England Netball's new CEO Fran Connolly wants netball to trail-blaze in women's sport
"We want to be the trailblazers across women's sport and across the sport sector and to do that we need to continue the momentum"
Last Updated: 07/11/19 1:10pm
England Netball's new CEO Fran Connolly speaks to Sky Sports on the occasion of her appointment and shares her ambitions for netball and how she wants it to trail-blaze a path in women's sport.
Connolly succeeds Joanna Adams into the role of CEO and has been part of England Netball since 2001.
The new CEO was appointed as England Netball's director of development in 2010 and has held a number of different roles within the organisation during her career there.
Connolly's familiarity with all parts of the organisation is something that she believes will help as English netball looks to move forwards at this critical time.
"We are hugely ambitious as a sport, we want to be the trailblazers across women's sport and across the sport sector and to do that we need to continue the momentum and we don't want to lose any pace," Connolly told Sky Sports.
"The competition is fierce out there from other sports and from other netballing nations and I guess this appointment signals the fact that the board want to continue as fast as possible. I fully intend to hit the ground running."
After the success of the Vitality Roses at elite level and continued participation growth for the last 10 years, netball looks to be well placed in England.
The question now is, what are Connolly's immediate priorities as the new CEO and what is her vision moving forward?
"I don't think that our direction of travel will change, I think that it would be a shock to people if it did," she noted.
We always aspire to be the top-ranked netball nation in the world and to do that, we need more professional infrastructure that supports it.
Fran Connolly - England Netball's CEO
"We also need to ensure that we continue the growth in participation. We want to have an offer of choice for every audience.
"Across the whole business, we need to continue the drive to be more commercially sustainable and financially sustainable.
"We want grant funding to be a choice and not a necessity and all of those things are interconnected. We need to do one well to have benefits across the others."
The triumphs on the Gold Coast and the bronze medal in Liverpool signified a shift at the top of the sport - England moved from being the 'nearly' side to an team that gained success on the greatest of stages. Connolly knows that continuing this is vital.
"From the followers that we attracted from those magic moments on the Gold Coast through to the additional interest that we've had due to having the World Cup on home soil, it feels like we've really created a movement and we've created a movement across every part of the netball family.
"That netball family is ambitious and as ambitious as we are as an organisation - they want us to continue. So we will strive to continue to innovate and we will strive to be market leaders. We want to continue the pace, we don't want to lose any ground.
"I think that there's a huge amount of potential and I genuinely mean that. We need to increase the visibility of the sport and if we do that and we consistently continue to deliver on the international stage, we will see the benefits across the whole sport."
Connolly may have just stepped into the role but there's no time to reflect and take stock, instead, she's about to embark on a significant period of planning. The new CEO and her team are shaping a 10-year strategy for netball in England and she's clear that listening to those involved in netball is key.
"We want to take the netball family with us on this journey, it's really important for me as a leader to be a collaborative leader, to engage the netball community and to let them have their say about the direction of travel and the 10-year strategy going forward.
"So we will be out and about, listening to the views of netballers and asking for their thoughts on the future. It's exciting. We're ambitious, we're trailblazers and we want to get going."
Sky Sports is your home of netball and live action returns with the Vitality Roses' three-Test tour to South Africa. The first Test from the Velodrome in Cape Town will be shown live on November 29 at 5.00pm.