Here at GLAMOUR, we’re thrilled to see the predominantly female sport is gaining some long overdue recognition this summer. From Sky Sports live-streaming the netball World Cup, to regular headlines about its players, the sport is undoubtedly having a moment. However, there’s still a long way to go. Not only is netball yet to be recognised as an Olympic sport, but its professional players are still juggling full time jobs due to a lack of funding.
Chances are, you played netball at some point or another. Whether you’ve kept it up into adulthood and dropped it at the first opportunity, netball was a nostalgic staple for most girls at school.
Here, Tamsin Greenway, a previous member of the England national netball team, discusses why it’s not recognised as an Olympic sport, the importance of keeping it female dominated, and how they deal with sexist comments.
This is why netball isn’t recognised as an Olympic sport…
Breakdancing has officially been made an Olympic sport and yet Netball still hasn’t. There’s a lot of suggestions about it being predominantly a female sport so you’ve got that issue, but the main problem is that Netball is only played in Commonwealth countries. The sport is still not massive in the US, China or mainland Europe. It’s definitely growing but the reality is if we want to make it mainstream and get it into the olympics, we’ve got to look at participation and inclusion across the world because it’s very Commonwealth dominated. Until we can get netball to become a worldwide sport, we’ll struggle to get it into the olympics.
The advantage of being attached to a male sport is the recognition and respect, but then you have the problem of being viewed as the inferior game
For years, it was very much viewed as a girls sport but we’ve slowly moved away from that stigma. It’s a lot more mainstream and you hear far less sexist comments. It’s not unusual to have dads, sons and boyfriends at netball games now. That’s not to say we don’t still get the comments about it being a rubbish women’s game, but I don’t necessarily view that as a bad thing because at least we’re being heard and getting out into the masses.
The beauty of netball is that it’s not compared to the male game
While it could be viewed as sexist, I don’t think it would be a sensible move to start investing in men playing netball. The sport has an opportunity to have worldwide leagues that operate, and are exclusively professional to women. It has the beauty of no comparison. We don’t get compared to the male game because the female game is so dominant. I’m not saying men shouldn’t get involved but it shouldn’t be the primary focus.
Professional players are still working full time jobs to afford to play
We cannot be naive to the lack of funding. Although the England girls are on full time programmes, there’s another 120 girls in the super league that are competing against those players and that are committing just as much time to training but also work full time jobs. This can only change when there is more funding in place. The more exposure we get, the more funding they’ll be and the bigger the game can grow. I’m not saying olympics will never happen but there’s better issues we can tackle right now that’ll grow the popularity of the sport.
We’re heading in the right direction but there’s a long way to get
You only have to see the exposure of the Lionesses over the last two years and how everyone is backing them at the World Cup to see women’s sport is heading in the right direction. The problem is people often only get behind them with the big championships but we need continuation. How do we get people involved and interacting with the game when the big championships end? That’s where we can make changes. How do we get those millions of people watching the world cup to carry on and support it because that’s how you grow the recognition and attract the sponsors. We’re heading in the right direction though, everything is so positive about female sport at the moment. It was not like this even four years ago at the last world cup.