Women’s Sports Column 1-7 April 2017

soccer ballWelcome to this week’s column.  So much going on this week!  News, controversy and results in so many different sports.  Who knew women were doing so much? (Who, indeed….)

So, on we go with stories from tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, boxing, ice hockey, weightlifting, badminton and the Boat Race.  Plus an “And finally” that is a great news story of footballing women shouting about the need to be more visible.  Plus an “And, and finally” which is not so great.

Tennis

Miami Open

Jo Konta won the Miami Open on Saturday, beating Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets 6-4 6-3 to take the biggest title of her career so far.

She now climbs to seven in the world rankings.

The win has seemingly come at a cost, though.  Konta has now withdrawn from the Charleston tournament, which opens the clay court season, through injury and illness.  The injury is in her shoulder, but the illness has not been specified beyond “sickness”.

Monterrey Open

Naomi Broady progressed to the second round in Monterrey before she was beaten by fifth seed Timea Babos 6-3 6-2.  She had beaten world number 54 Catherine Bellis 7-6 6-4 in the first round.

Heather Watson is through to the quarter final where she will face top seed Angelique Kerber.  She beat Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova 6-4 6-1 to get there, after beating Serbia’s Nina Stojanovic 62 6-7 6-4 in the first round.

Football

Republic of Ireland

The biggest news of the week, eclipsing Mark Sampson’s squad announcement, has been the Republic of Ireland women’s team’s threat to strike after revealing their horrendous treatment by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

After listing their grievances the players met with the FAI and after long and hard talks agreement was reached.

Equal pay is often an issue in sport (and life generally), but for the Irish players their issue was any pay at all.  Sixty per cent of the Irish squad are not professional players and they were often out of pocket financially when away playing or training.  They had to share tracksuits, handing them back at the end of games and often got changed in airport toilets.  If they stayed in hotels they were often of a basic standard with no Wi-Fi.  There was little access to strength and conditioning coaching.

The players have now returned to training before they have a game against Slovakia on Monday.

I know it would have not have been a decision taken lightly if the squad had gone through with its strike.  It has been heartening to see so much coverage of this issue – much of it positive.

England

Opinions have been divided this week as to the wisdom of Mark Sampson naming his Euro 2017 squad nearly four months ahead of the tournament.

There are four tournament debutantes, three from champions Manchester City: Demi Stokes, Isobel Christiansen and Nikita Parris, plus Millie Bright of Chelsea.

There are also three players currently suffering with long-term injuries: Alex Greenwood, Fran Kirby and Jo Potter.

The most surprising absentees are Eni Aluko, Rachel Daly, Gemma Davison and Claire Rafferty.  Obviously with four months to go there are chances to replace injured players should the need arise.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), Carly Telford (Notts County)

Defenders: Laura Bassett (Notts County), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Alex Greenwood (Liverpool), Steph Houghton (Manchester City), Jo Potter (Notts County), Alex Scott (Arsenal), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Casey Stoney (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), Jade Moore (Notts County), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Manchester City), Fara Williams (Arsenal)

Forwards: Karen Carney (Chelsea), Toni Duggan (Manchester City), Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Nikita Parris (Manchester City), Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), Ellen White (Birmingham City)

For me the big omission is Gemma Davison.  When I saw her against Estonia in September she had a stormer.  I think she’s getting better all the time and could very well have peaked to perfection at this tournament.

It has also just been announced that England will play another friendly in the lead-up to the Euros. They will play Switzerland at the Tissot Arena in Biel on 10 June.

Scotland

It has been confirmed that former Arsenal manager, Shelley Kerr, will take over as Scotland Women’s head coach after the 2017 Euros.

Anna Signeul will leave after being in charge since 2005.

Cricket

The ECB announced the allocation of England and overseas players for the 2017 Kia Super League tournament this week.  There will be no Meg Lanning this year and Danielle Hazell will complete a Roses switch from Yorkshire to captain Lancashire Thunder.  Also included in the Thunder squad is Sarah Taylor, which is cheering to see.

The ECB has also (finally) done a deal which will see eight of the Super League games televised.  Unfortunately this will not be free-to-air, but will be on Sky.  In these days when viewers cannot see any cricket on free stations it would have been a real coup if the ECB could have interested any of those channels in the product.

Lancashire Thunder: Kate Cross, Danielle Hazell, Sarah Taylor, Jess Jonassen (AUS), Amy Satterthwaite (NZ), Lea Tahuhu (NZ)

Loughborough Lightning: Georgia Elwiss, Amy Jones, Beth Langston, Kristen Beams (AUS), Ellyse Perry (AUS), Elyse Villani (AUS)

Southern Vipers: Tash Farrant, Danielle Wyatt, Suzie Bates (NZ), Hayley Matthews (WI), Dane van Niekerk (SA)

Surrey Stars: Tammy Beaumont, Alex Hartley, Laura Marsh, Natalie Sciver, Rene Farrell (AUS), Marizanne Kapp (SA)

Western Storm: Heather Knight, Anya Shrubsole, Fran Wilson, Rachel Priest (NZ), Stafanie Taylor (WI)

Yorkshire Diamonds: Katherine Brunt, Jenny Gunn, Lauren Winfield, Sophie Devine (NZ), Sune Luus (SA), Beth Mooney (AUS)

Netball

It’s seven wins from seven for Loughborough Lightning as they beat their latest opponents, Celtic Dragons at the weekend.  This sees them the only unbeaten team, at the top of the table by three points from Surrey Storm.

Round Seven scores:

Friday 31 March

Sirens 51-45 Team Bath

Saturday 1 April

Team Northumbria 61-39 Severn Stars

Surrey Storm 51-58 Wasps Netball

Monday 3 April

Celtic Dragons 45-65 Loughborough Lightning

Manchester Thunder 59-50 Hertfordshire Mavericks

Round eight is this weekend, with no televised match this week.

Weightlifting

Rebekah Tiler took silver in the snatch in the -69kg at the European Championships this week.  This was Tiler’s first competition since UK Sport removed all funding for British Weightlifting and also her first since finishing 10th at Rio.

She missed out on an overall medal, finishing fourth, just 1kg behind the bronze medallist, Anastasiya Mikhalenka of Belarus.  Anastasiia Romanova of Russia took overall gold in the -69kg category, with Mariya Khylan of Ukraine in silver.

Emily Godley finished eighth in the same category – some performance after coming back from a stress fracture of the back, which happened in December.

Sarah Davies also finished fifth in the -63kg category.

Ice Hockey

Britain’s women’s ice hockey team are currently competing in the World Championship Division Two in South Korea.

They lost their first three games in Group A:

Netherlands 5-4 Great Britain

The Netherlands were ahead after just 31 seconds and were soon 3-1 up.  But Britain came back, making it three all with two goals from Katie Marsden and one from captain Leanne Ganney.

But Britain were unable to capitalise on their resurgence.  The Netherlands scored two more and although Britain pulled another one back through Kim Lane, they couldn’t score again to take it into overtime.

South Korea 3-1 Great Britain

It was a busy match for GB goaltender Nicole Jackson, who had to make 35 saves.  But she was unable to shut out tournament hosts South Korea.  Korea scored twice before Britain got one back through Leanne Ganney.

But the game was taken away from Britain when Kim Heewon scored Korea’s third.

North Korea 3-2 Great Britain

(after overtime)

Great Britain lost their third group game in a row when they succumbed to North Korea in a tight game.

Again Britain went 2-0 down before they brought it back to 2-2 with goals from Angela Taylor and Leanne Ganney.

Britain did claim a point from the game, but Jin Ok’s winner in overtime ensured Britain were bottom of the table after three games.

Great Britain 8-2 Slovenia

It was fourth time lucky for Britain as they pulled out all the stops to beat Slovenia on Thursday 6 April.

Katie Henry scored two goals, as did Katie Marsden, with Angela Taylor providing four assists.

The win takes them up to third in the table with one game, against Australia, to go.  They could still win a bronze medal if South Korea beat North Korea and Britain win against Australia on Saturday.

Golf

There was controversy at the ANA Inspiration event this week when American Lexi Thompson, leading in the final round, was given a four-stroke penalty after a television viewer spotted an offence and reported it to officials.

Thompson was two shots ahead after the twelfth, when she was told the penalty would be imposed.  She went on to birdie the final hole to finish on -14 and take it into a play-off with So Yeon Ryu.

She lost the play-off at the first hole.

The offence actually took place during Thompson’s third round, when she replaced a marked ball in the wrong place.

The LPGA said Thompson had

“breached Rule 20-7c (Playing From Wrong Place), and received a two-stroke penalty. She incurred an additional two-stroke penalty under Rule 6-6d for returning an incorrect scorecard in round three.”

This turned her carded 67 into a 71.

Fans were outraged by the decision and several professionals have voiced their disquiet about the seeming trial by television, including Graham McDowell and Tiger Woods.

Former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher told BBC Radio “the LPGA had the power to dismiss that person, they should have completely ignored it.”

Badminton

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour won her second title in two months this week when she won the women’s singles at the Orleans International.  She beat Ying Ying Lee of Malaysia in the final 22-20 21-11.

Meanwhile, after getting to the semi-finals of the India Open two weeks ago, Gabby and Chris Adcock have been beaten in the second round of the Malaysia Open.  The seven seeds lost 21-16 21-15 to the unseeded pair from Thailand, Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

Off the court, Badminton England has withdrawn from the World Mixed Team Championships due to be held in May in Gold Coast, Australia.  They have cited government funding cuts as the reason behind the withdrawal.

Badminton England performance director Jon Austin said,

“We are working through an unprecedented financial situation as a consequence of the recent funding decisions,”

“We have had to consider the investments we make very carefully.”

Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race

The University of Cambridge was triumphant in the Boat Race on Sunday – their first win since 2012.

The Light Blues dominated from the off, helped by a mistake by Oxford rower Rebecca Esselstein, who “caught a crab” at the beginning.

Cambridge won by 11 lengths in a time of 18 minutes 33 seconds.

Boxing

Nicola Adams makes her professional debut this weekend when she takes on Argentina’s Virginia Noemi Carcamo in Manchester.  The fight is live on BT Sport and the programme starts at 8.30pm.

And finally,

It’s safe to say that women’s football shirts are taking on a life of their own.  First we had the Swedish football team and their inspirational quotes, now it’s the turn of Glasgow City.

Glasgow City have won 10 Scottish titles in a row, but as my loyal readers will know, unless you look and look hard you won’t find any details of their exploits in the mainstream media.

So Glasgow City are fighting back.  On their new away kit they have a new slogan, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

It’s not an original phrase, but it’s none the less true for that.

Club Manager and founder of Glasgow City, Laura Montgomery, said,

“How do girls grow up thinking they can be anything other than sexualised objects, which is how the media currently portrays women?”

She went on to say,

“Every single youth player that we have absolutely idolizes all our first team players and that’s because they want to be what they can see.”

And surely this cannot be a bad thing.  Let’s hope more media outlets see the light (and the point).

And, and finally,

David Moyes – wrong.

No column next week due to the Easter break, but back the week after with more news and views.

Women’s Sports Column – 26 March – 1 April

kicking offAs you may have noticed, I have been somewhat pre-occupied by a certain cricketing tournament over the last couple of weeks. But now I’m back. I don’t propose to go over what has happened in women’s sport during that time, as you’ll have all caught up with everything via the mainstream press (not), but here’s a glimpse of what has happened this week.

This week’s stories come from cricket (surprise), football, tennis, golf, skating, Commonwealth Games, cycling, netball and the Boat Race.

The Women’s World T20 final will be between holders Australia and surprise finalists West Indies, who beat England and New Zealand respectively, in their semi-finals. You can read all you would like to on the tournament via my website www. https://pennyjhopkins.wordpress.com/ or via http://www.womenssportsuk.com/.

Can’t help thinking it should have been England v New Zealand, but neither played well enough in their semis to justify reaching the final. I’ll leave that there before I start ranting again.

 

The FAWSL is back! I’ve been so busy with the cricket I’ve hardly had time to notice it, but here it is. Manchester City are the early pace-setters with two wins out of two.

Here’s the current league table:

1 Manchester City Women 2 2 0 0 3 0 3 6
2 Chelsea Ladies 1 1 0 0 4 1 3 3
3 Liverpool Ladies 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
4 Arsenal Ladies 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3
5 Sunderland Ladies 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
6 Reading Women 2 0 1 1 2 4 -2 1
7 Birmingham City Ladies 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
8 Notts County Ladies 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0
9 Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 0 0 1 1 4 -3 0

In fact there are lots of news stories from football this week – some of them not so good.

There have been claims that Frankfurt fans racially abused Swedish side, Rosengard’s players during their Women’s Champions League quarter-final. Uefa has opened a disciplinary case. The referee had to stop the game to consult with club officials before restarting.

There are also reports that Brazilian star, Marta confronted a fan over the issue. The investigation will report its findings on 5 April.

If found to be true, this is a really disappointing development for women’s football. Many people attend women’s football as a more family-friendly alternative to the aggression inspired by the men’s game. It needs to be stamped out, now.

Another disappointing story (but I’m not comparing them in terms of seriousness) that has appeared this week is that Wales’ women’s team has to wear to men’s shirts!

Surprisingly the Welsh FA didn’t have a comment to put forward on this, but striker Helen Ward said, in an interview with the BBC,

“We’ll wear what we’re given, but it is nice to be wearing a kit that fits and cut the right way,

“It’s really disappointing because a lot of shirts come in women’s sizes.”

Neither are there replica shirts for women who wish to wear a Welsh shirt for the European Championships in the summer. Adidas, suppliers of the Welsh shirts said:

“The shirts on sale are retailed as adult shirts, intended for both male and female fans.”

That’s all right then.

 

Over the pond, there have been big developments in football (or soccer, as they insist on calling it over there).

At a time when the argument over equal pay for women’s sports has been in the spotlight, five members of the USA’s World Cup winning team have filed a complaint against the US Soccer Federation for wage discrimination.

Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Hope Solo have taken the action is desperation at the fact that they earn less than half of what male US players receive, even though they are current World Cup holders. In Hope Solo’s words:

“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup Championships, four Olympic Championships, and the USMNT [men’s team] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships.”

A point to realise is, unlike in women’s tennis, it is the women’s game that brings in the money, backing and audience in the US. So by that argument alone, are they not worthy of equal pay?

One might say, with tongue very firmly in cheek, that the male players should go down on their knees and thank the women’s game for its support. (Thanks to Raymond Moore, former Indian Wells CEO for this imagery).

 

Talking of tennis, Johanna Konta has continued her excellent form by reaching the quarter-finals of the Miami Open, where she was beaten by world number eight, Victoria Azarenka. Konta is the first British woman to reach this stage.

Although she had five break points in the match, she was unable to convert any of them and Azarenka won 6-4 6-2.

Had she beaten Azarenka she would have gone into the world top 20. As it is, she is at an excellent 23.

Heather Watson did not fare so well as she lost in the round of 16 to fifth seed, Simona Halep 6-3 6-4. She had been suffering with a niggling thigh muscle injury which hampered her ability to chase hard.

World number one and defending champion Serena Williams is also out after losing 6-7 6-1 6-2 to fifteenth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

 

It’s golf time again! In the first women’s major of the year, the ANA Inspiration in California, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is just one shot off the lead after the opening round.

Scotland’s Catriona Matthew is one shot off the lead after the opening round of the ANA Inspiration, the first women’s major of the year. Ai Miyazato of Japan and Azahara Munoz of Spain are five under, one ahead of Matthew, Shiho Oyama and Lee-Anne Pace. Charlie Hull is three behind the leaders, carding a 70 for her first round.

 

The World Figure Skating Championships are currently taking place in Boston, (Mass., not Lincs.). Britain’s top ice dancers, Penny Coomes and Nick Buckland came a career-best and creditable seventh. They finished ninth in 2014.

The winners were the reigning champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron from France with two American pairs, Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates claiming silver and bronze respectively.

 

Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson has expressed a wish that Wales bid to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

“We just have to be a bit brave and a bit bold and go for it because the Commonwealth Games is a brilliant event,” said Baroness Grey-Thompson.

 

Great news for women’s cycling this week as RideLondon announced a total prize fund of £78,000 for its women’s race 0n 30 July. This is exactly the same as that for the men’s RideLondon-Surrey Classic, which takes place a day later.

Double Olympic Champion Laura Trott has been in the forefront of the campaign for equal prize money.

She says women’s cycling is “getting the recognition it deserves”.

With a month to go, Manchester Thunder appear to be closing on the title in the Netball Superleague. They are three points ahead of the second team, Hertfordshire Mavericks.

The latest round of fixtures, on Saturday 26 March yielded the following results:

Hertfordshire Mavericks 64 40 Team Northumbria
Manchester Thunder 69 51 Team Bath
Yorkshire Jets 39 56 Surrey Storm

 

This year’s Women’s Boat Race took place on Sunday 27 March. Oxford won their fourth in a row as Cambridge nearly sank in the difficult conditions.

Plenty of praise went to the Oxford cox, Morgan Baynham-Williams, who ensured the boat moved across the river to where the conditions were slightly better, but Cambridge should also be given their due for continuing when the easier option would have been to give up and stop.

 

And finally, I could have written double the amount this week, which shows how much women’s sport there is out there, if only we could find any coverage of it… I would like to recommend to you the book I’m reading at the moment – it’s called “Kicking Off – How Women in Sport are Changing the Game” by Sarah Shepherd. The first chapter is basically what I’ve been writing about for the last five years – the cycle of no audience, no sponsorship, no development, no media coverage…. etc, and will make you want to scream. But there are also some wonderfully positive chapters which recognise just how far we’ve come – interviews with greats like Billie-Jean King, Maggie Alphonsi, Chrissie Wellington and others. Read it.