Netball Australia is committed to overhauling its “outdated” governance and practices, as it acknowledges a lack of public trust in the system.
- The State of the Game Review made eight recommendations to Netball Australia
- The recommendations included the establishment of an aligned vision for the sport and defining the commercial role of its Super Netball competition
- The review said Netball Australia needed to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the sport
The release of the findings of the independent State of the Game Review, headed by Diamonds great Liz Ellis, listed a number of external and internal challenges faced by netball in Australia.
More than 10,000 people, including members of the elite pathway and wider community, participated in the survey earlier this year, having been asked for opinions on the way the game was run.
The sport has faced a difficult year amid the COVID-19 pandemic with criticism over rule changes and concerns over the treatment of Indigenous players.
But Netball Australia will try to put it behind them as they look to adopt the eight recommendations of the latest review.
Some of these including the establishment of an aligned vision for the sport, creating a high-performance working group that improves diversity and aligns player pathways with the elite level, and defining the commercial role of its Super Netball competition.
“As the report directly reflects the views of our diverse netball nation it came as no surprise that netball’s internal stakeholders have demonstrated their desire to work together to deliver on the review’s core recommendations,” Netball Australia chair Paolina Hunt said in a statement.
Stronger grassroots relationship prioritised
As the number-one team sport for girls and women, netball finds itself in a strong position within the Australian sporting landscape.
But it is facing more competition than ever from other codes, as girls and women are pursuing more opportunities in previously male-dominated sports.
One of the strongest themes to emerge from the State of the Game Review was the way the game was holding itself back, with concern over its “outdated” governance system leading to instability and a lack of transparency and accountability.
Netball Australia said it needed to take a more unified approach to growing the game with clear objectives moving forward by building better relationships between its grassroots, pathways and elite levels.
Part of this idea hangs on the implementation of a national digital strategy, which will allow for a more direct line of communication, consistent processes for administration, more collaboration and further revenue streams.
This collaboration will be important in ensuring grassroots organisations have definite processes and support systems in place to encourage diversity.
Ellis said something as simple as a wider selection of uniform options at club level could attract people to the game.
While some associations already offer alternative playing outfits to the standard netball skirt or dress, Ellis suggested collaboration between the different tiers of the sport could see it implemented on a wider scale.
“The uniform is only a small component of what we can do better, but it is an important component because people want to be able to wear clothes that are more comfortable or suit their religious requirements,” she said.
“So it’s just about making sure that we communicate as a sport with our grassroots about this and we ask how we can better support them to do that.”
Netball’s commercial jewel in the crown
Controversy surrounded Super Netball’s new two-point super shot this season.
Teams were awarded two points for goals scored from a designated area closer to the circle edge during in the last five minutes of each quarter.
The majority of online fans continued to speak out with their objection to the rule, after already demonstrating their angst over its introduction in surveys over the years.
This created a clear divide during the 2020 Super Netball season between Netball Australia and loyal fans, who felt they were not being listened to by the sport’s governing body.
In the State of the Game Review, Netball Australia said it wanted to fix this issue moving forward by ensuring Super Netball’s position as the game’s commercial product was clear.
Netball Australia said it hoped this might help fans understand the reason for changes.
“If fans don’t like something, they will let us know and that passion is a positive,” Ellis said.
“The reality is, one of the key aims of Super Netball has to be that it generates revenue for the system and at the moment it’s not yet profitable.”
Netball Australia has earmarked 2021 as a critical year for the competition’s future, as it looks to secure a new broadcast deal.
And that means more innovation may be coming down the track, as the sport tries to grow its entertainment value.
In feedback provided to the State of the Game Review, Super Netball’s main broadcaster, the Nine Network, labelled the super shot “a powerful addition to the viewer experience”, stating it believed the sport “took too long” to implement it in the first place.
But there are further recommendations made that go beyond rule changes and innovation, including Netball Australia’s focus to move Super Netball games into a prime-time slot on TV, while upping marketing and promotion strategies.