Women’s Sports Column 18-24 November 2017

CAYFS5MZWelcome to this week’s column.  After last week’s monster offering, hopefully this one will be a bit more manageable – but there is so much being contributed by women in the world of sport that I have to get it out there – both my pleasure and my duty!

Stories this week come from tennis, cricket, rugby union, rugby league, speed skating, football, weightlifting and hockey.

Let’s crack on…

Tennis

Sadly, only one place to start this week and that’s with the sad news of the death of former Wimbledon champion, Jana Novotna at the age of 49.

One of the saddest, but most heartwarming sporting moments I can remember is watching the Duchess of Kent consoling Novotna after she had just the Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf in 1993.

And didn’t we all cheer and cry with her in 1998 when she finally got her Wimbledon win against Nathalie Tauziat?

She was certainly an accomplished tennis player, particularly in doubles, where she won 12 grand slam titles and four mixed doubles titles.

In later years she became a knowledgeable and likeable expert voice in the commentary box.

Johanna Konta

Rumour has it that Michael Joyce is set to become British number one, Johanna Konta’s next coach.  Joyce had previously worked with Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

Hockey

Apologies to all you hockey fans out there as I completely missed the Women’s Hockey World League Finals starting last week in New Zealand.  So here’s what happened to England over the course of the tournament.

It was a mixed event for England, but somehow they still managed to get through to the semi-final.

They were drawn in Pool B against Germany, Argentina and China.

They lost their opening match to Germany 2-0.  Germany’s goals came from two penalty corners scored by Charlotte Stapenhorst just after the half-hour, with Nike Lorenz grabbing the second.  England had a goal from Lily Owsley disallowed for dangerous play.

Things went no better in their second pool match as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Argentina.  Delfina Merino scored the winning goal in the 56th minute.

But things improved for England in their third pool game as they beat China 4-1.  Alex Danson scored the first and Sophie Bray the second to make it 2-0 at half-time.  Hannah Martin and Sarah Haycroft were also on the score sheet, while Mengling Zhong scored China’s solitary goal.

Somewhat fortunately this meant that England, in finishing third in their pool, managed to avoid the Netherlands in the quarter-final.  Instead they played the USA.

Quarter-final
England 2-1 USA

Sophie Bray scored twice to take England through to a meeting with the hosts in the semis.

Alyssa Parker scored in the fourth quarter to give the USA hope, but in the end there was no way back.

Semi-final
England 0-1 New Zealand

New Zealand qualified even after losing all three pool matches.  They beat Argentina 2-1 in the quarter-final.

It was a good, end-to end match, with both sides earning chances.   Lily Owsley had a second disallowed goal of the tournament, while Sophie Bray hit the bar.

But in the end it was New Zealand who were more clinical.  With just five minutes to go Olivia Merry scored from a penalty corner to take the win.  They now play Netherlands or South Korea in the final.

Meanwhile England will play-off for bronze on Sunday 26 November against the loser of the other semi-final.

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Meanwhile, back in the domestic league, last weekend’s results were as follows:
Bowdon 0-0 Surbiton
Leicester 1-1 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 2-2 Canterbury
Slough 2-2 Clifton Robinsons
Buckingham 1-3 East Grinstead

It was very nearly draws all round as University of Birmingham went to the top of the league on goals scored with 17 points.  Surbiton lie second also on 17, with East Grinstead just one point behind in third.  Canterbury are bottom with six points from nine games, with Bowdon and Leicester just above on eight points.

Football

No news from on the pitch this week as it’s the international break with two World Cup qualifiers for England.  Tonight (Friday 24) they face Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Banks’ Stadium in Walsall.  The game is apparently a sell-out, but if you haven’t got tickets you can watch it live on BBC2 or listen to 5Live Sports Extra at 7pm.

Wales are also in action tonight, playing Kazakhstan at the Cardiff City Stadium.  Kick-off is 7pm and you can follow it live on the BBC red button and the BBC website.

Both sides then play again on Tuesday, with Wales facing the trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while England are at home again, this time to Kazakhstan.

Champions League Draw

Hot off the press or out of the pot, this is the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  And wow, there is certainly one standout tie – holders Lyon v Barcelona.  The draw in full:

Quarter-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 March
Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
Lyon (FRA) v Barcelona (ESP)

The semi-final draw was also made:

Semi-finals: 21/22 & 28/29 April
Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia Praha
Manchester City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona

Jodie Taylor

England striker Jodie Taylor is to leave Arsenal, firstly to play in the Australian W-League with Melbourne City and then to go on to join Seattle Reign.

She is no stranger to playing abroad, having already had spells in the USA, Australia and Sweden.

It is sad that she seems to be itching to get away.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“After two seasons I was ready to get back abroad.

“I think I’m better suited in a league like America and the lifestyle as well away from football.”

 Jonna Andersson

Chelsea are to sign Swedish international defender Jonna Andersson from Linköping.

She will join the West London club when the transfer window opens on 29 December.

Andersson had been with Linköping for nine years, winning three league titles and three Swedish Cups in that time.  

Denmark Women

UEFA has handed Denmark women’s side a four-year suspended ban from UEFA competition matches “for which it would otherwise qualify” after their refusal to play a World Cup qualifier against Sweden.

Denmark are still in dispute with their governing body.

UEFA also issued a fine of £17,871.

Sweden were awarded the win by a margin of 3-0.

This one isn’t over yet.

Rugby League

England are through to the World Cup semi-final even though they were beaten 22-16 by the Cook Islands in their final group game.  Do not ask me to explain the format of this tournament, but I’m sure the game’s governing body is rubbing its hands at the sheer labyrinthine deviousness of it all.

After winning their first match against PNG, they were well beaten by Australia in their second, 38-0.  Australia’s points came through tries from Ward (2), Kelly, Davis-Welsh, Baker, Walton, Apps and Moran.  Baker (2) and Moran chipped in with the goals.

England suffered a surprise loss to the Cook Islands in their third game.  England’s 16 points came through tries from Slowe, Hardcastle and Bulman with two goals from Garner, while the Cook Islands scored four tries through Koiatu, Arona, Strickland and Ngata-Aerengamate, while their three goals came from Schofield.

It was only due to the fact that the Cook Islands suffered heavy defeats at the hands of both Australia and New Zealand, that England went through from Pool A on points difference.

To be honest, as with the men’s, I think we can probably hand the trophy to the Australians now.  The Jillaroos are through to the semis undefeated with their last third pool game an 88-0 thrashing of Canada.   They face them again in the semi-final!

Semi-final draw Sunday 26 November

Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney
New Zealand v England
Australia v Canada

The final is on 2 December in Brisbane as part of double-header with the men’s final.

Rugby Union

Off the pitch

Big, big, big news this week from World Rugby.  This is the headline on their website:

“Accelerating the global development of women in rugby 2017-25

OUR AMBITION: By 2025, rugby will be a global leader in sport, where women involved in rugby have equity on and off the field, are reflected in all strategy, plans and structures, making highly valued contributions to participation, performance, leadership and investment in the global game of rugby.”

We’ve all heard the words before.  And words are usually all they are.  Many governing bodies talk a good game when it comes to women’s sport (I may have said this before), but this statement and strategy document is something else entirely.

And it’s not just on the field that the differences will be made.  The World Rugby Council will expand its membership from 32 to 49 next year.  The 17 new members will be women.

On the pitch they want to see one million women and girls registered to play by 2025.  Check this out.  I don’t often say this but it’s a game-changer – it’s also concise and to the point (another point in its favour):

https://www.worldrugby.org/womens-rugby/development-plan

Old Mutual Wealth Series

England have comfortably won the Test series against Canada.  They lead 2-0 with one match to play.  The first was an absolute exhibition by England, with Canada improving in the second.

First Test
England 79-5 Canada

Jess Breach scored six tries on her debut as England thrashed Canada in the first Test at Allianz Park.

Other tries came from Rachael Burford, Abigail Dow (2), Amy Cockayne, Marlie Packer, Rocky Clark and Ellie Kildunne.  Amber Reed kicked five conversions and Zoe Harrison kicked two.

Canada’s five came from a try by Cindy Nelles in the second-half.

Second Test
England 49-12 Canada

Although Canada were not able to put a score on the board until the 74th minute, it was a much improved performance from the visitors that saw them score tries through Janna Slevinsky and McKinley Hunt, while Brianna Miller put over one conversion.

England’s try count stood at eight; Heather Kerr, Rachael Burford (2), Ellie Kildunne (2), Danielle Waterman, Hannah Botterman and Jo Brown all went over the whitewash, while Amber Reed kicked two conversions and a penalty and Zoe Harrison one conversion.

Captain Sarah Hunter also won her 100th cap.

There is one game to play in the series on Saturday 25 November

Speed Skating

Elise Christie came away from Seoul with a gold medal last week as she took the 500m title, in a time of 43.27 seconds. Choi Min-jeong of South Korea was second with Canada’s Marianne St-Gelais finishing third.

Cricket

England’s women came back to draw the Ashes series 8-8 in Australia last week.  But, in truth, this will not compensate for seeing the trophy remain with Australia.  Fine performances in the final two T20s will encourage Mark Robinson and the management team, but on balance, they didn’t do enough to earn the series victory.

Second T20
England 152/6 (20 overs)
Australia 112 all out (18 overs)

Katherine Brunt finally made a contribution to this Ashes with a player of the match performance, making 32 not out and taking 2/10 from her four overs.

Knight won the toss and decided to bat.  Beaumont went cheaply, but Wyatt showed the way with 19 before she was caught by Haynes off the bowling of Schutt.

Taylor was run out for a useful 30 and then Sciver and Brunt took it on.  Sciver scored 40 before she was caught by Haynes off Perry.  It was then up to Brunt to anchor the innings and England posted a useful total of 152.

The Australian reply started well and they had made 45 before the first wicket fell.  Mooney was run out for 17 and Villani soon followed after scoring just one.  From then on wickets fell regularly as the home side found it difficult to put together a meaningful partnership.

Jenny Gunn starred again with the ball, taking 4/13 in three overs, but it was Brunt’s all round performance that swung the day as England won by a massive 40 runs.

Third T20
Australia 178/2 (20 overs)
England 181/6 (19 overs)

England left it until the last game to show the crowd and watching audience what they really can do.  But it was up to the batters to do the job.

Australia posted a massive 178/2 with Mooney finishing on 112 not out from 70 balls, scoring 19 fours and a six in the process – the first woman to score a T20 century in Australia, and only the fifth in all.  She was supported ably by Healy (19), Villani (16) and Perry (22).

It looked like a winning score and England would have to complete the highest T20 run chase by a women’s team to win.   They got off to a stuttering start with Beaumont and Taylor dismissed early on.  But Wyatt has been a revelation in these T20s and she took on the challenge with a vengeance.

She scored 100 from 57 balls, including 13 fours and two sixes – the second century of the match.  She was backed by Knight, who scored 51.  By the time Wyatt was dismissed England needed only eight runs to win off 11 balls.  They lost a couple of quick wickets, which kept us all on the edge of our seats, but Fran Wilson hit the winning runs with a cheeky four scooped over Healy behind the stumps.

Brave, bold and exciting stuff from England, but all too late to save the Ashes.

Weightlifting

A quick note of an important piece of news pertaining to women’s weightlifting.

As we know, barriers to women’s sport in the Muslim world are more stringent and profound than most, but recently women’s sport has begun to make great strides.  The latest of these is in weightlifting.

From next year, Iran and Saudi Arabia will allow their women to compete internationally for the first time.

Women have competed at the World Championships since 1987.  Several Islamic countries have never taken part including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Somalia and Libya.

What the first competition featuring Saudi women will be is unclear, but the first for Iranian women, may be a friendly tournament against the United States in February or March 2018.

There will be no column next week as I’m out and about, but I’ll be back the following week with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column 11-17 November 2017

heartWelcome to this week’s column.  Only one top story this week and it’s not the one I was hoping for.  England were comprehensively outplayed by Australia in the first of their three T20s and Australia have, as a result, retained The Ashes with two games to spare.  Details to follow.  Hopefully this week’s offering will be a bit less controversial than last week’s, but there are still things to be said!

Stories this week come from cricket, football, rugby league, rugby union, hockey, winter sports and cycling.

Let’s crack on…

Cricket

The joy of the summer’s World Cup win is officially over and we England cricket fans are now in mourning once again as Australia retained the Ashes this week.

Test Match

The Test at the North Sydney Oval ended in a draw.  No space here to discuss the pros and cons of it, but suffice it to say, the surface was not conducive to producing a result, which was not fair to the excellent crowd present and viewing/listening.  Thus there then proceeded a raft of discussion about the merits (or otherwise) of Test match cricket in the women’s game.  “No appetite for it”, “Not going to be a major feature any time soon”, etc, etc, yelled the governing bodies.  Rubbish.  The players want it, the viewers want it, the crowds want it.  The only ones who don’t want it are the administrators.  They can’t be bothered to schedule it in.  And, crucially, they can’t be bothered to spend the money to host it.  I could go on – and I will at another time, but here are the match details:

England 280 all out
And 206/2

Australia 448/9 declared

Ellyse Perry was the standout superstar of this game.  She scored 213 not out in Australia’s first innings total of 448.  But the pitch did no-one any favours and it was always going to be hard for Australia to get 10 wickets in a day and an hour.  The England openers managed to see off a tricky night session to remain unbeaten going into day four.  Winfield (34) and Beaumont (37) built a platform that Knight and Elwiss took on, finishing undefeated on 79 and 41 respectively.

Points shared.

First T20 17 November
England 132/9 (20 overs)
Australia 134/4 (15.5 overs)

It was never enough.  England rallied late on but a score of 132 was never going to be enough to worry the Aussies. A disastrous opening saw England slump to 16/4.  Knight lasted two balls before she was caught behind by Healy.  Taylor was then given out to a ridiculous lbw decision – too high and possibly down leg side – apart from that it had everything going for it (!).  Brunt was culpable, though, a first ball slash and another catch for the excellent Healy.  Wyatt showed some resistance, building a partnership with Sciver.  But when she was run out on 50, it all went to pot again.  The Aussies also dropped five catches – things could have been much worse.

The batting was poor, not confident enough, not enough push and the Southern Stars would have been rubbing their hands and desperate to get out there to knock the total off.

And they did.  A fine 86 from Beth Mooney was enough to see them home.  The ball crashed to the boundary with monotonous regularity.  The bowlers huffed and puffed, but to no avail.  Brunt was off-key all day and suffered badly, conceding 33 in three overs.

Well done to Australia.  They outplayed England from the beginning of the game, and indeed, the beginning of the series.

The two remaining T20s are:

Sunday 19 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 03.35 (GMT)

Tuesday 21 November, Manuka Oval Canberra – 8.10 (GMT)

Possibly as a distraction manoeuvre, the ECB released England’s fixtures for 2018 this week, so let’s look ahead to the summer:

Royal London ODIs v South Africa 

9 June: First ODI, New Road, Worcester (11am)
12 June: Second ODI, The 1st Central County Ground, Hove (D/N) (1pm)
15 June: Third ODI, Canterbury (D/N) (2pm)

IT20 Tri-Series – England, South Africa and New Zealand

20 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v South Africa, 5:40pm
23 June: The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, England v South Africa, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
28 June: The Brightside Ground, Bristol, South Africa v New Zealand, 1pm; England v New Zealand, 5:40pm
1 July: Final, The Cloud FM County Ground, Chelmsford (3pm)

Royal London ODIs v New Zealand 

7 July: First ODI, Emerald Headingley (11am)
10 July: Second ODI, The 3aaa County Ground, Derby (D/N) (1pm)
13 July: Third ODI, The Fischer County Ground, Grace Road (D/N) (2pm)

Tickets on sale from 12 December

Rugby League

England’s women began their World Cup campaign with a fine win over the PNG Orchids.

England 36-18 PNG Orchids

Tries from Hoyle, Hardcastle, Stanley, Booth (2), Bound, Sutcliffe and goals from: Stanley (4) saw England home in their first match.  PNG’s scores came from tries from Kaupa and Oiufa.

In the other opening games Australia defeated Cook Islands 58-4 and New Zealand beat Canada 50-4.

England’s next game is against Australia on Sunday 19 November.

Football

On the Pitch

It was back to league action last weekend with a full programme of WSL1 and WSL2 matches.  Here are the scores:

Saturday 11 November

WSL1
Yeovil Town 0-2 Everton Ladies
Liverpool Ladies 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Sunday 12 November

WSL1
Reading Women 2-2 Chelsea Ladies
Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland Ladies
Manchester City Women 4-0 Bristol City Women

WSL2
Durham Women 0-0 London Bees
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Sheffield FC
Aston Villa Ladies 4-0 Watford Ladies
Millwall Lionesses 1-0 Oxford United Women
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Doncaster Rovers Belles

So in WSL1 Chelsea drop their first points of the season at Reading.  They are replaced at the top of the table by unbeaten Manchester City with 15 points from five games.  Chelsea are second with 13 and Arsenal third on 10.  At the bottom Yeovil are still yet to claim a point.  One up from them are Everton with three, after taking their first points of the season in beating the bottom side on Saturday.

In WSL2 Doncaster Rovers Belles lead the way with 11 points from five games.  Durham, Millwall and Brighton are just behind on 10.  At the bottom beleaguered Watford have just one point from five as do London Bees.  Aston Villa took their first points of the season against Watford.

Champions League

Manchester City and Chelsea eased into the Champions League quarter-finals this week.  And not to denigrate the earlier rounds, but here they cannot avoid meeting the big teams.

The round of 16 second leg results this week were:

15 November

Wolfsburg 3-3 Fiorentina
Wolfsburg through 7-3 on aggregate

Rosengård 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea through 4-0 on aggregate

No score at half-time but in the 53rd minute Crystal Dunn put Ji So-Yun through to score for Chelsea and confirm their passage into the quarter-finals.

Lyon 9 (nine)-0 BIIK Kazygurt
Lyon through 16-0 on aggregate

Linköping 3-0 Sparta Praha
Linköping through 4-0 on aggregate

Barcelona 3-0 Gintra
Barcelona through 9-0

Montpellier 6-0 Brescia
Montpellier through 9-2 on aggregate

16 November

Slavia Praha 0-0 Stjarnan
Slavia Praha through 2-1 on aggregate

Manchester City 2-1 LSK Kvinner
Manchester City through 7-1 on aggregate

LSK took the lead in the second leg through Marie Berget, but the comeback really was never on.  A minute into the second-half Izzy Christiansen and Nikita Parris scored the second for City to take the win and a place in the quarter-finals.  Defender Megan Campbell (she of the long throw) was stretchered off for City, which will be of some concern.

The quarter-final draw is on 24 November.  News next week.

Continental Cup

We’re coming to the business end of the Conti Cup with the quarter-finalists almost decided.  The teams already qualified are Sunderland, Arsenal, Reading and Liverpool.

This week the scores were:

15 November
Liverpool Ladies 5-1 Aston Villa Ladies
Reading Women 4-0 London Bees
Yeovil Town Ladies 0-2 Bristol City Women

16 November
Sheffield FC Ladies 1-1 Sunderland AFC Ladies
Everton Ladies 4-0 Oxford United Women
Watford Ladies 0-6 Arsenal

Special mention to Reading this week as their game, marketed brilliantly and played at the Madejski Stadium drew a crowd of 2,110.  Fabulous for a mid-week Conti Cup match.  Well done to all at Reading.

Off the Pitch

WSL Applications

After the doom and gloom of last week, it’s good to bring you details this week of some clubs who are going to apply for a WSL licence.

London Bees announced this week that it is to apply.   A club statement said,

“London Bees has strategic planning to achieve growth, sustainability, increased financial investment and the exponential support for its players and staff. Our approach will promote effective use of the Grade A facilities here at The Hive London with new and exciting developments to the infrastructure, including a brand new Medical Centre.

“London Bees are delighted that new developments to our match day experience has led to increased attendances thanks to direct links with our community projects which reach across the county. We are proud to continue working with our existing partners and FA sister clubs as well as sponsors Canons High School for the coming seasons as we push the club to the next level.”

And after it looked as if it was not going to happen, Yeovil Town Ladies are also putting in a bid,

“After a lengthy and very detailed process of collaborative thinking and working with a number of interested parties, Yeovil Town Ladies FC has today submitted what it considers to be a very strong submission for a Tier One application for the 2018/19 season, to continue to play football at the elite level of the women’s game.

“The collaborative approach will not only see full-time players training 19.25 hours per week (rising to 20.25 in the 2020 season), but it also has a strong mission and vision, for the new academy programme.

“With an already strong and established partnership with Bridgwater and Taunton College, this will see the education partners not only become an essential part for the clubs future elite players, whereby players aged sixteen plus can study and play, but it also becomes the clubs full time training ground, with access to grass pitches, 3G, gym, performance lab, medical room, classrooms, analysis suite, plus more.

“Furthermore, the club has devised a strategic plan, which will focus on building its links even more in the community, with plans to engage with 20,000 children in the 2018/19 season.

“The application relies solely on developing and growing its own financial resources and is based on long term self sustainability which the Club has always placed at the heart of its ethos. It is not reliant in any way on any investment from Yeovil Town Football Club, which is named as the parent Club in the application.”

England

Next week sees the first of two World Cup qualifiers for England.  They play Bosnia & Herzegovina at the Banks’s Stadium, Walsall on Friday 24 November.  Kick-off is 7.05pm.

On Tuesday 28 they play Kazakhstan at the Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester.  Kick- off is also 7.05pm.

Mo Marley has already named her squad:

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

Defenders: Gemma Bonner (Liverpool), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Lyon), Jess Carter (Birmingham City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jo Potter (Reading), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Reading), Leah Williamson (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Danielle Carter (Arsenal), Toni Duggan (Barcelona), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal).

Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson have been handed their first senior call-ups.

Tickets are still available for both games.  See here for details.

Rugby Union

Last weekend’s Tyrell’s Premier 15s results were as follows:

Richmond Women 5-43 Harlequins Ladies
Saracens Women 44-19 DMP Sharks
Worcester Valkyries 5-51Wasps Ladies
Gloucester-Hartpury Women 29-22 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
Bristol Ladies 8-12 Loughborough Lightning

England

England’s women will receive a match fee for the first time this autumn.  They have come to an agreement with the RFU and Rugby Players’ Association.

The figures have not been released but will apply to the three match series against Canada, which begins this Friday at Allianz Park.

Let’s face it, it won’t make up for the scrapping of contracts for the 15-a-side players, but it is a start.

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures:

Game 1:  17 November, Aliianz Park 19.30
Game 2: 21 November, Twickenham Stoop 19.45
Game 3: 25 November, Twickenham 17.40 (after the men’s game against Samoa)

Coverage is via the England Rugby website, and allegedly, although it took me a long, long time to find it, the BBC will have radio coverage via their website.

Barbarians

Munster 0-19 Barbarians

Players from eight countries took part in the Barbarians’ first match in Limerick.  In the first-half the visitors took the lead through a penalty try as Munster stood up in the scrum and then prevented Kelly Russell from playing the ball.

In the second-half Irish prop Ailis Egan went over after a sustained drive.  It was converted by Player of the Match, Megan Goddard.

The Barbarians’ third came from the best move of the match.  The Baa-baas turned the ball over on their own 22, Nora Stapleton and Christelle LeDuff working the ball down the left wing to put England’s Georgina Roberts away to score.

Cycling

Track Cycling World Cup

Great Britain’s women won two golds and a silver at this, the second of five World Cup events, in Manchester last weekend.

Elinor Barker and Katie Archibald started the ball rolling on Saturday with a win in the madison.  The beat current world champions, Belgium, by two points with Italy third.  They then teamed up with  Emily Nelson and Neah Evans to take gold in the team pursuit, beating the Italian team in the final by almost five seconds.

Archibald also took silver in the omnium with American Jennifer Valente taking gold.

In other events Katy Marchant and Sophie Capewell reached the semi-final of the women’s team sprint, but lost to Germany.

Emily Kay was seventh in the scratch race, which was won by Rachele Barbieri of Italy.  Eleanor Dickinson finished eleventh and Hayley Jones of Wales twelfth.

Round three takes place in Milton, Canada from 1-3 December.

Winter Sports

Snowboarding

Katie Ormerod won silver at the first Big Air World Cup event of the season in Milan last weekend.

She had let going into the final round, but Anna Gasser of Austria snatched victory from her, pushing her into second.

Bobsleigh

But bad news from bobsleigh this week as Donna Creighton has announced her retirement from the sport.

Creighton was the pilot of the second team that was trying to raise £30,000 to compete at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February 2018.  Unfortunately, while Mica McNeill and Mica Moore succeeded in their bid, Creighton’s bid raised only £12,000 by the deadline.

With the failure of the crowdfunding bid, Creighton has taken the difficult and distressing decision to call it a day.

Speed Skating

Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin are both through to the semi-finals of the 1500m at the World Cup event in Seoul this weekend.  They are drawn in separate heats in the semis which take place on Friday 17 November.

Christie is also through to the quarter-final of the 500m and both are through to the quarter-final of the 100m where they are both drawn in heat two.

News of how they got on next week.

Hockey

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

11 November
University of Birmingham 4-1 Leicester
Surbiton 1-2 Buckingham

12 November
Canterbury 1-0 Bowdon
Clifton Robinsons 3-4 East Grinstead
Holcombe 3-0 Slough

After eight games Surbiton and University of Birmingham are joint top on 16 points.  They cannot even be separated on goal difference or goals scored!  Buckingham lie third, just a point behind.  Canterbury are at the bottom on five points from eight games, with Bowdon and Leicester above them on seven, with Leicester two better on goal difference.

And finally,

You will all know by now, that to me cricket is more dear to me than life, so I make no apologies for this: come on England (men), you have to beat those Aussies.  This is even more poignant now that the women have so horribly failed in their attempt to regain the women’s version.  So, Root, Cook, Anderson, et al, I am relying on you for this winter not to be a complete disaster.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 November 2017

laura 1Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  I hope you’ve all managed to satisfy your women’s sports craving somehow while I was away. I can’t begin to cover all that’s happened in those two weeks, but this week has been full to bursting with news; some good, some bad and some just downright baffling.

This week’s stories come from football, rugby, golf, hockey, winter sports, athletics and cricket.  My “And finally” comes from tennis – yep you can probably guess the one.

So let’s crack on.

Football

Off the Pitch

What on earth is happening to football?  Is the FA determined to scupper its progress?  And there has, undoubtedly, been progress.  I know this is a well-worn hobby horse of mine, but it seems that every time I look away, when I turn back another nail has been bashed into the women’s football coffin.

The 99th restructuring of the women’s game is the story of the week making the headlines and dividing lovers of women’s football throughout the country.

Firstly this week we heard that Watford, who play in WSL2, will not reapply for as WSL licence when their current one expires at the end of the 2017-18 season.

I think it’s worth reproducing the club’s statement in full:

“Watford FC will be seeking to re-energise a more community-focused approach to its ladies’ football offering at all ages, once its FA Women’s Super League licence expires at the end of the current 2017/18 campaign.

Over recent months, the Hornets have carefully considered all available options with regards to how it shapes a fully sustainable future provision of ladies football.

The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels and is pleased to have already begun the research and planning phase.

This involves creating a clear pathway towards adult football provision, which will include an offering for 16-18 year-old players who are currently all-too-often lost to the sport through lack of realistic opportunities in the senior game.

This move will include an application to The Football Association for election of the senior team into the regional Women’s Premier League structure.

Watford FC will continue to work closely with its Community Sports & Education Trust to ensure all possible routes into football for enthusiastic local players are both maintained and enhanced.

There will also be the chance for both affiliated and independently-run organisations to partner with Watford FC with a view to extending the reach and breadth of the positive impact of this approach.

The stability the current Watford FC Ladies operation enjoys means that supporters can expect a vibrant and active community-led offering from summer 2018 onwards.”

This statement has sparked furious debate – on one side some say it is the club being pragmatic, still showing commitment to the game but realising its limitations at this time.  On the other side (and, you will probably not be surprised to read that I adhere to this) there are those who see it as a complete abdication of responsibility and a shocking lack of ambition.  If, as the statement says, “The club will continue to fund all aspects of the operational infrastructure at existing levels”, why are they not going to apply for a licence?  The infrastructure is in place for WSL2, so there is no extra input needed?  What exactly does “community-led” mean?  Is it a euphemism for “run by volunteers”?  Obviously all sport relies on the strength of its volunteers, very often even to make it viable, but you cannot run a club in the second tier of football with volunteers.

Wales international striker, Helen Ward, was a high profile signing for the Hornets.  She obviously saw the ambition in the club when she signed.  On 7 November she tweeted, “280 characters still isn’t enough to say what I want to say right now…so it’s best I don’t say anything at all.”

In a similar vein, yesterday Sunderland AFC also issued a statement:

“Sunderland AFC has today confirmed that the club will not be applying for an FA Women’s Super League (FA WSL) Licence in the first wave of applications. Instead, the club will focus on a joint bid for a Tier One licence in March.

Applications are currently open to existing FA WSL clubs, but due to the collaborative nature of Sunderland’s intended bid it would not be appropriate for the club to apply at this stage.

A club spokesperson said: ‘Sunderland AFC are committed to supporting women’s football and a joint approach, with combined resources, makes for a better and more sustainable model.

‘We have been working with our partners to ensure that we continue to provide the opportunity for elite female footballers in the North East to compete at the top level.’”

So that’s one WSL1 and one WSL2 effectively saying they’re not buying into the restructure.

And then you have Yeovil, desperate to be involved with the WSL but destined to be denied because they can’t raise the arbitrary £350k figure needed to qualify to apply for a licence.  But is it really because they’re not “fashionable”, or that they’re not affiliated to a men’s club (and we all know how well that worked for Notts County, don’t we)?   I ask you to read the Yeovil Chairman’s view: http://www.yeoviltownladies.com/news/views_from_our_chairman.html#IumCMSUCX7IFsW48.97

If you have any love for the women’s game I would also urge you to check out the Facebook Group, “FAWSL Fans United”

Something’s got to give here – let’s hope it’s not the whole future of women’s football in this country.

Right, now I’ve thoroughly depressed everyone, let’s carry on with what else has been happening in football this week.

Laura Harvey

Seattle Reign head coach, Laura Harvey, has resigned, re-igniting speculation that she is to take over as England Manager.

Harvey, who comes from Nuneaton in Warwickshire, has not indicated what her next move will be saying she will “take a little bit of time to reflect”.

She was boss at Seattle for five years, winning two NWSL Shields.  Her successor will be Vlatko Andonovski and Harvey will stay on for a period to see him settle in.

Joe Montemurro

Australian coach Joe Montemurro has been named as new Arsenal manager, after Pedro Martinez resigned in October.

He was manager at Melbourne City Women, winning two titles during his time there.

Manchester City

Nikita Parris has signed a new contract with Manchester City which runs until the end of the 2018-19 season.

They have also signed Swedish international forward, Julia Spetsmark, from KIF Örebro DFF.  She will be available to play in January 2018.

Jade Moore

Reading midfielder Jade Moore suffered a serious ankle injury during her side’s 5-0 win at Bristol City on Saturday.

She could be out for four months and requires surgery.

On the Pitch

Continental Cup Results:

4 November
Bristol City Women 1-2 Chelsea Ladies

5 November
Durham Women 0-0 Liverpool Ladies
Arsenal 1-2 Reading Women
Aston Villa Ladies 2-2 Sheffield FC Ladies
Birmingham City Ladies 3-2 Doncaster Rovers Belles
London Bees 3-4 Millwall Lionesses
Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Manchester City Women 2-1 Everton Ladies

Champions League

This week saw the first leg ties of the last 16.  There were big wins for some of the tournament favourites, effectively sealing the ties before the second leg is played.  Both English teams had fine wins and the second legs are next week.  The scores were as follows:

8 November
BIIK-Kazygurt 0-7 Lyon
Gintra 0-6 Barcelona
Fiorentina 0-4 Wolfsburg
Brescia 2-3 Montpellier
Sparta Praha 1-1 Linköping

Chelsea 3-0 Rosengård

Chelsea’s excellent home form continued on Wednesday.  They dominated a useful Rosengård side and now should be through to the quarter-finals.  Fran Kirby scored the only goal of the first half.  In the second, Ramona Bachmann scored the second and Gilly Flaherty pounced on an error by former England international Anita Asante, to put away the third.

9 November
LSK 0-5 Manchester City

Manchester City are effectively into the quarter-finals with a good away win at LSK of Norway.  If I tell you City had 22 attempts at goal, to the home side’s three, you’ll probably understand the course of the match.

City took the lead on 26 minutes through Demi Stokes.  They doubled their lead just before half-time when Jane Ross was brought down in the box and Izzy Christiansen converted from the spot.

There was more of the same in the second period.  Claire Emslie scored City’s third on 69, while Jane Ross bagged a brace in the space of five minutes to complete the rout.

Stjarnan 1-2 Slavia Praha

Cricket

It’s pretty much make or break time for England’s cricketers as they take on Australia in the sole Test match of the Women’s Ashes.  After the three ODIs Australia lead 4-2.  With four points riding on the result of this Test match England really need to win.

After two days at the North Sydney Oval it’s fairly even.  Heather Knight won the toss and elected to bat.

England 280 all out

Tammy Beaumont top-scored with 70, while captain Heather Knight chipped in with 62.  Plenty of others got starts – Elwiss 27, Taylor 29 and Shrubsole 20, but no-one could make the bit score that could take a big total to an excellent one.

Australia 177/5 (stumps day 2)

In response Australia started well with Nicole Bolton and Beth Mooney falling in the twenties.  But it’s the best all-rounder in the world, Ellyse Perry, who is holding England up and is currently on 70 not out.  England will have to get her out, and quickly, on the third morning.

Golf

Park Sung-hyun of Korea has become the first LPGA Tour rookie to go to number one in the world rankings.

Park won two titles in the summer – the US Women’s Open in July and the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

She has finished in the top-10 nine times this year and has not missed a cut in 29 tournaments.

Athletics

Kenyan marathon runner, Jemima Sumgong has been banned for four years after having tested positive for EPO.

The Olympic marathon winner claimed she had been given the drug in hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.  The claim was rejected by a Kenyan court who said that the paperwork offered in her defence has been supplied by “an imposter” and that her claim was “not authentic”.

Sumgong had admitted her “unfortunate offence and unintended mistake” when she was initially suspended in April, but the court found her uncooperative during the investigation.

There is still some mystery surrounding the exact circumstances of the administering of the substance, but the ban means she will unable to compete in Tokyo in 2020.

New York Marathon

Shalane Flanagan won the New York Marathon at the weekend – the first American woman to do so for 40 years.

She won in a time of two hours 26 minutes 53 seconds.

Mary Keitany of Kenya was second, 61 seconds behind the winner.

Manuela Schar of Switzerland won the women’s wheelchair race, beating five-time champion Tatyana McFadden into second.  She finished in a time of one hour 48 minutes nine seconds, almost three minutes ahead of McFadden.

Cycling

Jess Varnish will sue both UK Sport and British Cycling over the sex discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal she allegedly suffered at their hands in 2016.

Apparently UK Sport had applied to have her case dismissed, but on Monday a judge rejected the application and now Varnish can go to an employment tribunal.

A preliminary hearing will begin in April.  Expect this one to run and run.

Winter Sports

The Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup is underway in Lake Placid, USA.

Lizzy Yarnold won a bronze medal in the first race of the new Skeleton season.  She moved from fifth after the first run, to third after the second.  The winner was Janine Flock of Austria.

Fellow Briton Laura Deas finished fifth.

In the bobsleigh, Mica McNeill and Mica Moore, who you will remember had their funding cut and started a crowdfunding campaign to fund their bid to race at the Olympics in 2018, finished eighth in both of their runs to finish eighth overall.  Kaillie Humphries and Melissa Lotholz of Canada took gold.

Rugby Union

Joy Neville will become the first woman to referee a European men’s professional club fixture in December.

She takes charge of the Bordeaux-Begles v Enisei-STM match in the Challenge Cup on Friday 15 December.

She has been making marked progression in the game and refereed the Women’s World Cup final in August.

Last weekend’s Women’s Premier 15s scores were as follows:

4 November
Saracens Women 29-12 Bristol Ladies
Loughborough Lightning 27-15 Richmond Women
Wasps Ladies 31-3 Firwood Waterloo Ladies
DMP Sharks 39-5 Worcester Valkyries
Harlequins Ladies 39-12 Gloucester-Hartpury Women

After seven matches Harlequins are now top with 35 points, that’s seven bonus point wins.  Saracens are a point behind.  Wasps lie third, but the gap to second is 11 point.  At the bottom Worcester Valkyries are yet to claim a point, Firwood Waterloo are second from bottom on four points with the Sharks just above them on 13.

The eighth round is this weekend.  Get y ourselves out there to see some live action if you can.  It’s such a competitive league:

11 November
Richmond Women v Harlequins Ladies (2pm Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens Women v DMP Sharks (2pm Allianz Park)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps Ladies (TBC Sixways Stadium)
Gloucester-Hartpury Women v Firwood Waterloo Ladies (TBC)
Bristol Ladies v Loughborough Lightning (7pm Portway Rugby Development Centre)

Hockey
Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

The results from last weekend were as follows:

4 November
Canterbury 1-1 Holcombe
Leicester 1-2 Bowdon
East Grinstead 0-2 Surbiton
Slough 0-1 University of Birmingham
Buckingham 3-2 Clifton Robinsons

After seven games Surbiton are still top with 16 points.  University of Birmingham are second with 13 with Buckingham third on 12.  Canterbury are bottom with just two points with Bowdon just above them on 7.

And finally,

It’s tennis in 2017 – is it?  Really?

Not technically a women’s sport story, but one that resonates with us all.  At the Next Gen ATP Finals draw in Milan, female models revealed the letters of the groups under their clothing, had to hang on the arm of the participants and other generally degrading stuff under the guise of “entertainment”.

When it was pointed out to the organisers that it probably wasn’t in the best of taste, they first suggested that they were just trying to refer to Milan’s place in the fashion world, but on further consideration (and a lot of bad press) a joint statement from sponsors Red Bull and the ATP said “Our execution was in poor taste and unacceptable.”

D’ya think?

Women’s Sports Column 23-29 September 2017

the-ball-stadion-horn-corner-47343Welcome to this week’s column.  You may remember a couple of weeks ago I mentioned rumours of another FAWSL restructure may be in the offing?  Well, it now looks like it’s very much on – and so far few are impressed. See below for details.  The FA is really covering itself in glory at the moment, isn’t it?

Anyway, the column this week also includes news from cricket, rugby union, golf, hockey, speed skating, cycling, some good news from bobsleigh and tennis.  The focus of “And finally” this week is an update on the BBC’s 100 Women project.

Rugby Union

 Three teams remain unbeaten with two bonus point wins each after the second weekend of fixtures in the Premier 15s.  Gloucester-Hartpury Women are top on points difference (33), with Harlequins in second (27) and Richmond in third (24).   The weekend’s results were as follows:

23 September

Worcester Valkyries 10–62 Bristol Ladies
Harlequins 39-18 Firwood Waterloo
Gloucester-Hartpury 26-22 Wasps
Richmond 27-10 DMP Sharks

24 September

Saracens 34-20 Loughborough Lightning

This weekend’s fixtures:

30 September
Loughborough Lightning v Harlequins (12pm Loughborough RFC)
Worcester Valkyries v Saracens (2pm Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol (2.30pm)
Gloucester-Hartpury v Richmond (2.30pm)
DMP Sharks v Wasps (4pm Northern Echo Arena)

Wasps

Meanwhile Wasps have been on a signing spree this week as they welcomed four England players to boost their squad.  Harriet Millar-Mills, Amy Cockayne and Justine Lucas join from luckless Lichfield, while Rochelle Clark makes the transfer from Worcester Valkyries.

It’s a sad situation, although one often found in sport, that if players wish to be considered for their national sides, they have to play at the top level – it’s not enough to excel in a lower division.  Obviously it means they will face more testing opposition week in, week out, but it is still shame that those at a lower level are doomed to be “selling” clubs.

Wasps are without a win so far this season, but this fearsome foursome should make a significant change to the situation.

England

The Old Mutual Wealth Series fixtures were also announced this week.  It will be a triple-header against Canada.

17 November – Allianz Park (7.30pm – game to be streamed live by EnglandRugby.com
21 November – Twickenham Stoop (7.45pm – broadcast to be announced)
25 November – Twickenham Stadium (5.40pm live on Sky Sports – part of double-header with England’s men who play Samoa at 3pm)

Referees

Not strictly women’s sport this one, but women in sport and worthy of inclusion.

Alhambra Nievas and Joy Neville will both referee men’s internationals this year.

Nievas will take charge of Finland v Norway in the Conference 2 on 14 October.  Neville will also officiate at a Norway match, this time against Denmark on 28 October.

Both officials have a wealth of experience; Neville refereed the Women’s Rugby World Cup this summer and is a former Ireland Captain.  Las season she became the first female assistant referee to officiate in a men’s European rugby match.  Nievas is a former Spain international and was the first female official to assist in men’s Test match.

The good news is they are likely to have a much better time of it than football referees as rugby referees are treated with more respect generally.  What the reaction on the terraces will be like is not so certain.

In an interview with the BBC, Nigel Owens, everyone’s favourite referee and arbiter of good sense said,

“It’s great to see a cross-section as men have been refereeing the women’s game for a long time.

“It doesn’t matter about the colour of our skin, whether you’re a man or a woman, your sexuality or religious beliefs. None of that should matter one bit. If you’re good at what you do, then you should have the opportunity to excel at that and referee at the level you deserve.

“These two are getting what they deserve from the hard work they’ve done.”

Golf

The New Zealand Open at Windross Farm Golf Course in Auckland began on 28 September.  After round one, Jodi Ewart-Shadoff of England shared the lead with Brooke Henderson of Canada on -7, after shooting 65s.  Belen Mozo of Spain and Amy Bouldon of England are tied on third, one stroke back with Beatriz Recari (Spain) Na Yeon Choi (South Korea) and Brittany Linicome (USA) a further shot back, tied for fifth on -5.

Cycling

The UCI Road World Championships – Elite Women’s Road Race

The Women’s Road Race took place on Saturday.  Who can stop the Dutch?  No-one it seems as Chantal Blaak took the title, 28 seconds ahead of Katrin Garfoot of Australia.    Defending champion, Amalie Dideriksen of Denmark, was third.  The Dutch worked so well as a team it was no surprise to see three of them in the top ten.

Top ten finishers:

  1. Chantal Blaak (Ned) 4hrs 06mins 30secs
  2. Katrin Garfoot (Aus) +28secs
  3. Amaile Dideriksen (Den) Same time
  4. Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned)
  5. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Pol)
  6. Christine Majerus (Lux)
  7. Susanne Andersen (Nor)
  8. Anna Van der Breggen (Ned)
  9. Emilia Fahlin (Swe)
  10. Elena Cecchini (Ita)

Of the British team, Hannah Barnes finished 14th, Dani King 20th, Lizzie Deignan 41st, Hayley Simmonds 48th, and Elinor Barker 66th.  Alice Barker and Mel Lowther failed to finish.

Off the Track

This week also saw the installation of a new UCI president.  David Lappartient beat the incumbent, Brian Cookson, 37-8 in the vote.  One of the first things he did was to repeat the commitment that Cookson had made to prioritise the development of women’s cycling.  His emphasis was on the responsibilities of race organisers and broadcasters.

“We have some wonderful classics, some are on live TV; we’re going the right way but we don’t have a strong stage race like the Tour de France.

“Without this kind of race it will be difficult to promote women. Organisers must take care of this, that’s also part of our global responsibility. We need to have races on TV.”

There are still relatively few professional female riders.  Many women combine a day job with their cycling.  Lappartient went on to say,

“They must earn their life with cycling and not just riding for nothing.”

He then announced that the minimum wage for the men would be increased.  Hurrah!  But then he failed to announce that a women’s minimum wage would be introduced.  No, there is no minimum wage at all for women, let alone one to increase.  So, on one hand he would like to ensure that women are not “riding for nothing”, but on the other he has no plans to introduce a wage that would help end this problem.

Hockey

The Investec Women’s Hockey League began its 2017-18 season on 23 September. The first round of results was as follows:

East Grinstead 0-0 Holcombe
University of Birmingham 1-3 Bowdon
Canterbury 2-2 Surbiton
Clifton Robinsons 2-0 Leicester
Slough 3-1 Buckingham

For upcoming fixtures check out the England hockey website here

Tennis

Wuhan Open

Unseeded Ashleigh Barty is having a storming week at the Wuhan Open.  She beat British number one Johanna Konta in the second round 6-0 4-6 7-6, ninth seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the round of 16, 4-6 6-0 6-4 and third seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals 4-6 7-6 7-6.  She now plays eighth seed Jelena Ostapenko who defeated world number one Garbine Muguruza in their quarter-final 1-6 6-3 6-2.

The second semi-final will be between the unseeded Maria Sakkari of Greece and Caroline Garcia of France.

Speed Skating

There are four qualifying events between now and the Pyeongchang Olympics which will decide the speed skating qualifiers.  This weekend sees the first, the Budapest World Cup.

Britain’s Elise Christie will be looking to start strongly.  Results to come in next week’s column.

Football

Signings

Manchester City Women have signed Danish Euros star Nadia Nadim.

She will join the current league champions in January, after finishing the season with her current club, Portland Thorns.

Nadim’s backstory is well known, but bears repeating.

When Nadim was only 12 she fled Afghanistan with her mother and four sisters when her father was executed by the Taliban.  They found refuge in Denmark and she has now played for her new country 74 times.

While she has been playing in the United States she has also been studying at medical school and plans to become a doctor when she hangs up her boots.

West Ham United

It finally looks like West Ham has some serious backing after they announced this week that are likely to bid for a licence to play in the new restructured WSL.

The Ladies’ side was finally integrated into the club in 2016, after a highly public row between the then manager, Julian Dicks, and the women’s club chairman, Stephen Hunt, who accused the parent club of sexism in denying the women’s team the facilities and support they needed to play.

West Ham currently play in the Women’s Premier League Southern Division – women’s football’s third tier.

It will be somewhat of a jump in footballing class for the hammers, but let’s face it, the FA probably won’t be looking at that – they’ll be judging on a financial basis.  If you can afford it, you could be in.

England

England under-19s head coach, Mo Marley is to be appointed as interim manager of the Lionesses.  She brings no lack of experience to the post having captained England as a player, been assistant to Hope Powell during her tenure and having managed Everton Ladies domestically.

Marley will be in charge for the friendly against France in October and the World Cup qualifiers in November against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.

New Super League Structure (Yes, again)

Another day, another “initiative”.  Will someone please save me (and women’s football) from the FA and their constant tinkering?

Their latest restructure, if I read it right, will see a top tier of full-time only clubs for the season 2018-19.

All clubs have to re-apply for places in WSL1 and have until 10 November to submit their applications.  Teams outside WSL1 who wish to apply will do so in March 2018.

The criteria are business-based only: players have to have 16 so-called contact hours per week, rising to 20 hours per week by 2020-21.  The club must have a minimum level of financial investment and also an academy system in place.  They have to conform to Financial Fair Play regulations.

As no-one knows at the moment how many clubs will be able to fulfil the conditions, the FA are saying that the WSL will comprise between eight and 14 teams.

The new second tier, the tier with no name, will have 10-12 clubs and players will be part-time.  Clubs will be required to have a reserve team, but not necessarily an academy.

The WPL regional divisions will be unaffected.

While no-one wants to see a repeat of the Notts County situation, the FA’s concentration on a “stronger commercial model”, according to the FA’s head of women’s leagues and competitions, Katie Brazier, is a soulless approach that could see the women’s game head down the same road as the men’s.

Apparently, “It will provide an elite performance environment that will produce more and better players, increase the interest and excitement via a more competitive league, attract a greater number of fans and in turn deliver improved commercial viability for clubs and the leagues.”

In my cynical way I’m tempted to say – prove it.

Yeovil Town have been the first club to respond to the move with general manager Trevor Jenkins saying that the club will need to raise over £350,000 in order to compete in the new league.  At the moment they are in WSL1 on merit, as it should be.  They have no professionals and no academy.  In a couple of months they are going to have to make major changes if they want their application to be a part of the new WSL to be successful.

We all want the women’s game to be successful and indeed no-one can disagree with the FA’s ultimate aims.  We all want the game to develop and grow and be sustainable.  But the constant uncertainty, the constant shifting of the goalposts (apologies) just brings a feeling of impermanence and the inescapable sense that the FA can’t decide on one clear strategy – and can’t be bothered to sort it.

This is the second week running that I’ve ended the football news with the phrase “women’s football deserves better”.  And it’s the second time I’ve thought it’s not going to get it.

Bobsleigh

Good news and mind-boggling news from the world of bobsleigh this week.  After reporting in the last column that Mica McNeill and her team were going to crowdfund their attempt to get to Pyeongchang I’m happy to confirm that they reached their target on Monday.

Now a second team, piloted by Donna Creighton is bidding to do the same.   You can contribute here: https://makeachamp.com/teamdc.

The BBSA decision to stop funding the women’s teams drew widespread criticism from both inside and outside the sport.

Olympic skeleton champion Lizzy Yarnold accused the body of “mismanagement”, adding,

“It’s hard to see talent and hard work go to waste.  Everyone deserves their moment to make their dreams come true.”

Things then moved again when BBSA chief executive Richard Parker resigned from his position. The body then announced that they are now in a position to “partially support” a women’s team in their attempt to reach Pyeongchang.

So they are seriously saying that the chief executive’s salary is going into partially funding a team?

It seems there is still plenty more to come in this story.

Cricket

England’s Ashes squad was announced this week.  Unsurprisingly, it is largely the squad that won the World Cup this summer with the addition of spinner Sophie Ecclestone.  Beth Langston is the unlucky player to miss out.

The squad in full:

Heather Knight (captain, Berkshire), Tammy Beaumont (Kent), Katherine Brunt (Yorkshire), Sophie Ecclestone (Lancashire), Georgia Elwiss (Sussex), Jenny Gunn (Warwickshire), Alex Hartley (Lancashire), Danielle Hazell (Yorkshire), Laura Marsh (Kent), Nat Sciver (Surrey), Anya Shrubsole (Somerset), Sarah Taylor (wk, Sussex), Fran Wilson (Middlesex), Lauren Winfield (Yorkshire), Danni Wyatt (Sussex).

There was good news from Cricket Australia this week as they confirmed that the Allan Border Field in Brisbane, the venue for the first ODI on 22 October is already a sell-out.

The fixtures are as follows:

22 October: 1st ODI Allan Border Field, Brisbane
22 October: 2nd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW
29 October: 3rd ODI Coffs International Stadium, Coffs Harbour, NSW

9-12 November: Day-Night Test North Sydney Oval, Sydney

17 November: 1st T20 North Sydney Oval, Sydney
19 November: 2ndT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November: 3rdT20 Manuka Oval, Canberra

And finally,

The BBC 100 women list is nearly ready.  There are several women under the #TeamPlay hashtag, concentrating on sexism in sport, including Mithali Raj and Steph Houghton.  For the full list, check out the website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-41380265.

Women’s Sports Column 4-10 March 2017

cricket-ballI can’t believe it’s that time again, but apparently it is, so welcome to this week’s Women’s Sports Column.

As usual, there has been plenty going on this week, including what I thought was a quite spectacular International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8th.  So here we go with stories from athletics, tennis, football, sports governance, netball and rugby and cricket.  Let’s crack on.

Football

SheBelieves Cup

The Lionesses finished a creditable third in their second appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in the USA.  France were the eventual winners after they convincingly beat the hosts 3-0.

England 0-1 Germany

England finished their campaign with one win from three as they lost narrowly to Germany on Wednesday.  Again England got off to a storming start and they had several chances in the first 20 minutes.  But Germany came back into it, having the better of the play and scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the game, through Anja MIttag, just before half-time.

Jordan Nobbs and Demi Stokes had chances in the second-half and Jill Scott had a clear opportunity in stoppage time, but shot over.

England coach Mark Sampson should be pleased with the three performances and it was certainly all good build-up to the Euros in the summer.

Team P GD Pts
1 France Women 2 1 4
2 Germany Women 3 0 4
3 USA Women 2 0 3
4 England Women 3 -1 3

 Cyprus Cup

 Scotland 0-0 Wales
Scotland won 6-5 on penalties

Scotland beat Wales in a penalty shoot-out to take fifth place in the Cyprus Cup.

After 90 minutes there was no score and the game went to penalties with Frankie Brown scoring the winner for the Scots.

The eventual winners of the tournament were South Korea who beat Switzerland 1-0.  Third place went to North Korea who beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0.

Signings

Notts County have signed full-back Shelly Provan on a contract which takes her up to the end of the Spring Series.

Broadcasting news

The BBC has won the rights to broadcast the 2019 Women’s World Cup due to be held in France in 2019.

Every game will be covered across television, radio or online.

Rugby Union

Six Nations

It’s round four this weekend and the fixtures are as follows:

Saturday 11 March, 11.30am
Wales v Ireland (Cardiff Arms Park)
SC4/BBC Wales/RTE

Saturday 11 March, 1pm
England v Scotland (The Stoop)
Sky Sports

Sunday 12 March, 2pm GMT
Italy v France (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi)
France 4/Eurosport IT

Athletics

Apologies that the European Indoor Athletics passed under my radar last week.

Scotland’s Laura Muir won gold in both the 1500m and 3,000m.  In the latter she broke the championship record in a time of eight minutes 35.68 seconds with Eilish McColgan taking bronze.

Asha Philip won gold in the 60m in a time of 7.06 seconds, a new British record.

Shelayna Oskan-Clarke took silver in the 800m in a photo-finish with Swiss athlete Selina Buchel.

Lorraine Ugen won silver in the women’s long jump and the 4x400m relay team of Eilidh Doyle, Philippa Lowe, Mary Iheke and Laviai Nielsen also took silver behind Poland.

Great Britain finished second in the medal table behind Poland.

Sports Politics

Russia

Yelena Isinbayeva has been reappointed as Chair of RUSADA, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.  She was originally appointed in December but WADA took issue with the appointment and so the election was re-run.  Isinbayeva was re-elected.

She was critical of Russia’s competition-wide ban declaring it “a blatant political order”, but today, Friday 10 March she said,

“We will watch and control everybody and everything.

“We have just one attempt to clear our sport of this dirt.”

WADA has already been critical of the speed of reform in Russian athletics and will now be sure to be watching carefully to see what happens next.

Diversity Developments

In a landmark ruling, Muslim women have won the right to wear full body suits in amateur swimming competitionsThis will include all Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) meets and national competition.

Full body suits are already allowed in Olympic Games.

In a separate development, Nike has become the first major sports brand to produce a range of hijabs for sporting Muslim women.  They are not the first in the field, but they are by far the biggest.  It can only be a matter of time before others follow suit.

Women in Sport report

A new survey from Women in Sport has found that the number of women in the top posts of sports governing bodies is down 6% since 2014.  Read the full report here: https://www.womeninsport.org/news/women-sport-launches-beyond-30-campaign/

Needless to say, and more than a little irritating were the comments at the bottom of the BBC report were all about netball’s governing body, which has 90% women on its board and isn’t this really sexist?

Cricket

World Cup Schedule

Here’s the link to the full schedule, but this is when and where England will be playing:

Saturday 24 June v India (Derby CCC)
Tuesday 27 June v Pakistan (Leicester CCC)
Sunday 2 July v Sri Lanka (Taunton)
Wednesday 5 July v South Africa (Bristol)
Sunday 9 July v Australia (Bristol)
Wednesday 12 July v New Zealand (Derby CCC)
Saturday 15 July v West Indies (Bristol)

The semi-finals will be at Bristol (18 July) and Derby (20 July), with the final at Lord’s on Sunday 23 July.

Ashes Schedule

The 2017 Ashes schedule has also been released and includes the first ever day-night Ashes Test.  The series well again be multi-format.

22 October – 1st ODI, AB Field, Brisbane
26 October – 2nd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium
29 October – 3rd ODI, Coffs Harbour International Stadium

9-12 November – Test match, North Sydney Oval

17 November – 1st T20, North Sydney Oval
19 November – 2nd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra
21 November – 3rd T20, Manuka Oval, Canberra

Women’s Ashes points system

Test: Win – 4 points
ODI: Win – 2 points
T20: Win – 2 points

On the field

3rd ODI, Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

New Zealand 270/9 (50 overs)
Australia 273/5 (49.2 overs)

Australia sealed a 2-1 series win over their greatest rivals in a thrilling contest at the Bay Oval.  Meg Lanning won the toss and put New Zealand in to bat.  She must have been ruing that decision when the White Ferns got off to a flyer.  Susie Bates was out in the 11th over for 27, but Rachel Priest made 77 and Katie Perkins 34 as they posted an excellent total of 270.  Pick of the bowlers for the Southern Stars were Jess Jonassen and Ashleigh Gardner who took three wickets each.

The Australian reply began inauspiciously when opener Nicole Bolton was bowled for a duck by Holly Huddleston in the second over.  But in came captain Lanning and the tide turned.  She and Beth Mooney put on a 93-run partnership before Mooney was run out for 69 in the 20th over.  Ellyse Perry only managed a single, but good contributions from Elyse Villani, Alex Blackwell and Alyssa Healy plus 104 not out for Lanning sealed the game and the series.

Tennis

BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Heather Watson plays Johanna Konta in the second round after beating American Nicole Gibbs 4-6 6-2 6-2 in round one.

Meanwhile, world number one Serena Williams has had to withdraw from the tournament with a knee injury.

Netball

Round three of the Vitality Superleague took place at the weekend.  Round four is this weekend.  You can see Surrey Storm v Hertfordshire Mavericks live on Sky Sports on Saturday 11 March at 6pm.

There are still three unbeaten teams at the top of the table; Surrey, Wasps and Loughborough.  Northumbria and Dragons are at the bottom, yet to take a point.

The third round results were as follows:

Friday 3 March

Severn Stars 53-46 Celtic Dragons

Saturday 4 March

Manchester Thunder 53-49 Sirens
Team Northumbria 46-63 Surrey Storm

Sunday 5 March

Wasps 51-47 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Monday 6 March

Team Bath 41-47 Loughborough Lightning

And finally, in a moment of shameless self-promotion, I offer you the piece I wrote for International Women’s Day on 8 March 2017: https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-and-the-world-of-womens-sport/

Back from Canterbury – what next for England?

Lydia Greenway
Lydia Greenway

I will state outright, here and now, that I never even entertained the idea that England’s women would lose the Ashes Test match in Canterbury

If anything was a cast-iron certainty, an England win was it.

So, you can imagine my shock when I sat in the stands at the Spitfire Ground and watched England’s batting being blown away.

We travelled down on the Tuesday, listening to the excellent TMS commentary on the way.  I was buoyed by the bowling – the stalwart Anya Shrubsole and Katherine Brunt doing the job admirably.  In fact I was much heartened by Shrubsole, who I thought had had a couple of below par performances recently and appeared to have lost a yard of pace.

By the time we got to our accommodation  I was feeling confident.  We let the Aussies back in towards the end of the day and

Edwards bowled
Edwards bowled

admittedly we couldn’t quite winkle out those last two wickets, but I thought it would be a formality the next morning and 268/8 from the first day was acceptable.

The next day we arrived at the ground bright and cheerful, unlike the weather.  Lanning eventually put the English bowling out of its misery and declared on 274/9.  I think this is where it all started to go wrong.  England suffered the indignity of not being able to finish off the innings and the openers just didn’t know when they would be expected to bat.

After lunch it all went to pieces with Knight,Winfield and Taylor going cheaply with only Edwards putting up a fight.  Taylor did her usual playing across the line and went for a duck.  But she wasn’t the only one giving it away.  At several points the innings was becalmed to the point of coma.  Thank God for Katherine Brunt, who was clearly as mad as hell at the performance of the batters and was determined to single-handedly get England to a decent score.  Bravely Anya Shrubsole backed her up, albeit for absolutely no runs from 47 balls.  But when Brunt went, England subsided to a pitiful 168 all out.

I had witnessed it all and was not impressed.

What happened on the next two days has been well documented by greater writers than I, but suffice it to say, things did not get any better.  The Aussies took it to England in their second innings, and a number of steady contributions meant that they could declare on 156/6, a mere 262 ahead.

Let’s face it, there was never any chance England were going to chase that.  The best that could be hoped for was a battling draw.

But it would have been nice if England had shown any sign of wanting to chase it.  I think we would all have preferred a defiantly bold defeat.  But no.  It was one of the saddest collapses I have seen (I may have mentioned that I was at Trent Bridge to see the Aussies get bowled out for 60 – but no, “sad” was not the word I’d use for that). Taylor bagged a pair and Perry looked unplayable, taking 6/32.

The bowling and fielding were good, but the batting was woeful in both innings.  I’m surprised by this as I don’t think, beyond Perry, that the Australian attack is all that special.  And, as I have said before, we seemed to lack a plan B.

I’m not going to beat about the bush, I think the Ashes have gone.  There’s no way England will win all of the T20s to retain the trophy.

I may not want to, but I’m going to accept that and move on.  But I see that cricket writers everywhere are having their say on the Test, as is their wont.

Mike Selvey, in the Guardian, for whom I have great respect and with whose opinions I often agree has stated that he thinks women should give up test cricket to concentrate on the shorter forms.  I’m sorry, but this is not the way I think it should go.  I’m more in tune with Andy Zaltzman on Cricinfo as he argues that the women need to play more test cricket, not less, if they are ever to progress.

I know that in these days it is hard enough to get some men’s test-playing nations enthusiastic about test matches, and audiences seem to be dwindling, but I am firmly convinced that that trend can be reversed.

Natalie Sciver
Natalie Sciver

I don’t want to see the game become a matter of constantly bashing the ball out the ground.  I don’t want cheerleaders and razzle dazzle at the expense of skill and flair.  I want it to be a genuine contest between bat and ball.  The only arena in which this truly happens is in test cricket.  So why can’t women be a part of this?

The women enjoy playing test cricket, but they don’t play enough to hone their skills – should we deprive them of the chance to give it their best shot?

Mike Selvey says “you have to let it go”.  I say, test cricket is a beautiful game.  Let’s do more of it, let’s train for it, play it, promote it, show everyone its worth.

In other words, let’s not let it go, but hold onto it with everything we’ve got. 

Thanks to Michael Hopkins for all photos.

Off to Canterbury!

cricket2This week I’m off to Canterbury to watch the women’s Ashes Test.  I was privileged enough to be at Trent Bridge last Thursday to witness the best day of cricket I have ever seen.

I’m hoping the women can match it!

Anyway, the point of this post is not to boast of my travels, but to say that on my return I’m going to start a series of articles on the plethora of information out there for any woman wanting to get involved in sport, be it playing, coaching, officiating, reporting, administrating or whatever.

The profile of women’s sport is booming!  Websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook, podcasts, etc etc., are all there to be followed, accessed and disgested.  Some are mainstream, some are more niche, but all are worthy of your time and attention.  Many of the contributors work for the love of it.

There’s a whole lot of people and organisations out there trying to promote women’s sport.  The acronyms can be confusing, though, so if you can’t tell your WSUK from your WiSP keep reading!

Back next week from my sojourn in Kent, hopefully with England up with just the Twenty20s to go.

It’s the Ashes!

I hope you all enjoyed my debut for Women’s Sports UK (WSUK) last week.  I certainly enjoyed writing it.  Since then we’ve had the start of the Women’s Ashes.

Pretty much like the men’s, all went well to begin with.  I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but it goes for both the men’s and women’s, that you’ve got to make the most of the Australians when they’ve only just arrived.  And we did.  The first one-day went completely to plan from England’s point of view as they won by 4 wickets at Taunton.  However, it doesn’t take long for the Aussies to acclimatise and in the second and third one-days England were outplayed and out-thought, losing the second by 63 runs and the third by 89.

I’m afraid there were some glaring issues in the latter two games that will have to be tackled before the 3 Twenty20 games at the end of August and beginning of September.  I don’t have concerns about the test match – it’s the short form we’re lacking in.

Let’s state now that I adore Charlotte Edwards to the point of hero-worship.  But I am not blind to her faults.  Very much like Alastair Cook, she is a creature of habit.  She has her plans – and they are good plans – but is reluctant to deviate if they don’t work.  Katherine Brunt and Anya Shrubsole opening the bowling – 5 overs each.  No questions.  No messing.  No change.  It didn’t bring a wicket in the second game so, guess what, let’s do it all again in the third!  At the risk of sounding like Geoffrey Boycott (put me down now) if plan A doesn’t work you’ve got to have a plan B, then a plan C etc.  I’m afraid she didn’t look like she even had a B.  I don’t know what the answer is to that, she’s been captain for over 200 internationals now and I’m not the person to tell her she’s doing it wrong!  All I’m saying is that there’s got to be more flexibility as games very rarely go completely to plan.

Secondly, and I really do feel I’m attacking the twin pillars of English women’s cricket, someone needs to get hold of Sarah Taylor and tell her 30 is not enough.  So many times she gets a start but doesn’t carry through.  Dan Norcross made exactly the same point in the TMS commentary yesterday.  He’s someone else I rarely agree with, but on this occasion I found myself nodding along.  She’s one of the best batters in the world so it’s about time she acted like it.

In the meantime Meg Lanning, Elyse Perry, et al, go past England without pausing for breath.

Enough of this carping.  On the positive front, the coverage of the Ashes has been brilliant so far.  There’s so much discussion out there about the game and its future and it’s not just comparing it unfavourably to the men’s game.  In fact you know you’ve made it when they’re starting to talk about it in the Daily Telegraph.  Excellent piece today by Jonathan Liew on Meg Lanning and her place in women’s cricketing history.

I’m going to be in Canterbury for the test match so expect plenty of comment!