Netball wants a seat at the top table with the adventurous next decade and bold ambitions laying the platform for it to become the world’s number one female sport, writes Josh Graham.
That is the view of England Netball CEO Fran Connolly, who is spearheading the organisation’s new trailblazing 10-year Adventure Strategy designed to accelerate the growth and development of the sport at all levels of the game and take it to new audiences.
England are the reigning Commonwealth Games champions after Helen Housby’s last-second goal against Australia sparked wild scenes on the Gold Coast in 2018 – and a key facet of the game-changing new strategy is helping the Roses become the most recognised and respected women’s sports team on the planet.
That mission started this weekend when Jess Thirlby’s side kicked off their three-match ‘Vitality Roses Reunited Series’ against Jamaica with a 55-45 victory over the Sunshine Girls at London’s Copper Box Arena.
The Roses travel to Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena for the two final fixtures this weekend and CEO Connolly said: “World leading for us is about supporting our national team to become recognised and respected as the best female sports team in the world.
“And to do that, we want to provide the environments necessary for them to win back-to-back Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
“We know that to achieve that we will have to drive forward the professionalisation of the game at a domestic level and invest in our pathway infrastructure to ensure we have an unending supply of outstanding talent.
“We will support our ambitions by bringing innovation to all the events that we deliver, in new concepts that blend netball with fashion, music and entertainment to attract new audiences to the game.”
Housby’s winning goal went in at around 5am UK time at the last Commonwealth Games, but with Birmingham 2022 around the corner it could just be the gold medal celebrations that go on long into the night this time around.
— England Netball (@EnglandNetball) November 25, 2021
“If we can capitalise on that voice, we can really lobby on things that need to be changed. And those might be things that are non-traditional, outside of sport and aren’t necessarily linked to netball but are linked to the lives of the women and the girls that we support.”
One of the leading destinations in the strategy is the desire to establish a game for life.
England Netball envisages a game that is open for players of all ages from all different backgrounds at all levels.
And Connolly added: “By 2031 it’s our goal to have a true game for life.
“An offer for all communities that is unlocked at every age and most importantly, supported at every life stage.
“Whether that’s from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, we must do more to support females to stay active and engaged throughout their lives. Moving forward we are going to focus more on children and young people, our ambition through game for life is to lobby for change, to reach children at a younger age, to provide world-class first impressions and to stay relevant to them through their teenage years.”
For more information on England Netball’s new ‘Adventure Strategy’ and to find out how to get involved in netball in your area visit www.EnglandNetball.co.uk