Women’s Sports Column 26 May – 1 June 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I missed quite a bit last week, didn’t I, so this week’s bumper offering will include a few highlights from the previous one.  Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s another week, another women’s sport initiative (yay!), likewise I get to play yet another game of “What on earth was the FA thinking?”  News and results also from cricket, rugby union, rugby league, golf, netball, tennis and lacrosse plus a round-up of who won what at the Women’s Sport Trust #Be a Game Changer Awards.

Football – off the pitch

No doubting the top women’s sports news of the week – the FA announcement as to who has been handed licences for the new Women’s Premier League and Women’s Championship.  I don’t know what you’ve read about it, but there’s precious little positive reaction out there.  Some clubs are even considering appealing the decision.  There are always winners and losers in such a process, but yet again the FA has done nothing to endear itself to supporters of women’s football and the clubs themselves.

Tony Farmer, founder of Chelsea Ladies and vocal supporter of women’s football through WSL Fans Utd, tweeted this (and I think this sums it up)

Team finishes 7th in WSL1 removed
Team wins WSL2 not promoted
Team wins FAWPL South promoted to T2
Team wins FAWPL North not promoted to T2
Team finishes 7th in FAWPL promoted to T1
Team finishes 4th in FAWPL MID1 promoted to T2
Club with no team placed in T2
Confused?

So to recap, the winners are, no doubt, Lewes, Manchester United (!), Leicester City and West Ham, while the losers are Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Watford, Blackburn Rovers, Oxford United, Southampton and Derby County.

14 teams applied for five licences in the part-time Championship.  They were awarded to Manchester United, Charlton (champions of third-tier in a play-off against Blackburn.  Blackburn didn’t make it even though they finished top of the Premier League North), Leicester City, Lewes FC and Sheffield United.

Current WSL1 side Sunderland were the big losers.  They had already indicated the need to go part-time and should have been confident of making the Championship, but they didn’t and are now due to languish in the new third-tier, the Women’s National League North.  Watford and Oxford United are also demoted to the third-tier.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, the FA’s head of women’s football, Baroness Sue Campbell said of Sunderland,

“They were in a very competitive competition to get in to the two leagues and we had to judge people on merit.

“Yes, it’s tough on them, but unfortunately, whenever you create these kind of step-changes, there are casualties, and I’m afraid they’re one of them.

“As we move the WSL to full-time, in order to improve competitive balance, get better broadcasts and eventually better commercial income. Some clubs couldn’t make that step.

“Others have stepped up to the mark. It has to be a commitment from the club to step up and move forward together with us.

“We’re in a very good place and I think in a few years from now, we’ll have a league that is the envy of the world.”

Well I certainly hope so, but serious doubts remain as to some of the decision-making.  Why 11 teams in the WSL?  Apparently this will be upped to 12 at the end of next season through promotion, but if the winners of the Championship are unable to fulfil the “professional” criteria, will they still be promoted or will it be a random appointment of a club that finished mid-table?

There have been some admirable statements from the unsuccessful clubs; both Oxford United and Derby County have committed to progressing their women’s sides and contesting to rise through the leagues via promotion.

I think I’ve exhausted myself with the ramifications of this now, so here’s the list of who is where in the top two tiers for next season:

Women’s Super League 2018-19
Arsenal
Birmingham City
Brighton & Hove Albion
Bristol City
Chelsea
Everton
Liverpool
Manchester City
Reading
West Ham United
Yeovil Town

Women’s Championship 2018-19
Aston Villa
Charlton Athletic
Doncaster Rovers Belles
Durham
Leicester City
Lewes FC
London Bees
Manchester United
Millwall Lionesses
Sheffield FC
Sheffield United
Tottenham Hotspur

Other football news

What a week for England’s Lucy Bronze.  She began the week by winning the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award and ended it as a Champions League winner!  In a public vote she beat Netherlands star Lieke Martens into second, while Australia striker Sam Kerr was third.

Chelsea Ladies are no more – well they’re changing their name (not before time, in my opinion) to Chelsea Football Club Women.

Also with Chelsea, midfielder and Norway captain Maren Mjelde has shown her commitment to the club by signing a new three-year contract.

Reading, meanwhile, have released Harriet Scott, Melissa Fletcher and Kirsty Linnett after deciding not to renew their contracts.  Fletcher, a Wales international, had been with the club since she was eight years old.

US midfielder Heather O’Reilly has left Arsenal after 18 months.  But Netherlands international Danielle van de Donk, Sari van Veenendaal and Dominque Janssen have all signed new contracts.

Bristol City Women’s head coach Willie Kirk has left the club after three years.  He had been offered a new contract, with his current one expiring in the summer, but turned it down.

Manchester City are also in the transfer news; Jane Ross and Tessel Middag have been released on the expiry of their contracts, but they have signed Bristol City forward Lauren Hemp.

England squad for Russia World Cup Qualifier

The squad has been announced for the qualifier against Russia:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Mary Earps (Reading), Carly Telford (Chelsea)

Defenders: Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Abbie McManus (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City)

Forwards: Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

The game is on Friday 8 June with a 5pm kick-off UK time and will be on the BBC red button.

Football – on the pitch – Champions League Final

Wolfsburg 1-4 Lyon (aet)
0-0 after 90 mins

It was all too easy for Lyon in the end, but in the early stages Wolfsburg went toe-to-toe with the holders.

But Lyon always had the better chances and had goal-line technology been in place the match could have been over in normal time as Lyon’s Amandine Henry’s shot looked to have crossed the line before Noelle Maritz cleared it from inside the goalmouth.

After a goalless 90 minutes, the German side took the lead with a deflected shot from Pernille Harder.

But the game arguably turned on the sending off of Wolfsburg defender Alexandra Popp for a second yellow card.

Lyon capitalised quickly and ruthlessly and Wolfsburg soon tired.  Amandine Henry scored the equaliser before substitute (and why wasn’t she starting as she was fantastic when she came on) Shanice van de Sanden put in two pinpoint crosses for Eugenie le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg to score and take the game away from Wolfsburg.

Camille Abily scored the fourth, somewhat flattering Lyon and hard on Wolfsburg and the French side had won their fifth Women’s Champions League title.

Tennis – on the court

French Open

We’re reaching the end of the first week at Roland Garros.  British number one Jo Konta continued her poor French Open form, exiting in the first round, losing to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan 4-6 3-6.  Heather Watson got to round two; in the first round she played an excellent match to defeat      Océane Dodin of France 6-3 6-0.  She was, however, unable to replicate this form in the second and was soundly beaten by sixteenth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium 3-6 4-6.

Over the next couple of days the round of 32 in the singles will be completed.  Conqueror of Konta, Putintseva, is still going strong, having defeated Wang Qiang 1-6 7-5 6-4. Others through to the round of 16 so far are thirteenth seed Madison Keys, 6-1 7-6 winner over twenty-first seed Naomi Osaka and fourteenth seed Daria Kasatkina 6-1 1-6 6-3 winner over Maria Sakkari.

There are plenty of seeds still in it and don’t forget Serena – more news next week.

Tennis – off the court

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is to bestow its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, on Evonne Goolagong Cawley for her contribution to tennis both on and off the court.

During a distinguished career Goolagong Cawley won the French Open and Wimbledon at the age of 19 in 1971 and in total won seven Grand Slam singles title, six Grand Slam doubles titles and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

She was also part of the Australian Fed Cup team that won in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

Since her retirement she has been active in promoting tennis for women in Australia and is an ambassador, advocate and role model for indigenous Australians.

For 12 years she has run the Goolagong National Development Camp which aims to improve the health, education and employment prospects of indigenous youngsters through tennis.

Rugby League

Just a couple of results from the Super League this week:

Saturday 26 May
Featherstone Rovers 22-46 Bradford Bulls

Sunday 27 May
Leeds Rhino 40-12 Castleford Tigers

St Helens are still top on points difference from Leeds Rhinos.  York City Knights have yet to register a point although they have at least one game in hand over most teams, and two over some.

Lacrosse

There was sad news from the world of lacrosse this week with the announcement of the death of Celia Brackenridge at the age of 67 from leukaemia.

Brackenridge had an illustrious career playing for and captaining both the England and Great Britain lacrosse sides.

On her retirement from the game she got into coaching and was England coach for the 1986 World Cup.  She was a scholar and student of the game and wrote several books on the sport.

But she was also passionate about equality in sport and was a part of the founding of the Women’s Sports Foundation UK.

At the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s she researched and worked in the field of the sexual abuse of young athletes by coaches, especially in football and in 2001 she worked with the FA on a new child protection strategy.

She was awarded an OBE for her serviced to Equality and Child Protection in Sport in 2012.

Netball

It was round 14 of 18 in the Netball Super League last weekend.  Performance of the weekend went to Loughborough Lightning, who ended Wasps Netball’s unbeaten run in stupendous style.  The full results were:

Friday 25 May
Celtic Dragons 38-78 Manchester Thunder

Saturday 26 May
UWS Sirens 51-43 Team Bath
Benecos Mavericks 59-40 Team Northumbria
Wasps Netball 47-60 Loughborough Lightning

Monday 28 May
Surrey Storm 42-51 Severn Stars

That win for Lightning could be vital as Wasps (36) lead at the top is cut to three points.  However they do have a game in hand over Loughborough (33) in second with Thunder (30) in third a further three points back.  Celtic Dragons and Team Northumbria prop up the table on 6 points.

Round 15 is this weekend:

Friday 1 June
Team Bath v Benecos Mavericks (7.30pm)

Saturday 2 June
Manchester Thunder v Wasps Netball (2.15pm Live on Sky Sports)
Team Northumbria v Celtic Dragons (6pm)
Surrey Storm v UWS Sirens (6pm)
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (7pm)

Be a Game Changer Awards

The Winners were:

Sporting role model (Individual)
Stacey Copeland

Sporting role model (Team)
England Women’s cricket team

Ambassador for Women’s Sport
Lorna Boothe
Boothe is the most senior black woman in athletics administration

National Governing Body of the Year
England and Wales Cricket Board

Brand/Sponsor partner of the year
Investec (Principal Partner of GB and England Women’s Hockey)

Inspiring Initiative (Local)
Crawley Old Girls
Enabling older women to learn to play football

Inspiring Initiative (National)
England Rugby’s inner warrior campaign

Imagery of the year
“Standing in the light”

Media initiative of the year
The Tough Girl Podcast

Outstanding contribution
Carol Isherwood
Former England rugby captain and founding member of the Women’s RFU.

Golf

Changes are afoot in the world of golf.  I’m not going to lump this into the wonderful world of hashtagged initiatives, as it seems there could be more substance to this one.

I do see stormy times ahead for the R&A though if it truly wants to improve the lot for women and girls who want to get into the sport.

In an interview with the BBC, Chief Executive, Martin Slumbers (could have been nominative determinism gone mad, but it’s obviously not) has said that “Doing nothing is not an option” when it comes to improving the “recruitment, retention and progression” of women in golf.

Considering it is only four years since the R&A voted to admit women members, this is somewhat of a seismic shift.

Enter the Women in Golf Charter.  Actually it’s inspiring stuff.  Give it a read.  There will be huffing, puffing and some rebellion I don’t doubt, but the old order is changing throughout sport and although golf may be one of the more difficult ones to crack, it is doable if enough people have the will.

Cricket

Women’s T20 Challenge

A women’s IPL is surely a step closer as the Trailblazers and Supernovas put on a fine show, with the fight going down to the last ball, as the prelude to the men’s IPL final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

Trailblazers 129/6 (20 overs)
Supernovas 130/7 (20 overs)

Smriti Mandhana’s Trailblazers batted first.  Top scorer was Suzie Bates with 32, while Jemima Rodrigues got 25.  The Australian duo of Megan Schutt and Ellyse Perry did the bowling damage with Schutt taking 2/18 and Perry 2/20.

In reply the Supernovas started well.  Openers Danni Wyatt and Mithali Raj scored 47 inside the first six overs, but as they lost wickets the run-rate rose until they needed four runs to win off the final over.  Poonam Yadav took 2/21 and Bates 2/16 and it was Bates to bowl the final over.  Perry drew the scores level with a single from the penultimate ball and Pooja Vastrakar hit the winning run with a thrash to mid-wicket.

So come on BCCI and the many potential sponsors out there – recognise a 24-carat gold opportunity when you see one.

#ShowUp

Let me start by saying it’s laudable.  Any initiative that encourages people to attend women’s sports events can’t be bad.  But I’ve got initiative fatigue and although I’d like to raise a glass to this fine new idea, I’m struggling.  What it has got going for it is that it’s not run by the FA….. Here’s the gist:

This partnership between Sky Sports and the Women’s Sports Trust encourages sports fans to try something different by attending a women’s event.  People are being asked to pledge their support by using the hashtag #ShowUp across their social media platforms.

All of the big names in women’s sport are backing it and Sky is also giving away 5,000 tickets to women’s sports events this year.

For all of us who have been #showingUp for years it’s nothing new, but the further we can reach into new audiences the better.  Get behind this new campaigning and check out the Youtube video here.

And finally,

Before we carried away on the big fluffy #ShowUp cloud, there was a more disturbing announcement this week from Women in Football (WIF).

It has seen a 397.2 per cent increase in the number of sex discrimination and harassment incidents reported than in the preceding 12 months.

Unsurprisingly social media accounts for a huge number of complaints.  Of the 271 incidents reported:

Match day incidents were up 133.3%
Workplace incidents up 112.5%
Social media incidents up 285.4%

Of course, before we all run for the hills we must also remember that it is only recently that the reporting of incidents has been made easy and is actively encouraged.

Any regular reader of this column will realise that the abuse is widespread, particularly in social media, and particularly in football.  There are a large number of women and men out there aiming to change this and little by little we’re making a difference.  But don’t expect this behaviour to be eradicated any time soon.  All we can do is keep at it and call it out when we come across it.  We will get there.  I do believe that, otherwise I’d have given up long ago.

Until next week.  Enjoy your sport!

Women’s Sports Column 12-18 May 2018

fieldhockeysticksWelcome to this week’s column.  Plenty again to get into this week.  Sorry I missed doing a full report on the FA Cup final as it was a great match – so just a quick review.  Stories this week come from tennis, football, rugby league, hockey, cricket, netball, sports administration and rugby union.  Plus, this week’s “And Finally” is a positive news story about a brilliant new campaign launched by Women in Football. 

So let’s crack on.

Hockey

It’s the Women’s EuroHockey Club Cup in Surbiton over the next four days.  Play is already underway.  English hopes lie with Surbiton, the current Investec Premier League champions, while the Republic of Ireland is represented by UCD Ladies.

So far the results have been:

17 May

    • Mannheim (GER) 0-1 Hamburg (GER)
    • AH & BC Amsterdam (NED) 8-0 UCD Ladies (IRL)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) 5-0 Victorya Smolevichi (BLR)
    • Club Campo de Madrid (ESP) 2-0 Surbiton (ENG)

We then go into a series of fixtures as follows:

18 May

    • UCD Ladies (Loser M2) v Mannheim (Loser M1)
    • Victorya Smolevichi (Loser M3) v Surbiton (Loser M4)

19 May

    • AH & BC Amsterdam (Winner M2) v Hamburg (Winner M1)
    • ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Winner M3) v Club Campo de Madrid (Winner M4)

20 May

    • Loser M5 v Loser M6 (7th/8th place)
    • Winner M5 v Winner M6 (5th/6th place)
    • Loser SF1 v Loser SF2 (3rd/4th place)
    • Winner SF1 v Winner SF2 (Final!)

Football – on the Pitch

Both FAWSL titles have been decided.  Chelsea secured the WSL 1 title on Tuesday, while Doncaster Rovers Belles were crowned champions on Sunday.

WSL1 Results

Saturday 12 May
Yeovil Town 0-2 Bristol City
Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City
Reading FC 3-0 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 Sunderland AFC

Sunday 13 May
Everton 0-3 Birmingham City

Tuesday 15 May
Bristol City 0-2 Chelsea
Chelsea secured the WSL1 title, and league and Cup double on Tuesday with a fine away win at Bristol City.  Drew Spence opened the scoring on 10 minutes and they maintained this one-goal lead until the 88th minute when Jonna Andersson sealed it with the second.  Their final game of the season is away at Liverpool on Sunday, when all games kick off at 12.30pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Manchester City 5-0 Yeovil Town
Sunderland AFC 0-2 Arsenal

WSL2 Results

Saturday 12 May
London Bees 0-0 Sheffield FC

Sunday 13 May
Durham 4-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Aston Villa 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Oxford United 1-2 Watford
Millwall Lionesses 0-1 Doncaster Rovers Belles

The Belles had already sealed their championship win on Wednesday with a 2-1 win at Sheffield FC.  On Sunday they won again against the Lionesses with a Jade Pennock deflected shot.  Doncaster will not be promoted, however, as they applied to be in the new Women’s Championship (replacing WSL2) next season.  Their last game of the season is on Sunday 20 May when they are at home to Oxford United.  All games kick off at 2pm.

Wednesday 16 May
Watford 0-5 Sheffield FC

FA Cup Final
Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea

I was sorry to miss out on reporting more fully on the FA Cup final, which took place on 5 May, particularly as it was a cracking, competitive match and a record crowd of 45,423 saw a great advertisement for women’s football.

What a game for Ramona Bachmann, who has so often flattered to deceive for Chelsea.  After a quiet, even first half, the game needed a spark.  Enter Bachmann who scored twice to completely change the complexion of the game and take it away from Arsenal.

Disappointingly, some of Arsenal’s big names, including a particularly subdued Jordan Nobbs, just couldn’t up the tempo when needed.

Two great strikes by Bachmann were the difference. She scored on 48 and 60, ripping the heart out of Arsenal.  Vivianne Miedema pulled one back for the Gunners on 73, but the resurgence was short-lived.  Just three minutes later Fran Kirby got into the action, slotting home a fine shot to make it 3-1.

Football – off the pitch

Chelsea captain Katie Chapman has announced that she will retire from playing at the end of this season at the age of 35.

In a distinguished career, Chapman won 94 England caps, taking part in two World Cups and three European Championships.

Domestically, she played for Millwall, Fulham, Charlton, Arsenal and Chelsea, winning 10 FA Cups in total.

Since joining Chelsea in 2014, she has won the FA Cup/league double in 2015, the WSL Spring Series in 2017 and the 2018 FA Cup.

She will now take up an ambassadorial role with Chelsea.

Cricket

Exciting news from women’s cricket this week.  There will be a women’s T20 exhibition match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai before the first IPL Qualifier on Tuesday May 22.

It will be broadcast live around the world and also live on Sky Cricket from 9.20am.  Make no mistake, this is a big thing for women’s cricket in India and it could pave the way for a future women’s IPL.

Many of the superstars of the women’s game will be playing:

IPL Trailblazers: Smirti Mandhana (c) Alyssa Healy (wk), Suzie Bates, Deepti Sharma, Beth Mooney, Jemima Rodrigues, Danielle Hazell, Shikha Pandey, Lea Tahuhu, Jhulan Goswami, Ekta Bisht, Poonam Yadav, Dayalan Hemalatha.

IPL Supernovas: Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Taniya Bhatia (wk), Danielle Wyatt, Mithali Raj, Meg Lanning, Sophie Devine, Ellyse Perry, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mona Meshram, Pooja Vastrakar, Megan Schutt, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Anjuja Patil.

Wow – should be quite an event and I hope it gets the crowd and the coverage it deserves.

Tennis – Off the Court

Alize Cornet was facing a ban for missing three drugs tests in a year, but an independent tribunal has found that the doping control officer did not take “reasonable steps” to locate her for the third test.

The first test (3 November 2016) was missed as she left early for a flight to a competition, the second (26 July 2017) because again she had already set off for competition in the United States.

At the time of the third attempt (24 October 2017), Cornet says she was in her apartment but her intercom was broken.  She did not receive a phone call or any other attempt to contact her to conduct the test.

The tribunal accepted this as “frank and compelling” evidence.  Cornet also had two completed tests in that time, in March and October 2017.

Tennis – On the Court

Korea Open

British wheelchair tennis player Lucy Shuker won the Korea Open singles title this week.  She beat her doubles partner, Giulia Capolcci of Italy, in the final, 6-2 3-6 6-3.

As a pairing they also won the doubles title.

Shuker will go into the Japan Open next week, full of confidence.  The Japan event is part of the Super Series which is the next level down from the Grand Slams.

Madrid Open

Petra Kvitova won a tight Madrid Open final, beating Kiki Bertens 6-6 4-6 6-3.  It was an epic final, lasting just under three hours.

Italian Open

Kvitova then pulled out of the Italian Open, taking place this week.   Also missing is Serena Williams, who pulled out of both Madrid and Italy, instead concentrating on a return at the French Open, which begins on 27 May.  Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has said that she “came back too early” after the birth of her first child, but is confident that she will be back, “Serena can achieve anything,” he said in an interview with the WTA website.

Johanna Konta was due to play Kvitova in the first round, but instead took on Magdalena Rybarikova, winning 6-4 6-3.

In the second round she faced Hsieh Su-wei, winning 6-0 6-4, but she fell in the third against current French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-4.  She started so well and confidently, while Ostapenko could not find her form at all and seemed to be struggling with the conditions.  Konta was 4-1 up after just 17 minutes.  But in the second set the tables were turned and Konta quickly lost the confidence she had shown in the first.  Ostapenko took her chances, taking the match with her first match point in the third set.

We are now at the quarter-final stages:

Angelique Kerber (11) v Elina Svitolina (4)
Maria Sharapova v Jelena Ostapenko (5)
Anett Kontaveit v Caroline Wozniacki (2)
Simona Halep (1) v Caroline Garcia (7)

Meanwhile at the same tournament Karoline Pliskova lost her temper with a vengeance, attacking the umpire’s chair with her racquet after she was beaten by Greece’s Maria Sakkari.

She had a smash called out when serving at 30 all, five games all in the third set.  Television replays showed it to be in, but on clay the reviews are done by physical marks (I’ve never quite understood that) and as there was no mark to be seen, the call stood.

At the end of the match Pliskova repeatedly hit the chair with her racquet frame.  She now, needless to say, faces a fine.

Rugby Union – Canada Sevens

New Zealand retained their Canada Sevens title in Langford on Sunday, defeating Australia in the final, 46-0.

Portia Woodman scored the first try, followed quickly by one for Ruby Tui.  Kelly Brazier scored a third after Australia had conceded a penalty and the Black Ferns took a quick tap.

They still had time to score again before half-time as Woodman went in for a second and it was 22-0 at the break.

It was no better for Australia in the second-half.  Niall Williams went in twice and then captain Sarah Goss barrelled over for a seventh.

Brazier went in for her second and New Zealand’s eighth to leave Australia stunned and well beaten.

Other Placings

USA claimed bronze with a 21-5 win over France and Canada finished fifth, beating Ireland 29-12.

The Challenge Trophy went to Japan as they beat Spain 26-21.

Pool Results

Pool A: Fiji 24-14 England; New Zealand 51-0 Brazil; Fiji 47-14 Brazil; New Zealand 22-0 England; England 31-17 Brazil; New Zealand 12-7 Fiji

Pool B: Russia 14-35 United States; France 33-7 Japan; Russia 7-24 Japan; France 22-19 United States; United States 28-7 Japan; France 45-0 Russia

Pool C: Spain 0-7 Ireland; Australia 22-7 Canada; Spain 10-24 Canada; Australia 31-19 Ireland; Ireland 17-19 Canada; Australia 43-10 Spain

England finished seventh, equalling their best place of the series so far, beating Fiji 29-24.

The final round takes place in Paris on 8-10 June, with Wales competing by invitation.

Rugby League

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

Sunday 13 May
Featherstone Rovers 32-40 Castleford Tigers
Bradford Bulls 72-10 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 16-6 St Helens

Castleford Tigers lead the table with seven points from four games.  St Helens lie second with six points from four games.  Leeds Rhinos are also on six points, but from three games – they are third on points difference.  York City and Featherstone are yet to take a point.

Netball

Round 12 of the Netball Super League was last weekend.  The results were:

Saturday 12 May
UWS Sirens 45-59 Wasps Netball
Surrey Storm 51-56 Team Bath
Team Northumbria 51-58 Manchester Thunder
Severn Stars 55-44 Benecos Mavericks

Monday 14 May
Celtic Dragons 38-66 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s Round 13 fixtures:

Friday 18 May
UWS Sirens v Loughborough Lightning (7pm)
Surrey Storm v Wasps Netball (7.45pm)

Saturday 19 May
Benecos Mavericks v Celtic Dragons (3pm)
Manchester Thunder v Severn Stars (5pm)

Monday 21 May
Team Bath v Team Northumbria (7pm – Live on Sky Sports)

Sports Administration – Sport England

Jennie Price will quit her position as Chief Executive of Sport England at the end of October.

She took over in 2007 in the heat of London’s 2012 Olympic bid.  Since she has been in post, the number of people playing sport regularly has gone up by 1.6 million.

Price was also instrumental in the formation of the This Girl Can campaign.   She was awarded a CBE in 2017 for services to sport.

And finally,

Use it, shout it, talk about it #Whatif is trending.  So what is #What if?

It’s the new campaign launched by the organisation Women in Football, at Twitter HQ in London on Wednesday.

It is aimed at everyone; football professionals, businesses and members of the public who are encouraged to pledge one way they could take action to contribute to helping improve things for women and girls in football.

There are already some high-profile names involved and the pledges already received should make a difference.  These include:

Sky Sports – #WhatIf Sky Sports committed to including female talent as studio pundits on Gillette Soccer Specials from the 2018/19 season onwards 

SPORF – #WhatIf @SPORF amplified the reach of women’s football by fully integrating coverage of the women’s game on online communities

Twitter – #WhatIf Women in Football had its own emojil on Twitter

Betfair – #WhatIf Betfair ring-fenced 50 per cent of their Cash4Clubs grassroots grants for women’s teams to help support their growth and sustainability

Forza Football – #WhatIf Forza Football made live score updates and results for women’s football games easily accessible across the world

Anyone can make a pledge, be it large or small, as an individual or corporately.  Check out the story: https://www.womeninfootball.co.uk/news/2018/05/16/whatif-we-changed-the-landscape-of-football-forever/

Or contact Leanne Dingle via leanne@womeninfootball.co.uk for more information.

There is a great will to improve the lot of women in all aspects of football.  Although I constantly despair at the comments made by those who obviously have nothing better to do, I do believe that women’s football is a good and improving product, worthy of investment by individuals and companies alike.  Let’s get behind this campaign – make your own pledge and keep #Whatif trending.

From my own point of view, I do what I can but #Whatif I can do more?  #What if I pledge to tweet more, cover more in depth and promote women’s football wherever I can.  Let’s do it.   

And, and finally,

Congratulations to Chelsea Manager, Emma Hayes, who this week gave birth to a baby boy.  Not content with a championship and FA Cup double, she is now a Mum!  Talk about multi-tasking…..

Sorry to be flaky, but there will be no column again next week, but I’ll be back in a fortnight with more news and views. 

Women’s Sports Column 3-9 December

netball2Welcome to this week’s column.  Not so much in the way of results this week, plus lots of news from around the world.  It’s a truly global column this week as you’ll see.  So read on for stories from football, cricket, rugby, golf, netball, tennis, taekwondo, cycling, sailing and, wait for it, kabbadi!  Also an “And finally” guaranteed to make you say, “Not before time….”  Let’s crack on.

Firstly this week, it’s official, “This Girl Can” (as if we didn’t know this already).

Figures published by Sport England this week have revealed that the number of women playing sport regularly in England has reached an all-time high of 7.21m.

This is an increase of 250,000 on the figures before the “This Girl Can” campaign was launched in 2014.

The gap between men’s and women’s participation has narrowed to 1.55m.

This is obviously good news but is not reflected by the coverage given to women’s sport in the media, which is still at a woeful seven per cent.

Netball

England 57-64 Jamaica

I was there at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 4 December to see a tight, excellent game between two well-matched sides.

It was my first in-person experience of a netball international and I can thoroughly recommend it.  I must say hell hath no fury like a crowd of mainly young girls when their team is behind……

England were ahead by two after the first quarter.  Jamaica came back to lead at half-time by four.  During the third quarter the crowd really got behind the Roses, stamping and cheering for all they (we) were worth.  The Jamaican goalkeeper and captain Malysha Kelly incurred the crowd’s wrath as she repeatedly fouled Joanne Harten shooting for England and the game got a bit physical.  In fact I hadn’t seen that much bumping and boring in netball since I played goalkeeper for my school against our local convent school.

Anyway, the barracking worked as Jamaica had a loose period and England pressed.  It was all square going into the final quarter and the noise was deafening.

Unfortunately for England, they couldn’t maintain their form and Jamaica pulled away with the final score 57-64.  They also took the series 2-1.  Epic stuff.

Special mention must go to England’s defence, Ama Agbeze and Ebony Beckford-Chambers who had the unenviable task of marking the Sunshine Girls’ goal shooter, Jhaniele Fowler, who is just the six feet six inches tall.  And she jumped too (unlike Peter Crouch).

Hockey

Shameless piece of self-promotion, I’d like to tell you about my latest series for WiSP Sports.  This time I’m writing a four-part history of women’s field hockey.  The first part has just been published, so here’s the link:  History of Hockey part 1

Sailing with Abby Ehler

Team Magenta 32 is the second match racing team to receive their Tour Card for the World Match Racing Tour season 2017. Sally Barkow from USA is together with her all-female team preparing for their second full season and their challenge for the World Championship title in match racing.  Founded in 1999, the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT) is the world’s leading professional sailing series. It features world class sailors and Olympic champions, with tour events staged around the globe.  Each stage, or World Championship event, now takes place in identically supplied one-design M32 high-performance catamarans to place the focus on teamwork and skill.

British professional sailors Dee Caffari and Hannah Diamond are this week working with Oman Sail to train and prepare 2 all-female Middle East teams for next year’s Sailing Tour of Arabia.

Since 2008 Oman Sail has been running sailing programmes for thousands of young Omani women and men. EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour is contested in a fleet of identical Farr 30 yachts – one of the most exciting boats on the professional sailing circuit – along a course, which stretches each crew to the full, testing their skill, teamwork and versatility.

In its short history, EFG Sailing Arabia – The Tour has gained global recognition, attracting top amateur and professional sailors from four continents and blue-chip sponsors. Now in its seventh year, The Tour has become one of the most respected and dynamic sailing regattas on the international circuit.

Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3 crossed the finish line in, Grenada at recently to take Monohull Line Honours and win the International Maxi Association (IMA) Trophy for the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race.  The Maxi yacht was navigated by Britain’s Libby Greenhalgh, the only women in the crew of 17.  Libby Greenhalgh was the navigator onboard Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race, and it is fantastic to see her continuing in that role at the elite level of the sport.

Football

Africa Cup of Nations

Nigeria won their eighth Cup of Nations this week with a 1-0 victory over hosts Cameroon, in front of a 40,000 crowd in Yaounde.

Desire Oparanozie scored the only goal late in the game to ensure Nigeria retained the trophy they won in Namibia in 2014.

Cameroon were runners-up for the second tournament in succession.

Ghana finished third after they beat South Africa 1-0 in the bronze medal match on Friday.

In a further development, the Nigerian squad refused to leave their hotel in Abuja until they were paid allowances and bonuses for winning the Cup.

The total owed to each player amounts to $23,650 per player.

More details in next week’s column.

Chelsea

Chelsea Ladies have signed Swiss international striker Ramona Bachmann until 2019. She will join the Blues in January 2017 when the transfer window opens.  All the early signs are that Chelsea will be the big spenders (relatively speaking) going into the new season.

Women in Football Awards

On Tuesday I attended the Women in Football Awards, which were held at the BBC TV Centre in London.

It was a night not without its hitches, but discretion forbids me from saying more….

The awards were given as follows:

Woman of Inspiration Award: Lucy Oliver
Journalist of the Year: Amy Lawrence
Club Best Practice Award: Susan Whelan (Leicester City)
Coach of the Year: Kelly Chambers (Reading LFC)
Player of the Year: Lucy Bronze
Performance of the Year: Scotland Women for qualifying for 2017 Euros
Referee of the Year: Mary Harmer
Women in Football Business Award: Amy O’Brien (Fulham FC)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sylvia Gore
Woman of the Year: Dr Eva Carneiro

Kabaddi

Pakistan will be holding its first ever women’s Kabaddi National Championships in Lahore this December.

At least seven clubs are expected to take part including Islamabad, WAPDA, Higher Education Committee and the Pakistan Army.

The tournament starts on 14 December.

Pakistan Kabaddi Federation Secretary, Muhammad Sarwar is excited about the move:

“The event is a huge step forward.  We want to encourage girls to develop an interest in the sport and even represent the national side in the future,” he said.

Taekwondo

Jade Jones will be part of the British taekwondo team that is taking part at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix finals in Baku on Saturday.

The other women in the team are Bianca Walkden, Rachelle Booth and Charlie Maddock.

Cycling

The BBC revealed this week that British Cycling only found its former technical director Shane Sutton guilty on one of the charges laid against him by cyclist Jess Varnish.

He was found guilty of using the word “bitches” to Varnish but eight other charges were dismissed including Varnish’s key complaint that Sutton told her to “go and have a baby.”

Sutton was also cleared of using any other offensive or discriminatory language and all bullying allegations.

Varnish has responded to the report with shock.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“I am shocked and upset by this latest news and have instructed my solicitor to appeal against the findings of the internal investigation on my behalf.

“Having provided substantial evidence to back up my complaints, to now learn that the majority were not upheld is heartbreaking. I know what was said, and I know I’ve told the truth.

“I have requested from British Cycling the full investigation report to understand why the weight of evidence provided by me and others wasn’t sufficient for the board to uphold my complaints.”

Unfortunately, this story shows no sign of ending, with both sides unhappy with the results and British Cycling’s reputation taking a battering.

Cricket

Charlotte Edwards

Well it didn’t take long for former England captain Charlotte Edwards to announce her next move.  She has joined Hampshire.  She already sits as a non-executive director with Hampshire and Southern Vipers, so this clearly fits into the plan.

It will be a different experience for Edwards who is used to winning County Championships with Kent as Hampshire play in division two.

I surmise she will move into a coaching role once she finally hangs up her boots, but currently she clearly has an on-field contribution to make.

She will also be playing for the Adelaide Strikers in the upcoming WBBL.

Women’s Big Bash League

And talking of which, the WBBL starts this weekend.

The opening fixtures are:

10 December

Hobart Hurricanes v Perth Scorchers
Adelaide Strikers v Melbourne Renegades
Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars

11 December

Melbourne Renegades v Adelaide Strikers
Perth Scorchers v Hobart Hurricanes
Sydney Sixers v Brisbane Heat

There are plenty of England players in action:

Charlotte Edwards and Tammy Beaumont are at the Strikers, the Hurricanes have England captain Heather Knight, Danni Wyatt is at the Renegades and the Stars have Dani Hazell and Nat Sciver.  Becky Grundy comes in for Anya Shrubsole until 29 December and will play alongside Katherine Brunt at the Perth Scorchers.

If you have access to BT Sport keep an eye out as they are covering some of the matches.

Women’s cricket in Bangladesh

This is a great initiative.  Please read this piece on developing women’s cricket in Bangladesh.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/04/breaking-boundaries-bangladesh-women-cricketers-charity

Rugby Union

Bristol were back to winning ways at the weekend.  The scores were as follows:

Lichfield Ladies 75-17 Wasps Ladies
DMP Sharks 15-29 Aylesford Bulls Ladies
Richmond Women 10-52 Saracens Women
Bristol Ladies 34-10 Worcester Valkyries

For a more in-depth report see here

Golf

Dubai Ladies Masters

After two rounds of the Dubai Masters, there are two English players at the top of the leaderboard.  Top is Felicity Johnson on -7 with Florentyna Parker two behind on -5.  Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Aditi Ashok of India are tied in third on -4.

Charley Hull is tied 23 on -1.

Tennis

There will be three women in the main draw of the Australian Open in January.  They are Johanna Konta, Heather Watson and Naomi Broady.  It was at the 2016 tournament that Konta made her first appearance in a Grand Slam semi-final.  Let’s hope she can repeat this form in 2017.

And finally,

Three cheers for the Government of South Australia which this week decided to withdraw its support for the hideous tradition of “podium girls” at the 2017 Tour Down Under.

You will have seen them – I’m not going to produce images – of scantily clad young women doing nothing much but providing “window dressing” for the presentation parties at cycling events.  And not before time, at least at this event, they will be no more.

Instead there will be a number of junior cyclists helping to present the prizes.

The same authority has already withdrawn its funding of “grid girls” at the Clipsal 500 motor race.

Let’s hope that’s the kick that other governments/governing bodies need.

Women’s Sports organisations and media – read them, watch them, follow them, use them.

Part 1

Can’t tell your WSUK from your WiSP?

There’s a whole lot of people and organisations out there trying to promote women’s sport.  However, I am well aware that the acronyms can be confusing.  So, here’s my guide just some of the best (in my opinion).

The list will reflect my interests and I know there are a lot more out there that I don’t subscribe to, so feel free to add your own favourites in a comment.

There are, in fact, so many that I’m going try to group them in a way that makes it easier to get to grips with.  Firstly I’m going to tackle the most important group – the organisations and campaigns trying to get women and girls active and helping women develop their careers in sport.

For everything generally about the business of getting women active and promoting women’s sport, the first port of call has to be Women in Sport (WiS) (formerly Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation WSFF).  It is a charity that is “Transforming sport for every woman and girl in the UK”.  It promotes community and grassroots opportunities for women and girls to take part in whatever sport they want to.  It’s helping to break down barriers to participation and is at the forefront of helping women pursue a career in sport, be it playing, coaching, administrating, officiating, being in sports media or on a sports board.

If you are involved in any aspect of sport and you want to connect with like-minded people, you can join the Women’s Sport Network.  This is run by WiS and is great for networking, events and support.  They also run a peer-mentoring scheme in association with Women Ahead.  Membership is limited and opportunities to become a member only happen at certain times of the year.  As it happens, membership is now open until the end of September 2015 so have a look what’s on offer.

WiS was instrumental in the initiating the first Women’s Sport Week this year and is constantly publishing guidelines and research into women’s opportunities for sport.  Their latest, published in September 2015, is aimed at Helping Sport to become What Women Want.

If you’ve heard of any campaign surrounding women’s sport, chances are it will be This Girl Can.  Developed by Sport England and partners, it is a celebration of women taking part in sport and being active at every level.  It has been promoted in bus shelter posters and even TV adverts.  It has become incredibly popular as it shows real women doing their thing with tag lines such as “Sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox!”  It is also gaining wider recognition as I think every time I’ve listened to former Australian cricketer, Mel Jones, on TMS or Sky, she seems to have mentioned it!  If ever you need inspiration to take up a sport or just to get moving, check it out

The Women’s Sport Trust is a charity which “raises the visibility and increases the impact of women’s sport.”  They look to promote role models, look to influence women’s sports coverage in the media through making partnerships and also are looking to change the way women’s sport is funded.  They have some sports grants available.

The Trust has also has just launched its own news website, The Mixed Zone.  It is a combination of articles by athletes and journalists discussing the top issues in women’s sport.

If coaching is your career of choice, there is one organisation/site you shouldn’t miss.  The Female Coaching Network is , in its own words, “The world’s only international multi-sport online community for female sports coaches.”  It includes news, blogs, interviews and a members’ forum.  You can check out other women’s experiences of how they got into coaching and their tips to follow and pitfalls to avoid.  It is an invaluable resource for anyone thinking of taking up coaching, be it in a paid capacity or as a volunteer.

In addition to this the County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) have advice in abundance for the budding coach.  One particularly good site is the Women’s Coaching Network, which is part of the West of England Sports Trust.  Although their information is based around Bristol, Bath, Somerset and some of Gloucestershire, there is a lot of stuff on there which will be useful to anyone.

The other biggie is the Women’s Sports Network (WSNet), not to be confused with the membership group of WiS – told you it was confusing

This incredible organisation, entirely volunteer-run is a “not for profit community promoting issues/opportunities around WomenSport and SportsWomen.”

It has four main strands:

  • @ACTIVEMapX – locations for women to find a class or activity near them
  • SPORTSReports – @Twing_IT – dedicated women’s sports reporting channel
  • HerJOBSnet – jobs for women looking to get into sport-related posts
  • Lobbying and empowerment generally through digital media.

You really should check it out – it’s amazing!  The breadth of coverage, the knowledge and its campaigning are beyond compare.  I could have put it in my media organisations list too – in fact I still may, as it bears repeating.

Finally, I’m going to mention one sport-specific organisation and that is Women in Football (WIF).  I know there must be others for other sports, but this one is the biggest and best known.  It is a network of professional women who work in football and aim to promote football (playing, officiating, administrating etc) to girls and women.  A lot of their role is to lobby government, media and other sports organisations for better opportunities for women and girls who want to get into football.  The website also includes a form to fill in to report sexist incidents in football.

I think that’s probably enough to be going on with!  In my next blog post I’ll get to grips with the people promoting women’s sport in the media (including me).  There are more out there than you think.