Women’s Sports Column 16-22 April

ecclestone2I’m back. And not a moment too soon, by the looks of it. So much to go through, both good and bad.

This week’s stories come from snowboarding, cycling, tennis, rugby union, cricket, football, sailing, netball and Formula 1.

Let’s start with the worst –Swiss snowboard champion, 21-year old Estelle Balet, was killed this week in an avalanche. She had been filming above Orsieres, a village in the Swiss Alps when the accident happened.

In 2015 Balet became the youngest champion of the Freeride World Tour. She won it again earlier this year.


Bad news for cyclist Jess Varnish this week as she has been dropped from British Cycling’s Olympic progamme.

She and Victoria Pendleton broke the team sprint world record in qualifying at London 2012, but now it appears her track career could be over.

Varnish had been critical of governing body, British Cycling:

“We have been basically playing catch-up for two years after decisions that were [made] above us, and bad luck.”

But she and Katy Marchant finished only fifth in the World Championships last month and Varnish has failed to qualify for Rio.

Performance Director of British Cycling, Shane Sutton insists that the decision not to renew her contract was made purely on performance grounds and has nothing to do with her criticism of the governing body.

“Since her gold medal at the London World Cup in 2012, Jess had not made the necessary gains in performance compared to the rest of the world,” he said.


Bad news also for British tennis this week as Laura Robson lost in qualifying for the WTA event in Stuttgart. Robson won her first qualifier against Klara Koukalova, but lost to Oceane Dodin, 6-2 6-2 in the second. Robson will use her protected ranking of 58 to enter the French Open in May.

British number one and world 22, Johanna Konta, lost in the first round proper of the same event. She lost in straight sets 6-3 6-3 to Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.


Great news from rugby union this week as England beat New Zealand to win the fourth World Sevens Series event in Canada on 18 April. England have been getting better throughout the tournament and although Australia have won the first three events of the series, England were obviously determined not to see them win a fourth.

They beat Australia in the semi-finals and went on to beat New Zealand 31-14 in the final to claim the win.

Australia look to have an unassailable lead overall with one event to go. They stand on 76 points, with New Zealand in second on 64 and England a further 16 points behind on 48. Even if New Zealand win the last event, Australia would have to finish eighth or lower not to win the title.

The final tournament takes place in France, in Clermont-Ferrand, on 28-29 May.


The second tranche (one should never turn down the chance to use the word “tranche”) of Kia Super League signings has been announced. The overseas signings are as follows:

Lancashire Thunder: Deandra Dottin (WI), Sarah Coyte (AUS), Hayley Matthews (WI)

Loughborough Lightning: Ellyse Perry (AUS), Sophie Devine (NZ), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Southern Vipers: Suzie Bates (NZ), Sara McGlashan (NZ), Megan Schutt (AUS)

Surrey Stars: Meg Lanning (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA), Rene Farrell (AUS)

Western Storm: Stafanie Taylor (WI), Rachel Priest (NZ), Lizelle Lee (SA)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Shabnim Ismail (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS), Alex Blackwell (AUS)

There was some furore as the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) asked why their top players hadn’t been invited, but the ECB replied that they had and the BCCI hadn’t put anyone forward.

In other domestic cricket news, England international Jenny Gunn has left Nottinghamshire to join Warwickshire. Nottinghamshire were relegated at the end of last season.


The FA Cup semi-finals were played last weekend and produced contrasting matches.

Arsenal 7-0 Sunderland

Both teams ended up with ten players in a one-sided semi-final.   Arsenal were down to ten on the 33rd minute when Emma Mitchell was sent off after collecting a second yellow card, but it didn’t seem to impede them.

Danielle van de Donk scored a hat-trick with Dan Carter scoring two and another from Jordan Nobbs.

Sunderland also went down to ten when Abby Holmes was sent off in the 72nd minute for a foul in the box with Fara Williams scoring from the resultant penalty.

Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City (AET)

It was altogether closer in the second semi with very little to choose between two top-class teams.

After a goalless first half, City went ahead through a close-range Jane Ross shot.

Ji So-Yun curled a free-kick in to equalise and the tie went to extra time.

Chelsea seemed to take control in extra time but it wasn’t until the 120th minute that Fran Kirby popped up to snatch victory for the Blues.

The FA Cup final will be at Wembley on 14 May. If you haven’t been to Wembley because you don’t fancy the aggressive atmosphere of a men’s game, may I suggest you give this event a try? I was there last year and it was brilliant. Just being there you feel like you’re a part of women’s footballing history.   If you can’t get there, it will be live on the BBC.

In other football news, Doncaster Rovers Belles striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk suffered a broken leg in a friendly game this week and will be out of action for some time.


The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague games produced the following results:

16 April

Celtic Dragons 44-45 Yorkshire Jets

This was the Jets’ first win of the season.

Hertfordshire Mavericks 54-55 Team Bath

Surrey Storm 56-64 Manchester Thunder

The table looks as follows:

Played Points
1 Manchester Thunder 13 36
2 Hertfordshire Mavericks 12 30
3 Surrey Storm 13 27
4 Team Bath 13 27
5 Loughborough Lightning 13 18
6 Team Northumbria 13 9
7 Celtic Dragons 13 6
8 Yorkshire Jets 14 3


Good news from British sailing this week as British sailor Alison Young won gold in the Laser Radial class at the World Championships in Mexico. In doing so she became the first British world champion in a solo Olympic dinghy class.

Young beat America’s Paige Railey by just one point as she won the 13th and final race to claim the title.

After finishing 5th at London 2012, she will be hoping to take confidence from this win to Rio later on this year.

In an interview with Sky Young said,

“There’s still plenty of room for improvement and I know that come the Games there’s going to be seven or eight girls battling it.”


And finally, the prize for complete idiot of the week goes, not for the first time, to head of Formula 1, Bernie Ecclestone. In an interview at the Advertising Week European conference he said that women drivers would “not be taken seriously” in Formula 1 and that they are not “not physically” able to drive fast. This old, old argument has been disproved so many times I surely don’t have to go into it here, but the main reason that women aren’t taken seriously is because the sport is intrinsically sexist and has a misogynist dinosaur running it.

I, for one, can’t wait until he is ousted from his position and then hopefully women can move forward in Formula 1 as they already are doing in other branches of motorsport.

By the way, in the same interview he also said President Putin “should be running Europe” and expressed his admiration for Donald Trump. Need I say more? I don’t think so…..

Women’s Sports Column 2-8 April

LizzieArmitsteadThis week’s stories come from football, tennis, sailing, golf, cycling, athletics, cricket and netball,

There’s so much going on, I can’t keep up. This is a brilliant time for women’s sport, and yet, at the same time, we seem to have hit a new phase of unbelievably abysmal comment on just what a woman’s place in sport “should” be. Seems like everyone (men) has an opinion on this – and It’s usually not only misguided, but downright misogynistic.

But let’s crack on with the good stuff and deal with the rest later.

Lots of football news this week.

Former England coach, Hope Powell, has broken through yet another glass ceiling to become the first women appointed to the role of coach educator with the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA). She was the first woman to attain a UEFA Pro Licence in 2003.

Not such impressive news from America, where former USA favourite, Abby Wambach, has been arrested for drink driving. Wambach, who retired from football in December, has been a role model for American girls and women for a long time.

On her Facebook page she said:

“I take full responsibility for my actions. This is all on me,

“Those that know me know that I have always demanded excellence from myself. I have let myself and others down.”

The FA Cup semi-final line-up has been decided as the quarter finals took place this week:

 Chelsea 6-0 Aston Villa


It was only one-nil at half time and Villa must have thought they were in with a good chance of at least holding or even beating last year’s cup winners. They finally scored through Spence six minutes before the break. In the second the chances were converted to goals with Ji scoring a hat-trick and Kirby and Aluko chipping in with the others.



Manchester City 2-0 Sporting Club Albion


Goals from Parris and Ross saw Manchester City through to the semi-final as they beat the lowest-ranked club left in the competition.


Arsenal 2-2 Notts County (4-3 on penalties)


It took penalties for Arsenal to see off last year’s beaten finalists in a thrilling match that had a bit of everything. Smith scored the first for Arsenal, but Bradley-Auckland levelled the tie and then County took the lead through a Luik shot after a melee in the penalty area. White was sent off for County, who couldn’t quite hold on with 10 players – Sanchon equalising with just five minutes to go. The teams couldn’t be separated after extra time and the tie went to penalties. Both keepers saved two spot-kicks, and it was McCabe’s successful kick that put the Gunners through.


Sunderland 3-0 Reading


The home side were on top throughout as Mead scored the first and Williams the second as Sunderland went in 2-0 at half time. In the second half Reading had chances to reduce the arrears, but Chaplen added a third to put the tie beyond reach.


The semi-final draw has now been made. Both fixtures will be held on Sunday 17 April and will kick off at 2pm. Keep an eye out for details of broadcast coverage, as needless to say, it hasn’t been sorted yet.


Arsenal v Sunderland

Chelsea v Manchester City




Britain’s number two, Heather Watson, was knocked out in the first round of the Katowice Open this week. She lost to Czech player Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 3-6 6-4. The Czech is ranked 33 places lower than Watson, at 88 in the world. It was a tight match up to the last set, but Watson lost her first two service games of the third set to go 3-0 down and couldn’t recover.


Britain’s number three, Naomi Broady, went through to the second round after beating Karin Knapp in the first 6-7 6-4 6-4.




The worst news of the week comes from sailing. Sarah Young, an amateur sailor taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race died when she was washed overboard. She was recovered by the crew, who attempted to resuscitate her, but she didn’t regain consciousness.

The cause of death is thought to be drowning or exposure. The year-long race was sailing in the North Pacific at the time.

Because of the time it would take for the yacht to reach land, Ms Young was buried at sea, after consultation with her family.

Ms Young is the second person to die in this year’s event, after Andrew Ashman, a crew member on the same IchorCoal boat, died in September.



Good news from golf this week, as England’s Charley Hull finished joint second in the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. Her previous best finish was tied seventh at the same tournament in 2014.

The wonderful Lydia Ko took the title on -12, with Hull and the Korean Chun, tied second on -11. Catriona Matthew of Scotland finished the tournament on -3 in a tie for 32nd place.



Lizzie Armistead took first in the women’s Tour of Flanders this week, which finished on Sunday 3 April. She won by only half a wheel from Emma Johansson of Sweden after a sprint finish. This is Armistead’s fourth win of the season, having already won at Omloop het Nieuwsblad, Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda.



Nothing good coming out of athletics this week as the doping scandals go on and on. This week Russian Olympic and double world hammer champion Tatyana Lysenko was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance. Lysenko had previously been banned for two-years for steroid use in 2007.

Russia is currently banned from international athletics competition in the wake of the doping scandals last year. They are hoping to have the ban overturned in time to compete at Rio, but these continued revelations will not be helping their case.



By now you’ll all be aware of the outcome of the Women’s World T20 in India. I have written extensively on it for Women’s Sports Uk the past three weeks, including a full report of the final and today I have published my thoughts on the tournament as a whole.

The final was a great spectacle and West Indies worthy winners.

They may not have been able to take a fourth consecutive World T20 title, but Cricket Australia has announced that their female players are to receive a significant pay rise.

The top-ranked players will now earn $65,000 as basic, while those on the minimum will go from $19,000 to $40,000.

Cricket Australia is also the only governing body that guarantees its female national team will fly business class along with the men.


The latest round of Vitality Netball Superleague fixtures, on Saturday 2 April, brought the following results:

Yorkshire Jets 45-50 Team Northumbria

Manchester Thunder p-p Hertfordshire Mavericks

This match was called off after umpires expressed concern over the safety of the players because of water on the court.

Surrey Storm 52-42 Loughborough Lightning

Mavericks are now top by three points over Thunder in second, Storm in third and Bath fourth. Jets are still bottom having failed to win any games this season.


And finally, back to the sexist claptrap and misogyny that seems to have raised its ugly head this week. I think it all kicked off with the tennis: “women players should get down on their knees” and be thankful to the men for propping up the women’s game all these years lines that came from .., (no former) CEO of the Indian Wells tennis tournament. Since then it seems to have become fair game for men to stick their sexist oar in. Top of the pile is this execrable scribbling from Toby Young in the Daily Mail. I don’t really want to dignify it with a link, but read it and weep.  As it was published on 1st April, there was a rumour it was an April Fool’s joke, but I’m afraid not…

And finally, finally, sorry but no column next week as I’m away, but back the following week with all the news.




“Ladyball” was a spoof – but all too believable

ladyballSo I fell for it?  Do you blame me?  More experienced and knowledgeable people than I did the same.

And when it was revealed as a wind-up, all part of the marketing campaign for women’s Gaelic football, I experienced a confused mixture of feelings.

Mostly I castigated myself for falling for it, while part of me was cheering for its sheer audacity.

However, in the cold light of day, my abiding thought is how sad it is that the whole idea was so believable.    Actually, it’s not just sad, but shameful.

The Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association, in conjunction with sponsors Lidl, have admitted they were behind the campaign:

“Lidl and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) will next week announce details of a partnership which will see the brand become the Official Retail Partner to the LGFA and the title sponsors of the Lidl Ladies National Football League, as well as grassroots activity.

“The fabricated product and associated 360 degree marketing campaign was designed by Lidl, with the support of the LGFA, to put the spotlight on women in sport in Ireland and raise awareness of the difficulties female sports persons have in getting the same recognition as their male counterparts.”

In this quote the last sentence is the most telling.  It’s all true, and anyone who has read my work for any length of time will know it is the issue that vexes me the most.  So when I reported on the Ladyball in my blog, I said,

“Is it an elaborate spoof?  I would like to think so, but I fear not…..I’m still hoping someone will inform me that it’s a wind-up”

Now I’m left wondering whether people are going to spend more time congratulating Lidl on the cleverness of their campaign than thinking about the actual points it was aiming to raise.

So yes, as EM Forster would have it, two cheers for the marketing campaign and for bringing sexism in sport into the limelight one more time, but I’ll reserve that last cheer for the moment when this approach isn’t necessary.





My latest WVoN post – the grim issue of gender testing

My latest piece for Women’s Views on News has just been published.  I’ve gone back to an issue I first wrote about in 2013, but, as with many scientific issues, it’s one that refuses to go away.  Developments in scientific understanding have brought about a suspension of the IAAF’s rules on gender testing for hyperandrogenism.  Read my whole article for more.  There’s also a link back to my 2013 piece if you would like extra information.


Anti-Apartheid to Women’s Sport – it’s all about campaigning

Along with many others I became politicised at university in the People’s Republic of Sheffield.  The group I fell in with were far more politically advanced than I was and I would like to thank them all for awakening my social conscience.  Growing up in Thatcher’s Britain (Yes, I’ve just dated myself there) one couldn’t help but get involved – and I did – with a passion.

Anti-Apartheid, Amnesty International, campaigning against Pinochet in Chile, Cambodia/Kampuchea, we did it all.  Then there were the domestic issues; poll tax, student loans (won one, lost one).  I was just off Westminster Bridge when the mounted police charged.  “Education is a right, not a privilege”, etc.

And so, a lot older, but not necessarily wiser, I’m still passionate about social justice, inequality, women’s rights and the gap between rich and poor.  Perhaps I don’t demonstrate as I once did, but I write, I tweet and still get angry.

So where does women’s sport come into all this?  You can’t compare the campaign for the promotion of women’s sport to protesting against the iniquitous regime in South Africa.  So what if you can’t see women’s sport on television, you’ve not “disappeared” under the rule of a ruthless dictator in Latin America.

But I don’t think that’s the point.  The “struggle” to get women’s sport the recognition and coverage it deserves is a battle and part of  a larger battle for women’s equality.  I’m not fooling myself we will achieve this in my lifetime, but for as long as I can I will be doing my bit, and at the moment my focus is on the fight for the right of every girl and woman, at whatever level, from fun to grassroots to elite performance to have access to play, officiate, administrate or just watch any sport she wants to.

And there are, undoubtedly, incredibly hideous aspects to this fight – Sri Lankan and Pakistani cricketers being abused by their coaches, women having to undergo regular and demeaning gender-testing and women in the Middle East unable even to enter sports stadia; it’s not all about the lack of media coverage.

Four years ago, when I started writing about this, I felt I was in the vanguard.  I wasn’t  sure how many people were reading me,  but it felt good to be doing it.  Now it’s the buzzword, the hot topic and I feel a little bit rueful that I’m still saying the same stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love writing about sport – be it straightforward match reports or tournament previews or searing indictments of sexism, misogyny or inequality.  But now everyone’s saying it I feel I should be doing more – back to the demonstrating perhaps?  No, there’s no demonstrating to be done, but I would also like to be more practically involved.

Words are powerful weapons and they’re what I do best, but let me get my administrative head on or utilising my organising skills and watch me go.  Anyone need any help?  Let me know!  In the meantime, I’ll keep writing, publicising and making my point in the best way I know how.

Shocking sexist claptrap

rugby ballGlasgow Herald publish the worst sporting sexism I’ve seen in a while

Shade Munro, former Coach of Glasgow Warriors (Scottish CLUB side) has left the club to take over as coach of the Scotland women’s NATIONAL side.  Fantastic for him, you may think.  A real step up to move from club to country.

Well, not according to David Kelso in the Glasgow Herald and the former players he has interviewed.

Apparently, “The move has been met with criticism and sympathy for Munro”.

Former Glasgow and Scotland player, Cammy Mather, is quoted as saying

“This is a massive slap in the face for Shade…To put him in charge of the women’s team would be an enormous demotion.”

Another ex-Glasgow forward, Muff Scobbie also weighs in with

“To offer him a job coaching women is such a waste of talent.”

It was with some trepidation that I read on to the comments section at the bottom of this article, only to be pleasantly surprised that the majority of the comments, mainly from men, took issue with the tone of the piece with one summing it up nicely,

“Well, what do you expect from David Kelso? Ignorant and proud of it from his previous mysognistic rants. Perhaps if someone interviewed Shade Munro we might get some truth.”

Exactly right.  Presumably Munro had to apply for the job?  He was “offered” it, so he could have turned it down if he’d considered it to be beneath him?  I’d certainly be interested to get the view from Munro himself.

Meanwhile Scottish women’s rugby has to suffer the indignity of being the butt of this shocking piece of sexist claptrap.  I thought the days of the women’s game, any game, being judged as a distant second class were slowly dying out, but not if this article is anything to go by.