for all they (we) were worth. The Jamaican goalkeeper and captain Malysha Kelly incurred the crowd’s wrath as she repeatedly fouled Joanne Harten shooting for England and the game got a bit physical. In fact I hadn’t seen that much bumping and boring in netball since I played goalkeeper for my school against our local convent school.
Anyway, the barracking worked as Jamaica had a loose period and England pressed. It was all square going into the final quarter and the noise was deafening.
Unfortunately for England, they couldn’t maintain their form and Jamaica pulled away with the final score 57-64. They also took the series 2-1. Epic stuff.
Special mention must go to England’s defence, Ama Agbeze and Ebony Beckford-Chambers who had the unenviable task of marking the Sunshine Girls’ goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, who is just the six feet six inches tall. And she jumped too (unlike Peter Crouch).
Shameless piece of self-promotion, I’d like to tell you about my latest series for WiSP Sports. This time I’m writing a four-part history of women’s field hockey. The first part has just been published, so here’s the link: History of Hockey part 1
Sailing with Abby Ehler
Team Magenta 32 is the second match racing team to receive their Tour Card for the World Match Racing Tour season 2017. Sally Barkow from USA is together with her all-female team preparing for their second full season and their challenge for the World Championship title in match racing. Founded in 1999, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the world’s leading professional sailing series. It features world class sailors and Olympic champions, with tour events staged around the globe. Each stage, or World Championship event, now takes place in identically supplied one-design M32 high-performance catamarans to place the focus on teamwork and skill.
British professional sailors Dee Caffari and Hannah Diamond are this week working with Oman Sail to train and prepare 2 all-female Middle East teams for next year’s Sailing Tour of Arabia.
Since 2008 Oman Sail has been running sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani women and men. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is contested in a fleet of identical Farr 30 yachts – one of the most exciting boats on the professional sailing circuit – along a course, which stretches each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility.
In its short history, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has gained global recognition, attracting top amateur and professional sailors from four continents and blue-chip sponsors. Now in its seventh year, The Tour has become one of the most respected and dynamic sailing regattas on the international circuit.
Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3 crossed the finish line in, Grenada at recently to take Monohull Line Honours and win the International Maxi Association (IMA) Trophy for the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race. The Maxi yacht was navigated by Britain’s Libby Greenhalgh, the only women in the crew of 17. Libby Greenhalgh was the navigator onboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and it is fantastic to see her continuing in that role at the elite level of the sport.
Africa Cup of Nations
Nigeria won their eighth Cup of Nations this week with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, in front of a 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.
Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal late in the game to ensure Nigeria retained the trophy they won in Namibia in 2014.
Cameroon were runners-up for the second tournament in succession.
Ghana finished third after they beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match on Friday.
In a further development, the Nigerian squad refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until they were paid allowances and bonuses for winning the Cup.
The total owed to each player amounts to $23,650 per player.
More details in next week’s column.
Chelsea Ladies have signed Swiss international striker Ramona Bachmann until 2019. She will join the Blues in January 2017 when the transfer window opens. All the early signs are that Chelsea will be the big spenders (relatively speaking) going into the new season.
Women in Football Awards
On Tuesday I attended the Women in Football Awards, which were held at the BBC TV Centre in London.
It was a night not without its hitches, but discretion forbids me from saying more….
The awards were given as follows:
Woman of Inspiration Award: Lucy Oliver
Journalist of the Year: Amy Lawrence
Club Best Practice Award: Susan Whelan (Leicester City)
Coach of the Year: Kelly Chambers (Reading LFC)
Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Performance of the Year: Scotland Women for qualifying for 2017 Euros
Referee of the Year: Mary Harmer
Women in Football Business Award: Amy O’Brien (Fulham FC)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sylvia Gore
Woman of the Year: Dr Eva Carneiro
Pakistan will be holding its first ever women’s Kabaddi National Championships in Lahore this December.
At least seven clubs are expected to take part including Islamabad, WAPDA, Higher Education Committee and the Pakistan Army.
The tournament starts on 14 December.
Pakistan Kabaddi Federation Secretary, Muhammad Sarwar is excited about the move:
“The event is a huge step forward. We want to encourage girls to develop an interest in the sport and even represent the national side in the future,” he said.
Jade Jones will be part of the British taekwondo team that is taking part at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix finals in Baku on Saturday.
The other women in the team are Bianca Walkden, Rachelle Booth and Charlie Maddock.
The BBC revealed this week that British Cycling only found its former technical director Shane Sutton guilty on one of the charges laid against him by cyclist Jess Varnish.
He was found guilty of using the word “bitches” to Varnish but eight other charges were dismissed including Varnish’s key complaint that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.”
Sutton was also cleared of using any other offensive or discriminatory language and all bullying allegations.
Varnish has responded to the report with shock. In an interview with the BBC she said,
“I am shocked and upset by this latest news and have instructed my solicitor to appeal against the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf.
“Having provided substantial evidence to back up my complaints, to now learn that the majority were not upheld is heartbreaking. I know what was said, and I know I’ve told the truth.
“I have requested from British Cycling the full investigation report to understand why the weight of evidence provided by me and others wasn’t sufficient for the board to uphold my complaints.”
Unfortunately, this story shows no sign of ending, with both sides unhappy with the results and British Cycling’s reputation taking a battering.
Well it didn’t take long for former England captain Charlotte Edwards to announce her next move. She has joined Hampshire. She already sits as a non-executive director with Hampshire and Southern Vipers, so this clearly fits into the plan.
It will be a different experience for Edwards who is used to winning County Championships with Kent as Hampshire play in division two.
I surmise she will move into a coaching role once she finally hangs up her boots, but currently she clearly has an on-field contribution to make.
She will also be playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the upcoming WBBL.
Women’s Big Bash League
And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.
The opening fixtures are:
Hobart Hurricanes v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars
Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat
There are plenty of England players in action:
Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont are at the Strikers, the Hurricanes have England captain Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt is at the Renegades and the Stars have Dani Hazell and Nat Sciver. Becky Grundy comes in for Anya Shrubsole until 29 December and will play alongside Katherine Brunt at the Perth Scorchers.
If you have access to BT Sport keep an eye out as they are covering some of the matches.
Women’s cricket in Bangladesh
This is a great initiative. Please read this piece on developing women’s cricket in Bangladesh.
Bristol were back to winning ways at the weekend. The scores were as follows:
Lichfield Ladies 75-17 Wasps Ladies
DMP Sharks 15-29 Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Richmond Women 10-52 Saracens Women
Bristol Ladies 34-10 Worcester Valkyries
For a more in-depth report see here
Dubai Ladies Masters
After two rounds of the Dubai Masters, there are two English players at the top of the leaderboard. Top is Felicity Johnson on -7 with Florentyna Parker two behind on -5. Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Aditi Ashok of India are tied in third on -4.
Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.
There will be three women in the main draw of the Australian Open in January. They are Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady. It was at the 2016 tournament that Konta made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final. Let’s hope she can repeat this form in 2017.
Three cheers for the Government of South Australia which this week decided to withdraw its support for the hideous tradition of “podium girls” at the 2017 Tour Down Under.
You will have seen them – I’m not going to produce images – of scantily clad young women doing nothing much but providing “window dressing” for the presentation parties at cycling events. And not before time, at least at this event, they will be no more.
Instead there will be a number of junior cyclists helping to present the prizes.
The same authority has already withdrawn its funding of “grid girls” at the Clipsal 500 motor race.
Let’s hope that’s the kick that other governments/governing bodies need.