Women’s Super League and Championship should be declared null and void, says Sue Smith

The Women’s Super League (WSL) and Championship seasons should be declared null and void, according to former England international Sue Smith.

Clubs in the top two divisions are yet to agree on how to finish the season, having been presented with three options by the FA.

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The first option would see the tables decided using a weighted points-per-game system, which would see Liverpool relegated and Aston Villa promoted.

The second also uses weighted points per game, but there would be no relegation from the WSL. However, Villa would still be promoted, and the WSL would expand to 13 teams for the 2020/21 season.

In both scenarios, Chelsea would leapfrog Manchester City and be crowned champions. Emma Hayes’ side are currently second by one point, but have a game in hand.

The final option would be for the WSL and Championship seasons to be voided, which is the decision the FA has already taken with the third tier and below of women’s football.

Speaking on Sky Sports News’ The Football Show, Smith backed that same approach for the top two divisions.

“The only way is to null and void because we can’t predict what will happen in the future,” Smith said.

“Of course we want the season to finish but if that can’t happen then I think they have to null and void.

“It is such a shame for the likes of Aston Villa that have worked so hard to get into the position they are in but I can’t see another fair way of doing it.

“It’s so disappointing. In the WSL, three teams had a chance of winning it and coming into it off the back of the World Cup there was a real buzz for women’s football. If they’d finished the league it would have been a thriller.”

‘Ruling out WSL relegation can’t happen’

Carla Ward, whose Sheffield United side are six points behind Villa in the Women’s Championship, has spoken of her frustration at missing out on a conclusion to the title race.

The top three – with Durham two points behind Sheffield United in third – all had six matches still to play and Ward believes a lot might have changed at the top.

Ward told Sky Sports News: “We were coming into a period where there were massive games to play. Undoubtedly, we wanted to finish the season.

“We very much felt we were in that [promotion] race. Even Durham you could add to that mix.

“It’s a frustrating time. Villa were coming into a tricky period, they had to visit Leicester who were coming into form, and London Bees which is always a difficult place to go. We felt that there was a slip-up coming.”

Ward revealed she has been struggling to decide which of the FA’s options to favour, but is adamant that option two (Aston Villa promoted but no relegation from the WSL) would not be fair.

“I was quite surprised to see option two in there. The FA came out a few weeks ago and said in the men’s game there has to be promotion and relegation, yet here we are talking about the possibility of promotion and no relegation. That doesn’t seem fair, I wonder why that is even in there.

“If we were in Villa’s shoes, I’d want promotion and relegation so I’d steer towards that on sporting integrity.

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New Zealand's Super Rugby stars to undergo a 'second pre-season'

New Zealand’s Super Rugby stars to undergo a ‘second pre-season’ as players return to training ahead of restart of southern hemisphere league

  • New Zealand rugby stars will undergo a ‘second pre-season’ this week 
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New Zealand’s Super Rugby players will begin what coaches have deemed to be a ‘second pre-season’ on Monday as they return to training following a relaxation of health and travel restrictions imposed after the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body SANZAAR postponed the Super Rugby season in March after just seven weeks of the competition as governments responded to the spreading pandemic with border closures and travel shutdowns.

New Zealand’s government also introduced a nationwide lockdown before it loosened restrictions in late April and then further eased them on Thursday, allowing for the resumption of professional sport.

New Zealand’s Super Rugby players will undergo a ‘second pre-season’ when training returns

New Zealand Rugby, facing a multi-million dollar loss this year due to the pandemic, announced earlier this week a new domestic competition involving its five Super Rugby teams would start on June 13.

Players are expected to turn up for their first meetings on Monday and then ease into training to allow their bodies to get used to the high-impact collisions they can expect to face again next month.

‘Along with everyone else, this period of time (away) makes a rugby player’s body feel pretty good,’ Canterbury Crusaders coach Scott Robertson told Stuff Media on Sunday.

‘It is going to be a second pre-season for us in many ways.’

All clubs will return to training on Monday as lockdown measures are eased in New Zealand

Auckland Blues coach Leon MacDonald says the players will face tough conditions

New Zealand Rugby has implemented stringent health protocols for each team, restricting their ‘bubbles’ and scheduling games in the 10-week competition for afternoons or early evening so teams can fly in and out on the same day.

Matches will also be played in empty venues until the government and health officials determine it is safe to lift social distancing rules and crowd size restrictions.

Auckland Blues coach Leon MacDonald said the players would face completely different environments to the ones they left nine weeks ago.

Players would have their health monitored and temperature taken daily and have access to medical personnel around the clock.

There would also be no chance for the players to socialise or congregate after training, medical treatment would be strictly timetabled and training and meeting areas would be thoroughly cleaned after use.

‘We’re just trying to limit as much risk as we can,’ MacDonald told Stuff Media earlier this week.

‘If we can protect ourselves, make sure we don’t get any cases of Covid, then we’re more likely to get through the season, and that’s the ultimate goal.

‘It wouldn’t take much for us to get derailed and for things to get shut down.’ 

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WSL and FA remain undecided on whether to end season despite further talks

The FA and Women’s Super League (WSL) clubs remain no closer to deciding whether to end the season following a further round of talks on Tuesday.

Details of how the men’s Premier League will be finalised remain unclear as they await further government guidance on medical protocols around player training and the top division of the English women’s game find themselves in a similar situation.

WSL clubs and the FA are willing to wait until the Premier League decides on a course of action with regard to player testing, neutral venues and player and staff lockdowns before coming up with a definitive return plan themselves.

The FA is planning various scenarios for ways to end the season, including ending it now, playing all remaining games behind closed doors, or even organising a single neutral venue to stage all matches.

A decision from the WSL is not expected for at least a couple of weeks unless there is major movement at the top level of the men’s game.

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FIFPro launches ‘Raising Our Game’ report in bid to improve women’s football

FIFPro has launched a report aimed at raising ‘global minimum standards’ within women’s football.

The global players’ association has released a 57-page report, entitled Raising Our Game, which is billed as “a forward-thinking report about women’s professional football which puts players at the heart of the planned development and rebuilding of the sport after the coronavirus pandemic.”

On Tuesday, AFC Fylde’s womens team was disbanded, the first team cut amid the financial fallout caused by the suspension of sporting events across Europe. Reading FC placed its women’s team on the government furlough plan this week, the first team in the top-tier Women’s Super League to do so.

For the report, FIFPro surveyed national team players from countries represented at the Women’s World Cup in France last year and other nations: 186 players from 18 different countries responded. FIFPro also requested information and data from all 24 federations represented at the World Cup and all six FIFA confederations.

According to the report, 54 per cent of players said their teams did not have adequate support staffs, and 61 per cent said they did not know if their club had a defined strategy for growth for its women’s team.

“Women’s football cannot follow in the footsteps of the men’s game, nor be positioned as its little sister,” the report said. “We must learn from the challenges and opportunities we have seen develop across the football industry and use this knowledge to help lay the foundation for a sustainable global employment market built on healthy and safe working environments, the report stated.”

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Coronavirus: Manchester United’s Amy Turner and Reading’s Angharad James plan charity ride during lockdown

Footballers across the country are having to come up with novel ways of training on their own during lockdown but one household in particular is running on healthy competition.

Rivals on the pitch and partners off it, Manchester United’s Amy Turner and Reading’s Angharad James at least have someone to pass the ball to.

The pair are channelling their competitive streak to bring out the best in each other while they are stuck at home.

“We’re on similar programmes that we’ve got from each of our clubs so we’ve been helping each other through the fitness element,” Turner told Sky Sports News.

“It gets a little bit competitive sometimes! I don’t think I’d be able to do this whole lockdown if I was on my own.”

They have been given equipment by each their respective WSL club and James says they are also in the unique position of being able to get out on the grass.

She added: “We’ve got a little gym set up out the back to try to keep our strength up and we’ve got a pitch that’s just behind us so we’ve been out doing more running and ball work. It’s worked out quite well so far.”

Not content with their hours spent baking, playing scrabble and finally getting around to watching Peaky Blinders, the pair also wanted to do something positive during the pandemic.

Turner, who is from Sheffield, explains with the help of an exercise bike borrowed from a kindly neighbour they came up with a 24-hour challenge to help four charities close to their hearts.

She said: “We got in touch with a couple of foodbanks from back home – they are really struggling at the minute. An increase in demand coupled with less people donating has meant food shortages, so we felt like that was important.

“I also spoke to a domestic abuse charity based in Yorkshire called IDAS. They have seen increased cases due to the lockdown so are on call a lot at the minute, so we felt like we wanted to help them as well.”

The pair came up with an idea to cycle the equivalent distance between those charities in Yorkshire, and also charities in Pembrokeshire in Wales, where James grew up.

James added: “Get The Boys a Lift is a non-profit mental health organisation. The founder was actually a close friend of mine from school and the job that him and the boys are doing down there to offer free support and guidance to the community is brilliant.”

“It’s going to be about 383 kilometres, which I don’t actually think we know what we’re letting ourselves in for! It’s going to be a massive challenge but as footballers we love a challenge, so we’re also going to attempt to do it in 24 hours.”

Despite having each other to practice with, being locked away still means they are trying to find ways to fill the void. The charity ride has its own football twist, and it even began with a coin toss!

Turner explained: “We’re missing football a lot at the minute so we’re doing it in 90-minute intervals. I’ve got the earliest stint, I think I’m starting at 4am and then we’re just crossing over until we finish it.”

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Women’s Euros must move to 2022, says Man Utd boss Casey Stoney

Manchester United Women boss Casey Stoney believes there is no choice but to postpone the 2021 UEFA Women’s Euros until 2022.

Next year’s tournament – hosted by England – is set to go ahead, although the Danish Football Association has claimed it has already been moved back 12 months.

Some want to see the women’s tournament run alongside the men’s version in 2021 but it could present problems with the Tokyo Olympics – set for the same year.

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England star Nikita Parris has already called for the 2021 UEFA Women’s Euros to be rescheduled for 2022, with Stoney on Wednesday insisting it will “have to move”.

“It’s really difficult,” Stoney told Sky Sports News. “How are you going to run an Olympic football tournament and the Euros in the same year?

“That’s an incredible physical – and mental – ask of the players. I don’t think it’s physically possible.

“I’d rather it had its own space and I’d rather the players were not playing two tournaments in one summer.

“How do they come off the back of that into another league campaign? It’s very difficult. In my opinion, it will have to move.”

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