Netball Expert & Columnist
Tamsin Greenway looks at how to maximise Premier League netball
"I think that we potentially aren’t using it to its full potential yet if we really want to help players take the next step in Superleague."
Last Updated: 16/09/19 12:51pm
Highlighting netball's key topics, debating them and having robust conversations about them is something that Tamsin Greenway feels strongly about. This week, she looks at the subject of Premier League Netball and how it could evolve for the better.
Greenway opened the discussion about the competition on social media last month and was met with a wealth of responses and a conversation that engaged both fans and club members alike.
With the new season underway at the weekend, there's plenty of interest but is the competition being maximised?
The top divisions of Premier League Netball have been running since the 2006-07 season and a third division arrived in 2010. It's the highest level of club netball behind Superleague and teams have to come through county, regional and national pathways to take one of the 30 places.
Greenway knows the Premier League well having played for a number of clubs within it during her development.
Right Prem netball...talk to me? Lots of answers to momentum in our sport included Prem Netball discussions, and i was tagged on FB yesterday in a similar discussion. I’m intrigued by what netballers thoughts are on it?— Tamsin Greenway (@tamsingreenway) August 7, 2019
"It was brought to my attention by people that I know that are heavily involved in clubs and in the set-up and I think they were just feeling a little bit left out of the loop," said Greenway.
"I've been quite vocal about it for a long time, if Superleague is the top competition in the country and you don't have any relegation out of it as such (at least not every season) then we need to look at what other leagues and what competitions are happening to make sure that we're producing players and that they're getting the best opportunities to compete."
I think that we potentially aren’t using it to its full potential yet if we really want to help players take the next step in Superleague.
Tamsin Greenway on Premier League netball
When it comes to Premier League netball in its current form, the competition is a national one and the season spans from September to March.
"It's a great competition, I guess the struggle for me is that it takes place on Sundays and it's all over the country.
"You could end up playing games in Norwich, Jersey or Newcastle and I actually found that the commitment to Superleague was a lot less.
"When I stopped playing Superleague I would have loved to have carried on playing in something like a Prem competition but, for me that commitment [time and geography] with having a family was so hard.
"I also think that would have been so helpful for the youngsters coming through. Imagine if some of the recently retired Superleague players carried on playing in Prem and helped bring through the young players coming through? You'd have this amazing transition."
Greenway believes Premier League netball needs to have its own identity and its own space, though. The competition is steeped in history and with some key amendments could have that identity as well as working strongly for the wider picture of elite netball in England.
"When we look at the Signing Window, Superleague teams don't really have to name their squads until January so we've got four or five months speculating about who is going where…"
Imagine if the Prem competition was up and solely running between September and January and that it was going to be the main competition and focus before Superleague. It would give us opportunity to talk about new coaches emerging, new players emerging, it would give opportunities for umpires to get involved and there's no reason why centralised venues can't have crowds coming down.
"There would be so many talking points around it. We might be talking about a new young player that Surrey Storm have just signed and because she's playing in Prem and we could have the discussion about her and see her firsthand."
Not necessarily, your SL age group comps would cover that. BUCS would still be running and regional leagues for those players wanting more. A 5 month Prem, 5 month SL with 2 months off, and actually giving youngsters time off...I think they need that https://t.co/TtqsRMHzn1— Tamsin Greenway (@tamsingreenway) August 7, 2019
Greenway is well-aware that right now the situation is different by club and that views differ on Prem's current situation and whether it needs to change or not.
For the former international, it's clear that having a league that sits alongside Superleague and that helps 'feed' talent is vital. Talent from a playing point of view but also from the perspective of helping to boost the sport's top-level resources in terms of coaches and umpires.
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Greenway understands, from knowing people heavily involved in Prem, that there are elements to a coach's role there that aren't the norm in Superleague.
For example, not having all players at training each week, coming up against sides that have their Superleague players arrive late on or a coach only having their Superleague players available for two quarters, meaning that selection is forced in that regard.
All of these don't help a Prem coach develop the facets that they need to be ready to step into a Superleague coaching role.
Loving all the discussions 🙌🏼 so many passionate ballers. I pulled something together about 5yrs ago, and it’s interesting to see that we’re still having the same debates. These were my thoughts and reasonings. Would love to hear the pros and cons....🤷🏼♀️ #premnetball pic.twitter.com/lEmF1vXdtv— Tamsin Greenway (@tamsingreenway) August 7, 2019
At the heart of Greenway's perspective on evolving Premier League netball are two fundamental elements - geography and timing.
Centralising would assist with players' participation alongside bringing umpiring programmes together and developing coaching hubs. It would also create a focal point to spur commercial elements on. Throughout these ideas, the interaction of Superleague players into Prem needs to remain but should be met on a case by case basis.
With any talk of change to netball in this country, heads turn to what is happening in the Southern Hemisphere and that is something that Greenway has her own views on.
There's a lot of talk about what Australia and New Zealand do and yes it's great. But, we've got to look at things that work there and link it into what we're doing and what we're doing really well.
"If we've got this great league that operates with so many volunteers and so many people that have been doing it for such a long time. I just think it's about time that we made those guys feel part of it.
"I've talked a lot about the fact that we know there are hundreds of thousands of women playing netball every week and yet, not many of them come to watch the elite game. Imagine if they felt part of it? They might actually do that.
"If you've got a group of women that are off on a Sunday for seven months of the year [playing Prem] then they're probably not going to spend their Saturday coming to watch a Superleague game.
"They just might if there was a tie in? And, if they were only playing for four months of the year and the other four months they were watching Superleague and bringing along club members that are trying to get into those Superleague teams.
I keep going on about 'Brand Netball'. We are so much stronger when we all work together but at the moment, everybody is trying to do their own individual thing. I know that change always comes with a bit of a threat to people and it's not always met with joy from everybody.
"I think that there are some tweaks that we can do and that doesn't mean introducing a new feeder competition for Superleague. Instead, it's about looking at what's working really well and how do we change and adjust that to make it even better?
"We still give people the option of what they're doing at the moment but also we take that next step to make sure that we're getting the best performance out of the players, coaches and umpires."
Sky Sports is your home of netball and our live action returns on October 6 with coverage of the Fast5 All Stars Championships from The O2 while international netball returns in November with England's three-match series in South Africa.