Netball is a sport which has never participated at the Olympics and the netball community sees this absence as a hinderance to the global growth of the game as well as depriving it of the funding and media attention compared to other sports. Despite previous lobbying efforts, it is not until now, with Brisbane holding the Olympics in 2032, that Netball Australia are fighting hard for the sport to be included, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have approved the proposal! So why has it taken this long for netball to be recognised and why do we have to wait until 2032 to potentially see the sport in action at the Olympic Games? We have the reasons right here.
Men aren’t playing it.
You might see mixed community netball in your hometown, but there are currently no men’s seven-a-side teams held at a professional level in England, and this, according to Lewis Keeling, Co-Founder of Knights Men Netball Club, is because netball is still viewed as a “girls sport”. And so, with men not showing an interest to this ‘female sport’, netball lacks gender balance, which is viewed as a crucial element for the IOC when ensuring the sports held at the Olympics are fair and equal to all.
However, men’s netball is more advanced in Australia compared to other countries. Everyone lives and breathes the sport over there, so this gender barrier is not considered an issue as both sexes have the freedom to the play the sport without the social stigma of it being a female only sport.
No global reach.
One other reason why Netball is yet to be seen played at the Olympics is because of its lack of presence in other countries. It may be a core sport in the Commonwealth Games, with the top 24 netball teams in the world being from Commonwealth nations. It’s the absence from global powered countries such as Russia and China, providing a huge drawback – they essentially don’t want gold medals to be ‘given away’. It is a key reason why it’s application to feature in Tokyo 2020 was unsuccessful, due to the sports lack of existence within Japan. The same goes for Paris who is hosting next in 2024 and Los Angeles four years later.
So, it seems like the best shot for netball to be given an opportunity at the Olympics will be if a Commonwealth country, like Australia which has a rich netball history, to host this worldwide event for us to potentially see netball in action.
Thankfully, the future of netball is bright. It is now one of the quickest growing sports in the world and has a consistency of drawing in big crowds. Plus, from grassroots to the international level – Australia has a proud and successful history with the sport, indicating that Netball Australia will put in the work to provide a very strong case when submitting its application for inclusion within the Olympics.