7 Questions About Netball’s Landmark New Deal
By Sam Squiers
1. Is this a New Era for Women’s Sport?
This is a new era, not just for netball, but for women’s sport. This has been called a landmark deal and for good reason, the agreement will lay the foundation for netball’s professionalism to finally meet its potential.
Let’s break it down: Channel Nine and Netball Australia have signed a five year agreement to broadcast two live games, a double header on Saturday night, as well as two delayed matches. All games will be available live via Telstra and a Netball Mobile App.
Nine will also work with Netball Australia to grow sponsorships and advertising, splitting the revenue between the two organisations.
Previously Netball Australia paid Fox Sports to broadcast netball with Sky Sports paying to broadcast the New Zealand games. This is a significant leap forward for one of the most successful and popular women’s sports in the country.
There’s long been a gap between netball’s on court success and off court sustainability – this deal bridges that gap.
2. Why Are Football Clubs Involved in Netball?
There is no longer a Trans-Tasman Netball Championship with Australia splitting from New Zealand. The current ANZ Championship has 10 teams (five from Australia and five from New Zealand), while the new competition will have eight teams.
So who are the three new teams?
Collingwood, Melbourne Storm and Greater Western Sydney. Say what? Yes, you’re not imagining this. AFL clubs Collingwood and GWS along with NRL club, the Melbourne Storm, will have their own netball teams.
The Women’s Market.
Sportette has been saying it for years, women are the answer to sport’s success. Women are an untapped market and male dominated sports are slowly starting to realise that women are their future. Why? Women make up half the population, in many cases they are also the decision makers in a family, they can determine where a family’s budget is spent and which sports their kids will play. It makes good business sense to build a strong relationship with women.
And netball is the most popular women’s sport in the country. It has strong broadcast figures, impressive attendance numbers and a database that is the envy of many football clubs.
Women are a powerful force in the sporting world. Never underestimate that.
3. What about the Kiwis Cuz?
The spilt of the trans-tasman competition has been labelled as a loss for New Zealand, but not according to the Kiwis.
There had been whispers of a split for sometime. New Zealand is forging ahead with its own domestic competition plans and has the reassurance of a successful broadcast deal already in place with Sky Sports NZ. Local Kiwi rivalries always produced better ratings in New Zealand and the Kiwis are also planning a “champions League” style international competition which will involve Australia.
If you think their best talent may be drained after being lured across the Tasman into Australia’s competition, there’s already a rule in place that for players to be considered for Silver Ferns selection (national team) they have to be playing in the New Zealand competition.
This isn’t a bad thing for the new Australian competition or for Channel Nine, the proposed league will find itself growing off the back of the strength of the international game.
4. Will The Salary Cap Increase?
This is the huge question which is yet to be answered. How much will the salary cap increase? The short answer is we don’t know yet, but it should be substantially more, if not in the first year, then definitely throughout the term of the new deal.
Currently the salary cap is dependent on the broadcast agreement New Zealand has with Sky Sports across the Tasman. As previously mentioned, Netball Australia, up until now, has been paying Fox Sports to broadcast its games here in Australia. Cut out that cost and the potential financial gains for netball will be significant.
Currently the salary cap for is $270,000 a roster, in other words, not much at all.
Watch this space for the pie to grow, enabling a bigger slice for all.
5. Will it Disrupt the Current Season?
This weekend we’re heading into round 9 of 14 in the current ANZ Championship season – it’s crunch time. Yet there’s already a lot of talk about the new season which will start almost two months earlier than usual (a great call on the scheduling of the competition given it will begin before the men’s AFL, NRL and Super Rugby seasons).
Contract talks have already begun for many players with the clubs hustling to secure their rosters and future in this new competition. Expect to see a lot of player movement in the lead up to February’s launch. There’s no doubt this could disrupt the current season as we head to the finals.
6. Is It All Too Much Too Soon?
This is everything women’s sports, athletes and advocates have wanted and fought so hard for, but could it all be happening too fast and too soon? You only get one shot at this, if it’s unsuccessful, unprofessional and uninteresting it will be dropped in no time and we won’t have another chance like this for at least another decade.
I’m confident that’s not going to happen and believe netball has the market and professionalism to see it through this era. But don’t underestimate the power that you have in your hands. Eyeballs on the broadcast, bums on seats in stadiums and an avalanche of tweets and posts on social media is the only way to send the message to investors that there is a market for netball and it is a viable investment to see its progression.
The major thing netball has over many of the other women’s sports breaking into the mainstream broadcast market is that it’s already a tried and tested sport. AFL will be launching its National Women’s League in February as well but it will be a whole new ball game on television, so too was the Women’s Big Bash last year. Netball has strong growth in broadcast and publicity over the past 5 years, it’s not a new venture, just a re-organisation of the current competition. The game is the same, the competition isn’t. That gives it the biggest lead over the other women’s sports.
7. Who’s Retiring?
There were supposed to be a few big name players retiring at the end of this season but with the new competition set to launch expect them to hold on for another year. It’s an exciting new era and one many of the players have dreamt of their whole professional careers. They’ll want to play on and Netball Australia will need them to if they’re to make a smooth transition into this brave new world for women in sport.