Women’s Sports Column 5-11 January 2019

new tennisSo here it is – 2019!  I’d like to wish a Happy New Year to all my followers and, if I might be so bold, suggest that this is going to be a mammoth year for women’s sport.  I’m rather chuffed to say that my husband came up with the goods for my “big” birthday, giving me Netball World Cup tickets.  We have one session that should, all being equal, include an England Roses game.  So what with that, the football World Cup and Women’s Ashes coming up this summer, it’s going to be all systems go.

But there’s still plenty to get our teeth into this winter.  Stories for the first column of 2019 come from football, cricket, rugby union, netball, darts and tennis.

So for the first time this year, let’s crack on…

Tennis

After what seems a miniscule couple of weeks off, the WTA season has begun again with tournaments in the Far East and Australia, leading up the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open, which begins on 14 January.  This week sees two tournaments in Australia:

Sydney International

It has been a bad week for British number one Jo Konta who was forced to withdraw from the Sydney International twice in two days.  She was working her way through qualifying when she had to retire in the second round with a neck injury.  She still went through to the main draw as a lucky loser and was due to Kiki Bertens in the first round, but withdrew again.

World number one Simona Halep fared no better as she was beaten in the second round after a first round bye, losing to Ash Barty 6-4 6-4.  It was Halep’s first competitive match in three months after she ended last season early with a back injury.

Quarter-finals
Petra Kvitova (5) beat Angelique Kerber (2) 6-4 6-1
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-3 6-3
Ash Barty beat Elise Mertens (10) 6-3 6-3
Kiki Bertens (7) beat Yulia Putintseva 6-2 6-2

Semi-finals
Ash Barty is into the final, having defeated Kiki Bertens 6-7 6-5 7-5.  Sasnovich v Kvitova is still to take place at time of publishing.

Hobart International

No better news for British number two Heather Watson as she crashed out of the Hobart International in the first round, losing in straight sets to Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, 6-1 6-4.

Quarter-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Kirsten Flipkens (7) 7-5 7-5
Alize Cornet (6) beat Greet Minnen 6-1 6-4
Belinda Bencic beat Dayana Yastremska 7-6 6-3
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Irina-Camelia Begu 7-5 7-5

Semi-finals
Sofia Kenin beat Alize Cornet (6) 6-2 6-4
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova beat Belinda Bencic 7-6 4-6 6-2

The final is tomorrow, Saturday 12 January

Australian Open Qualifying

There are 16 spots up for grabs in Qualifying.  Of the British players, Naomi Broady lost in the first round, beaten by Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4 3-6 6-3.  Gabriella Taylor also departed in the first round, losing to Kirstie Ahn of USA 6-1 6-1.

But Harriet Dart is through to the first round proper of the Australian Open.  She beat her first qualifying round opponent, Chloe Paquet of France 6-3 4-6 6-2.  She then defeated Ivana Jorovic of Serbia 1-6 6-3 6-1.  No easy draw for Dart though.  She now faces Maria Sharapova in the first round.

There are four British women in the main draw as Jo Konta seems to have declared herself fit: Konta, Heather Watson, Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart.

Heather Watson faces 31st seed Petra Martic, Katie Boulter also has a tough one against Ekaterina Makarova (all Monday 14 January).  Jo Konta has an extra day to recover; her first match is on Tuesday against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.

Fed Cup

Great Britain have named a full-strength team for February’s matches in Bath.

The team, along with their world rankings, is Jo Konta (38th), Heather Watson (93rd). Katie Boulter (99th), Harriet Dart (132nd) and Katie Swan (181st).

It is the first time in 26 years that Great Britain has hosted a Fed Cup event.

The Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 event will comprise eight teams.  The teams will be in two groups of four, the draw for which is on 14 January.  The winners of each group will then play each other to determine who will go into the World Group II play-off, which takes place in April.

The event from 6-9 February is at the University of Bath.  Check out the ticket situation here.

Football

Racism Allegation

Tottenham Hotspur defender Renee Hector used social media to allege that she was the subject of racist abuse by a Sheffield United player during their game on Sunday 6 January.

She tweeted:

“Such a shame that racism seems to be rising up again in football.  I received some monkey noises from an opposition player. The only reaction was to let football do the talking.”

Sheffield United Women have made a statement that they:

“are aware of the post on social media and have already begun an investigation to determine the full facts”.

Hector also reported the incident to the referee during the game and Tottenham reported it to the Football Association.

There will be more on this as the situation progresses.

FA Cup Third Round Results:
Billericay Town 3-4 Loughborough Foxes
Coventry United 1-2 Crawley Wasps
Derby 1-2 Stoke
Huddersfield 4-1 Leeds
Hull City 0-3 AFC Wimbledon
Keynsham 2-1 Fylde
Middlesbrough 2-7 Watford
Cardiff 2-0 Bolton Wanderers
Nottingham Forest 0-1 MK Dons
Oxford United 1-2 Blackburn

FA Cup Fourth Round Draw

The FA Cup fourth-round draw has been made.  Crawley Wasps, AFC Wimbledon and Keynsham Town are the lowest ranked sides left in the competition – they all play in the fourth tier of women’s football.  This is the point at which the Super League and Championship teams make their first appearance:

Loughborough Foxes v Sheffield United
Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
Brighton & Hove Albion v Manchester United
West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers
Stoke City v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Watford
Yeovil Town v Birmingham City
AFC Wimbledon v Bristol City
Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur
Millwall Lionesses v Lewes
Durham v Cardiff City
Everton v Chelsea
Crawley Wasps v Arsenal
Leicester City v London Bees
Reading v Keynsham Town
Liverpool v Milton Keynes Dons

Ties will be played on Sunday 3 February.

Continental Cup

We now know the semi-final line-up after the quarter-finals were completed this week.

Manchester City 7-1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Parris 6’, Hemp 23’ 86’, Weir 59’, Emslie 88’, Stanway 90’, Beckie 92’
Buet 9’

Manchester Utd 2-0 West Ham Utd
Sigsworth 17’ 53’

Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City
Van de Donk 83’, Miedema 90’
Quinn 61’

Chelsea 4-0 Reading
Kirby 3’ 86’, Asante 37’, Riley 90+1

WSL

Sunday 6 January
Bristol City 1-1 Manchester City
Graham 62’ (pen)
Parris 36’

Chelsea 3-0 Everton
England 6’, Spence 60’, Blundell 69’

Liverpool 0-2 Brighton & Hove Albion
Rafferty 34’, Umotong 49’

Birmingham City 2-1 Reading
Harrop 72’, Sargeant 89’
Hampton 88’ (OG)

West Ham Utd 2-4 Arsenal
Ross 11’, 43’
Williamson 26’, Arnth-Jensen 31’, van de Donk 59’ 65’

Arsenal are top with 30 points from 11 games.  Manchester City are second, two points behind and having played a game more.  Chelsea are third on 25 points from 12 games.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 games and above them are Everton with 5 points from 11.

Championship

Sunday 6 January
Sheffield Utd 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Schillaci 6’ (OG)
Dean 5’, Wiltshire 51’

Leicester City 4-0 Lewes
M Johnson 41’, Worts 50’ 55’, L Johnson 89’

Manchester Utd 9-0 London Bees
Devlin 2’ 57’, Toone 28’ 66’, Arnott 39’, Green 40’, James 68’ 73’, Zelem 80’ (Pen)

Crystal Palace 3-1 Millwall
Burr 6’, Mackenzie 52’, Bryan 63’
Ravenscroft 53’

Charlton Athletic 2-2 Durham
Bailes 20’, Gurr 85’
Ness 42’ 45’

With their thumping win over the Bees, Manchester United are top by one point.   They have 28 points from 11 games.  Just behind them are Tottenham with 27 from 11 and Charlton Athletic are third on 26 from 12. At the bottom, Millwall Lionesses have just two points from 11 games and Crystal Palace have seven from 12.

Transfers

The transfer window is upon us.  Pick of the transfers so far:

Ann-Katrin Berger has signed for Chelsea from Birmingham on a contract which takes her up to 2022.  Best bit of transfer business so far?  Probably.  Don’t forget Berger was still battling with thyroid cancer in November 2017.  Her comeback has been nothing short of stunning and she is bound to be a real asset to Chelsea.

Danish winger Katrine Veje has signed for Arsenal from Montpellier. Veje has already won more than 100 caps for Denmark.

Jade Bailey has signed for Reading from Chelsea on loan until the end of the current season.

Scottish forward Abbi Grant has left Glasgow City to play for Anderlecht.  Her aim is to make the Scotland World Cup squad and she believes the only way to do that was to leave Glasgow.  So far she has just one cap.

I’m not one to repeat gossip (often), but rumour has it that Birmingham City head coach Marc Skinner has been approached by Orlando Pride with respect to joining them as their head coach.  No confirmation or denial on either website, but just what I’ve heard from fans’ forums.  If it does turn out to be true, this will be a massive loss for Birmingham.  More news when I get it.

Finally, can I add my congratulations to Annie Zaidi, who has been named as the new Solihull Moors Ladies coach.  I have met Annie on several occasions and she is a brilliant example to any woman wanting to become a football (or any sports) coach.  In addition to the new role she will continue as the Under 16s boys.  If you don’t know her story, check it out here.

Netball – off the Court

When are Benecos Mavericks not Benecos Mavericks?  When they’re Saracens Mavericks, of course!

Having just got used to calling them Benecos Mavericks, as opposed to Hertfordshire Mavericks, they’ve gone and changed their names again.  With good reason.  Saracens Rugby Club have bought a 50% stake in the Mavericks.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Kathryn Ratnapala, Mavericks’ Director of Netball said,

“This has been a fantastic opportunity to join forces with Saracens and continue to push to be the standout, ultimate franchise within Vitality Superleague.”

“Saracens have proved to be role models and leaders in their field and merging with this high-performance culture and club is a great step forward for Mavericks.

“We would like to thank Benecos for their support for the last two years as we continue to work with them as our title sponsor this season.”

Tim Hunt, who oversees the commercial operation at Saracens said,

“Netball is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and we are excited to be joining forces with Mavericks. Part of our growth strategy is to collaborate with others that share our ethos and help widen our audience reach.”

“To achieve this, the dual-priority is to create an environment where our elite teams continually strive for sporting excellence and to inspire our local communities to lead healthier, happier lives through the positive power of sport. Mavericks mirror our culture making them a perfect match for Saracens.”

Seriously, it is great to see another sport realise the potential that surrounds netball.  I hope it’s a beneficial relationship for both clubs.

Netball – on the Court

The Vitality Netball Super League 2019 is underway in this huge year for netball!

Last weekend saw the Super 10 opening extravaganza at the Birmingham Arena.  All ten Super League teams were in action over the course of the day.  The scores were as follows:

Celtic Dragons 41-58 Team Bath
Wasps Netball 72-42 Loughborough Lightning
Severn Stars 49-51 London Pulse
Strathclyde Sirens 56-38 Surrey Storm
Manchester Thunder 58-61 Saracens Mavericks

The second round is this weekend and then there is a break for the Quad Series.

11 January
Strathclyde Sirens v Team Bath (7.30pm) (Live on Sky)

12 January
Loughborough Lightning v Severn Stars (6pm)
Surrey Storm v Saracens Mavericks (6pm)
London Pulse v Celtic Dragons (7pm)

Quad Series aka Vitality International Series

The latest Quad series takes place in Liverpool and London between 13-20 January.

Sunday 13 January (Liverpool)
South Africa v Australia (3.15pm)
England v New Zealand (5.30pm)

Saturday 19 January (London)
Australia v New Zealand (4.15pm)
England v south Africa (6.30pm)

Sunday 20 January (London)
South Africa v New Zealand (3.15pm)
England v Australia (6pm)

All games live on Sky Sports

England have already named a 12-strong squad. There is no place for captain Ama Agbeze as she is still recovering from injury.

Roses squad: Helen Housby, Chelsea Pitman, Geva Mentor, Jo Harten, Jade Clarke, Eboni Usoro-Brown, Natalie Haythornthwaite, Serena Guthrie, Layla Guscoth, Rachel Dunn, Razia Quashie, Fran Williams

Darts

We are at the semi-final stage of the BDO Darts Professional Ladies Championships at Lakeside.

The semi-finals take place today, Friday 11 January.

Lorraine Winstanley of England takes on doubles partner Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia while Mikuru Suzuki of Japan faces Maria O’Brien of England.

More news next week.

Cricket

WBBL

With just one round of matches to go, Sydney Thunder are still on top with 19 points (nine wins).  Both they and the Hurricanes have played 13 matches, one more than everyone else.  Just behind them, on 18 points and also with nine wins are Sydney Sixers.

The other two finals day qualifying places are currently held by Brisbane Heat on 14 points and Melbourne Renegades on 13.  At the bottom, the luckless Hobart Hurricanes still have only two wins from 13 and are on four points.  Perth Scorchers are currently in fifth, just one point behind fourth place.

The two standouts over the past couple of weeks have both involved New Zealand all-rounder Sophie Devine.  Her display with both bat and ball for the Adelaide Strikers on 23 December against the Melbourne Stars led them to a fine win and she was at it again as the Strikers triumphed in a Super Over win over the unlucky Hobart Hurricanes on 8 January.

Sophie Devine

Devine became the first WBBL player to hit a half-century and take five wickets in a match.  She hit 95 off 66 balls (5 sixes, 8 fours) for the Strikers and was out in the penultimate over as they posted a total of 172/3.  She then took the wickets of Lizelle Lee, Angela Reakes, Erin Osborne, Georgia Elwiss and Nicola Hancock as the Stars fell 19 runs short in their chase.

On 8 January, the Strikers posted 189/5 with Devine scoring 99 not out from 53 balls, an innings that included 10 fours and four sixes.  Tahlia McGrath also made 63.  In chasing 190, the Hurricanes always looked to be up against it.  Smriti Mandhana made 52 at the top of the order, but she lost three partners in quick succession.  The lower order took it on though and the Hurricanes managed to end on 189/8, which took it to a Super Over.

The Hurricanes could only post 12/1 from their one over, hampered by the wicket of Mandhana second ball.  The Strikers, needless to say in the form of Devine, hit six, six, four to win the game and end as player of the match yet again.

Rugby Union

England Roses
I know I’m a bit late to this, but I think it bears repeating: the RFU have awarded 28 full-time 15s contracts.  There are also seven EPS agreements where players will take part in camps and England training, but not the full-time programme.

England Women Elite Player Squad 2019

Forwards
Zoe Aldcroft (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Sarah Beckett (Firwood Waterloo Ladies), Sarah Bern (Bristol Bears Women), Hannah Botterman (Saracens Women), Jo Brown (Loughborough Lightning), Rowena Burnfield (Richmond FC)*, Shaunagh Brown (Harlequins Ladies), Bryony Cleall (Saracens Women)*, Poppy Cleall (Saracens Women), Amy Cokayne (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Vickii Cornborough (Harlequins Ladies), Lark Davies (Worcester Valkyries), Vicky Fleetwood (Saracens Women), Sarah Hunter (Loughborough Lightning), Justine Lucas (Loughborough Lightning), Cath O’ Donnell (Loughborough Lightning), Marlie Packer (Saracens Women), Ellena Perry (Saracens Women)*, Abbie Scott (Harlequins Ladies)

Backs
Jess Breach (Harlequins Ladies), Rachael Burford (Harlequins Ladies), Katy Daley-Mclean (Loughborough Lightning), Abby Dow (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Zoe Harrison (Saracens Women), Tatyana Heard (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Natasha Hunt (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Claudia Macdonald (Wasps FC Ladies)*, Sarah McKenna (Saracens Women), Leanne Riley (Harlequins Ladies), Emily Scarratt (Loughborough Lightning), Emily Scott (Harlequins Ladies)*, Kelly Smith (Gloucester-Hartpury Women’s RFC), Lydia Thompson (Worcester Valkyries), Lagi Tuima (Bristol Bears Women), Carys Williams (Loughborough Lightning)

* EPS agreement

It is great news and shows England Rugby’s commitment to women’s and girls’ rugby.

Premier 15s

Premier 15s rugby is back this weekend.  The fixtures are as follows:

12 January
Firwood Waterloo v Bristol Bears (1pm, Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Worcester Valkyries v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Richmond v Wasps (3pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Saracens v Harlequins (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Loughborough Lightning (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Get out there and support them if you can.

That’s all for this week.  More news and views next week. 

 

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Women’s Sports Column 8-14 December 2018

the-ball-stadion-football-the-pitch-39362Welcome to this week’s column.  Apologies for the no-show last week.  I had it half-written, but felt so ill from Thursday onwards that I just couldn’t complete it.  Shame, because it was going to be a good one (but you’ll just have to take my word for that…)

Anyway, still plenty to get our teeth into this week with stories from football, cricket, volleyball, rugby, tennis, sports sponsorship, taekwondo, darts and sailing.  Plus, it was due to be my “And Finally” last week, but I just can’t let that twerking farrago go!

Let’s crack on.

Football

World Cup 2019 Draw

No doubt as to the top news story this week, as Saturday’s World Cup 2019 draw saw England and Scotland drawn in the same group.  It had a strange air of inevitability to it, I thought, as I watched the balls being pulled from the goldfish bowls.

The draw in full:

Group A
France, South Korea, Norway, Nigeria

Group B
Germany, China, Spain, South Africa

Group C
Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica

Group D
England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan

Group E
Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands

Group F
United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden

Group D fixtures:
(all local time)

9 June
England v Scotland, Allianz Riviera, Nice (6pm)

10 June
Argentina v Japan, Parc des Princes, Paris (6pm)

14 June
Japan v Scotland, Roazhon Park, Rennes (3pm)
England v Argentina, Stade Océane, Le Havre (9pm)

19 June
Japan v England, Allianz Riviera, Nice (9pm)
Scotland v Argentina, Parc des Princes, Paris (9pm)

My thoughts at this point could easily become a list of clichés, so I’ll keep it brief.  I’ll suggest that it is a truism rather than a cliché to say that there are no easy groups at the World Cup.  Scotland will be massively motivated to beat England and the Lionesses will not be able to afford to “warm up” as the group progresses.  They will need to be sharp from the start.  It’s not a gimme for England, that much is sure.  Japan will probably provide the toughest test, so ideally Neville will want his team to have made a positive start and have points in the bag by the time they play them.

France and Germany should have a fairly easy ride; Group C is anyone’s guess; it’s tough between Canada and Netherlands in Group E and also between United States and Sweden in Group F.

Looking forward to it immensely.  If any enterprising publication/website would like to send me over to cover it, just let me know.  Not looking forward to all the misogynist bile that goes with it (plenty going around already).

Jordan Nobbs

England have already received one blow to their chances as it has been confirmed that Jordan Nobbs will not make it to France 2019.  The Arsenal midfielder has had surgery for the anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained in the match against Everton in November.

Nobbs had had a storming start to the season and will, without doubt, be missed.

Afghan National Team

Meanwhile, although we bemoan the status of women’s football in this country, we should, perhaps, consider ourselves lucky, when we see what others have had to go through in order to pursue their footballing passion.

I must admit I was doubtful that there would be any meaningful investigation into the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of members of the Afghan women’s team by Afghan Football Federation (AFF) staff.

But this week the Afghanistan Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, has suspended six members of the AFF, including the president, Keramuddin Karim while an investigation is carried out.

The Guardian reported in November that allegations of abuse taking place in Afghanistan as well as at a training camp in Jordan had been reported by senior officials.

In The Guardian’s report this week the team’s former coach, Kelly Lindsey, is quoted as saying,

“For years I have listened to stories of how women are treated in Afghanistan – seeing and hearing the disparity in our players’ voices. I have seen how these men have destroyed the bonds, trust, and unity these women built together through teamwork. For every step forward we went through a despairing step back at the hands of these men.

“I stopped in my tracks when I saw the news and felt for once in these women’s lives they can see that unity can lift them out of despair. That their voice has finally been heard and hopefully for their bigger mission to help all women and children of Afghanistan have a voice and live their dreams.”

And Mina Ahmadi, a player excluded from the team for refusing to sign a new contract, said

“I was in awe when I saw the news. When we started this whole movement I was hoping for a fundamental change but because so many people before us tried it as well, I wasn’t sure if we will be heard.

“The fact so many people joined us in our fight and we honestly brought some change just makes me feel so proud. I’m proud to know so many female fighters for justice and I just hope that it’s the beginning of a greater and brighter future for our country. It’s the biggest honour to be part of this mission and to show people that you should raise your voice when you are treated wrongly.”

I will follow up on this story as it progresses.

SheBelieves Cup 2019

The US will once again host the SheBelieves cup in February, which will serve as a useful World Cup warm-up tournament for those involved.  The teams will be US, Japan, Brazil and England.

The Lionesses will begin their campaign against Brazil in Philadelphia on 27 February.  They then move on to Nashville to play the US on 2 March and then to Tampa to play Japan on 5 March.

WSL

This weekend’s WSL results were as follows:

9 December
Yeovil Town 0-5 West Ham
Lehmann 19’ 27’, Simic 34’ 59’, Visalli 53’

Reading 2-2 Liverpool
Williams 62’ 84’
Sweetman-Kirk 10’ 68’

Manchester City 1-0 Birmingham
Stanway 12’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea
Ericsson 55’, England 69’ 91’, So-yun Ji 76’

Everton 0-2 Bristol City
Rutherford 65’, Rood 91’

Arsenal are now top on goal difference only (although it’s a healthy gap), but they have a game in hand over the chasing pack and have 27 points.  Man City are second, with Chelsea five points behind in third.  At the bottom, Yeovil have three points from 11 matches, Brighton are just above them with four and Everton third from bottom with five from ten matches.

WC

This weekend’s WC results were as follows:

Aston Villa 5-1 Sheffield Utd
Hutton 40’ 63’ 73’, Haywood 42’, smith 82’
Jones 51’ (Pen)

Lewes 0-2 Charlton Athletic
Eupji 40’, Agg 69’

Durham 3-1 Manchester Utd
Salicki 22’, Hepple 60’, Ness 87’
Toone 42’

London Bees 2-1 Leicester City
Beckett 52’, Wilkinson 70’
Johnson 27’

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
Dean 26’

Durham proved that Manchester United are beatable by doing just that at the weekend, but United stay top on 25 points from 10 games.  They are only ahead on goal difference from Charlton, who have played a game more with Durham in third a point behind, also having played 11.  At the bottom, Millwall still have two points from ten games and Crystal Palace are just above them with four.

Continental Cup

12 December
Reading 5-6 Liverpool
Tottenham Hotspur 0-5 Chelsea
Birmingham City 1-3 Bristol City
Millwall Lionesses 1-3 Arsenal
Yeovil Town 1-4 Brighton & Hove Albion
Sheffield Utd 3-1 Leicester City
Charlton Athletic 0-2 West Ham Utd

13 December
Everton 0-3 Manchester Utd
Aston Villa 0-4 Manchester City
Crystal Palace 7-2 London Bees

The quarter-finalists are: Manchester City/Birmingham City (Group 1 North), Manchester Utd/Reading (Group 2 North), Chelsea/Brighton & Hove Albion (Group 1 South), Arsenal/West Ham Utd (Group 2 South).

Sports Sponsorship

There was good news and frustrating news in the world of women’s sports sponsorship this week.  Make no mistake, the good news is major.

Visa have signed a seven-year deal with UEFA to become women’s football’s first sole sponsor at all levels.

Visa will be the main partner for the Champions League and the Women’s Euros.  It will also sponsor the Women’s Under-19 and Under-17 Championships and the UEFA Women’s Futsal European Championships.

The deal runs until 2025.

By contrast, Guinness have just signed a six-year deal to sponsor the Six Nations Rugby – the men’s tournament that is, not the women’s.  For some reason the women’s Six Nations has not been included and this major tournament remains without a sponsor.

Sailing

British yachtswoman Susie Goodall was rescued by a 40,000-tonne cargo ship after capsizing in the Golden Globe Race.

Her boat went over 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn and she was picked up two days later by the Tian Fu which used one of its cranes to hoist her out of the water.

The Tian Fu was sailing from China to Argentina when it was diverted by the Chilean Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to make the rescue.

The accident was so violent that Goodall was knocked out and when she came to Goodall was able to raise a distress signal.  The conditions were so bad that the rescue ship could not put out a rib boat to pick her up, but had to try the difficult manoeuvre with the crane and hook.

Goodall was in fourth place in the race when the accident happened.

Tennis

Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn as France’s Davis cup captain and instead will become coach to world number 32 Lucas Pouille.

She had been appointed in June to take over from Yannick Noah in 2019, and would have been France’s first female Davis Cup captain.

BT Action Woman of the Year

In case you missed it last week, the results of this year’s Awards bear repeating:

Dina Asher-Smith was named BT Action Woman of 2018.  There can be no doubting the appropriateness of the honour – this year she won gold in the 100m, 300m and 4x100m at the European Championships as well as gold in the 4 x100m and bronze in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games.

The England Netball team won the Team of the Year award after their gold medal-winning performance at the Commonwealth Games.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in encouraging both disabled and non-disabled youngsters into sport as well as recognising her role in leading a government review into the safety of sporting events.

Cricket

The WBBL is well underway and, thanks to my indisposition last week, I am way behind in reporting what has happened so far.  So here’s a quick re-cap:

All teams have now played three games.  The Sydney Sixers once again look like the team to beat.  After losing their first game to Melbourne Stars on the first day of the tournament, they have come back to win the next two and lie top of the table.  Ellyse Perry is on blistering form having hit a 59-ball hundred against the Perth Scorchers – the century coming from the last runs of the match.

But it was South African Lizelle Lee who hit the first century of this season’s WBBL.  She hit 102 from 56 balls against Sydney Sixers as they reached their target with 2.4 overs to spare.

Perth Scorchers also won well in the first part of the opening day double-header.  Elyse Villani hit 58 from 39 as they chased down the Hobart Hurricanes’ 144 with just three balls left of the match.  Hurricanes lost a key player just before the start as the West Indies’ Hayley Matthews broke a toe in training.

England captain Heather Knight made 82 from 55 balls for Hobart Hurricanes in their defeat to Melbourne Stars.

So, it’s all very tight at the moment.  The two Sydney teams plus Melbourne Stars have four points from three games, with the Sixers top on net run rate.  Then come Adelaide Strikers and Melbourne Renegades with one win and one no-result and three points each, while Hobart Hurricanes, Brisbane Heat and Perth Scorchers all have one win and two losses and two points.

More scorecards and detailed match information from this weekend’s games in next week’s column.

Volleyball

Last weekend’s Women’s Super League results were as follows:

Saturday 8 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-2 Malory Eagles UEL (25-21. 18-25, 20-25, 25-15, 15-5)
Sheffield Hallam 1-3 TeamBU Wessex (23-25, 25-20, 18-25, 23-25)
London Orcas 0-3 Durham Palatinates (20-25, 15-25, 20-25)

Sunday 9 December
Tendring VC Ladies 3-0 Polonia SideOut London (25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
Bristol VC1 0-3 Birmingham Volleyball Club1 (22-25, 11-25, 16-25)

Durham Palatinates are still top with a clean eight wins from eight games and 23 points.  Tendring are second with 17 points from seven games and Malory Eagles third with the same number of points from eight games.  At the bottom, Polonia have only one win from eight games and three points.  Above them lie Birmingham with three points from seven games.

Rugby Union

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

8 December
Harlequins 43-7 Loughborough Lightning
Gloucester-Hartpury 53-7 Bristol Bears
Wasps 34-0 Firwood Waterloo
Saracens 59-0 DMP Sharks

9 December
Richmond 21-18 Worcester Valkyries

After 11 rounds of matches, Saracens are top with 10 wins and just one loss.  They have 50 points.  Harlequins are second on 46, with Loughborough Lightning third on 44.  At the bottom, Worcester still have four points, DMP Sharks are second from bottom on nine and Firwood Waterloo are just above them with 14.

This weekend’s fixtures:

15 December
Loughborough Lightning v Gloucester-Hartpury (12pm, Loughborough Uni)
Worcester Valkyries v Wasps (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Firwood Waterloo v Harlequins (2.15pm,Firwood Waterloo Rugby Club)
Saracens v Richmond (3.45pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Bristol Bears (5pm, Northern Echo Arena)

Darts

Lisa Ashton fell in the first round of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace this week.  She was beaten three sets to one by world number 43 Jan Dekker of Netherlands.

Ashton took the first set, but Dekker came back to take the next three to progress into the next round.

The second female qualifier, Anastasia Dobromyslova of Russia, starts her campaign on Monday against Ryan Joyce.

Taekwondo

Grand Slam Champions Series

This second edition takes place in Wuxi, China from 12-16 December.

This really is the elite – the world’s top 16 fighters in each of the Olympic weight categories – four male and four female.

Great Britain is looking good for medals and there are some big prizes up for grabs.  Jade Jones and Lauren Williams are already through to the semi-finals of the -57kg and -67kg categories respectively.  They hope to be joined by Bianca Walkden, who is yet to fight.

Jones beat Zongshi Luo of China and will now face Maria Stetic of Croatia in the semi-final.

Williams beat Paige McPherson of the USA and will fight Ruth Gragbi of Ivory Coast in her semi-final.

News of who won what next week.

And Finally,

No apology for going ahead with this one, even though it’s “old news” (how I wish it was).  This is how I reacted to Twerkgate last week, before I was struck down by my miserable virus:

No prizes for guessing who the “One step forward, two steps back Award” goes to this week.  We finally see a Women’s Ballon d’Or Award (and goodness knows there are plenty of men out there that think that shouldn’t even be happening), when the DJ Martin Solveig, who was there for what purpose goodness only knows, asked the winner Ada Hegerberg, if she knew how to “twerk”.

She had collected the award and made a speech about inspiring the next generation of footballers, encouraging them to believe in themselves when she is asked if she can dance in a sexually provocative way!

Why would you do this, for crying out loud?  Every week I (and my fellow women’s sport enthusiasts) spend our time talking about and writing about the great things women are doing in sport.  Every week women everywhere are derided and dismissed for any role they play in sport.  It is also a particular problem in football.

So when you finally see a female Ballon d’Or winner, what do you do?  Do you a) congratulate her and say what a great year she has had and how women’s football is on the up all over Europe or do you b) ask her if she would like to dance in sexual manner in celebration of winning?

Well, apparently it’s b).  Suffice it to say, now that Solveig has had his error of judgement (if you can call it that) pointed out to him, he has apologised “to anyone who may have been offended.”

Great response by Andy Murray on Instagram, by the way,

“Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport.

“What questions did they ask Mbappé and Modric?  I’d imagine something to do with football. And to everyone who thinks I’m overreacting and it was just a joke … it wasn’t. I’ve been involved in sport my whole life and the level of sexism is unreal.”

No more to add.

That’s all for this week.  Back next week with one last brief update before my Christmas break. 

 

Women’s Sports Column 17-23 November 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column. Plenty to get into again this week, from England’s perhaps surprising progress into the final of the World T20 to the loss of Jordan Nobbs for Arsenal, and the possibility that she will miss next year’s World Cup.   Stories this week come from hockey, golf, football, netball, rugby, cricket, motor racing, volleyball and sailing.  Plus, another bout of rather miserable and somewhat predictable misogyny from the keyboard warriors living in their parents’ basements…

So let’s crack on.

Cricket – International

T20 World Cup

Well, we’re nearly there.  It seems to have passed in a flash and, to be honest, as much as I love my cricket (as you all know), I can’t say that I’ve been inspired by this tournament.  There have been no surprises, no shocks and no team has come through as a “dark horse”.  Australia were favourites at the start and have pretty much lived up to that status, although they proved against India that they are fallible.  West Indies fell very much short against Australia in the semi-final when they had a distinct chance of going through, and India lost disappointingly to England in the other semi-final.  I would have loved to have seen India win the World Cup and finally fulfil their potential.

It all comes down to Australia v England on Saturday – midnight start UK time.

How the semi-finals played out:

Australia 144/5 (20 overs)
West Indies 71 all out 17.3 overs)
Australia won by 71 runs

I actually thought West Indies had this until Deandra Dottin imploded in the 19th over and conceded 17 runs.  Up until that point, Australia had looked impressive but struggled to get away from a fairly efficient West Indies bowling side.

But in the 19th over Dottin lost it.  Two wides and three boundaries from Rachael Haynes left the Windies exasperated and Dottin mutinous.

Beth Mooney went early, but the restored Alyssa Healy took it on, scoring 46 from 38 balls.  Lanning was slow but steady, anchoring the innings as wickets fell around her.  But it was Rachael Haynes 25 from 15 at the back end of the innings, including the dismantling of Dottin that did the damage as the Aussies posted 144.

West Indies’ poor end to the innings seemed to infect their batting.  Hayley Matthews was first to go, run out for just five as the jitters went through the hosts.  Dottin never recovered her cool and went for six from 11 balls.  Stafanie Taylor tried to offer some resistance as all around her was chaos, but she was the only player to make double figures; 16 from 28 balls.

Australia shared the wickets round with Perry, Kimmince and Gardner taking two each and Schutt, Molineux and Wareham one apiece.

It was a sad end to a fine tournament for the defending champions.

India 112 all out (19.3 overs)
England 116/2 (17.1 overs)
England won by 8 wickets

The second semi-final was equally one-sided.  India won the toss and elected to bat.  They started well, scoring 43 before the fall of the first wicket.  But after the top four were out, no-one else got into double figures.  Three run-outs in the Indian innings didn’t help.

Captain Heather Knight (why doesn’t she bowl herself more often?) took 3/9 off two overs while Sophie Ecclestone and Kirstie Gordon took two each as India were reduced to 112 all out.

India would have taken heart with their start with the ball after the openers were out cheaply,  Tammy Beaumont for one and Danni Wyatt for eight.

But Amy Jones and Nat Sciver took hold of the situation, scoring 53 and 52 respectively as England cruised home.

Coverage of the final is via BBC TMS on the radio and Sky Sports on TV.

Cricket – Domestic

Meanwhile, the ECB seem to be on the verge of throwing away the biggest and best development in English women’s cricket in recent memory.  Perhaps it was a good time to “bury bad news” as England went into the final of the T20 World Cup?

It was already in the cards that the KSL would go with the advent of The Hundred, but it seems that the ECB needs to cut its costs in a big way and that could hit the women’s game.

The ECB has said that there will be no reduction in the number of teams or matches but that “efficiency savings” will come from cutting match-day costs and economising on flights for players coming from overseas.

Cuts could be in the region of 12-20 per cent.

If the cuts go ahead and the overseas players don’t come, it will be a huge backwards step for the women’s game and for the KSL in particular.

And, I’m afraid it’s yet another example of two steps forward, one back from a governing body, when it comes to the promotion of the women’s game.

For a more in-depth analysis of this latest news, see George Dobell’s excellent piece for Cricinfo:

http://www.espn.co.uk/cricket/story/_/id/25348712/funding-issues-mount-england-women-ksl-faces-budget-cut

Motor Racing

Most motorsport crashes are high profile, but if it’s a woman and she’s just 17, the column inches are going to stack up.

Last Sunday, Formula 3 driver, Sophia Florsch, crashed in the Macau Grand Prix and fractured her spine.

She hit the back of the car driven by Jehan Daruvala, went over the inside kerb and then hit the car of Sho Tsuboi and over the barriers.  She was travelling at approximately 171.6mph.

She has now been through 10 hours of surgery in which bone from her hip has been used to repair one her of vertebrae.

It is thought she will not suffer any paralysis.

See my “And finally” for more on this story.

Football

Injury

Arsenal’s Jordan Nobbs ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament last weekend at Everton – an injury that may not only put her out for the rest of the season, but may impact on her participation in next year’s World Cup in France.

Nobbs had been having a storming season, both for Arsenal and for England and this will be a big blow to both.

Every England fan will have to cross fingers and indeed toes in the hope that she will have recovered by next summer.

 Last weekend’s results:

Championship

London Bees 2-0 Sheffield United
Littlejohn 55’, Gibson 78’

Crystal Palace 0-5 Manchester United
Arnott 17’ 55’, Green 59’ 83’, Greenwood 75’ (Pen)

Milllwall Lionesses 1-5 Durham
Clarke 5’
Hepple 2 ’9’, Gears 4’, Wilson 37’, Ness 56’

Lewes 1-1 Aston Villa
Kempson 72’
Richards 16’

Tottenham 1-0 Charlton Athletic
Naz 24’

Tottenham are still top of the Championship with 21 points from eight games.  Manchester United have 19 in second, but have played a game fewer.  Millwall are still bottom with just a single point from eight games and Crystal Palace are just above them on four.

WSL

Chelsea 5-0 Yeovil Town
Bright 20’, So-yun Ji 27’, Cuthbert 42’, Bachmann 45’, England 79’

Birmingham City 3-0 West Ham Utd
Harrop 1’, Follis 40’, Staniforth 79’

Bristol City 2-1 Liverpool
Graham 16’. Rutherford 21’
Sweetman-Kirk 36’

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-4 Reading
Whelan 61’
Hourihan 20’ (OG), Chaplen 58’, Williams 65’, Davison 81’

Everton 0-4 Arsenal
Van de Donk 44’, Nobbs 49’, Miedema 50’ 65’

Arsenal are still yet to drop a point this season.  They lie top with 24 points from eight games.  Manchester City are second with 18 and Chelsea third with 16.  There was still no respite for Everton at the bottom.  They have two points, with Yeovil just above them on three.

This weekend sees a programme in the top two divisions plus the first round of the FA Cup.  For a complete list of FA Cup fixtures click here.

Hockey – International

Champions Trophy

 Netherlands have been a class apart so far in this tournament.  They are yet to be tested, having won four from four and are happily through to the final with a game to spare.  They will finish top by a mile.  Australia are second with two wins and a draw from four games.  China have six points, China 3, GB and Japan both have two.

Great Britain have had a poor event so far and need to win their last match against Argentina to make it into the bronze medal match.

They opened with a draw against hosts China, twice coming from behind.  Xu Wenyu scored China’s first in the first quarter, but Hannah Martin equalised at the end of the first period.

In the second quarter China took the lead again through Peng Yang, but Lily Owsley brought GB level again and that’s where the scoring ended.

In their second match, GB lost 2-0 to Australia.  Australia scored early in the first quarter through Brooke Peris and doubled their lead in the second through Kalindi Commerford.

They still couldn’t catch a break in their third match, drawing 2-2 with Japan.  Japan were 2-0 down thanks to goals from Tessa Howard and Sophie Bray in the first quarter.  But they couldn’t maintain their superiority.  Japan were level by half-time with two goals from Hazuki Nagai.

Netherlands were comfortable victors against Great Britain in their fourth match 4-0.  They were 2-0 up by half-time with goals from Marijn Veen and Margot Zuidhof.  Ginella Zerbo got the third in the third quarter and Zuidhof scored her second in the fourth quarter to complete the win.

Most worryingly for Great Britain, they had only three shots in the match.

They play Argentina in the last group match on Saturday 24 November.

Hockey – Domestic

Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division

Last weekend’s results were as follows:

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

Surbiton are still top with seven wins and one draw from nine and 22 points. Holcombe lie second with 19 and East Grinstead third with 16.  At the bottom, Canterbury have three points, and Bowdon are just above them on seven.

This weekend’s fixtures are the last before the winter break.  The league recommences on 9 February 2019:

24 November
Clifton Robinsons v Canterbury (1pm, Coombe Dingle, P1)
Bowdon v Buckingham (1.45pm, Bowdon Club)
Holcombe v University of Birmingham (2pm, Holcombe HC, P1)
East Grinstead v Slough (4pm, East Grinstead HC)
Surbiton v Beeston (4pm Surbiton HC Water)

Rugby Union – International

France 20-27 New Zealand

A crowd of 17,102 saw France beat the Black Ferns in Grenoble in a pulsating game.

France opened the scoring through Julie Duval but the away side were soon level through Stacey Waaka.

Then France made a double strike; Maëlle Filopon with the first and Romane Menager with the second had France pulling away.  After half an hour France had a 19-7 lead.

But before half-time New Zealand were back in it.  Fiao’o Faamausili scored a try that was converted to make it 19-14.

After the break France extended their lead again through Caroline Drouin, but New Zealand hit back through Selica Winiata after a lineout on the French 5m line.  Then, out of nowhere, New Zealand were level as Kendra Cocksedge kicked a penalty to make it 24-24 with 26 minutes to go.

Just one minute later Ruahei Demant was yellow-carded and France took advantage as Drouin converted the penalty to put them back ahead.

Drouin kicked another penalty on 70 minutes, but Cocksedge did likewise almost directly afterwards, 30-27.

The Black Ferns had the pressure in the last 10 minutes to take the game, but France were defending for their lives.  Both teams had chances, but neither could score and France held on for a memorable win.

England 27-19 Canada

England continued their winning form with five tries against Canada in Doncaster.

The Roses went ahead early through pack dominance with tries from Lark Davies with her first and international try, Poppy Cleall bagged England’s second and Davies went in again for the third.  All three went unconverted.

Canada struck back before the break as Alex Tassier crossed the line after picking up Anaïs Holly’s kick.  The score was converted by Brianna Miller, taking it to 15-7 at half-time.

In the second-half Canada came quickly out of the blocks, scoring their second try through Elissa Alarie.

But England were not done.  They brought on Katy Daley-Mclean and the difference was evident.  Kelly Smith went over in the corner to score England’s fourth try and soon afterwards the fifth came through Abbie Scott.

Canada had the last word though, with Courtney Holtkamp going over from close range and Magali Harvey converting to take the score to 27-19.

Ireland 10-19 USA

USA Eagles claimed their first test win since the World Cup with their defeat of Ireland at Donnybrook.

Ireland started well, but despite having all the early pressure, they couldn’t convert it into points.

Eventually USA took the lead as Kimber Rozier went in, converting her own try to make it 7-0 in the 13th minute.

Each side then had some pressure, but no added points were scored until Kaitlyn Broughton went down the right wing to score and make it 12-0 to the Eagles.

Ireland struck back before half-time as Laura Sheehan went over on the left but it was unconverted and the home side went in 12-5 down.

On the resumption each side again had a period of pressure, but it was the USA who took their chance as Meya Bizer went over the line and the try was converted by Rozier.

Ireland worked tirelessly and hard until Eimear Considine finally crossed the whitewash for the home side’s second try.  The conversion was again missed and the visitors took the win.

This week’s fixtures:

24 November
England v Ireland (5.40pm, Twickenham)
Wales v Canada (11.30am, Cardiff Arms Park)

27 November
Scotland v Canada (7pm, Scotstoun)

Rugby Union – Domestic

Premier 15s is back this weekend.  The fixtures, all on 24 November, are:

Richmond v Bristol Bears (2pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Worcester Valkyries v Firwood Waterloo (2pm, Sixways Stadium)
Wasps v Gloucester-Hartpury (2pm, Twyford Avenue Sports Ground)
DMP Sharks v Harlequins (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Saracens v Loughborough Lightning (3.45pm, Allianz Park)

Volleyball

Women’s Super League

There were a full set of fixtures in the Super League last weekend:

17 November
London Orcas 3-0 TeamBU Wessex (25-16, 25-21, 25-13)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Mallory Eagles UEL (19-25, 14-25, 19-25)
Durham Palatinates 3-0 Birmingham Volleyball Club 1 (25-5, 25-12, 25-17)

18 November
Bristol VC1 3-1 Polonia SideOut London (25-22, 12-25, 25-21, 25-21)
Sheffield Hallam 0-3 Durham Palatintes (18-25, 20-25, 17-25)

Durham are top, but they have played more than everyone else.  They have 20 points from seven games.  London Orcas are second with 11 from five games.  Mallory Eagles are one point behind them but have played only four.  At the bottom, Birmingham are the only team still to get off the mark and have played four games.

Golf – Solheim Cup

European Captain Catriona Matthew has named her final Vice Captain for the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles; Dame Laura Davies really needs no introduction, but suffice it to say that she has played in 12 Solheim Cups and is the event’s leading points scorer, with 25.  She has featured in four winning teams, in 1992, 2000, 2003 and 2011.

This means that her three vice captains, Davies, Suzann Petterson and Kathryn Imrie, have the grand total of 21 Solheim Cup appearances between them and have scored 45½ points for Europe.  If experience has any bearing on the outcome, Europe should be well-placed!

Tickets for the event, which takes place from 9-15 September 2019 are already on sale.  Check out the website, www.solheimcup2019.com.

Netball

The England Roses v Uganda series starts on Tuesday 27 November.  There are three matches – the first is at the Liverpool Echo Arena on Tuesday.  The other two, at the Copper Box in London are on

Friday 30 November and Sunday 2 December.

It should be an exciting and tight series.  Tickets are still available.  Click here for information.  If you can’t be there in person, it’s all live on Sky Sports.

And Finally,

In the immortal words of Britney Spears (!), “oops, I did it again.”  In other words, yes I looked at some of the comments on the BBC sports Facebook and Twitter pages.  In particular, I looked at what “people” had to say on the Florsch crash and on the Nobbs injury.  I was pretty sickened by both.

Florsch, who could easily have lost her life or been paralysed was offered little in the way of either sympathy or respect, with many (yes, many) comments along the lines of “typical of women drivers”.  Crass, rude, and not acceptable in any way.  There were a few males coming in telling the Neanderthals their comments were not acceptable, but they were few, and unfortunately far between.

The comments on the Nobbs injury were, possibly, more insidious.  Several dismissed it as “an irrelevance” – well not to Nobbs, her teammates, friends, family and England Lionesses’ supporters everywhere.  How can you dismiss someone’s possibly dashed hopes of a World Cup appearance as an irrelevance?  It’s a pitiful attitude, chaps.

I realise it’s a reflex action with most of them – it’s a story about a woman in sport, therefore we have to demean it, insult it and dismiss it, but it’s pretty damned infuriating to read it all the time.

 Rant over.  That’s all for this week. Sorry, no column next week as I am busy elsewhere.  I’d just like to wish England good luck in the World T20 final on Saturday night.  I hope you’ll all be listening/watching.  

Women’s Sports Column 8-14 September 2018

field-field-line-football-54567Welcome to this week’s column.  I’m back!  Didn’t miss much did I?  Just the end of the Kia Super League, the start of the WSL, the start of the rugby union Premier 15s season, the Lionesses qualifying for the World Cup?  No, not much.

I can’t pretend to give you updates on all that, so I hope you managed to get your women’s sport fix elsewhere over the last couple of weeks.  Mind you, I also hope you’re back to read my column again this week!

But my goodness, there’s plenty to get through this week including stories from cycling, tennis, golf, football, cricket, netball, athletics, rugby union and mountain biking.

Before we start though, congratulations to Surrey Stars for their Kia Super League triumph on 27 August.   Just when I thought Loughborough Lightning may bag the title at last, they completely crumbled in the final and Surrey Stars were the winners.  Without resorting to saying “cricket was the winner” this year, I’d just like to say that the tournament  this season was excellent – the new expanded fixture list to include both home and away ties makes so much more sense.  Shame it’s all going to go in 2020…..

Cycling – Kristina Vogel

I was going to start with the US Open women’s singles final, but hey, some things are more important and Kristina Vogel’s story is one of them.

Back at the end of June double Olympic champion Kristina Vogel crashed into another rider during training.

The spinal injury she sustained has left her unable to walk.

In an interview with Der Spiegel she said,

“I believe that the sooner you accept a new situation, the sooner you learn to deal with it.

“I was in pain, but there are no words….On the first X-ray images my spine looks like an Ikea folding table.

“In the meantime, I really thought that I was dying. But I said to myself: ‘I cannot let go here now.’

“No matter what fate holds for you, life goes on, in my case now on four wheels instead of two wheels. My arms are now my legs too.”

Without wanting to sound mawkish, one does imagine that, having come to terms with her situation, she will be incredibly determined and ultimately successful in whatever she tackles next.

You can here Vogel talking about the crash and its aftermath in the BBC’s BeSpoke podcast:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06l0l6g

Tennis – US Open

Where to start with this?

Williams v Osaka

Sticking to the facts: Naomi Osaka in the US Open champion and a worthy winner.  She won in straight sets 6-2 6-4.

In addition to this, Williams was given a code violation for coaching, penalised a point for smashing her racquet and finally docked a game for verbal abuse.

That much we know and is fact.   The rest is now so bound up in name-calling, claim and counter-claim that whatever I say would not change any minds or make things clearer.

Any regular reader will know that I admire Serena immensely and the greatest feeling I have about this whole episode is sadness.  I am said that Osaka did not receive the recognition she deserved at the time – in fact I’m just sad that any of it happened.

I’m not going to say Serena was right in her prolonged outburst, but I do understand her frustration.  There are faults on both sides.  There is sexism in the game of tennis (as there is in most sports).  I saw a tweet from someone who showed a picture of a baseball player with his finger in the umpire’s face and it was described as “arguing a strike”.  Serena’s similar picture with the pointing finger is described as “having a meltdown”.

How is it remedied?  By calling it into question, certainly, but not, as Serena did, during a championship final.  Serena has been fighting both racism and sexism throughout her career and I think, at this point, at the age of 36 she probably was just wondering why she was still having to battle with it.  She went too far.  I nearly put, “but that’s who she is”, but that is the Kevin Pietersen defence and I don’t hold with it.

Women’s tennis has a long way to go in its fight for equality.  The sight of a frustrated Williams endeavouring to fight her corner will have, unfortunately, done nothing to help.

Other finals

Thirteenth seeds Ash Barty and Coco Vandeweghe won the women’s doubles, coming from a set down to beat second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Timea Babos 3-6 7-6 7-6.

Both pairings were unseeded in the mixed doubles final.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray won it, beating Alicja Rosolska and Nikola Mektic 2-6 6-3 11-9.

After dropping the first set they fought back to level and the third went to a match tie-break.  They went 4-1 down in the tie-break, but came back again and won it on their fourth match point.

In the wheelchair singles, number two seed Diede de Groot defeated 2017 champion and top seed Yui Kamiji 6-2 6-3.

Mountain Biking

Rachel Atherton claimed her fifth Mountain Bike World Championship title at the weekend. She won the downhill final in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

She finished nearly ten seconds ahead of fellow Briton Tahnee Seagave.  Myriam Nicole of France was third.

Athletics

Another week, another championships, this time the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Last weekend saw Team Americas claim the title, beating defending champions, Europe, by 29 points.

For those who are unfamiliar with the event, the Continental Cup takes place every four years.  This year’s was the third event, with the Americas having won the first and Europe the second.  Teams from Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa take part.  It replaced the World Cup for individual nations in 2010.

There were seven British women taking part.

Highlights:

Dina Asher-Smith finished second in the 100m in 11.16 seconds.  The winner was Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast who ran in a time of 11.14 seconds.

Kristal Awuah, Bianca Williams, Imani Lansiquot and Asher-Smith finished second in the 4 x 100m in a time of 42.55 seconds. The Americas won by just under half a second.

Meghan Beesley finished fourth in the 400m hurdles behind Janieve Russell of Jamaica.

Shara Proctor finished fifth in the long jump as Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen claimed the triple jump/long jump double.

The Americas also won the 100m hurdles through Jamaica’s Danielle Williams as team-mate Kendra Harrison of USA finished second.

Americas sealed the win by claiming victory in the mixed 4x400m relay. Their team of Christian Taylor, Luguelin Santos, Stephenie Ann McPherson and Shaunae Miller-Uibo won in a time of 3:13.01 ahead of Africa in second and Asia in third.  The European team was disqualified.  Miller-Uibo won three titles including the 4 x 400m, 4 x 100m and the 200m.

Caster Semenya won the women’s 800m for Africa in one minute 54.77 seconds.

Great North Run

It was a Kenya 1-2-3 in the women’s race.  Vivian Cheruiyot won it with a personal best time of 67 minutes 43 seconds.  Brigid Kosgei (67:52) was second and Joyciline Jepkosgei (68.10) came third.

Martyna Snopek of Poland won the women’s wheelchair race in 63 minutes 02 seconds.

Rugby League

Two results from last weekend in the Women’s Super League:

Featherstone Rovers 12-20 York City Knights
Wigan Warriors 10-12 Castleford Tigers

With most teams having played 10 games, St Helens lie top on points difference with 15 points from Wigan Warriors.  Leeds are third with 14, but have only played nine games.  At the bottom, York City Knights claimed their first win of the season at the weekend and are now level  with next to bottom Featherstone Rovers on two points.

Golf

It’s the final women’s major of the season this weekend, the Evian Championship in France.

After the first round Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Maria Torres of Puerto Rico are on -6, one shot ahead of Austin Ernst of USA.  Ryu So-yeon (Korea), Brooke Henderson (Canada) and Nasa Hataoka (Japan) are one further back on -4.

Georgia Hall lies -3, Bryony Hall -2 and Charley Hull +1.

Netball

Domestic

A double blow for Loughborough Lightning this week as top players Peace Proscovia and Beth Cobden both confirmed they are to leave to play In Australia.  Proscovia is going to Sunshine Coast Lightning (yes, lightning), In Australia.  She gave an emotional interview, which you can see here:

http://loughboroughsport.com/blog/2018/09/06/proscovia-heading-for-pastures-new/

She finishes studying for her MSc at Loughborough this autumn and then will go on to do a PhD at the University of the Sunshine Coast.  Loughborough’s loss will very much be Sunshine Coast’s gain.  We will be able to see Peace back in this country when she plays for Uganda at next year’s World Cup in Liverpool in July.  If you can’t wait that long, England play Uganda in a three-match series in November/December this year.  Check out www.netballengland.co.uk for details.

Cobden is off to play for Adelaide Thunderbirds.

Netball World Cup

Qualifying is finished and we now know the 16 teams who will be vying for the World Cup crown in July.

Automatic qualifiers:

England (host nation), Australia, New Zealand Jamaica, South Africa and Malawi.

Qualifers from regional tournaments:

Scotland, Northern Ireland, Fiji, Samoa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

The group draw will be made on 15 September.  More news of that next week.

General tickets go on sale on 19 September – get in as soon as you can.  Click here for details.

Cricket

India and Sri Lanka are warming up for the T20 World Cup in November with a three-match ODI and five-match T20 series in Sri Lanka.

India have already clinched the ODI series, having won the first two matches with points counting towards the ICC Women’s Championship.

First ODI
11 September, Galle
Sri Lanka 98 all out (35.1 overs)
India 100/1 (19.5 overs)
India won by 9 wickets

It was a one-sided start in Galle.  Sri Lanka could only muster 98, skittled out with nearly 15 overs to go.  Captain Jayangani top-scored with 33, but only two other players made it into double figures.

Joshi took 3/16 and Goswami 2/13.

India knocked off the total with 181 balls to spare.  Raut was the only wicket to fall, caught by Surangika off the bowling of Ranaweera for 24.  But Mandhana scored 73, Raj came in to face two balls, not scoring and India had won the match.

Second ODI
13 September, Galle
India 219 all out (50 overs)
Sri Lanka 212 all out (48.1 overs)
India won by 7 runs

The second ODI, by contrast, was a tightly fought affair with Sri Lanka only falling just short in their chase.

India started relatively poorly and at one stage were 36/3.  Bhatia top-scored with 68 and Raj scored 52 as they posted what they probably thought would easily be a winning score.

But Sri Lanka showed they can be doughty competitors.  Jayangani top-scored again with 57 and there were much better contributions throughout the batting order.  Siriwardene scored 49 before she was run out and de Silver 31, but they couldn’t quite get over the line.  Three run-outs did not help their cause.

Further news and scores next week.

Meanwhile South Africa begin a five-match ODI series against the West Indies in Bridgetown at the weekend.  Again there will be news of this next week.

England do not play again until 4 November, when they begin their World T20 warm-ups against Australia.

Rugby union

The new Premier 15s season got underway last weekend:

8 September
Firwood Waterloo 5-38 Saracens
DMP Sharks 27-24 Worcester Valkyries
Bristol Bears 17-32 Wasps
Gloucester-Hartpury 24-38 Harlequins
Loughborough Lightning 22-19 Richmond

After the turmoil of the restructure, this season should be all about consolidation and improvement.  There should be some good contests out there and the more support we show women’s rugby, the more it will thrive (as with all women’s sport).  There is tremendous goodwill towards the sport at the moment, especially at domestic level, so if you can, get out there and give them your support.

This weekend’s round two fixtures:

15 September
Wasps v Loughborough (1.35pm, Ealing Trailfinders RFC)
Saracens v Worcester (2.30pm, Allianz Park)
DMP Sharks v Gloucester-Hartpury (3pm, Northern Echo Arena)
Richmond v Firwood Waterloo (5pm, Richmond Athletic Ground)
Harlequins v Bristol Bears (5.30pm, The Stoop)

Football

After all the Wales v England and Scotland’s qualification for the World Cup excitement a couple of weeks ago (all of which I missed), it was back to domestic duty this week as the WSL kicked off and midweek also saw the first leg of the Round of 32 of the Champions League.

WSL

9 September
Reading 4-0 Yeovil
Davison 5’, Williams 11’, Bruton 59’ pen, Allen 61’

Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Bristol City
Graham 70’

Arsenal 5-0 Liverpool
Miedema 6’ 39’ 90’, Evans 14’, Little 35’

Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City

Birmingham City 1-0 Everton
Wellings 1’

Championship
9 September

Aston Villa 0-12 Manchester United
James 10’ 23’, Sigsworth 25’ 33’ 35’ 49’ 61’, Zelem 29’ pen, Hanson 55’ 59’, Green 66’, Toone 69’
Good for football?  I don’t think so.

Millwall Lionesses 0-3 Lewes
Quayle 2’, Carter 24’, Bergin 44’

Sheffield United 0-2 Durham
Salicki 57’, Reid 79’

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 London Bees
Haines 73’ pen, Green 80’
Howells 22’

Crystal Palace 0-2 Leicester City
Johnson 18’, Morgan 75’

This weekend it’s back to Continental Cup action – I hope you’re all keeping up with this.  For fixture details see: https://womenscompetitions.thefa.com/Support/Fixtures

Champions League – Round of 32, 1st leg

Wednesday 12 September

BIIK-Kazykurt 3-1 Barcelona
Although Toni Duggan scored for Barcelona, they will have to win well at home to progress.

Rayazan 0-1 Rosengard

Barcelona FA (Cyprus) 0-2 Glasgow City
Two red cards in the game as Rita Akaffou and Leanne Ross were sent off for Barcelona and Glasgow respectively.  Goals for Glasgow came from Hayley Lauder 3’ and Leanne Crichton 83’.  Glasgow must have a good chance of going through with their home leg to come.

Sarajevo 0-5 Chelsea
All over in Chelsea’s favour, you’d have to think.  Goals from Millie Bright 6’, Drew Spence 22’, Maria Thorisdottir 36’, Ji So-yun 87’ and Adelina Engman 89’ see them well ahead going into the second leg.

ZFK Spartak Subotica 0-7 Bayern Munich
Zhytiobud-1 1-6 Linkoping
Avaldsnes 0-2 Lyon
Honka 0-1 Zurich
Thor/KA Women 0-1 Wolfsburg
Ajax 2-0 Sparta Praha
Fiorentina 2-0 Fortuna Hjorring
St Polton 1-4 PSG
Juventus 2-2 Brondby

13 September
Gintra 0-3 Slavia Praha
Lillestrom 3-0 Zvezda 2005

Atletico Madrid 1-1 Manchester City
Gemma Bonner scored in the 16th minute and City looked to have won it until Madrid equalised on 89 minutes through Kenti Robles.

Second leg fixtures are 26-27 September

Lionesses

Don’t forget, England have a series of friendlies coming up in October and November.  It all begins on 6 October at Meadow Lane, Nottingham against Brazil.  Kick-off time for that one is 12.30pm.  Then the Lionesses face Australia at Craven Cottage, Fulham on Tuesday 9 October at 7pm and finally they play Sweden on Sunday 11 November at the AESSEAL New York Stadium, Rotherham at 1.30pm.  Let’s get these games sold out.  Tickets available from the FA website: https://ticketing.thefa.com/

That’s more than enough for this week.  More news and views next week.

Women’s Sports Column 1-7 October

1-7oct.jpg

Welcome to this week’s bumper edition of the Women’s Sports Column.  There’s so much to tell and discuss this week I don’t rightly know where to start.  Plenty of good stuff to come including a few possibly controversial words from me and a pretty impressive (in a bad way) “And finally”.  Stories this week come from football, tennis, rugby, cricket, sailing and Women’s Sports Week.

Football

Continental Cup Final

Sunday 2 October, Academy Stadium Manchester

Manchester City Women 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

Manchester City women made it a league and cup double this week as they beat Birmingham City Ladies 1-0 after extra time to clinch the Continental Cup.

The match, unfortunately played on City’s home ground, was never going to be a goal-fest, contested as it was between the league’s two meanest defences.

After a goalless ninety minutes it took a header from Lucy Bronze to seal he victory.

The crowd was an excellent 4,214.

FAWSL1

Doncaster Rovers Belles 0-5 Arsenal Ladies

Arsenal overran the league’s bottom side at the Keepmoat scoring five in the process.  Danielle Carter opened the scoring after 13 minutes, but they weren’t able to double the lead until midway through the second half when Natalia Pablos Sanchon made it 2-0.  Pablos Sanchon grabbed her second on the 84th minute as the Belles crumbled in the face of relentless pressure.  Carter took her second three minutes from the end and Kelly Smith made it five on the stroke of full-time.

Belles have lost all of their 12 games this season and are doomed to WSL2.  Arsenal are still looking to claim next season’s second Champions’ League place by finishing second in the table.

British clubs also played in the Champions’ League this week:

Chelsea 0-3 Wolfsburg

Chelsea were totally outplayed in the first leg of their round of 32 match in their first ever game at Stamford Bridge.

Hungarian midfielder Zsanett Jakabi scored a hat-trick and in truth there could have been several more in a poor defensive display from the home side.

The first goal was down to a defensive mix-up between goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl and England defender Claire Rafferty in the twelfth minute.  Jakabi scored a second before half time and completed her hat-trick just after the break.

A crowd of 3,783 saw Chelsea’s virtual elimination from the competition.  They play the return leg next week.

Hibernian 0-6 Bayern Munich

Munich were far too strong for a young Hibs side at Easter Road on Wednesday.

The German side were 3-0 up at half time through goals from Stefanie Van Der Gragt, Vivianne Miedema and Melanie Leupolz.

Miedema and Luepolz scored again in the second half and even had the luxury of missing a penalty through Nicole Rosler before Melanie Behringer scored a sixth, again from the penalty spot.

A crowd of 2,551 saw the game and the return leg is next Wednesday.

Manchester City 2-0 Zveda 2005

Manchester made a winning start to their Champions’ League campaign with a 2-0 home win.

Jill Scott scored the first and also had another chance before half-time.  But they didn’t double their lead until late on when Lucy Bronze scored a second with a shot from the edge of the penalty area.

The second leg is on 12 October.

Eskilstuna 1-0 Glasgow City

Glasgow endured a narrow defeat in Sweden that they will be hopeful of overturning in the second leg next week.

The only goal of the game came through a header from Mimmi Larrson in the second half.

The second leg takes place next Thursday and will take place at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium.

 

 Better news off the pitch for Chelsea this week as it was announced that winger Gemma Davison has signed a new contract until summer 2018.

In other football news, there have been two instances this week of players or clubs being brought to book for their attitudes to women.  See my “And Finally” for the second, but the first concerns WSL2 club West Ham Ladies.

Things have not been good at West Ham Ladies for some time.  I reported last year that former Hammer Julian Dicks, who managed the women’s team for the 2014-15 season, finally quit the job after revealing the lack of support offered by the parent club to the women’s side.

This week the situation threatened to spiral out of control when the Ladies’ side’s current Chair, Stephen Hunt, lodged a complaint with the FA accusing West Ham of breaking the rules on discrimination.

He told BBC Sport,

“West Ham need to be fined until they start to act like a 21st century club.”

He alleges that promised funds never materialised and that his side have been deprived of facilities to the point where they have had to train by the roadside.  They have had to buy their own kit and have not been allowed to find their own sponsors.

He also says they cannot afford a physio or a bus to take them to away games.  They have been playing in last season’s kits with names on the back crossed out.

Needless to say West Ham have disputed this version of events and issued a statement,

“The day-to-day management of West Ham United Ladies FC was transferred to a third party some time ago and unfortunately it is an arrangement that has simply not worked,

“Mr Hunt has refused to align with West Ham’s principles throughout his tenure as chairman and has, on a number of occasions, threatened the club.

“The club have been working for some time on plans to take West Ham United Ladies FC ‘in house’ and, in light of Mr Hunt’s most recent deeply concerning comments, we will now be seeking to do so at the earliest opportunity.”

This one is obviously going to run and run and we need to see the parent club taking action as soon as possible to right an embarrassing and unacceptable situation.

Tennis

British number one Johanna Konta is through to the China Open semi-finals after beating home favourite and world number 36, Zhang Shuai, 6-4 6-0.  Zhang had caused the biggest upset so far in the last round when she beat Simona Halep.

Konnta was 4-0 down in the first set, but won 12 games in a row to take the match in style.

She faces eighth seed Madison Keys in the semis.

Her performances this week again put Konta in contention for the WTA Finals in Singapore.  She currently lies 11th in the ranking, with the top eight qualifying.

World number one, Angelique Kerber, on the other hand, is out of the China Open after losing to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-3 7-5.

 

Off the court, the result of Maria Sharapova’s appeal against her two-year ban for doping was released this week.  She has had her ban cut to 15 months.

She will be able to return to the court on 26 April 2017.

“I am counting the days until I can return,” she said.

 

Rugby Union

 Big news for rugby in England this week as the RFU has announced its new focus for the development of the women’s game over the next four years.

Currently over 26,000 women and girls play rugby regularly in England.  The 2017 target was actually 25,000 and so it has been reached and surpassed a year early.  There are 300 clubs with a women’s or girls’ side.

They also unveiled the “Red Roses” as the new identity for the England national side.

RFU head, Ian Ritchie commented,

“England Rugby has demonstrated its commitment to the women’s game.

“We wanted to create an identity for England Women that would inspire more people to get involved whether playing or supporting the women’s game.”

England Rugby has already announced 48 professional contracts for women players and the first-ever sponsored women’s series takes place in November with the Old Mutual Wealth Series against France, New Zealand and Canada.  Also for the first time, and not to be underestimated, this season the Red Roses will wear the first custom-designed kit.

 

Cricket

Some bizarre news and some good news from cricket this week.  In an abrupt about-turn, the ECB announced this week that the Women’s Super League 50 overs tournament, due to start in 2017 will now not happen.

In a statement, the ECB said,

“As we start to map out the 2017 schedule ahead of the ICC Women’s World Cup, we also firmly believe that we must factor in sufficient time for the women’s county 50-over competition and for club cricket.”

2017 is going to be a big season with the World Cup taking place in England in July.

 But what on earth was the ECB thinking?  Did they not see this coming?   There was plenty of comment at the time the tournament was announced about fixture congestion and the availability of players.  Expect more fall-out from this to follow.

 Australian women’s cricket, however, seems to have a good news story every week.  Cricket Australia this week announced that the Lendlease Breakers will become Australia’s first fully professional domestic women’s sports team.

The Breakers, based in NSW, have signed a major sponsorship deal with Lendlease ensuring that players will earn a minimum wage of $35,00pa.

 In a statement, Cricket NSW CEO Andrew Jones said,

“This truly is a landmark moment.  Cricket NSW has always been a leader in women’s sport and today we are proud to announce another first.

“Every member of the Lendlease Breakers squad now has the opportunity to pursue a professional sporting career.

“I am confident that every state in Australia will now follow the lead of Cricket NSW by giving their female cricketers the opportunity to earn a living wage.”

This move comes hard on the heels of the new pay deal received by the Southern Stars, with their payment fund doubled to $4.23m from April 2016.

It’s impressive stuff from Cricket Australia and the ECB need to be having a close look at what their antipodean counterparts are doing, in real terms, to progress their women’s teams.

 

Sailing update from Abby Ehler

The Magenta Project takes a significant step towards realizing its ambition to bring more professional female sailors into high performance racing, this week. The entry into the Extreme Sailing Series™ Lisbon Act marks an exciting opportunity to provide some hard-core experience in the highly-charged, highly-competitive environment of stadium sailing.  The driving force behind the entry, called Thalassa Magenta Racing, is New Zealand’s Sharon Ferris-Choat a Magenta Project Ambassador and currently the only female racing in the GC32 circuits. The entry is the culmination of work behind-the-scenes to secure sponsorship, as-well-as on the water: providing practical training opportunities, which took place last July in the Solent.

Sharon Ferris-Choat says,

“It’s been a journey to get to this point, but having this team competing in the penultimate Act of this year’s Extreme Sailing Series™ in Lisbon is a massive achievement.

“Our squad get the chance to hone skills both in handling the GC32 and as a team, going head to head with nine, all male teams who’ve been racing regularly in the series throughout the year. And that’s what we are aiming for – the chance to provide top women sailors with exactly this kind of experience. Eventually we would like to see an all-female team taking part in the whole series rather than as a wildcard.”

The event is currently under way and can be followed at www.extremesailingseries.com  or www.themagentaproject.org

 

Women’s Sports Week 2016

3-9 October has been the second Women’s Sports Week, in case you missed it.  There has been plenty of media coverage for the event with the great and the good of women’s sport making one appearance after another to push the women’s sporting agenda.

The highlight for me was been the 5Live discussion on team sport with Kate Richardson-Walsh, Katy McLean, Tracey Neville and Casey Stoney (and Mark Sampson).  Another welcome announcement is the new England Rugby plan for the women’s game and the national side renamed as the “Red Roses”.

I’m yet to be convinced by “Team Up”, yet another initiative (as I tweeted somewhat wearily last week, “another day, another initiative”) which brings together England cricket, hockey and netball as they host world cups in England in 2017, 18 and 19 respectively.  Seems a bit of a tenuous link, but, as I say, I’m here to be convinced.

It has been a largely positive week, although I suggest you check out my blog next week when I devote a whole piece to it – the positive and the negative.

 

And finally, two players from Sparta Prague’s men’s side may think twice before they speak from now on.

After their 3-3 draw on Sunday, Sparta’s goalkeeper, Tomas Koubek tweeted that “women belong at the stove,” after the female referee missed an offside and their opponents equalised.  He added “Women should not officiate men’s football.”  His teammate, Lukas Vacha, tweeted a picture of the referee captioned “to the stove”.

Neither his club nor the Czech footballing authorities were not impressed.  The two players have been ordered to train with the women’s team (should be fun) and the Czech FA’s disciplinary committee will consider punishment in due course.

 

Women’s Sports Column

carney19 -31 December

In this last column of 2015, there are stories from cricket, football and horse racing, as well as a look at who got what in the New Year Honours.

In Australia, the inaugural WBBL is proving to be a big success. The early leaders are Heather Knight’s Hobart Hurricanes, with Brisbane Heat, who include Kate Cross and Lauren Winfield in their line-up, in second with the same points, but having played three games more.  There is still some way to go though, with the final on 24 January.  More updates in the next column.

The Women’s Super League is currently awash with transfers, the two biggest so far being goalkeeper Marie Hourihan’s move from Chelsea to Manchester City and a shock move for Karen Carney from Birmingham City to Chelsea.

The writing was perhaps on the wall for Hourihan who had seen the Swede, Hedvig Lindahl make the goalkeeping position for Chelsea her own last season.  She will still essentially be number two at City and will have to prove her mettle to oust England’s Karen Bardsley.

Karen Carney has agreed a two-year deal with the English champions.  Chelsea is a team rich with talent and will be keen to repeat their league and cup double in 2016.  Carney is undoubtedly an asset and manager Emma Hayes is obviously pleased to have made the signing.  In an interview with the BBC she said,

“Karen was a major target and a genuine world-class addition to the squad,

“She is a student of the game and brings additional leadership to our squad.

“I see Karen complementing the talent we already possess in the final third. All our attacking players will benefit hugely from her vision and passing.”

In a somewhat bizarre and more disturbing story from Italy, top women’s five-a-side team, Sporting Locri, based in Reggio Calabria in the Italian South, is considering disbanding after receiving a number of mafia-style threats.

Both the president and vice president of the club have received threats telling them to close the club or face the consequences.  The president, Ferdinando Armeni, has had his tyres slashed and threats made towards his three-year-old child.

The ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate is thought to be behind the threats.  At this moment club officials are still considering what course to take.

More history was made for female jockeys this week as 22-year-old Lizzie Kelly became the first woman to win a Grade One race over jumps in Britain.

She, and her mount, Tea for Two, won the Kauto Star Novice Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.

After the race she told reporters: “It’s massive for me as a jockey to be able to say that I’ve won a Grade One. There’s always people with stories where they nearly achieve something, but I’ve done it, and we’ve done it as a family which means a hell of a lot more. It’s important for people to be able to see that we can do it. We [female jockeys] are getting somewhere, people are becoming more accepting of it.”

It has been a landmark year for female jockeys all round.  Michelle Payne became the first winner of the Melbourne Cup in November, making the headlines with her post-race interview,

“It’s such a chauvinistic sport, a lot of the owners wanted to kick me off. Everyone else can get stuffed [who] think women aren’t good enough.”

Katie Walsh won the Irish Grand National in April and in August Ascot saw the all-female team comprising Hayley Turner, Sammy Jo Bell and Emma-Jayne Wilson won the Shergar Cup against all-male opposition.

And finally, you can tell if it has been a big year for women in sport when you see who has received an award in the New Year Honours.  So here we go:

Heather Rabbatts has been made a Dame for her service to football and equality.

A CBE goes to Annamarie Phelps, chair of British Rowing for services to her sport.

OBEs have been awarded to Sue Barker (moving up from an MBE), Catherine Sabin, for services to Tennis, and Chrissie Wellington for services to sport and charity.

The sporting MBEs go to Yvonne Anderson, for services to the Special Olympics, Janice Eaglesham for services to disability sport, Heather Galbraith, for services to equestrianism; Pamela Gallant, for services to people with special needs; England football captain, Stephanie Houghton, for services to football; Gaynor Jones, for service to golf and the development of women’s golf in Wales; Dianne McMillan, for services to swimming and disability awareness; Tracey Neville, for services to netball; Jacqui Oatley, for services to broadcasting and diversity in sport; Anne Whitworth, for services to hockey in the north-east and Fara Williams, for services to women’s football and charity.

Happy New Year to everyone and let’s all look forward to a 2016 filled with fabulous women’s sport!