England Netball confirms Superleague set for February return as signing window opens
Last Updated: 19/08/20 1:49pm
England Netball has confirmed the 2021 Vitality Superleague season will return in February 2021 as the signing window for teams officially opens.
Following Tuesday's news that the game can move to the next phase of its roadmap for a return at grassroots level, the sport at the elite level is now moving on with preparations for the new season.
The plan is for that to begin in February and it will be the next chance for fans to see the Superleague teams after a short-form competition in the autumn was deemed unfeasible after dialogue between the franchises and stakeholders.
"We were really excited about the prospect of an autumn event to give the VNSL more exposure following the season's cancellation," Vitality Netball Superleague and Competitions Director at England Netball Ian Holloway said.
"However after much thought and deliberation with clubs and stakeholders, we came to realise that this option would not be feasible in the current climate, due to the preparation time needed to get players back safely on court
"However we are hoping to still get some form of netball on people's screens before the end of the year."
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Teams are already beginning to prepare, despite the restrictions on training and playing facilities caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the official opening of the signing window will see efforts redoubled.
Superleague clubs are able to return to training as part of the Government's elite sport return to training roadmap and franchises now have the opportunity to speak to out-of-contract and overseas players after the deadline of August 17 to talk to current players passed.
Last off-season saw Liana Leota and Ama Agbeze recruited to Severn Stars, Jodie Gibson switch to Saracens Mavericks and Sigi Burger make the move from Surrey Storm to London Pulse.
With Leeds Rhinos joining the mix for the new season, and starting from scratch, it promises to be an exciting window, and even more so because the time-frame for recruitment has been reduced.
The deadline to sign players will be 5pm on October 30, giving teams just over two months to shape their squads for the new season, which it is hoped will launch with a Season Opener event in Birmingham.
"Despite the disappointment we all faced when the 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic, we're now really excited to see what the 2021 season has in store for us," Holloway said.
"The signing window will be a fantastic opportunity for fans to get a glimpse of what they can expect, and with competition getting fiercer each year, we're itching to see how each club's squads will look before the VNSL returns.
"Not only will the public get to see some fan favourites on court again next year, but we'll also have a new team in Leeds Rhinos Netball to get behind and we're looking forward to seeing what they bring to the table. There's so much to look forward to and the signing window is just the start."
Manchester Thunder will enter as the last champions after the 2020 season was cancelled following just three completed rounds due to Covid-19.
Thunder sat top with a perfect record of four wins from four, while London Pulse and Team Bath were also perfect, having won their opening three matches as the season made a blistering start.
The 2020 Season Opener enjoyed record crowds in Birmingham and some exciting clashes on court, with the day drawing to an end with 2019 champions Manchester Thunder facing off against Wasps Netball.
Sky Sports will keep you up to date with all the news as the franchises sign up their squads for the new season, follow us @SkyNetball