Netball’s Renaissance Exhibits True Influence Of Media
March 25, 2019
Netball is fast becoming one of the most popular sports in England. It has the highest female participation of any sport with approximately 1.4 million women playing at some point during a season.
The Roses now have a prominent position in the limelight, they are ambassadors for a sport that is played across almost every school in the country with most girls playing netball at some point in their childhood and many continuing to play at afterschool clubs, external clubs, and through into the women’s leagues.
The rise of the Roses has allowed for new female role models to take to the stage, women that people aspire to be like both on and off the court. As a country, we are very good at applauding success of sports stars, and recently we have applauded women in sport more and more.
Earlier this month we celebrated International Women’s Day which came around at a very relevant time for the new upcoming sports stars in England. Many of the Roses now aim to inspire the next generation, using their experiences to encourage girls to get involved in what is now a life changing sport for our stars. While International Women’s Day is a fantastic idea, the whole concept of needing one is a reality check. Women haven’t been gifted the front pages and top stories like male athletes and events have, instead, we need a whole day dedicated to their success.
Getting noticed in the media is hard, and it has taken netball many years to become as successful as it is today. It is only now we can see netball on a mainstream channeland only now that see articles popping up on major news websites, newspapers, and terrestrial TV.
England Netball have worked hard to get their space in the spotlight, and when the light is on, boy do they deliver. The Commonwealth Games was prime example of that; taking on the reigning champions on their home soil, with one second left on the clock, a shot from Helen Housby to change the English netball landscape.
The Netball World Cup is heading to England in just four months, and with all of the tickets for each session sold out already, the competition is poised to be successful both in the arena, and on TV.
The TV rights are still to be announced, but with the increased popularity, we can only hope it gets the TV coverage it deserves. Sky Sports Mix show many of the English Superleague matches, so they have a good case to get the World Cup coverage, although, if England can reciprocate their success of the Commonwealths the hope to push for terrestrial TV will have a strong case to allow as many people as possible to enjoy their success.
The Roses have shot up to Number Two in the World after their recent, and last international matches, before the World Cup. Australia still hold top spot, so recent results push for a top two team final in Liverpool.
The ‘girl game’ image is the old image of netball, school girls stood still playing outside during the winter months. The Roses show the athleticism, passion and fun that any other team sport possesses. Along with that, the crowds have grown in size, participation has boomed and coverage has increased. After winning the double at 2018’s Sports Personality of the Year, there is a strong feeling that netball could be the game that gets women team sports noticed and having a consistent prominent place on TV.
Not only has the coverage increased, the sponsorship and money pushed into the sport has rocketed too. Nike now sponsor all of the Roses kit, while Vitality Insurance and Sky Sports are also giving the sport significant backing. The Superleague sells more tickets and hosts netball events throughout the year, becoming more and more popular as the Roses success continues. Who would have though netball gets a prime-time slot on TV after so many years of going under the radar?
When you think about it, the media has more control than you would first believe when controlling sport and coverage. Think back to school, most girls played netball, most boys played football, football has always had its place on TV, but where was the netball? Okay, we might not have been as successful back then, but looking back the last major trophy England had in football was in 1966, hardly the golden sport of the generation! You can argue that netball isn’t played across the world, correct, but why should that have stopped all the school girls playing netball from having a role model to look up to.
The crazy reality is, that it is 2019 and we are still having to push to get not only netball, but women’s sport into the media. England are currently ranked number two in the world in netball, yet football gets around 90% of coverage in the sport part of the paper. Just imagine if the media focussed on different sports, how would the perception of the general public change towards women’s sport.
It is hard to admit, but when you look at it, the media has full control over what the public see, what becomes popular, and the success of the sport.
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Author: Beth Gunter
Beth has a First Class Degree in Sports Journalism from the University of East London, and has done work experience for Leyton Orient Football Club, Dagenham and Redbridge and filmed for BT Sport. She currently volunteers with Volleyball England at major events and is based in Southampton.