‘Time is on netball’s side’ for Olympic inclusion

Junior Levi in action. Picture: New Zealand Netball Twitter.

An international push to have netball included as an Olympic sport by 2032 is on following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) announcement that Brisbane, Australia, is its preferred host of the XXXV Olympiad.

Netball is the world’s leading women-dominated sport but still faces the prospect of missing yet another Games despite successfully appearing at the Commonwealth Games since 1998.

Netball does not meet the IOC’s guidelines for admission as a sport needs to ‘be widely practised by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents’.

Despite this, men’s netball players and administrators believe the time to strike is now.

World-renowned New Zealand Men’s Netball Player Junior Levi, who also plays in Australia, said the International Netball Federation (INF) has time on its side, but changes need to be made at the grassroots level.

“Netball is one sport where women have the monopoly and obviously, they want to maintain that for women. Fortunately for the sport, it gets the chance to be pioneers of sport where the base is dominated by women with boys and men’s inclusion,” he said.

“I think the only way we get social and foundational change for netball is at everyday local clubs and for people to see the product on a large scale like the Cadbury Series in New Zealand*. Boys and men will notice the game when they see it – and through that more boys will want to get into it.

“One thing the INF does have is time [to be included should Brisbane receive the 2032 Olympics] … this is not about me, this about the next generation of netballers.”

England Men’s and Mixed Netball Association Men’s Development Officer and Knights Men’s Netball General Manager Lewis Keeling said continued growth of men’s and mixed clubs was important to help netball earn a spot ‘the female athletes deserve’ at the Olympic Games.

“It irks me that the Olympics needs the men’s game for netball to be part of it. The female game has been good enough for a long time now, you only have to look at the recent World Cups, and Commonwealth Games’,” he said.

“However, I understand the IOC’s point of view of that equality in sport which should be the case. If [including men’s netball] helps a little bit to get these amazing female athletes the recognition they deserve, then fantastic.

“In terms of how we do that, we’re building over here. We have managed to keep up some of the momentum despite not being able to play for the past year…. We’ve built a relationship with [London] Pulse and took part in training before the Legends Series.

“We’ve come a long way and in the next 11 years, the whole sport will be bigger and better.”

Interestingly, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming are currently women’s only events at the Olympics.

  • The Cadbury Series is a historic netball competition that allows the New Zealand Silver Ferns to compete against a New Zealand Men’s Invitational team.

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