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When will Netball become a professional sport?

Victoria, one of our Sport and Faith Apprentices, is a huge fan of both playing and watching netball. Her dedication to the sport mirrors the passion and commitment seen in many women's sports, where record-breaking, inspirational athletes often balance full-time jobs alongside their athletic pursuits.

This raises a critical question: when will these talented women get the recognition and support they deserve, allowing netball to flourish as a professional sport? Keep reading to here what she thinks:

"Friday and Saturday nights mean fast-paced, nail-biting matches in the UK’s Netball Super League between 10 dynamic and talented teams. I love settling down with a cup of tea after a long day at work to enjoy these athletes showcasing their skills on the court. Despite their impressive performances, many of these players have come straight from long days of balancing training and their careers.

While some fortunate players receive sponsorships or are part of the England Roses Pathway, most juggle full-time jobs or studying with their extensive training, conditioning, and match commitments. Despite England's success in reaching the final of the 2023 Netball World Cup, netball is still only considered a professional sport in Australia and New Zealand. This is why players like Fran Williams and Helen Housby have moved overseas to focus on netball full-time.

This situation raises an important question: why isn’t netball in England taking its rightful place as a fully supported and funded professional sport? England Netball is actively working towards this goal with programs such as Walking Netball, NetballHer, and See Us Now, which support various communities and promote netball across the country. These initiatives include NSL players discussing their paths to semi-professional netball, their hopes for the future, body image, mental health, and the challenges they face balancing their jobs with the increasing publicity of being in the NSL.

This year, the BBC and SkySports began broadcasting two out of five matches each week, following the success of the World Cup. This is a brilliant step forward for promoting netball in the UK. However, compared to the number of League 2 football matches shown, there is still much work to be done. Netball might not yet have the same number of fans or the long history of sports like football and rugby, but the players demonstrate the same determination and grit in their training, travel, gameplay, and discipline. The key difference lies in the lack of secure facilities, funding, and time.

Netball being recognized as a professional sport would benefit not only the current professionals but also those growing up with the sport. It would offer young players a viable career option and not just a hobby for Friday nights. This recognition is also crucial for aspiring coaches and umpires.

As a player, umpire, and recent coach, I have seen firsthand how netball brings people together, supports teammates through tough times, and boosts confidence. Netball is not just a sport you played in secondary school and vaguely remember; it's a physical, tactical, and strong game that challenges you to grow, supported by a vibrant community of players, coaches, umpires, and sideline supporters. It truly deserves to be recognized as a professional sport." 

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