Now the dust has settled on a possibly unexpectedly brilliant 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, it’s time to ask the question many of us have been wondering about…
Netball is officially recognised as an ‘Olympic sport’ – so why isn’t it played at the Olympic Games?
Why Not Netball?
It gained official Olympic recognition in 1995, and many at the time expected inclusion at the Games to follow. The official recognition opened up sources and channels of funds the like of which the sport of netball had not previously had access. But it is still yet to be included in the list of contested sports, and in an increasingly gender-aware sporting world, this remains something of a mystery to many. And indeed to KUDOS. So what’s going on, and what can we do to help push for its inclusion?
As far as we can tell there’s never really been any official reason given for netball’s continual rejection. A lack of gender balance is believed to be a primary reason – with not enough men playing the game. Indeed, the former CEO of England Netball, Joanna Adams, said in 2018 “all our insight says the second men start to play, women will stop”.
There are some theories that the USA’s indifference to netball is another factor. Certainly the fact netball is largely missing in the US doesn’t help, and the absence of netball in two other Olympic behemoths – China and Russia – is another serious problem.
Building the case for netball
To convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) of netball’s worth, the International Netball Federation needs to make a strong case for netball and that it meets a wide ranging set of criteria including popularity and global reach, ticket sale potential and costs.
The sport’s visibility is certainly improving. Netball is played by around a million people every week in the UK, and its public profile is undoubtedly increasing, with Netball Superleague fixtures shown live on Sky Sports and now being played in front of record attendances. Televised netball hasn’t always been particularly well executed, but Sky – as they do with so many sports – have now cracked it and its coverage is eminently watchable. Such an exciting sport that now translates well to TV should have no problem with global reach.
Keep Pushing Netball!
Netball is enjoying solid growth across Africa and in other parts of the world such as Europe and South America, but while the sport expands across the globe it could also be said that it has failed to fully capitalise on its strengths in the countries where it has traditionally been most popular.
Alas, there is no magic wand to be waved and the netball community must continue to push and promote this great sport. As ever, Kudos will do all we can to keep giving a voice to the sport of netball. Around half of the kit we dispatch goes to women, with netball making up a large chunk of that 50% or so. It’s something we’re very proud of, and it’s a sport we’re honoured to have some involvement in. Let’s keep netball’s flag flying high!
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