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Are Female Sports Under-appreciated – Netball Focus

Posted on: October 22nd, 2013

Netball emerged as a sport in the US shortly after the invention of basketball in 1891, when the rules where adapted to accommodate social sporting conventions for women, creating women’s basketball. Over the years the rules were modified so much, it became a whole new sport – netball, which quickly spread across Britain in the early 20th century.

By 1960, the rules of netball were universally recognised and the International Netball Federation was formed to govern the sport worldwide. Today, netball is played by thousands of school children across Britain in the UK every day, is hugely popular with an estimated 20 million people playing worldwide, and is popular in the Commonwealth Games, as well as being a recognised sport by the International Olympic Committee.  So the question remains, why isn’t netball played at the Olympic Games?

Netball at the Olympics

To be a recognised sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) a sport must add value to the Olympic Games. This means it must be popular and played worldwide, it must have national and international governing bodies and an internationally recognised set of rules, as well as a well-defined history of the sport. Netball has all of these things, and a huge following keen to get the sport into the Games. But although it is now recognised, it isn’t played at a high enough level in enough countries to be admitted to the Olympic family of sports.

There are other factors that some believe are hindering the sport’s admission. It is one of nearly 40 sports that are recognised, but not yet in the Olympic program. Reasons for each of these are varied, but the IOC’s apparent fixation on keeping the number of sports at the Olympics down to a minimum, means that it is likely another sport will have to be removed from the line up to make room for netball. This was evident in the recent controversy over the decision to remove wrestling, a sport that has historically been entwined with the Olympics, to be replaced with another sport such as baseball or squash, which has since been overturned.  Many also think that netball’s similarity to women’s basketball, the sport it originated from, may also harm its chances, as karate was with its likeness to tae kwon do.

But the biggest, and often the most cited reason for netballs exclusion from the Olympics is the fact that it is still largely viewed as a ‘minority’ sport, predominately aimed at women.

We are all aware of long noted history of under reporting women’s sport, blamed largely on the lack of interest from general public. But following the huge success of our female athletes at the Olympic Games 2012, and the masses of support they received, is this really still the case?

Recently England’s netball team earned a hard-fought 49-38 victory in the opening game of their three-Test series against South Africa. A huge victory like this, coupled with the fact they are almost undefeated this year, losing only one game to Wales in the Netball Europe Open Championships, would ordinarily, and in many male dominated sports, have earned the whole team nationwide recognition. Despite this huge win, if you try to find the coverage on any sports section of the news and you’ll have to trawl through countess football, rugby and cricket stories to find it!

The solution then, whether the problem lies with the sport’s popularity or its perception, is to heighten its status in the sporting world. Investment in clubs, netball courts and equipment, will help to encourage participation in the sport beyond a school level and open the world of netball up to a wider audience.

Our international Netball team are most definitely a team to be proud of and are committed to helping this cause. Coach Anna Mayes believes the netball’s status can be improved with links within the community and the culture, rather than the current situation where people leave school and find there are few outlets to play, so fans and players alike are lost to other, more prominent sports. But she’s confident that the view of women in sport has shifted in the last 30 years, and it’ll be a ‘continual cycle’ from here.




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