Netball Australia has announced a landmark moment for the sport with a breakthrough broadcasting deal and three additional teams to enter a new national netball league.
Netball Australia also confirmed together with Netball New Zealand that the existing ANZ Championship format will discontinue after the current season, with both organisations opting to form national netball leagues in their respective countries.
The broadcasting deal with Nine Network and Telstra ensures live free-to-air television for two games a week and live streaming and delayed television for all games from the 2017 season.
Kate Palmer, Chief Executive of Netball Australia, said “This is the most significant broadcasting rights agreement in the history of Australian women’s sport.
“It is truly transformative,” Palmer said. “It lays the foundation for the full professionalisation of elite netball and the cementing of Australia’s reputation as having the prime netball competition in the world.”
The three preferred bidders for new teams are Collingwood Football Club, Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club (based at Storm’s Sunshine Coast facilities and in conjunction with the University of the Sunshine Coast) and Netball NSW (in a strategic alliance with GWS Giants). The five existing Australian ANZ Championship teams will transition to the new league, creating an eight-team competition.
Palmer said the five-year broadcasting contracts would provide higher salaries for players, higher distributions for the clubs, better sponsorship opportunities for Netball Australia and individual teams and unprecedented exposure for netball.
“At the grass roots, it will encourage participation and allow girls and young women to realise their dream of a career in netball,” she said.
Under the broadcasting agreement:
- There will be 60 games played in Australia’s new national netball league season from February, with two live games and two delayed games to be played as a prime-time, Saturday night double-header on the Nine Network (free-to-air)
- The remaining two live games will be available on Telstra TV
- All games will be broadcast live through the Netball Live app
- The Fast5 Netball World Series, to be held in Melbourne this October, will be the first event to be broadcast under the new agreements with Nine and Telstra
- Fans will be able to watch all Australian netball content live on the big screen – including the new national netball league, Fast5 World Netball Series and Diamonds international test matches
Palmer said it had long been accepted that a comprehensive free-to-air broadcasting arrangement is essential to maximise the development of women’s sport in Australia.
“This is such a deal and we are delighted to be part of such an historic development,” she said.
The new competition gives Australian netball an association with three great Australian sporting brands and access to big new audiences.
Palmer said the breakthroughs announced today had been in the planning stages for some time. She hoped it would set a benchmark for women’s sports which were in the process of commercial development to provide sporting careers for women.
Palmer said today’s announcement was the fifth critical stage of the evolution of netball in Australia over the past 90 years.
It follows the establishment of a national organising body in 1927, the first national women’s league competition in 1985, the first move into commercialisation with the Commonwealth Bank Trophy in 1997 and the beginning of semi-professionalism in 2008 with the launch of the ANZ Championship and the Australian Diamonds.
“In the future, this day will be regarded as the beginning of full professionalism in Australian netball,” she said.
Chair of the Australian Sports Commission John Wylie said: “This is a red-letter day for netball and women’s sport. Together with recent developments in cricket and football, these are the dividends of a long struggle for proper recognition of women’s team sports. I have no doubt the audiences will flock to the new competition. Netball is ready for the big stage.”