The Super Netball season has launched with a brazen new ‘we’re not sorry’ campaign, but Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan admits the sport is still trying to recover from a debt of over $4 million.
Netball is staring down a financial hole following Gina Rinehart’s decision to pull $15 million of sponsorship dollars last year.
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The bombshell call followed a player revolt and was a crushing result for the sport which was already suffering from a $7 million loss due to the pandemic.
The Victorian government, through Visit Victoria, stepped in last October to cover the sponsorship vacuum, but Netball Australia admits it is still in significant debt.
“4.2 million is the debt that we have and need to repay,” Ryan said at Super Netball launch on Tuesday.
“We still do have a considerable, sizeable debt that still does need to be repaid. So we’re still very fiscally responsible and making sure that any opportunities for growth will be realised.”
Another consideration for the peak body is the ongoing negotiations for a new collective agreement with the players union.
Last week, the union stated Netball Australia does not intend to raise Super Netball player wages in 2024 due to the debt they face.
Players were given a pay rise of up to 22 per cent last year following a lucrative broadcast deal until 2026, with the promise netballers would remain the highest-paid female athletes in any domestic league – but female cricketers have already taken over.
“There’s no more money for the players through to 2026, which aligns with the broadcast deal,” Australian Netball Players’ Association chief executive Kathryn Harby-Williams recently said.
“We are not aligned with that approach and will be working with Netball Australia … we have requested financial information, and we hope to come to the table to discuss that.”
The current collective player agreement expires at the end of the 2023 season and the union has flagged it is interested in exploring a “partnership” model in the hope it could boost players’ salaries.
The ANPA’s partnership plan would likely mimic that of other Australian sports such as the AFL, which involves players sharing in the sport’s varying revenue.
“The discussions are really at the starting phase, (so) a lot still needs to transpire,” Ryan said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the sport unveiled its new campaign for the 2023 season which aimed to breakdown stereotyping.
“We’re tired of netball stereotypes; a stuffy, safe sport played by quiet, nice girls. We’re sorry we’re not sorry, and we’re not just here if you need. We Are Here,” was the message.
Round 1 of the Super Netball competition will be played on March 18-19, including a grand final rematch between the West Coast Fever and Melbourne Vixens.
Runaway minor premiers, the Vixens fell away in the finals before losing the title decider to West Coast Fever by an emphatic 11-point scoreline.
No team in Super Netball history has managed to rebound from a grand final loss to take the trophy the following year but Melbourne Vixens skipper Liz Watson said the Vixens were up for the challenge.
“It’s historically rare to back up after losing grand finals,” Watson said at the season launch.
“So we’re saying, ‘We want to be that first team that can do that’ and it definitely fired us up.
“We want to be back there and the grand final will be in Victoria, so to have a home crowd there to support us would be incredible.”
– With AAP
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