Netball seeks to makes players Super fans

Melissa WoodsAAP
Liz Ellis has led an independent panel responsible for an extensive review of netball in Australia.
Camera IconLiz Ellis has led an independent panel responsible for an extensive review of netball in Australia.

Setting its sights on becoming Australia's top participation sport, netball is also searching for ways to convert players into fans to make Super Netball finally turn a profit.

Netball Australia (NA) on Thursday released a 54-page report, titled State of the Game Review, which was put together by an independent panel headed by former great Liz Ellis.

The report captured the views of 10,000 respondents from the netball community via a survey as well as 100 hours of interviews with various stakeholders, and took five months to compile.

It delivered eight key recommendations - among them state-led participation growth, Super Netball as the vehicle to drive commercial growth, a national digital strategy and system-wide operational efficiencies.

The last is already being partly addressed with Super Netball chief executive Chris Symington, who resigned last month, not being replaced and his role brought in-house at NA.

Super Netball's independent commission, chaired by Marina Go and set up a year ago, will continue.

Ellis said netball ranked second behind soccer as the country's preferred participation sport, with an increase of 28 per cent between 2016-19 in males playing.

"A panel recommendation is to become the No. 1 team participation sport in Australia ... so netball needs to make sure it works on its participation strategy to make sure it reaches as wide a group as possible and is delivered as flexibly as possible," Ellis said.

The former goalkeeper says deterrents that emerged in the survey include netball's traditional short-dress uniforms.

Ellis says there's a disconnect between the huge grassroots numbers and the elite game, which she hopes a new national digital strategy will solve.

"The national digital strategy will allow netball to draw those two parts together.

"One is the competition management system which is hugely important to member organisations for registrations and draws and the other component is being able to communicate with those people and being able to get them to engage into Super Netball.

"If we get that right then the sky's the limit for the sport and I think that's an exciting opportunity."

Four years in, Super Netball is still running at a loss and NA has no major commercial, broadcast, or player deals beyond 2021.

The current deal with Nine and Telstra provides netball with no guaranteed cash flow with profits from sponsorship and advertising revenue split between the parties.

Interim chief executive Ron Steiner, who replaced Marnie Fechner who moved across to Cycling Australia, will lead those negotiations.

Described as the "commercial jewel", Steiner said he was optimistic about Super Netball's future despite taking a hit in 2020 when the competition relocated to Queensland.

"It's been a fantastic success but we're playing catch-up in getting the economics right," Steiner said.

"There are critical negotiations unfolding around broadcasters and other commercial partners and we're still very optimistic that getting to break even is not very far away.

"The impact of 2020 will still be felt in 2021 but the trajectory is definitely a positive one."

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