Saracens Mavericks' Kat Ratnapala highlights franchise's financial challenges
"We are in a situation where COVID-19 has gone and massively wiped out our income and funding from beneath our feet"
By Sky Sports Netball
Last Updated: 08/06/20 6:21am
Kat Ratnapala opens up about Saracens Mavericks' financial challenges and the impact COVID-19 has had on the Vitality Netball Superleague franchise.
Mavericks have been in England's elite netball competition for 15 years and it's fair to say that they're going through their toughest time right now.
On June 2, they put up a financial appeal using the fundraising platform GoFundMe. The accompanying information highlighted their need to raise £50,000 in order to "survive in the Vitality Netball Superleague" and to provide services across Hertfordshire and the East of England.
- 'Future of Vitality Netball Superleague had to be protected'
- Watch the latest episode of Off The Court on YouTube
"We are in a situation where COVID-19 has gone and massively wiped out our income and funding from beneath our feet," the director of netball and head coach said on Sky Sports' Off The Court.
"Playing just three games [of the 2020 season] is absolutely gutting. Also, from our perspective only having one home game in terms of our income and having our fans come to our venue, was just really difficult.
"We're in this situation at the moment where we've got a real duty of care to the players and to our staff - we're using the government scheme as much as we can. We've also got a duty of care to our fans to make sure that we're working with them as much as possible.
We've been in this league for 15 years and as an independent franchise, we've had to work really hard anyway to keep our head above water, year in and year out. This year's no different, we're just being a little bit more public about it and saying that we need some help right now.
"This [the GoFundMe page] seemed the right thing to do," Ratnapala said.
"We've got an amazing bunch of supporters and volunteers behind us and working with us, and it was actually one of the volunteers who asked if we'd thought of doing this? They said that they wanted to help, donate and make sure that the franchise remains. We thought, why not?"
Back in January 2019, an announcement was made that benecosMavericks were becoming Saracens Mavericks after the rugby club acquired a 50 per cent stake in the Superleague team. As a result of having such a high-profile link, it's understandable that some may wonder why the franchise is so financially challenged financially right now.
"For us this year, it's a massive thing. With us being a sports club, we have literally no income. We are separate from Saracens; the finances are completely separate.
"We are 50 per cent owned by Saracens however, from their perspective as well, there's no money coming into the club, full stop.
"To the other side of things, with the franchises at universities, they might not be affected now but who knows what will come next year?
"Our biggest thing now is securing as much as we can, affordability and some of our own independence, to move forwards from this time."
We need the support, we need fans to get behind us and make sure that they are supporting us 100 per cent. I think that every single club is trying to survive.
With Ratnapala sharing that all franchises will be feeling the pinch, either now or in the future, the question regarding collective action comes to mind. Are entities working together for solutions or are individual paths being taken?
"To be honest, I think that it's kind of a 'one for themselves' approach at the moment," she said.
"We've had conversations with other franchises who have said that they're fine at the moment. Then obviously we see Thunder's post that they're not fine, and information in the press, etc.
THUNDER NEEDS YOU!— Manchester Thunder (@thundernetball) June 1, 2020
With the 2020 VNSL season now ended, for us tickets are where most of our income comes from. If you have a matchday game ticket & can donate the cost of your ticket to help the survival of the team, please let Ticketline know before Mon 15th June⚡️#thankyou pic.twitter.com/yjhDgpjkFo
"There are ongoing conversations with England [Netball]. Don't get me wrong, we're under no illusions, England are going to be struggling as much from a financial perspective as any other national club.
"We need the rally of netballers to get behind, not only us but all of the franchises, to make sure that we have got a collective approach. At the end of the day, I want my six-year-old to be watching netball and enjoying netball as much as we have.
"VNSL has delivered, time and time again. It's a fantastic brand, a fantastic sport and we want people to get behind us. That's not just for Mavericks but for everybody.
"I hope that collectively we can work closer to other franchises," the head coach added.
"When things get tough, people naturally close in and just want to fight for themselves, but the biggest thing for us is trying to work with other franchises, England Netball and our fans.
"No stone is being left unturned, we are prepared to fight tooth and nail for this. If we reach that £50,000 then brilliant, but we're going to have all guns blazing. We're not afraid to hold our hands up and say, this is a situation for us right now."
Watch the new Off The Court on the Sky Sports YouTube channel featuring Ratnapala. Caroline Barker and Tamsin Greenway are also joined by Laura Malcolm, who discusses the Black Lives Matter movement.