Netball Expert & Columnist
Tamsin Greenway: Vitality Netball Superleague has an opportunity to develop during pause in play
"Without the 2020 season, it gives all involved a significant opportunity to try to work together to create a product and a package that takes domestic netball forwards again."
Last Updated: 04/06/20 3:00pm
Tamsin Greenway looks at how the Vitality Netball Superleague can use a pause in play to continue to enhance its product and reveals her wishes for the competition.
The lockdown period has given people an opportunity to do the things they've not had the time to do before. From going through old photographs and cupboards, to clearing out garages and spare rooms, many have used their time to organise and do all the jobs that 'never get done'.
While I too have been busy at home, I've also tried to implement this into my role at Netball Scotland. Not being able to meet the squad and coach my players has been very frustrating. however, having the time to plan, strategise and decide the road forwards, is the positive I'm taking.
Without upcoming Test matches, training camps or squad selections, there's room to explore different aspects of our programme and really get stuck into it, without the usual pressure of managing a squad and getting results.
'Future of Superleague had to be protected'
England Netball CEO Fran Connolly says that protecting the long-term sustainability of the Vitality Netball Superleague had to be done.
When it comes to the Vitality Netball Superleague, there's no getting away from the fact that we're all gutted that the 2020 season won't be happening, but with so many pieces to the puzzle together, the decision wasn't a surprise.
However, with the line drawn underneath the 2020 season and the short-term next steps now being known, there's now considerable time to plan and focus on the longer-term.
The opportunity is there to be able to use this time to create an even better and stronger product for domestic netball in the UK, almost a rebrand.
It was great to hear England's Netball's CEO, Fran Connolly, talking on Off The Court about how England Netball has an ambition for the Vitality Netball Superleague to become the best league in the world. She was realistic about that statement, adding that it's a massive ask, but it's exciting to see the competition finally being given a real focus.
This ambition though, begins to raise so many questions. First and foremost, how does the Superleague go about achieving this goal?
Immediate thoughts come up like, how do you get the best players? How do you keep your England players here? How do you entice the best coaches in the world to come to England and coach?
Also, what does the best league in the world look like? Realistically, what does the funding and sponsorship look like? Who are the companies and target audience that will help create this vision? There are so many factors to consider, and those in charge need to decide what the important ones are.
Without the 2020 season, it gives all involved a significant opportunity to try to work together to create a product and a package that takes domestic netball forwards again.
Everything should be on the table - from the larger issues like funding to the smaller ones.
For example, I mentioned in a column before that some fans don't buy season tickets because their team's matches move around so much and they can't commit to it. If that's a barrier to supporters eventually being able to attend matches, then let's address it now and give teams time to sort it.
Let's study the Southern Hemisphere again; their leagues and development. Let's analyse what they've done and decide what might work and what might not, over here. What do their match-days look like now? What did they look like before? How do they engage with their fans?
ANZ Premiership netball on Sky Sports
The ANZ Premiership in New Zealand is set to resume on June 19 and every match will be shown live on Sky Sports.
Let's look at what we could we implement to boost our spectators in 2021, and I don't just mean at the matches as we don't know what that will look like yet. How do we continue to boost the numbers of people tuning into live games too?
The ANZ Premiership returns in a couple of weeks, and it's going to be shown on Sky Sports, so let's start to take note and learn more about all aspects of that league. Plus, let's use that as a stepping stone for getting even more interest in watching games on the TV here in the UK.
Another big area to consider is both sponsorship and branding. Take the NBA for example, they have one brand which supplies the whole league, what about that happening for Superleague's franchises? If you were able to do that, it creates a unified brand for the whole league and anyone who wants to buy any netball kit, buys brand X.
With the gift of time and clear direction, this period means that teams could not only contemplate new ideas, but also develop the means to put them in place ahead of the 2021 domestic season in England.
Conversations might happen behind closed doors for a little while to start with, but the competition could come out of this period much stronger, if the time is used wisely.
Personally, I'd really like to see a clear and concrete three-year plan for the Vitality Netball Superleague and one that has a strong goal and outcome.
I'd like to see real clarity in terms of Superleague's direction and great leadership from the top down. I, or some of the franchises, might not agree with every part of what the league then may try to do, but ideally if you knew the plan, you'd be able to buy into the bigger picture.
With so many franchises operating in such different ways right now, it's likely that there may need to be compromises. But, as mentioned, there's the time to talk things through and then action things.
During this period of 'down time', I'd love to see the collaborative approach continue and one that allows the Vitality Netball Superleague to move forwards. I'd love to see UK domestic netball grow and steps being made towards its incredible ambition of becoming the best league in the world.