World netball calendar a top priority, says International Netball Federation president Liz Nicholl
Last Updated: 01/05/20 12:29pm
International Netball Federation president Liz Nicholl has told Sky Sports that a world calendar is a "top priority" for netball's global governing body.
Nicholl was elected into role at the INF after last year's Netball World Cup in Liverpool and arrived with an extensive netball and sporting CV.
She performed the role of England's Netball's CEO for more than 15 years, over two tenures, and spent 20 years in a leadership role at UK Sport, with nine of them as their chief executive officer.
Nicholl's time at UK Sport spanned 10 Olympic and Paralympic Games and included a wide transformation of the high-performance system.
"Everybody in sport is experiencing something quite unique now," Nicholl said on the forthcoming episode of Sky Sports' Off The Court.
"When you're at an international, strategic level it's always important to look at the present and the future. The present is dominated by managing this virus.
"We're in touch with our members around the world frequently to understand where each of the regions are in terms of their phasing of the virus. Obviously, they're all in very different phases.
"We have a board with a group of directors, appointed by the regions, and we are meeting monthly to have an update in terms of the challenges on the ground. That means that we have a really clear picture which informs our communications and planning.
"We're about to establish a task force to look at how we transition out of this and back into business as usual.
"We're conscious that some nations and regions will come out of it sooner than others, therefore, we want to capture the framework that's applied in those situations and share it around the world.
"It's a top priority for us, alongside actually looking at our future strategy, so that we can come out of this as a sport even stronger."
Netball's future strategy and the form that it will take, are two subjects which have been discussed regularly during this time of sporting inactivity.
The commonality around the majority of discussions has been the topic of a world calendar, and Nicholl shared that generating this is firmly on her radar as the INF's president.
"That's one of our top priorities. We're now working on an event and a commercial strategy for the future of our game.
"What we realise is, there's huge potential but it does mean that there has to be collaboration around the world.
I'm getting very positive messages from the member bodies that in fact there's a willingness to really talk about this, and to really see whether we can manage a schedule of events from national to international, in a way that will showcase our sport as it should be more often.
"We're putting our athletes at the heart of this as well. It's a difficult one to manage when you're looking at different zones around the world, different scheduling of their normal netball activities and how you fit that into one big picture. But, we are planning on that and that's part of our new strategy going forwards."
Nicholl then went on to discuss the moving parts which make up the global calendar. She also specifically acknowledged the work that the strongest domestic leagues have done in developing netball as a whole.
"We have got to look at the assets that the international federation owns," she said.
"We have the ability to place those in the calendar wherever they best fit, but they have to fit alongside big chunks of the season where the super leagues play - particularly in Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa.
"These leagues are really important in terms of athlete development. They've made an enormous impact on the game and on the athletes, who are getting top quality competition more often. You can see how that plays out at international level, so getting the balance right is important.
"I think it's a phased calendar," Nicholl continued.
"A phased calendar which acknowledges community activity, national activity and international activity. I'm sure we'll get there for the greater good of the game."
Nicholl added that, alongside the INF's CEO Clare Briegal, she has been in direct contact with all of the leaders of the nations where the major national leagues are held.
"One of the big challenges about this virus is that those [nations] who have been really successful at generating commercial income and growing product that relies on that commercial income and gate receipts, are now the most vulnerable due to the lack of activity.
"We're very conscious that we have to do whatever we can to support them in the challenges they've got over this period so that we can get through it even stronger and we all look forward to getting back to business as usual."