Home nations join forces to protect the future of netball

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The governing bodies for netball in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have come together to launch a joint initiative aimed at protecting the sport’s longevity and getting women and girls across the UK active again.

Earlier this year all netball activity came to an abrupt halt due to COVID-19, putting the brakes on the incredible momentum the sport had been enjoying, from huge increases in participation at a grassroots level, record attendance figures at international and Vitality Netball Superleague games and more press attention than ever before following the successful Vitality Netball World Cup.

More worryingly, the pandemic meant women and girls’ activity levels suffered, with thousands of people unable to get on a netball court during lockdown and only 25% of women meeting weekly activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week according to a survey conducted by Savanta ComRes on behalf of Sport England.

Unsurprisingly, lockdown also placed significant financial strain on England Netball, Netball Northern Ireland, Netball Scotland and Welsh Netball, which are all not-for-profit organisations, meaning every penny earned via ticketing revenue and membership goes straight back into the sport. Through membership, each organisation has helped thousands of women and girls get active, trained umpires and coaches, supported rising stars on their journey to competing nationally and much more.

In a bid to tackle these significant challenges, the home nations have today launched a campaign called #TogetherWeAreNetball, thought up by Welsh Netball, to encourage members to renew their membership for the 2020/21 season, therefore protecting the sport financially, and to drive participation upon netball’s return.

Across the UK, some forms of netball have started to return in certain areas faster than others. However, it’s clear that there is still a lot for each netball organisation to do before netball in its fullest form can return.

Sarah Jones, Welsh Netball CEO, said: “The netball governing bodies across the UK have been working tirelessly since March to keep the Netball Family safe, informed and engaged. We have worked collaboratively to ensure that our members are able to return to court safely, in line with our return to netball roadmaps and respective Government guidelines. We have consulted our members, obtained the latest medical and scientific advice and placed an emphasis on regular, clear communication throughout this crisis.

“This unprecedented challenge has also presented us with a wealth of new digital opportunities, and the Netball Family has united like never before. Plus, thanks to the International Netball Federation and Netball Europe via their COVID-19 relief fund, they have enabled us to bring this collaborative vision to life. Their support and that of our community is vital to protect the future of our game and ensure that we survive and emerge stronger than ever, because #TogetherWeAreNetball.

This is the first time that the four nations have ever collaborated on a campaign of this kind.

Fran Connolly, the CEO of England Netball, added: “To have all four nations coming together in support of this initiative is monumental. It shows what netball is all about and how much this sport matters to us all. None of us could have anticipated the impact COVID-19 would have and the
pressures it would put our sport under but we are doing all we can to protect it.

“By collaborating on this initiative we can tap into each other’s resources, speak to a bigger audience and demonstrate how this sport can connect us all, even during difficult times. At England Netball, we not so long ago launched an individual campaign called #RiseAgain based on membership and this initiative with the home nations is a great extension of that, bringing not only England based netballers together but the whole of the UK. I hope our members will get behind us in supporting #TogetherWeAreNetball because the future of netball is in their hands.”

A new report from Women in Sport found that women are worried about being able to re-establish their previous levels of physical activity prior to lockdown, with 39% concerned that losing their fitness would have a long-term impact, and a quarter of women feeling it would be really hard to get back into the habit of exercise again. Plus, they stated that weight gain and low fitness could lead to decreased self-confidence, body-image perceptions and self-esteem which may act as barriers for women participating in sport and exercise.

CEO of Netball Scotland, Claire Nelson, commented: “We netballing nations know first-hand the power that our sport has, and we take our responsibility as role models and leaders in the health and wellbeing agenda very seriously. With more women and girls reporting lower body confidence and self-esteem levels than ever before, physical activity rates in adolescent girls at an all-time low and over a quarter of women saying that they feel it will be really difficult to get back into the habit of exercise again, it is absolutely critical that netball is able to continue to engage, support, inspire and empower the millions of women and girls across the UK who participate in or watch our sport and need us now more than ever.”

Karen Rollo, the CEO of Netball Northern Ireland, said: “The heart and soul of our sport is our people; we play with and for our teammates and friends, we volunteer to allow others to have the opportunities we’ve had, we support our national players because they show us how skilful and fast our game can be and we’ve maybe even come up against them on court in our domestic competitions! Our membership has supported us to get to where we are; the events, the profile, the opportunities – we can’t continue to do all these things without the continued support of our amazing people; our members.

“We are working hard to ensure we get our sport back on court safely, that we stay back and that we push on and build of the achievements of before, but first, we need to navigate our way through this challenge, one that no one has experienced before. We need your support now more than ever and with it, we will come back and we will build again. As players we say, ‘here if you need’, we are now saying, we need your membership, it has never mattered more.”

To get involved in this exciting new initiative, simply join the conversation by using #TogetherWeAreNetball on social media and by ensuring you’ve signed up to your 2020/21 membership today. Visit your relevant governing body’s website for more information on the campaign and your membership.

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