Women’s Sports Column 14-20 July 2018

golfWelcome to this week’s column.  Lots to catch up with again this week with stories from cycling, tennis, netball, football, golf, cricket and athletics.

So let’s crack on.

Cricket

Just when you thought New Zealand had collapsed in a terminal heap, they came back in the third ODI to beat England convincingly and take a precious two points in the ICC Championship.

Third ODI
England 219 all out (47.4 overs)
New Zealand 224/6 (44.4 overs)
NZ women won by 4 wickets

It looked to be a case of same old, same old when England started with a stand of 10.  Beaumont was first to fall with 53 from 66 balls.   Winfield fell soon after on just five, but Jones was still going strong until she was stumped by Martin off the bowling of Watkin for 78.

After that, however, there was a succession of poor shots that saw England dismissed for 219.

Leigh Kasparek was, by far, the pick of the bowlers with 5/39 off 9.4 overs.

It should never have been enough, but we had seen collapses aplenty from this White Ferns side for nothing to be certain.

In fact it all went wrong to begin with when Jess Watkin was given lbw to Brunt for a duck in the first over.   But Sophie Devine was having none of it.  She smashed 117 not out from 116 balls, ably assisted first by Green (23), then Satterthwaite (25) and finally by Martin (23) to see them home with 32 balls to spare.

Sadly that sees the end of England’s international summer (July!) and now begins the women’s T20 showpiece, the Kia Super League.

The squads have now been announced.  It’s a quality product, so can I please suggest if you’re anywhere near a game, you go out and support it?  You can view all of the upcoming fixtures here:

https://www.ecb.co.uk/matches/super-league/fixtures

Loughborough Lightning

Georgia Elwiss (C),  Rachael Haynes, Sophie Devine, Kirsty Gordon, Georgia Adams, Tara Norris, Jenny Gunn, Sarah Glenn, Elyse Villani, Sonia Odedra, Lucy Higham, Abbey Freeborn, Amy Jones, Jo Gardner.

Western Storm

Heather Knight (C), Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Stafanie Taylor, Smriti Mandhana, Rachel Priest, Alice McLeod, Sophie Luff, Amara Carr, Naomi Dattani, Rebecca Silk, Claire Nicholas, Lauren Parfitt, Danielle Gibson, Freya Davies.

Yorkshire Diamonds

Lauren Winfield, Katherine Brunt, Beth Langston, Alice Davidson-Richards, Beth Mooney, Chamari Atapattu, Delissa Kimmince, Helen Fenby, Katie Levick, Sophie Munro, Bess Heath, Thea Brookes, Alice Monaghan, Gwen Davies, Katie Thompson.

Lancashire Thunder

Danielle Hazell (C), Kate Cross, Emma Lamb, Sophie Ecclestone, Natalie Brown, Natasha Miles, Amy Satterthwaite, Ellie Threlkeld, Nicole Bolton, Georgie Boyce, Rachel Dickinson, Alice Dyson, Alex Hartley, Eve Jones, Harmanpreet Kaur.

Southern Vipers

Georgia Adams, Suzie Bates, Arran Brindle, Ellen Burt, Izzy Collis, Charlie Dean, Mignon du Preez, Charlotte Edwards, Tash Farrant, Katie George, Hayley Matthews, Tara Norris, Carla Rudd, Linsey Smith, Danni Wyatt.

Surrey Stars

Nat Sciver (C), Aylish Cranstone, Sophia Dunkley, Grace Gibbs, Gayatri Gole, Eva Gray, Hannah Jones, Marizanne Kapp, Lizelle Lee, Laura Marsh, Bryony Smith, Sarah Taylor, Rhianna Southby, Dane van Niekerk, Mady Villiers.

This weekend’s fixtures are on Sunday 22 July:

Surrey Stars v Southern Vipers (Woodbridge Road, Guildford, 2.30pm)
Western Storm v Yorkshire Diamonds (County Ground, Taunton, 2.30pm)
Lancashire Thunder v Loughborough Lightning (Trafalgar Road Ground, Southport 2.30pm)

Tennis

Wimbledon

Angelique Kerber took the singles title at Wimbledon, defeating Serena Williams in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

The doubles title went to third seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Katerina Siniaková, who beat Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke (12) 6-4 4-6 6-0

Alexander Peya and Nicole Melichar (11) took the mixed doubles title, who defeated the unseeded Jamie Murray and Victoria Azarenka 7-6 6-3.

In the wheelchair singles, number one seed Diede De Groot beat the unseeded Aniek Van Koot 6-3 6-2

Diede De Groot then went on to take the doubles title with partner Yui Kamiji, as the number one seeds  beat Sabine Ellerbrock & Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-1.

The tournament has caused plenty of movement in the world rankings.  Serena Williams is up to 28th, but Jo Konta is down to 50th.

Netball

Mikki Austin has been appointed as Surrey Storm’s first Director of Netball.

Austin has played for the Storm since 2015, but she was injured for much of the 2018 season.

In an interview with the Netball Superleague website, Austin said,

“I am thrilled to be appointed as Director of Netball at Surrey Storm and, whilst the new season seems like a long way off at the moment, I cannot wait to get started on our preparations to make it a successful one.

“I am focusing on making sure we can attract some new players to add strength and bolster our already strong squad, so we are ready to compete at the highest level as we aim to compete for a top four spot.

“I have enjoyed every moment of my time with Storm so far, especially as we have enjoyed some great successes which I really want to be part of again; I have big aspirations for what we can achieve and I look forward to building an exciting next generation of Surrey Storm.”

Golf

Dame Laura Davies has won the first US Senior Women’s Open.

She took the title by a huge 10 shots at the Chicago Golf Club at the weekend.

Davies finished on 16 under par.  American Juli Inkster was second on six under and England’s Trish Johnson in third on four under.

Football

The biggest news of the week is that Marieanne Spacey-Cale is to leave the FA to take up the role of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at Southampton FC.

With 91 England caps to her name, Spacey-Cale is considered to be one of England’s best ever female players.  She had been at the FA for 11 years as was part of Mark Sampson’s staff at the 2015 World Cup.

She was also Under 23s head coach and, most recently, England Women’s Player and Coach Developer.

This is a big move for Spacey-Cale and a big loss for the FA.  Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s Head of Women’s Football, must be wondering how to replace her.

“On behalf of everyone at The FA, I would like to wish Marieanne well – she leaves behind a great legacy through her work which has had a positive impact on the female game,” Campbell said on the FA website.

It also shows Southampton’s commitment to their women’s programme.

The transfer roundabout shows no sign of slowing.

This week:

  • England international Lianne Sanderson signed for Juventus, thus joining up with good friend Eni Aluko.
  • Scotland striker Christie Murray has signed for Liverpool.
  • Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnot also left Glasgow City this week, having been offered contracts at Manchester United.
  • Goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley has left Birmingham City to join Bristol City.
  • West Ham are still in the market and this week have signed American defender Brooke Hendrix from Brescia and Republic of Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan from Shelbourne Ladies.
  • Erin Cuthbert has signed a new three-year contract with champions, Chelsea.

Manchester United

Of course the major hoop-la of the week surrounded the announcement of the Manchester United squad.  England defender Alex Greenwood is club captain.  It is, no doubt, an impressive squad, packed with talent.  They have, however, got to work from scratch to make it into a team.  It will be fascinating to see what happens this season.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers
1 – Siobhan Chamberlain, 13 – Emily Ramsey, 22 – Fran Bentley

Defenders
2 – Martha Harris, 3 – Alex Greenwood, 4 – Amy Turner, 12 – Naomi Hartley, 15 – Lucy Roberts, 20 – Kirsty Smith

Midfielders
6 – Aimee Palmer, 8 – Mollie Green, 10 – Katie Zelem, 14 – Charlie Devlin, 16 – Lauren James, 17 – Lizzie Arnot, 21 – Millie Turner

Forwards
7 – Ella Toone, 9 – Jess Sigsworth, 11 – Leah Galton, 18 – Kirsty Hanson, 19 – Ebony Salmon

Athletics

The largely unheralded inaugural Athletics World Cup went to United States.  The US finished 57 points ahead of Poland, with Great Britain a further seven points behind in third.

The top GB women’s performance came from the 4 x 100m relay team of Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Bianca Williams and Shannon Hylton in 42.52 ahead of Jamaica in second in a time of 42.60 and China third in 42.94.  The US team didn’t finish.

The other GB performances of notes: Lorraine Ugen continued her good form with a win in the long jump with a distance of 6.86m.  Holly Bradshaw also won the pole vault with a season’s best 4.75m.

Beth Morgan won silver in the high jump, while Adelle Tracey also took silver in the 800m. Sophie Hitchon came second in the hammer with a season’s beat 73.48m and Meghan Beesley was also second in the 400m hurdles.

Beth Dobbin won bronze it the 200m as did Jemma Reekie in the 1500m.

Final Athletics World Cup standings:

  1. United States 219 points
  2. Poland 162 points
  3. Great Britain 155 points
  4. Jamaica 153 points
  5. France 146 points
  6. Germany 137 points
  7. South Africa 135 points
  8. China 81 points

Cycling

La Course

Annemiek van Vleuten retained her La Course title on Tuesday after overtaking Anna van der Breggen in the final 25 metres.

The one-stage race from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand was undertaken by 112 riders from 20 teams.

Van der Breggen looked odds-on to take the title as she pulled away up the final climb on the Col del a Colombiere and then further ahead on the descent.

But Van Vleuten was not to be beaten and took her chance as Van de Breggen tired at the very end.

Ashleigh Moolman Pasio of South Africa had kept up with the two Dutch riders, but falling away hung on to take third.

Top Ten Finishers:

  1. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned/Mitchelton-Scott) 3hrs 20mins 43secs
  2. Anna van der Breggen (Ned/Boels-Dolmans) +1sec
  3. Ashleigh Moolman Pasio (SA/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 22secs
  4. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den/Cervelo-Bigla) +1min 58secs
  5. Megan Guarnier (US/Boels-Dolmans) +2mins 19secs
  6. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol/Canyon SRAM) same time
  7. Katharine Hill (US/UnitedHealthcare) +2mins 22secs
  8. Amanda Spratt (Aus/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
  9. Ane Santesteban Gonzalez (Spa/Ale Cipollini) +2mins 24secs
  10. Erica Magnaldi (Ita/Bepink) same time

And so ends the women’s version of the Tour de France for another year.  Although it was a good race, there is no doubt that it is still a very unsatisfying experience, both for fans of women’s cycling and the cyclists themselves.

When will the (growing amount of) muttering stop and the action start?  When will we see a multi-stage event for women alongside the Tour de France?  I’m not holding my breath.  Until the big sponsors get on board there will be no change.  The will is there from the athletes and the teams, but without proactive movement from the governing body, the UCI, don’t expect anything to happen.

Other Cycling News

Lizzie Deignan will head up the new Trek Factory Racing team when she returns to the sport next season.

She is expecting her first child in September, but plans to be back in training in December.

In a telling statement she said,

“I chose Trek because rather than see me as a risk in pregnancy, they saw me as an investment and as a valued athlete.

“For me that was the biggest sign towards truly believing in equality.”

She leaves Boels-Dolmans at the end of the season, having ridden for them for five years.

And finally,

I’ve been listening to the BBC 5 Live coverage of The Open over the last two days.  And while I could definitely do without John Inverdale, there was a great discussion this morning about the perception of golf and how young people, minority ethnic people and women can be more attracted to it.  Absolutely loved Iain Carter’s impassioned arguments – brave of him to declare that however much the clubs and governing body say they are doing to be inclusive, there is, without doubt, still a problem with women in the game and they could and should be doing so much more.  I have a great respect for Carter – I pulled him up once for calling Caroline Wozniacki “Rory’s Belle” – she was engaged to Rory McIlroy at the time.  He responded to me immediately and was very apologetic that he had not recognised Wozniacki in her own right, but only as an appendage to McIlroy.  Keep at it Iain, perhaps they’ll listen eventually.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 7-13 July 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  When I started researching for this week’s column I thought it was going to be a quiet one, but the end of the week has brought such torrents of football news that the writing, I warn you, may just go on and on…

Stories this week come from, as I said, football (no, not that), athletics, cricket, tennis and netball.

Let’s crack on.

Netball

Superleague Grand Final
Loughborough Lightning 51-55 Wasps Netball

Wasps proved too strong for Lightning again at the weekend as they claimed their second Grand Final a row, condemning the Lightning to be runners-up yet again, and by the same score.

After Lightning took an early lead, Wasps pulled it back and by the end of the first quarter it was 12 apiece.

The second quarter was tight until Wasps missed  a shot and Peace Proscovia put hers away at the other end  and Loughborough were ahead by two 21-19.  But they didn’t hold the lead for long, and by half-time the momentum had swung and Wasps were in front by four, 28-24.

Wasps pretty much maintained their lead in the third, which saw them three up by the end, 43-40.

But Loughborough were not giving up without a fight as they brought it back to 44-all.

This was as close as they got.  In the final minutes Wasps would pull away, and then Loughborough would get it back within two.  But in the end Wasps got the better of it and took the title again.

Other news

Big news from netball both in England and Australia this week as top two Vitality Superleague sides Wasps and Loughborough change their management teams and two big Diamonds stars announce their retirement.

Wasps Netball

Grand Final winners Wasps have appointed Mel Mansfield as their new Head Coach.  Mansfield had been assistant coach for the senior team for two years.

Tamsin Greenway has stepped down as Director of Netball but will stay with Wasps as a coach and brand ambassador.

Loughborough Lightning

Runners-up Lightning, meanwhile, have announced that their new Director of Netball will be Sara Bayman, who will join Loughborough from the Sirens in September.

Bayman is a former England international with 84 caps to her name.

Emily Perry will become Pathway Head Coach, moving from the Lightning Netball Academy.

Aussie Diamonds

Two Australian greats announced their international retirement this week:

Defender Laura Geitz won 71 caps, won two World Cups (2011, 2015) and Commonwealth Games gold in Glasgow in 2014.

After giving birth to a son last year, Geitz had a break from netball, but knew she wanted to compete at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  The final, which the Diamonds lost to England Roses, was her last international match.

It is thought that she will continue her domestic netball career with Queensland Firebirds.

Just a day later, Madi Robinson also announced her retirement.  Robinson won 61 caps in an eight-year international career, playing at wing attack.

She was part of the gold-winning 2014 Commonwealth Games squad, but did not play in the 2015 World Cup due to injury.  She made a comeback at the Gold Coast Games.

She is also planning to continue her domestic career as captain of Collingwood.

 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague

But the week has not been without controversy.  The 2019 Superleague teams have been announced and, it’s safe to say, the North does not come out of it well.  Team Northumbria has withdrawn from the elite league and has been replaced by London Pulse.

The Pulse, under CEO Natalie Seaton, will play their home matches at the Copper Box.

England Netball CEO, Joanna Adams, said:

“We are delighted to welcome London Pulse into the Vitality Netball Superleague for 2019.

“They submitted an excellent proposal and it’s brilliant to have new investment into the league.”

There has been plenty of comment across social media platforms, with the new move being widely questioned.  There will be only Manchester Thunder representing the north and nothing in the northeast region at all.  It has been suggested that Leeds Rhinos would have been a more balanced fit, but it was not to be.  I would hate to see the sport become a “southern” sport – let’s hope the development of sides in the north continues and that, vitally, England Netball offers its support to teams and clubs in the north.

The ten teams who will take part in the 2019 Vitality Netball Superleague are:

Benecos Mavericks, Celtic Dragons, London Pulse, Loughborough Lightning, Manchester Thunder, Severn Stars, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, UWS Sirens and Wasps Netball.

The 2018 Superleague awards were also announced this week.  The list of winners can be found here:

http://www.netballsl.com/2018/07/07/vnsl-2018-award-winners-announced/

Tennis – Wimbledon

Singles

It has been decided!  The Wimbledon women’s singles final will be between 25th seed Serena Williams and 11th Seed Angelique Kerber.

Both women have played some stunning tennis to get this far and both had straight sets victories in their semi-finals:

Williams beat 13th seed Julia Görges 6-2 6-4, while Kerber overcame French Open champion and 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 6-3.

It is set to be a cracking final.  It all starts at 2pm on Saturday 14 July and UK coverage is via BBC Television and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Women’s Doubles

The women’s doubles semi-finals take place today (Friday 13 July) and will be as follows:

Kvete Peschke & Nicole Melichar (12) v Gabriela Dabrowski & Xu Yifan (6)
Alicja Rosolska & Abigail Spears v Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (3)

Mixed Doubles

The semi-finals of the mixed doubles are also today (Friday) and there is still plenty of British interest, although someone will miss out as they play each other in the second semi-final:

Katerina Srebotnik & Michael Venus (9) v Nicole Melichar v Alexander Peya (11)
Harriet Dart & Jay Clarke (GB) v Victoria Azarenka & Jamie Murray (GB)

Wheelchair Singles

Of special note this year, Kgothatso Montjane is the first black South African woman to play at Wimbledon.

The ladies’ wheelchair singles semi-finals will be:

Aniek Van Koot v Yui Kamiji
Diede De Groot v Kgothatso Montjane

The wheelchair doubles semi-finals:

Diede De Groot & Yui Kamiji (1) v Katharina Kruger & Kgothatso Montjane
Sabine Ellerbrook & Lucy Shuker v Marjolein Buis & Aniek Van Koot (2)

All ties to be played today, Friday 13 July.

Football

I thought it was going to be all about the signings this week, but events have overtaken this until I am now starting to think, at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the soul of the game is in peril.

The more news, the more my heart sinks and I wonder where it will end.  Does the FA actually have a plan?  Are they just going to wait to see who sinks and who swims?

Doncaster Rovers Belles

The news overshadowing everything this week is that Doncaster Belles will not be playing Championship football next season, but will drop down to the National League.  It a statement it said,

“The club can announce that for the 2018/2019 season we will be competing in the Women’s National League. We can confirm we have withdrawn from the Women’s Championship and await FA ratification of the move in their Special General Meeting (date to be confirmed). We have worked closely with the FA and have mutually agreed the change in leagues which will ensure the continued viability and re-growth of the club.

“Our 50th year is upon us and the recent changes have allowed us to reflect and refocus. Our philosophy has always been centred on creating opportunities for women and girls in football. We are proud of our legacy which has pioneered the women’s game. Our coaching structure focuses on individual development and has seen players hit personal achievements, move on to high profile clubs and created opportunities with national teams. Our unique female mentoring scheme for coaches and managers has seen tremendous talent enter the game and again move onto exciting opportunities within the sport including with the England Lionesses. This remains our philosophy and we are excited to see a wealth of young developing players have a great opportunity to hit their full potential under a fantastic coaching team.  More details will follow on our decision.

“We look forward to celebrating our 50th Birthday with you all #backthebelles and welcome your input and support.”

It has been said on social media that the club has only four players left, and their remaining is not a certainty.  There has been no word as to who will be taking their place in the Championship.

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are celebrating as they are taking the Championship spot vacated by Sheffield FC.

Manchester United

And of course, there is always the looming presence of the new Manchester United outfit.  Casey Stoney announced this week that she now has a squad of 21 players, which will be unveiled on Friday 13 July.

Signings

There has been a considerable amount of disquiet this week amongst lovers of the women’s game about the numbers of overseas signings being made.  Are these good players, going to improve the health of the game in this country, or are they just cheap?  Is women’s football at the highest level about to go the way of the men’s Premier League in record time?  I really hope not.  Let’s hope that those signed from overseas are committed to playing here and making a difference, but let’s also hope that there are still pathways for young British players to come through and that they can get their chance at the biggest teams in the country.  I’d like to see every club with a wealth of talent and able to compete at the highest level – I don’t want it to become a fight for the title between the same four clubs every season.  Let’s see the best overseas players over here, enriching our clubs, teaching us what they have learnt in their respective leagues and making our clubs stronger both domestically and in the Champions League.

But let us not forget that professional women’s football in this country is, essentially, still in its infancy.  The FA is clearly going for a “survival of the fittest” policy and is unlikely to step in to help a club in trouble – and I have no confidence in it to have done the requisite checks before it issued licences.  I don’t think I’m alone in having a bad feeling about all of this.  More news and views as it happens.   

West Ham

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – West Ham mean business.  Matt Beard is assembling a fine squad, a good mixture of experience and youth.  They’ve been dabbling in the transfer market again this week:

Scotland striker Jane Ross has signed for them after being released by Manchester City.

They have also signed Dutch duo Esmee de Graaf from PEC Zwolle and Lucienne Reichardt from Dutch champions Ajax. De Graaf is a young striker, just 20, but she has already won two caps for the Netherlands.  Midfielder Reichardt is, by contrast, a relatively old hand at 27.

This takes the number of signings to seven, the others being Gilly Flaherty, Vyan Sampson, Rebecca Spencer and Brianna Visalli.

Reading

Reading, too, seem to be on the charge.  They have made an excellent signing, taking Gemma Davison from Chelsea.  Davison has been unlucky not to be getting regular starts for the champions and you can’t blame her for jumping ship in search of first team football.

Scotland defender Sophie Howard has also joined the Berkshire side.

Welsh international Charlie Estcourt has extended her contract with the Royals for another season and club captain Kirsty Pearce has also committed herself for another season.

Liverpool

After a mass exodus at Liverpool, it seems they are gearing up again with some major signings;

Ex- Donny Belles duo of captain Leandra Little and Rhiannon Roberts signed this week.

Goalkeeper Anke Preuss has signed from Sunderland

Athletics – World Cup

This weekend the London Stadium hosts the Athletics World Cup.  Eight countries are taking part: Great Britain & Northern Ireland, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Poland, South Africa and USA.  Team GB largely comprises up-and-coming youngsters, but does include in-form long jumper Lorraine Ugen and high jumper Morgan Lake.

The women’s team in full:

100m Daryll Neita (Shaftesbury Barnet), 200m Beth Dobbin (Edinburgh,) 400m Anyika Onuora (Liverpool), 800m Adelle Tracey (Guildford & Godalming), 1500m Jemma Reekie (Kilbarchan), 100m hurdles: Megan Marrs (Windsor, Slouth, Eton & Hounslow), 400m hurdles Meghan Beesley (Birchfield Harriers), High jump Morgan Lake (Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow), Pole vault Holly Bradshaw (Blackburn), Long jump Lorraine Ugen (Thames Valley), Triple Jump Naomi Ogbeta (Trafford), Shot put Amelia Strickler (Thames Valley, Discus Jade Lally (Shaftesbury Barnet), Hammer Sophie Hitchon (Blackburn), Javelin Laura Whittingham (Sale Harriers), 4x100m TBC; 4x400m TBC.

Para-Athletics

The GB team for the WPA European Championships, which takes place in Berlin from 20-26 August has also been announced this week.  The female athletes taking part are:

Kare Adenegan – T34 100m & 800m, Hollie Arnold – F46 Javelin, Martina Barber –T20 Long Jump, Olivia Breen – T38 100m, Sally Brown– T47 100m, 200m & 400m, Jo Butterfield – F51 Club Throw, Hannah Cockroft  – T34 100m & 800m, Hannah Dines  – RR3 100m, Sabrina Fortune – F20 Shot Put, Kylie Grimes  – F51 Club Throw, Kayleigh Haggo  – RR3 100M, Sophie Hahn – T38 100m, 200m & 4x100m mixed relay, Maria Lyle  – T35 100m & 200m, Polly Maton  – T47 Long Jump, 100m & 4x100m mixed relay, Stef Reid – T64 Long Jump and 200m* (200m subject to confirmation), Ali Smith – T38 100m, 200m, 400m & Long Jump, Laura Sugar – T44 100m & 200m, Vanessa Wallace – F34 Shot Put & Javelin, Eve Walsh Dann  – T36 100m & 200m.

Cricket

England v New Zealand ODI series

Hell hath no fury like an England team batting first.  In truth this has been somewhat of a disappointing series, with the first two ODIs hardly contested.  Let’s hope that the third, taking place at Grace Road, Leicester, today (Friday 13 July) is a closer affair.  From an England point of view, of course, it couldn’t have gone better and there are four ICC Women’s Championship points in the bag.

First ODI
England 290/5 (50 overs)
New Zealand 148 all out (35.3 overs)
England won by 142 runs

The England openers had amassed 111 before New Zealand took a wicket.  Tammy Beaumont went for 40, caught by Martin off the bowling of Tahuhu.  Amy Jones and Heather Knight both scored 63 – in fact everyone made a contribution as England scored a huge 290.

In response, as is becoming horribly regular, the Ferns’ openers made a good start, but after they were out the collapse was most definitely on.   Bates scored 28 and Devine 33, but only Maddy Green, of the rest of the side, got over 20.

Second ODI
England 241 all out (48 overs)
New Zealand 118 all out (38 overs)
England won by 123 runs

New Zealand managed to take all ten wickets in this game, but still lost the game convincingly.

Jones was out relatively early, having made 20.  Beaumont top-scored with 67 and Sciver made a useful 54.  The wickets were shared around with Devine, Kasparek and Watkin taking two each and Huddleston, Tahuhu and Kerr, one each.

Bates made 20 at the top of the order for New Zealand, but again Green with 20 was the next best scorer.  The middle order was pretty much reduced to single-figure scoring.  Katie George and Sophie Ecclestone took three wickets each and in the end it was all too easy for England.

ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Bangladesh and Ireland have booked their places in the World T20, which takes place in the West Indies in November.

They face each other in the final of the Qualifying tournament on Saturday.

Bangladesh beat Scotland in their semi-final.  Bangladesh scored 125/6 off their 20 overs, but Scotland could only muster 76/7 in reply.

Ireland overcame Papua New Guinea in their semi.  Batting first, Ireland scored 113/6 off their 20 overs.  PNG were all out for 86 in 19.2 overs.

News and report of the final next week.

And finally,

Don’t forget there is another World Cup to look forward too – and it’s getting closer!  The Women’s Hockey World Cup begins in just two weeks.  Can England follow up their Olympic gold with a World Cup win?

It all begins on 21 July at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Centre in London.  TV coverage is via BT Sport.

More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 30 June – 6 July 2018

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s unexpurgated rants, expect nothing but serenity and calm this time round (possibly).  Stories this week come from tennis, athletics, netball, badminton, winter sports, golf, cricket, rugby union and football.

Tennis

A Week is a long time in tennis – isn’t that what they say?  Well it certainly is for Caroline Wozniacki, who went from Eastbourne winner last week to out in the second round at Wimbledon this.

Eastbourne

Wozniacki came from a set down in her semi-final against Angelique Kerber to take it 2-6 7-6 6-4.  She was joined in the final by Aryna Sabalenka who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska, just coming back into form after a long injury lay-off, 6-3 1-6 6-3.

The final was altogether a more straightforward, if tight, affair.  Top seed Wozniacki took the title in straight sets 7-5 7-6.

Wimbledon

Into Wimbledon fortnight and almost immediately the seeds in the women’s draw began to fall.

The biggest shock of the first round was a really limp display from fourth seed Sloane Stephens, who was easily beaten by Donna Vekic 6-1 6-3.

The second biggest shock of the first round was the exit of the fifth seed, Elina Svitolina, who went down in three sets to Tatjana Maria 7-6 4-6 6-1.

Petra Kvitova, seeded eight, lost in three sets to Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-4 4-6 6-0.

Sixteenth seed, Coco Vanderweghe, also went out in the first round, defeated in three sets by

Katerina Siniakova 6-7 6-3 8-6.   She had sustained an injury during the match and, although she completed it, later had to pull out of the doubles.

Twenty-first seed Anastasija Sevastova lost to Camila Giorgi 6-1 2-6 6-4, Maria Sharapova, seeded twenty-four, lost to Vitalia Diatchenko, Hsieh Su- Wei defeated thirtieth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 4-6 6-3  and Andrea Petkovic beat thirty-first seed Zhang Shuai 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Of the British players, Heather Watson went out in the first round to Kirsten Flipkens 6-4 7-5.  Katy Dunne lost to twelfth seed Jelena Ostapenko 6-3 7-6.  Gabi Taylor went out to qualifier Eugenie Bouchard 6-0 4-6 6-3.  Third seed Garbine Muguruza defeated Naomi Broady 6-2 7-5.  Harriet Dart took a set off seventh seed Karolina Pliskova, but went down 7-6 2-6 6-1.

British number one Jo Konta beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva 7-5 7-6 in a closely fought encounter and there were fine wins for Katie Boulter against Veronica Cepede Royg 6-4 5-7 6-4 and Katie Swan, who defeated Irina-Camelia Begu 6-2 6-2.

The second round was just as bloody.  Second seed Wozniacki lost in three to Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 1-6 7-5.Third seed Muguruza was beaten by Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7  6-2 6-1.

Thirty-second seed Radwanska lost to Lucie Safarova 7-5 6-4.

All of the remaining British players lost, including twenty-second seed Konta who succumbed to Dominika Cibulkova 6-3 6-4.  Cue the haters on social media, including one particularly pernicious chap who repeatedly called Konta an “LTA funding leech”.  Ugh.

Boulter lost to Naomi Osaka (eighteenth seed), 6-3 6-4 and Swan to Mihaela Buzarnescu (twenty-ninth seed) 6-0 6-3.

And that’s just after the first four days!  Will there be any seeds left by the business end of the tournament next week?  Is it opening up for Serena (and have I just jinxed her by saying it?)  News and updates next Friday.

Cricket

England were triumphant in the T20 Tri-Series against New Zealand on Sunday.

In truth it was a bit of an anti-climax as New Zealand batting first could only muster 137 in their 20 overs:

New Zealand 137/9 (20 overs)
England 141/3 (17.1 overs)
England won by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare

Openers Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates began well, making 31 apiece, but after that it all fell apart as New Zealand limped to a below par 137.  Dani Hazell, Katherine Brunt and Sophie Ecclestone took two wickets each.

In response the England openers Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont made a stand of 81 before Beaumont was out for 35.  The visitors had no answer to Wyatt’s strength and style as she scored 50.

Sarah Taylor was bowled by young star Amelia Kerr, but Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and saw England home, scoring 21 and 17 not out respectively.

England squad to play ODI series against New Zealand

Dani Hazell has been left out of the ODI squad.  In comes Alex Hartley, while young fast bowler Katie George keeps her place:

Heather Knight (Berkshire, capt), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Katie George (Hampshire), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Amy Jones (Warwickshire, wk), Laura Marsh (Kent), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Sarah Taylor (Sussex, wk), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex)

The three-match series starts tomorrow (7 July) at Headingley (11am start), with the second match at Derby on 10 July (1pm start) and the third at Leicester on 13 July (2pm start).  There are ICC Women’s Championship points at stake in all three games.

All matches are live on Sky Sports and radio coverage is on BBC TMS on 5 Live Sports Extra.

 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

The qualifying tournament begins on Saturday 7 July in Rotterdam.

Group A comprises Bangladesh, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and UAE
Group B comprises Ireland, Scotland, Thailand and Uganda

Ireland begin on 7 July against Thailand.  They then play Scotland on 8 July and Uganda on 10 July.

Scotland’s first match is against Uganda on 7 July and their last against Thailand on 10 July.

Athletics

There were some big performances by Team GB’s women at the British Athletics Championships last weekend.

On the track:

Laura Muir won the 800m in 2:01.22 seconds with Shelayna Oskan-Ckarke second (2:01.94) and Adelle Tracey in third (2:02.00).

Beth Dobbin won the 200m in 22.75, her second personal best time of the weekend.

Rosie Clarke won the 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 9:45.83 which was good enough to get her to the European Championships.

Bethan Davies won the 5,000m walk.

Steph Twell won the 5,000m with Melissa Courtney in second and Eilish McColgan in third.

Meghan Beesley won the 400m hurdles in 55.73 with Kirsten McAslan second (56.48) and Jessica Turner third (57.10).

In the field:

Lorraine Ugen maintained her good form in the long jump, which she won with a jump of 7.05m with Jazmin Sawyers in second (6.86m).

Holly Bradshaw won the pole vault with a height of 4.60m, Sophie Cook in second (4.25m, PB) and Sally Peake in third (4.15m)

Morgan Lake won the high jump (1.97m), Katrina Johnson-Thompson second (1.90) and Nikki Manson third (1.87, PB).

Jade Lally won the discus with 56.61.

Laura Whittingham won the javelin with 55.55m.

Sophie Hitchon won the hammer with a championship record throw of 72.02.

Other Athletics News

British 400m runner, Christine Ohuruogu has retired at the age of 34.  Ohuruogu became World Champion in 2007 and won gold the following year at the Beijing Olympics.

She won silver at the London Olympics and a second world title in Moscow in 2013.

She was also a stalwart member of the 4 x 400m relay team, winning two Olympic bronzes (2008, 2016), one World Championship silver (2013) and no less than five bronze medals (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2015).

Polish sprinter, Irena Szewinska has died at the age of 72.

She won three Olympic golds medals; in the 4x100m relay in Tokyo (1964), in the 200m in Mexico City (1968) and in the 400m eight years later in Montreal (1976).

She was the first woman to break 50 seconds for the 400m and set 10 career world records.

In 1998 she became a member of the International Olympic Committee and in 2005 became only the third woman to serve on the IAAF Council.

Golf

Women’s PGA Championship

Park Sung-hyun of South Korea won the PGA at Kemper Lakes near Chicago at the weekend.

Three golfers finished on -10, Park, Nasa Hataoka of Japan and Ryu So-yeon, also of South Korea and went into a play-off.

Park and Ryu both birdied the first play-off hole, while Hataoka was eliminated as she made only par.  Play was then suspended for 20 minutes due to the weather and on the resumption, Park birdied the second play-off hole, while Ryu could only make par.

Best British finishers were Charley Hull tied for sixth on -6, Bronte Law tied 18th on -2 and Jodie Ewart Shadoff tied 25th on -1.

Netball

Vitality Super League Grand Final

It will be a repeat of last year’s Grand Final at the Copper Box in London this Saturday as Loughborough Lightning take on Wasps Netball for the title.

Last season, if you remember, Lightning finished top and Wasps second.  They defeated their semi-final opponents and met in the final where Wasps came out on top 55-51.

So this season Lightning will be out for revenge.  Their finishing places were reversed this year and they both had good wins in their respective semi-finals, Loughborough defeating Manchester Thunder 59-50 and Wasps beating Team Bath 54-39.

Who will come out on top at the Copper Box?  If you can’t get there, full coverage is on Sky Sports and the match starts at 5pm.

England Roses

The Roses have moved up to second in the world rankings for the first time.

Since rankings began in 2008, Australia and New Zealand have filled the top two places, but England have overtaken the Silver Ferns in the latest table.

Top 10:

  1. Australia
  2. England
  3. New Zealand
  4. Jamaica
  5. South Africa
  6. Malawi
  7. Uganda
  8. Northern Ireland
  9. Scotland
  10. Trinidad & Tobago

Wales have dropped out of the top ten and stand at 11, while Ireland are 19th.

England qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup as hosts and are joined in automatic qualification by Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

“Interesting” that in the 15 comments I saw when I looked at this story on the BBC Sports page, eight were from men with variations of “It’s not a proper sport”, “sexist if men can’t play”, “who cares?”, three were removed because they broke the house rules (makes you wonder what they actually said) and the grand total of four were actually positive comments about the Roses’ achievement.  So it seems that women shouldn’t be allowed to participate in “men’s sport”, i.e., football, but neither should we have what is perceived, incorrectly, to be a “women’s sport”, i.e., netball.  I think that leaves us with what is called Hobson’s choice……

Winter Sports

UK Sport has announced increased funding for curling running up to the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing in 2022.  But four winter sports have had their funding cut:

  2014-2018 funding 2018-22 funding
Bobsleigh  £5m (men’s only) £0
Curling £5.66m £6.35m
Figure Skating £1.24m £0
Short-track speed skating £4.76m £0 (extra support for Elise Christie)
Skeleton £6.55m £7.2m
Ski & snowboard £5m £6.75m
Para-ski & Snowboard £2.77m £3.5m
Wheelchair curling £1.14m 0

This is broadly in line with UK Sport policy of only funding where the prospect of medals is a real one, a policy which you will know, if you are a regular reader of this column, is not something with which I necessarily agree.  Even stranger than that, UK Sport has made special provision for short-track speed skater Elise Christie, who they consider has made “significant and consistent world-level success.”  This has drawn criticism from some quarters, especially as Christie did not win a medal in Pyeongchang.

Rugby Union – Sevens

France won the first leg of the European Grand Prix Series in Marcoussis.  They defeated Russia in the final 17-12.

Ireland finished third, beating England by 39-7, their biggest ever win against England in either 7s or 15s.

Wales finished fifth and newly promoted Scotland had a great weekend, making it to the quarter-finals before they were beaten by Russia.

This weekend sees the second leg in Kazan.  News and results next week.

Badminton

Chris and Gabby Adcock reached the semi-finals of the Malaysia Open last weekend before they fell to eventual champions and fourth seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.  They lost 21-17, 18-21, 19-21.

Zheng and Huang then went on to defeat second seeds Wang Yiiu and Huang Dongping in the final 21-19, 21-18.

Football

The Welsh FA have announced that the Wales v England World Cup qualifier will be played at Newport’s ground, Rodney Parade.

The game, scheduled for 31 August, will kick-off at 7.45pm.

It is between England and Wales as to who finishes top – the runner-up will probably go into a play-off, while the group winner will qualify automatically.

Signings 

  • Arsenal have signed Swiss international midfielder Lia Walti and German international Tabea Kemme.
  • Former Lioness Rachel Yankey has joined the coaching staff at London Bees.
  • Reading have signed goalkeeper Rachael Laws from Sunderland and midfielder Remi Allen has signed a new contract with the Berkshire club.
  • Chelsea are about to sign Finnish international forward Adelina Engm
  • Liverpool have made two singing s from Bristol City; forward Yana Daniels and defender jasmine Matthews.
  • Everton have signed Sunderland midfielder Dominique Bruinenberg.
  • Bristol City Women have named their new manager; she is former Birmingham City assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby. She was previously assistant coach at Perth Glory Women and the Australia Under-20s.

Birmingham City Ladies have changed their name to Birmingham City Women.  In a statement the club called it “an important and progressive step.”

The FA has released its new logos for the rebranded women’s leagues.  Needless to say, as with pretty much all things FA-related, I’m not totally convinced.  Take a look for yourselves and let me know what you think: http://www.thefa.com/news/2018/jun/06/fa-womens-leagues-new-brand-identity-060618

And finally,

I gather there’s some men’s football going on this weekend?  I will actually miss it as I’ll be at the theatre in Stratford!  For those of you old enough to understand this reference, my husband and I will be re-enacting that Likely Lads episode until we can get home and watch the recording!  Good luck to England’s men against Sweden on Saturday.  Let’s hope it’s a better and much less tetchy and miserable match than the one against Colombia.

More news and views next week. 

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 June 2018

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  You will be glad to know I did indeed get to swim in the sea last week! (briefly) and I lived to tell the tale, so here I am.  It’s been a mixed week for women’s sport (and women in, whisper it, men’s football) yet again – certainly two steps forward, one step back.  Heartily sick of it now – let’s stick it in “and finally” and see what happens.

Anyway more interesting and sensible stories this week come from football, cricket, netball, cycling, tennis, rugby union, athletics and rugby league.

Tennis

Wimbledon is nearly here!  Qualifying is well underway as is the run-up Eastbourne

Eastbourne semi-finals:
Agnieszka Radwanska v Aryna Sabalenka
Caroline Wozniaki (1) v Angelique Kerber (4)

Eugenie Bouchard is one of those who has come through qualifying to reach the main draw at Wimbledon, the tournament proper beginning on Monday 2 July.

Serena Williams has been named as 25th seed.  This has caused some comment, both for and against, from current players and others in the sport.  I think it’s a tricky one and I can see both sides.  Should a tennis player’s seeding be protected while on maternity leave?  There is already the protected ranking rule for those out of the game due to injury from six months to two years.  You would think the ITF would have inserted something into their maternity policy to cover it, but of course, it’s a relatively new thing that women should want to return to elite competition after giving birth (!)  Come on ITF sort it out.

Cricket

The Women’s World Twenty20 groups were announced this week.

Group A: England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa + 1 qualifier
Group B: Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan + 1 qualifier

Venues are Guyana, St Lucia and Antigua and the tournament takes place from 9-24 November.

England’s fixtures:
Saturday 10 v Sri Lanka
Monday 12 v Qualifer
Friday 16 v South Africa
Sunday 18 v West Indies

Radio coverage on Test Match Special, TV broadcast news to follow.

The remaining qualifiers will come from the tournament in the Netherlands, being held 7-14 July.  The eight teams competing for two places are: Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

Tri-Series

The final of the England – South Africa – New Zealand Tri-Series will be between England and New Zealand.

England finished top of the table with three wins from four games, New Zealand second with two wins and two losses and South Africa third with just the one win, against England last weekend.

The last double-header was on Thursday 28 June:

South Africa 148/6 (20 overs)
New Zealand 151/2 (15.2 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets with 28 balls remaining

South Africa won the toss and elected to bat.  They made a good start with a 40-run partnership between the openers, Lizelle Lee and Laura Wolvaardt.  Lee was the first to go for 25.  Sune Luus went for a duck soon after and although there were good contributions from Wolvaardt (25), Dane van Niekerk (25) and particularly Chloe Tryon (35), they still finished possibly 20 runs light.

New Zealand made a strong response.  They had reached 130 before Bates was caught by Lee off the bowling of Marizanne Kapp for 62.  Katey Martin was bowled by Zintle Mali for 10, but Sophie Devine finished 68 not out as the White Ferns won with more than four overs to spare, sealing their place in the final.

New Zealand 129 all out (18.1 overs)
England 130/3 (15.5 overs)
England won by 7 wickets with 25 balls remaining

In the final game, a dead rubber, England won with four overs to spare.  The key was the bowling performance, and in particular, the dismissal of Suzie Bates for a duck.  Sophie Devine took on the anchor role, making 52 off 45 balls, but apart from 37 from Amy Satterthwaite, there was little in the way of support for the opener.  Anya Shrubsole took 3/16 from 3.1 overs, while Dani Hazell took 2/21 off her four.

In response the England openers fell cheaply (Wyatt, 2 and Beaumont 11), but Sarah Taylor made 51 from 37 before she was stumped (!) off the bowling of Amelia Kerr.  Nat Sciver and Heather Knight took it on and New Zealand could not take another wicket.  Sciver finished on 39 and Knight on 24.

The final is this Sunday, 1 July at Chelmsford and the match begins at 3pm.

Athletics

The British Athletics Championships take place this weekend (30 June-1 July) at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham.

As well as the titles on offer, athletes will be looking to qualify for the European Championships, which are in Berlin from 7-12 August.

Scotland’s Eilidh Doyle will not be there to defend her 400m hurdles title as she is still nursing an injury and aiming to be fit for Berlin.

Coverage is via the BBC on TV, online and the Red Button.  See here for details: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/athletics/43572549

Caster Semenya

The row over the new Court of Arbitration for Sport’s testosterone rules rumbles on.

Unsurprisingly, South African 800m champion Caster Semenya had vowed to fight the new ruling, calling it “unlawful”.

But it seems that amongst the governing bodies of the sport she will have little or no support.  Both the IAAF and Athletics South Africa have now said they will honour any ruling made by CAS when it comes in on 1 November.

As we know, the rule only applies to women who run in track events from 400m up to a mile and although Lord Sebastian Coe, IAAF president, in a statement on Wednesday said,

“No individual athlete has been targeted in the creation of the regulations”

It’s hard not to see that Semenya is indeed the target.

The statement said that the IAAF needs

“to create competition categories within our sport that ensures that success is determined by talent, dedication and hard work, rather than by other factors that are not considered fair or meaningful, such as the enormous physical advantages that an adult has over a child, or a male athlete has over a female athlete.

“We therefore need to come up with a fair solution for intersex/DSD athletes wishing to compete in the female category which is what the new regulations set out to do, based on the evidence the IAAF has gathered about the degree of performance benefit that such intersex/DSD athletes get from their higher levels of circulating testosterone.”

Is the new ruling this “fair solution”?  I’m certainly not sure and from Semenya’s point of view, no aspect of it is fair.  Expect no resolution by the due November 1 introduction date.

Football

Sheffield FC

Biggest and most disturbing news of the week comes from the new FA Women’s Championship.  Sheffield FC has withdrawn from the new league due to financial issues.

The club issued a short statement:

“Following a meeting of the directors, the Club has taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from The FA Women’s Championship. The financial commitments necessary to compete at this level are proving now too onerous.

“Sheffield FC has been a pioneer of women’s football in Sheffield over the past 15 years, and has competed with honour, pride and considerable success against clubs with much greater resources. Sheffield FC will continue to participate in girls’ and women’s football.

“The structure of the women’s game at elite level is moving towards a full-time operation which is no longer consistent with where Sheffield FC is positioned as a club.”

Sheffield FC Ladies was founded in 2003.  It was promoted to WSL2 in 2015.  I don’t know where to start.  Is it time for me to wheel out the oldest and most-used phrase of all, “What are you playing at FA?”  Wasn’t all this application process supposed to stop all of this – weren’t all the checks supposed to ensure that those awarded licences were able to fulfil the criteria?  And yet, here we have a well-established club forced to withdraw without a ball being kicked.  Who will replace them?  There were no shortage of applicants – should be Blackburn, Sunderland or Oxford I think.  But I’m sure I’m not alone in picturing this new structure as resembling a house of cards – and we all know what happens to those.

Manchester United

Former Bristol City manager, Willie Kirk, has been named as assistant coach to Casey Stoney at Manchester United.

In an interview with the club’s website, Kirk said,

“To have the chance to work with Casey Stoney and to be part of a team that is being set up from scratch, to me, is an opportunity not to be missed.

“Manchester United is renowned around the globe for developing young talent and that will continue in the women’s team.

“I would like to thank Casey for giving me this opportunity and I know that our skills and experience will complement each other as we work together to develop an exciting new team.”

Signings

  • Chelsea have signed New Zealand captain Ali Riley.
  • Liverpool have signed Millwall Lionesses defender Leighanne Robe.
  • West Ham have been busy, largely signing players from champions Chelsea! Matt Beard obviously means business (you would expect nothing else), signing England centre-back Gilly Flaherty, left-back Claire Rafferty and goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.
  • Birmingham City striker Lucy Quinn has signed a new one-year contract.
  • Reading have also offered midflelder Jo Potter a contract extension, the length of which has not been revealed and Jade Moore has also signed a new contract.
  • Manchester City have signed Belgian striker Tessa Wullaert from Wolfsburg on a two-year deal.

 Rugby Union

The Women’s European Grand Prix Series starts today (Friday 29 June) in Marcoussis.  All of the home nations are taking part.  For more news and live video feed click below:

https://www.rugbyeurope.eu/competitions/2018-women-7s-gps

 Rugby League

Two results from the Super League this week:

24 June
Featherstone Rovers 20-31 Wigan Warriors
Leeds Rhinos 30-10 Bradford Bulls

All teams have now played either six or seven matches.  Leeds top the table with 12 points from seven games.  Wigan are second a point behind from seven and St Helens are third with nine points, but have a game in hand over the top two.

York City Knights are the only team not to have scored a point so far, having played six games.

Cycling

German Double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed in training on Tuesday and is in hospital in Berlin.

She is described as having suffered a “serious spinal injury”, when she crashed into another rider at full speed at the Cottbus track.

She has had surgery and is in a stable condition, although she remains in intensive care.

Updates as they come through.

Netball

Somehow we have already reached the business end of the Super League season already.  The regular season finished with Wasps on top with 48 points from their 18 games.  Loughborough Lightning finished second with 45 and these two teams have secured home semi-finals.  Lightning face Manchester Thunder, who finished third, while Wasps play fourth-finishers Team Bath.

The semi-finals are this Saturday, 30 June and will both be shown live on Sky Sports:

Wasps v Bath (5.45pm)
Lightning v Thunder (7.45pm)

The Grand Final will be on Saturday 7 July at the Copper Box Arena in London and again will be shown live on Sky Sports.

And finally,

It will not have escaped your notice (and I’m not saying that it should) that the men’s football World Cup (as I like to call it) is taking place in Russia at the moment.  For the most part, except for the massive amounts of feigning injury, rolling around, wrestling players to the ground, surrounding the referee etc., it has been enjoyable so far.

But, it seems, women are not destined to enjoy the World Cup.  How very dare they?  How dare they commentate?  Summarise or offer opinion?  Or even be part of the crowd?

1)  Jason Cundy (former Chelsea, and to my shame, Ipswich player and Talksport “pundit”), who hopefully is regretting ever opening his mouth, said in an interview that women shouldn’t commentate because their voices are “too high-pitched”.  Good Morning Britain then ran a poll “should women commentate?” (on men’s football – the only thing that counts).  Cue meat-heads far and wide to weigh-in with their “opinion” (and the word “whiny” appeared several times).  You’ll all know where I stand on this.  But let me just sum it up in one sentence; if you say you don’t like X’s voice or Y’s voice when commentating, this is ok.  Everyone has this kind of preference and there is nothing wrong with that.  If, however, you say you don’t like “women’s” voices, it is discrimination and nothing else.  You are discounting 50% of the population without any basis.

2) Secondly, Eni Aluko and Alex Scott have been employed as “pundits”, and boy have they received flak, particularly Aluko.  Scott is much more experienced in this and has been praised as well as insulted, but Aluko is still learning, but has been given no credit for this.  One of the more astounding comments I’ve seen (more than once) is that when anyone mentioned their 242 England caps between them as proof of knowledge and experience, the commenter said “242 women’s caps = 1 men’s cap”?  Really?  Is this the case?  I don’t think so?

3) Getty Images released a rather ill-judged gallery of the World Cups “Sexiest fans” this week.  Men and women?  Just men?  Nope, just women.  For crying out loud, Getty, what century are we in again?  They have since shamefacedly withdrawn the piece.

Here’s a novel idea, how about women being allowed to watch, comment on, write about, speak about and likewise give an opinion on the World Cup without the misogynist bile and objectification?

More news and views next week. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 8-13 July 2017

Lacrosse05Welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column. I’m back from hols and raring to go.  There’s a lot to catch up on and this is going to be a bumper edition with stories from cricket, lacrosse, football, rugby, sports politics, netball, hockey and tennis.  You can probably guess this week’s “And finally” – courtesy of Andy Murray, but it bears repeating.

So let’s crack on.

Lacrosse

For a couple of months now I’ve been trailing the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup – well someone had to.  To be honest, I’m not frightfully well up on it myself, but over the next couple of weeks I’m determined to get to grips with the ins and outs of this exciting, fast-moving sport.

The tournament is running from 12-22 July at Surrey Sport Park and if you check out the website, you can still pick up tickets for some matches.

England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all taking part.

A brief history:

Originally a Native American sport, it continues to draw big crowds in the United States.  This World Cup is the tenth, with America winning seven so far and being runners-up in the other two, won by Australia.  Over here it’s very much a minority sport, but growing.

There are 25 (!) nations taking part, with Wales being the second smallest after Latvia.  Wales also boasts the game’s most capped player – Ros Lloyd Rout – who currently has 106 appearances for her country.

All of the home teams are ranked highly; England are ranked fourth in the world and Wales fifth, with Scotland just behind in sixth.

The format of the tournament is somewhat complicated.  The top six ranked teams; USA, Canada, Australia, England, Wales and Scotland qualify by right to the knockout stages, although they all still play each other in Pool A.  There are four other pools and just two teams from these pools will qualify along with Pool A.

Pool B
Italy
Hong Kong
Haudenosaunee
Korea
Switzerland

Pool C
Israel
Netherlands
Czech Republic
China
Belgium

Pool D
Japan
Germany
Latvia
Spain
Mexico

Pool E
New Zealand
Ireland
Sweden
Colombia

Wow – that’s some worldwide spread!

It all kicked off on Wednesday with an exciting home nations derby.

England 12-6 Wales

England took the lead in the third minute and between then and 26th it was neck and neck as first one team scored, then the other.  But in a telling period between the 28th and 47th England scored four without reply.  Wales came back with one goal but England scored another three without Wales being able to score again.  England’s number 11, Jennifer Simpson must have thought her only role was to provide the pass for the goalscorers as she achieved three assists, but then she got a goal of her own in the 57th minute, England’s 11th and penultimate score.

There, I’ve done my best!

Coverage will undoubtedly be sparse, but it’s good to see that the BBC will be covering the tournament on the BBC website from the quarter-finals onwards.  And, of course, I’ll do what I can to keep you updated via this blog!

Tennis

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Wimbledon fortnight.  And what a tournament it’s been!  There have been some truly stunning women’s (and men’s) matches, not least of which was the quarter-final between Jo Konta and Simona Halep.

Anyway, the women’s singles final is on Saturday.  It was a shame that with so many good matches up to that point, the semi-finals were a bit of a disappointment and over all too quickly.

Women’s Singles

Garbine Muguruza (14) beat Magdalena Rybarikova 6-1 6-1
Venus Williams (10) defeated Johanna Konta (6) 6-4 6-2

Women’s Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

A Grönefeld/K Peschke (12) v E Makarova/E Vesnina (2)
M Niculescu/H Chan (9) v R Voracova/M Ninomiya

Mixed Doubles

The semi-final line-up is:

H Kontinen/H Watson v B Soares/E Vesnina (2)
M Hingis/J Murray (1) v M Demoliner/M Martinez Sanchez

Wheelchair Singles

Both British players Jordanne Whiley and Lucy Shuker lost in the quarter-finals.  Whiley succumbed to Diede De Groot of the Netherlands 6-2 7-6.  Shuker lost to second seed Yui Kamiji of Japan 6-3 6-1.

De Groot plays compatriot Aniek Van Koot in the first semi-final, while Kamiji faces Sabine Ellerbrock of Germany.

Football

On the Pitch

Scotland 1-0 Republic of Ireland

Scotland won their final Euros warm-up game against the Republic of Ireland 1-0.  Substitute Christie Murray headed home in the 85th minute to see Anna Signeul’s side head off to the Netherlands with a much needed win.

Scotland’s first game at the Euros, in case you didn’t already know, is against England in Utrecht on 19 July.

In fact, of course, it will all be underway by the time I get to write my column next week, so I’d just like to say good luck to the Lionesses and to Scotland.

Off the Pitch

Lewes FC

Good news this week as semi-professional club Lewes FC announced that they will be paying their men’s and women’s first teams the same salaries.

Lewes women play in the third tier, the Premier League Southern Division, and the men in the Isthmian League Division One South, their eighth tier.

Both teams will have the same budget, level of coaching staff and facilities.

It is all part of the club’s “Equality FC” campaign.

Director Jacquie Agnew said: “We hope to spark a change that will help put an end to the excuses for why such a deep pay disparity has persisted.”

Toni Duggan

News also came this week that England striker Toni Duggan has signed for the new Barcelona women’s team.  She joins them from Manchester City on a two-year contract.

The BBC chose to announce that Duggan is the first English player to sign for Barcelona since Gary Lineker.  And didn’t that get the Neanderthal footie-lovers Y-fronts in a tangle? Outraged by the audacity of mentioning Lineker and Duggan in the same breath they all went completely off their heads to point out that Lineker signed for the men’s team, not the women’s and that the two were completely different.  Tee hee.  I can’t help thinking the BBC was having a bit of a laugh at their expense – and boy did they rise to it!

Yeovil Town Ladies FC

Yeovil announced yesterday that their Head Coach Michelle Yeowell has left the club.  She had been a player and coach for the club for more than ten years.

Her successor has not yet been named.

Rugby Union

Some shock news this week came from the RFU when it announced that England’s full-time contracts will end after the World Cup in August.

After the much-vaunted announcement of contracts in July 2016, this volte-face is not only disappointing but embarrassing.

The RFU, in its wisdom, has decided to concentrate on developing the sevens.

Evidently professional contracts will only go to sevens players next year.  England have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens and next year there is the Commonwealth Games and the World Series.

The RFU is still committed to investing in the women’s fifteen-a-side game with the introduction of next season’s new league competition, but there are going to be some pretty unhappy women who return from the World Cup, regardless of the result, to find themselves without a contract.

Kazan Sevens

England produced their best performance for a while last weekend to finish second at the last Grand Prix Series tournament in Kazan, thus securing qualification to next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco.  England were beaten by Russia 21-0 in the final, having topped their pool with wins over Ireland, Poland and Sweden.

Wales finished second in their pool to eventual winners Russia and finished fifth altogether.  Their high finish ensured their qualification for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.  In the pool stage they beat Italy and the Netherlands but lost to Russia.  They then lost to England 21-7 in the play-offs but won the repechage by beating Belgium and Poland to take fifth.

Russia were a class above over the weekend, and in fact, over the two legs.  They scored 34 tries in each leg.

The European representatives at the 7s RWC in San Francisco will be Russia, Spain, France, England and Ireland.

Cricket

Apart from reading a tweet today by a real gent which said it’s an “absolute disgrace” that England’s women scored 373/5 against South Africa and that “cricket is just not a women’s game.  Stick to hockey or netball”, the Women’s World Cup has generally engendered a positive reaction.

One brilliant story comes out of India where apparently a young girl went into a sports shop and asked for an Indian cricket shirt.   When asked if she wanted a name printed on it, she said yes.  Was it Kohli?  Dhoni?  Nope, it was Smriti Mandhana.  The shop said it was the first time they had ever been asked to put the name of one of the women’s team on a shirt!  Progress.

We’re nearly at the knockout stage of the World Cup.  It’s a fight between New Zealand and India for the last place in the quarter-finals.

Here’s what’s happened in the last week:

Match 17

All too easy for New Zealand

New Zealand v Pakistan
Taunton
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat

Pakistan 144 all out (46.5 overs)
New Zealand 147/2 (15 overs)
New Zealand won by 8 wickets (210 balls remaining)

Pakistan’s openers needed to make a considerable opening stand to post any kind of total against New Zealand.  They had only made 35 before Zafar was out and although captain Sana Mir chipped in with a bright half-century, the other wickets fell cheaply and 144 was really never going to be enough.

Hannah Rowe took 3/22 off nine overs with the rest of the bowlers all contributing.

In response Rachel Priest was dismissed for just 8, but 93 from Sophie Devine and 38 not out from Amy Satterthwaite saw them comfortably home.

Match 18

Another Van Niekerk masterclass does for India’s top batters

India v South Africa
Leicester
India won the toss and put South Africa in

South Africa 273/9 (50 overs
India 158 all out (46 overs)
South Africa won by 115 runs

Wolvaardt may have been dismissed for just one, but some power batting from Lizelle Lee soon put this tie in South Africa’s favour.  Van Niekerk also scored 57 and was backed up well by the rest of the top order.

By contrast India struggled to get the ball off the square.  Deepti Sharma scored 60 and Jhulan Goswami 43, but there were few other contributors as Dane Van Niekerk took 4/22 off her 10 overs and India ended way short.

Match 19

England edge the big one – but it’s mighty close

England v Australia
Bristol
England won the toss and elected to bat

England 259/8 (50 overs)
Australia 256/8 (50 overs)
England won by 3 runs

Lauren Winfield is yet to make a score, but fellow opener Tammy Beaumont is looking to have got her mojo back with a vengeance.  She scored top-scored with 49, Katherine Brunt chipped in with 45 not out and there were good starts for everyone else except the skipper, Heather Knight, who was out for just one.  Elyse Villani took 3/42 off 5 overs as England chased the runs towards the end.

It was on the cusp of “just enough” and when Australia had got to 56 without losing a wicket all seemed ominous.  In fact everyone made runs but the rate was too slow.  Ellyse Perry starred with 70 with Lanning scoring 40.  It was down to Jenny Gunn to bowl the last over, with 16 needed.  Five were scored off the first three, then Gardner was out, caught by Brunt.  The fifth ball of the over brought another four and then Australia needed six off the last ball, but Jonassen could only grab two and England had won by three runs.

An excellent, nail-biting game and a great advert for women’s cricket with a crowd of over 4,000 at Bristol cheering both sides on.

Match 20

West Indies chalk up their first win

Sri Lanka v West Indies
Derby
Sri Lanka won the toss and put the West Indies in.

West Indies 229/9 (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 182 all out (48 overs)
West Indies won by 47 runs

When were the West Indies going to turn up?  This game was a bit more encouraging for the World T20 champions.  They made a healthy 229 with Merissa Aguilleira top-scoring on 49.

In reply Sri Lanka needed their star, Atapattu to fire, but when she was out on 26 the writing was on the wall.  Anisa Mohammed was best bowler for the Windies taking 3/39 off her 10 overs and was Player of the Match.

Match 21

West Indies win again as rain hits Leicester

Pakistan v West Indies
Leicester
Pakistan won the toss and put the West Indies in

West Indies 285/4 (50 overs)
Pakistan 117/3 (24 overs)
West Indies won by 19 runs via D/L method

West Indies batted well for probably the first time in the tournament.  Their two biggest stars, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin both fired with 90 and 104 respectively.  And when they fire the whole team looks a different prospect.

We were lucky to get as much cricket as we did with the sides playing through some quite heavy rain.  With a delay to the Pakistan reply the total was revised to 245 in 38 overs.  Pakistan had reached 117 before the heavens opened again and the match was abandoned.

Match 22

South Africa ease past Sri Lanka

South Africa v Sri Lanka
Taunton
Sri Lanka won the toss and batted

Sri Lanka 101 all out (40.3 0vers)
South Africa 104/2 (23.1 overs)
South Africa won by 8 wickets

It was an early finish at Taunton as South Africa put Sri Lanka to the sword.  Van Niekerk struck again with 4/24 off 8 overs while Ismail took 3/14 off 7.3.

South Africa polished off their target with ease.  The usually reliable Lee fell for a duck but Wolvaardt was 48 not out and du Preez 38 not out as they knocked off 104 in the 24th over.

Match 23

Indian total never a problem for Australia at Bristol

Australia v India
Bristol
Australia won the toss and put India in

India 226/7 (50 overs)
Australia 227/2 (45.1 overs)
Australia won by 8 wickets

A fine century by opener Punam Raut was the highlight for India and without her 106 India would have faltered badly.  She was ably supported by captain Mithali Raj with 69.  Raj became the highest scorer in women’s ODIs in this match.  She overtook Charlotte Edwards’ 5992, reaching 6028 in 16 fewer innings than Edwards and with an average of 51.52.  So two good knocks, but unlikely to be enough to put Australia in any trouble.

And indeed it wasn’t. The great pairing of Lanning and Perry took it home with 76 not out and 60 not out respectively.

Match 24

Sciver does it again as England too strong for New Zealand

England v New Zealand
Derby
England won the toss and batted

England 284/9 (50 overs)
New Zealand 209 all out (46.4)
England won by 75 runs

Nat Sciver’s second century of the tournament was the highlight for England.  Winfield went cheaply again with just 11 but Beaumont continued her good form with a fine 93.  Without Sciver’s 129 England would have been in trouble with Fran Wilson (10) the only other player to get into double figures.

Young leg spinner Amelia Kerr took 4/51 off her 10 overs.

New Zealand started steadily but an injury incurred by Sophie Devine in the field clearly hampered her in batting.  Suzie Bates top-scored for New Zealand with 44, but a regular clattering of wickets meant they quickly fell behind the required rate.  Alex Hartley took 3/44 off 9.4 overs.

It was a good team performance by England.

Sports Politics

The Saudi Education Ministry has announced that girls attending public schools will be given access to physical education.  The changes will be made “gradually” and “in accordance with (Islamic) Shariah regulations.”

Four years ago changes were made to allow girls in private schools to take part in sport.

It’s a big move, but we’ll have to see how things progress.

Netball

I’m ashamed to say I had missed the start of the Netball World Youth Cup, but here’s a recap of what is happening and what has occurred so far.

It’s happening in Gaborone, Botswana, the first time it has taken place in Africa.  Twenty teams have qualified and the format is quite complicated.  We begin with four pools of five and after the pool games we go into the knockout stages.  The final is on 16 July.

England

In their first game, on Saturday 8 July, they beat Wales 69-23.  On Sunday they played Grenada, winning 98-25.  Their third pool game was against Trinidad & Tobago on Monday.  The score was 75-27 to England and finally they played Fiji on Wednesday with England coming out on top 63-29.

Wales

Wales lost to England in their first match, and then to Fiji on Sunday 35-48.  On Monday they defeated Grenada 72-30 and their fourth match was a tight loss to Trinidad and Tobago 32-36.

Scotland

The Scots defeated Sri Lanka in their first match on Saturday 69-48.  On Monday they lost to New Zealand 78-26.  On Tuesday they defeated Northern Ireland 55-36 and their last pool game on Wednesday was a two-point victory over Samoa 46-44.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is the British Isles’ lowest ranked team and found it difficult.  They lost all of their pool matches: 22-89 to New Zealand, 44-56 to Sri Lanka, 26-65 to Samoa and 36-55 to Scotland.

England and Scotland qualified for the 1st-8th place quarter-final, which took place on Thursday 13 July.  England defeated Jamaica 55-38, while Scotland drew the short straw, playing Australia.  Australia won the game 95-22.

Find out who came where and who won what next week!

Hockey

Hockey World League semi-final – Johannesburg

After a comfortable 3-0 win over Poland on Monday 10 July, England suffered a shock defeat against Japan on Wednesday.  Mami Karino’s goal in the third minute was enough to defeat the Olympic champions.  They play Germany on 14 July and Ireland two days later.  They currently lie fourth in the pool.

Ireland have already qualified for the last eight with two draws against Japan and Germany and a win over Poland.

And finally

Andy Murray’s feminist credentials struck again this week.  Lots of people (men) didn’t like it, especially when the BBC kept tweeting it, but hey ho.  In the press conference after his loss to American Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarter-final on Wednesday, a journalist said Querrey was “the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009”.  “Male player”, replied Andy immediately.

Several people were quick to point out that it was “obvious” that they were talking about men’s tennis.  But I hate to tell you folks, that’s how casual sexism works.  Murray was calling out the assumption that men’s tennis is the default and we only qualify it when we talk about women’s tennis (or any other sport for that matter).  Good stuff from Murray.

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…..

The somewhat truncated Women’s Sports Column 18 – 24 June

laura 1I wasn’t going to write a column today. I worked through the night at an EU Referendum count and thought I would be too shattered to write. Now I’m not only shattered, but thoroughly disheartened at the course the UK has decided to take.

But putting that aside (not quite sure how), I was pleased this morning to receive another fantastic sailing update from Abby Ehler (see below) and this has encouraged me to make a few scribbles of my own, if only to remind myself that there is still some good stuff going on out there. So here it is, short and sweet. No “And finally” this week, as I think the start of this post fulfils the criteria this time round.

Stories from football, cricket, tennis, hockey and sailing:

The FAWSL resumes this weekend after the international/mid-season break. I hope you can all remember where we were, but if not, here’s a quick re-cap:

Manchester City are top of FAWSL1 having won six of their first seven matches and having drawn their last match at Liverpool 0-0. Chelsea are hot on their heels with 15 points from six games. At the bottom it’s Doncaster Rovers Belles, who are yet to pick up a point this season, although they have only played three games.

This week’s Division 1 fixtures are:

Saturday 25 June

Arsenal Ladies FC v Sunderland AFC Ladies 2pm

Sunday 26 June

Manchester City Women v Liverpool Ladies 2pm

Notts County Ladies FC v Doncaster Rovers Belles 2pm

Wednesday 29 June

Sunderland AFC Ladies v Chelsea Ladies FC 7.30pm

Birmingham City Ladies v Arsenal Ladies 7.45pm
Doncaster Rovers Belles have also announced their new manager this week. It is Emma Coates, former first team coach. There has been some mutterings about the timing of the news as it seems that former manager, Glen Harris, was sacked up to two weeks ago, but the news wasn’t made public. The club says this is due to some backroom re-organisation, but there have been complaints that Harris was treated badly over the sacking. We’ll have to see how the new boardroom and management appointments work out.

The Deaf World Cup started this week in Capaccio-Agropoli, Italy. Britain’s women played Poland on 22 June. They drew 2-2.

Tonight (24 June) they play hosts Italy, then USA on 26 June, Turkey on 28 and Russia on 30 June.   The knockout stage/play-offs begin on 1 July.

 

A new era for English women’s cricket began this week with the first post-Edwards/Greenway internationals against Pakistan.

And England have made a storming start. After a disappointing start with no play at Grace Road on Monday (I was there), the reserve day came into play (I couldn’t be there) and England dominated from the start. Sorry, no in-depth report, but the scores were as follows:

Pakistan batted first and made 165 all out from 45.4 overs. This was actually their best score against England. Ameen scored 52 and new captain, Heather Knight, took an impressive 5/26.

England made light work of the reply, however, reaching their target of 166 for just three wickets in 31.5 overs. Tammy Beaumont looked in fantastic form with a career-best 70 and Knight weighed in with 50 not out and England won by seven wickets. Unsurprisingly, Knight was Player of the Match.

The second game, at Worcester on 22 June was even more one-sided. Records fell as England posted a massive 378/5, their record ODI total. The innings contained 39 fours and 11 sixes with 132 coming off the last 10 overs.

Openers Lauren Winfield and Tammy Beaumont scored 123 and 104 respectively and further down the order Nat Sciver scored a huge 80 off 30 balls.

Although Pakistan, bettered their highest score again, it was only by one run as they made 166 all out in 47.4 overs with Bismah Maroof taking 61 and vice-captain Anya Shrubsole took 4/19. England won by 212 runs. The Player of the Match award was shared between Beaumont and Winfield.

The third ODI takes place at Taunton on 25 June. It is live on Sky.

 

The first round of the Wimbledon draw has been made.

British number one Johanna Konta faces Monica Puig from Puerto Rico.

Heather Watson has drawn Annika Beck and Laura Robson has a tough task against Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber.

Tara Moore plays Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium, while Katie Swan faces the fearsome Timea Baos of Hungary, ranked 45 in the world.

 

The Hockey Champions Trophy is taking place in London this week. After Great Britain’s excellent recent series against Netherlands, they went into the tournament full of confidence. However, things have not turned out as they would have liked.

They started well with a 2-2 draw against Argentina in their first match and then lost 2-0 to 2012 Olympic champions, Netherlands.

They suffered a scond defeat, this time to New Zealand on Tuesday 1-0. To cap it all they lost again on Thursday, this time 2-0 to USA.

GB are now highly unlikely to take a medal of any colour.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler

Dee Caffari and Libby Greenhalgh recently competed in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.  This Race is unlike any other yacht race, it is so much more than a yacht race, in total, the team of five must sail 389 miles, climb 11.176ft, run 72 miles and cycle 36 miles.  The race is ranked amongst the 10 most difficult endurance races in the world, alongside the Marathon des Sables and the New Zealand Coast to Coast.  Dee was delighted to lead the Sail 4 Cancer Team this year in the 39th edition of the event but it was tough, much tougher than expected.  There is a reason the salty old seadogs do so well in this race, there are little tricks and secrets all along this coastline and experience pays dividends. Dee, despite her extreme experience was most definitely a rookie in this event, but loved it!  The aim for the team was to raise funds and awareness for the charity Sail 4 Cancer.  Dee is an ambassador for the charity, so to face a challenge for this great cause was a pleasure for her through all the discomfort the team would face, it is insignificant compared to what those families and individuals suffering from the effects of cancer experience.

An all-female team Team Concise/The Magenta Project competed in the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race which started from Wicklow, Ireland on Saturday 18th June.  The team finished 3rd in their division, a great result for the team, battling fairly intense conditions that the Irish Sea had to offer.  Team Concise

This week in Hono Sweden, Team Magenta 32 hosted their first ever clinic for up and coming female sailors to experience sailing and racing in the high performance M32 catamaran, a much smaller scale but similar concept to the current America’s Cup boats. Team Magenta 32 are the only female team currently competing on the World Match Racing Tour and were keen to pass on their experiences to others to help promote and inspire girls at the high performance end of the sport.  “It’s been incredible to see the motivation of the sailors that came to try the M32” commented Kate Macgregor, former Olympian.  Following it’s success, The Magenta Project intend to pursue this initiative at varying location in the future.

In France, The “La Solitaire Bompard – Le Figaro” race set off from Deauville on 19th June, the first leg of 350 miles cumulated in Cowes, IOW, before a further 3 legs finishing up in La Rochelle later this month.  The Race is a single handed race, the boats are 32 feet long and their skippers must learn to manage all aspects of the boat as there are no crew members to assist in sail changes or navigation.  The circuit has a huge following in France and this year is the first time the race has visited an English port.  Five female skippers are competing this year, including Britain’s Mary Rook, who is part of the UK’s Artemis Offshore Academy.  This is the first time in the history of the Race there have been so many female skippers so this marks a really positive shift in diversity in the fleet of Le Figaro. These women are top-level sailors and are an inspiration to many.   http://www.lasolitairebompard.com/en/s01_home/s01p01_home.php

No column next week as I’m away.  Will be back (hopefully, and all being well) on the 8 July.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 June

Lacrosse05This week’s stories come from lacrosse (yes, lacrosse – thanks Martin again), cricket, football, cycling, tennis, golf, rugby union, the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and your choice of two “And finally” gems this week – not positive fist-pumping ones, either, sorry.

Thanks again to Martin this week who has made me aware of the thriving lacrosse scene in England. England’s women have just won a test series in Australia. England had not beaten the home side since a friendly fixture in 2009, so they were very much underdogs.

On 9 June England won the first test in Melbourne 13-7. Australia levelled the series with a 9-8 win on the 10 and it was all to play for in the third match on 11 June.

Australia started incredibly well, taking a 5-1 lead before England knew what was happening. But from somewhere England dug deep to take control, winning the game 13-7, repeating the score of the first test.

For a little bit of background information, England are currently Europe’s number one side. In July they face the world number one side, USA in Guildford.

English Lacrosse’s Performance Manager is aware of the challenge:

“The game will definitely be exciting and a great showcase for top-level women’s lacrosse,

“We hope that lots of fans will be able to come along and support the England team. In return we are looking to put on a performance that will make the fans proud.

“We are Europe’s number one team and the prospect of playing the World Champions is one that we relish. If you want to be the best then you have to compete against the best. Bring it on!”

Next year the World Cup will be held in England, at the Surrey Sports Park in Guildford between 13-22 July.

If you’re in the area, get down there on the 2 July to see the team in action.

 

The international cricket series between England and Pakistan begins next week. I have written a preview for Women’s Sports UK.

The England squad was actually announced today and, needless to say, is different from what I suggested in my article:

The only new member of the squad of 15 is left-arm spinner Alex Hartley. Surprisingly there is no place for either Becky Grundy or Tash Farrant.

Heather Knight (capt), Anya Shrubsole (vice-capt), Tammy Beaumont, Katherine Brunt, Kate Cross, Georgia Elwiss, Jenny Gunn, Alexandra Hartley, Danielle Hazell, Amy Jones (wk), Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Fran Wilson, Lauren Winfield, Danielle Wyatt.

The first game is at Leicester’s Grace Road ground on Monday 20. Tickets are only £5, so get down there. I shall be there – come and say hello!

To coincide with the T20 series, Sky Sports have announced they will be holding Women’s Cricket Week. All games will be live and Charlotte Edwards will be part of the analysis team.

There will interviews with some of the biggest names in the game and Sky will be looking at the history of women’s cricket with an emphasis on encouraging more girls and young women into cricket.

 

In other cricket news, there have been a few withdrawals from the Super League this week. Australians Megan Schutt has pulled out through injury and Sarah Coyte for personal reasons. They have been replaced by New Zealand duo Morna Nielsen and Amy Satterthwaite. Nielsen will play at Southern Vipers and Satterthwaite at Lancashire Thunder.

 

Hibernian Ladies beat Glasgow City to win the SWPL Cup this week. Glasgow took the lead in the first half through Julie Fleeting but Hibs levelled before half-time. Hibs had been awarded a penalty and although Lizzie Arnot’s spot kick was saved, Lucy Graham pounced on the rebound to make it 1-1.

It looked to be heading into extra time when Arnot deflected a cross into the Glasgow net to take the game 2-1. It was sweet revenge for Hibs who lost to Glasgow in the final last year.

Some interesting news from Birmingham City Ladies this week. At the beginning of the week they announced that they have signed midfielder Andrine Hegerberg from Swedish side Kopparbergs Gothenburg. Hegerberg becomes their fourth foreign signing in three months after Germans Isabelle Linden, Marisa Ewers and Corina Schroder.

Later in the week England duo Jo Potter and Jade Moore announced they have bought themselves out of their contracts, both of which had six months to run.   Each released a similarly worded statement which included the words,

“A lot of things have happened in the last 12 months that I don’t wish to comment on”

There is obviously more going on than meets the eye here, and I will be reporting on it further should more information come to light.

More football news in “And finally….” (!)

 

The Women’s Tour started this week in Suffolk. The event is getting bigger and better with more backing, more sponsorship and much more media coverage than ever before!

The first stage was won by Christine Majerus. This was her first UCI Women’s World Tour victory. American, Alison Tetrick had made a break 21km from home, but was caught in the closing stages. Second was Marianne Vos, with Giorgia Bronzini in third. Lizzie Armitstead was first Briton home in 18th.

The second stage, through Warwickshire, was won by Dutch rider Amy Pieters. Germany’s Lisa Brennauer was second with Marianne Vos third. This third place took Vos into the overall lead, three seconds ahead of Christine Majerus.

Lizzie Armitstead was again 18th which takes her to 16th overall, 16 seconds off the lead.

Each day’s highlights are on ITV4.

In other cycling news, Dame Sarah Storey has been selected for her seventh Paralympics. Storey has already won 22 medals, including 11 golds. She will take part in the four events that she won in London and will be hoping to retain all four titles.

GB squad (women): Karen Darke, Hannah Dines, Megan Giglia, Lora Turnham & Corrine Hall, Sophie Thornhill & Helen Scott, Dame Sarah Storey.

 

Three British women have been given wildcards for Wimbledon, which starts on 27 June. They are former British number one Laura Robson, Tara Moore and Katie Swan. Moore, particularly, is in good form, having reached the quarter-finals at the Nottingham Open last weekend. Slovakian, Daniela Hantuchova is another wildcard recipient.

 

Canadian Brooke Henderson beat Lydia Ko in a play-off to win the Women’s PGA at Sammamish, Washington, last weekend.   This is the 18-year-old’s first major title. After she shot her first round 67, taking the lead, she shot two rounds of 73 to consolidate her contention, but it was a fourth-round 65, the best round of the week, that sealed her place in the top two.

It went to a play-off on the par 4 18th. Henderson hit her second shot to within three feet, while Ko could only manage 20 feet away. The Canadian tapped in for a birdie, Ko missed and the title was hers.

Henderson becomes the second-youngest winner of a major championship. Ko still holds the record as she was 18 and fewer months when she won the 2015 Evian Championship in France.

 

Great news from Scottish rugby union this week as it was announced that Jade Konkel will become Scotland’s first full-time professional rugby player.

She was one of 16 players selected in the second tier of the Scottish Rugby Academy and the first to make it to the full-time third tier. She will take part in a full-time programme at Broadwood Stadium, Cumbernauld.

The Scottish Rugby Union have also announced a new elite women’s scholarship, which aims to entice established athletes into rugby.

 

Several sporting women made it into the Queen’s Birthday Honours list this week:

Anna Kessel, sports journalist and founder of Women in Football was awarded an MBE for services to journalism and women’s sport.

Hayley Turner, former jockey, who retired last year, was awarded an OBE for services to horse racing.   She was the first female jockey to ride a Group One winner.

Claire Williams, deputy team principal at Williams Martini Racing becomes and OBE for services to Formula 1.

Emma Hayes, Chelsea manager receives an MBE

Marieanne Spacey, England Ladies assistant manager receives an MBE

Rachel Anderson, football agent, receives an MBE for her services to gender equality in football

Martine Wiltshire, sitting volleyball player and Paralympian, who lost both legs in the 7/7 bombings in London becomes an MBE for her services to sport.

 

And finally, a couple of stories to make you shudder this week. I was going to include the “news” that Manchester United have announced that they still have no plans to introduce a women’s team, but that’s not really news, is it?

So here we go – read it and weep – twice.

 

Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) vice- president, Seyi Akinwumni, has blamed the women’s national team’s slump in form on lesbians. Yes, lesbians. Nigeria are the most successful African women’s team, having won the African title nine times. They have also competed in every world cup since its inception in 1991.

However, they have failed to qualify for Rio and this slump, according to Mr Akinwumni, is because of lesbianism – “lesbianism kills teams”, he said.

It’s not the first time the NFF has run into trouble on this issue. In 2013, the former chairwoman of the women’s league, Dilichukwu Onyedinma, announced a ban on lesbianism in Nigerian football.

FIFA will be conducting an enquiry into the comments.

 

And finally (2), I can’t begin to tell you how unsettling I find this story. Connor Mayes, a male referee in the football league has been banned from football-related activity until 2019 after he set up fake Tinder accounts in the names of three female referees.

Mayes posed as Lucy Oliver, Amy Robinson and Paula Wyatt, making flirtatious comments which led to the three women receiving unwanted comments and approaches while they were at games and in their private time.

Unsurprisingly, Mayes accepted an improper conduct charge.

I’m not quite sure of his motivation here, but it all seems incredibly creepy. Why would anyone do this to a professional colleague?