Welcome 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
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
Brighton & Hove Albion
West Ham United
Women’s Championship 2018-19
Doncaster Rovers Belles
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
Sporting role model (Team)
England Women’s cricket team
Ambassador for Women’s Sport
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
Former England rugby captain and founding member of the Women’s RFU.
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.
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.
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.
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!