Christmas Message From World Netball President, Liz Nicholl, CBE

With another year drawing to a close, it is time to celebrate and reflect on what our Netball Family has achieved in 2022.

Following our rebrand to World Netball and launch of our new strategic plan in June 2021, this was our first full year working towards our three new core strategies to GROW, to PLAY and to INSPIRE and we have made many advancements in all of these areas.

We have continued to GROW as we have welcomed one new Full Member in Eswatini and two new associate Members in, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Our Global Development Co-Leads have worked with our regional federations on their strategic growth plans and we have tested a new member ‘maturation model’ to roll out next year.

We have welcomed so many new volunteers to our sport; our first Independent Director on the Board, Rob Mills, and following approval from Members, we are recruiting another Independent Director of Finance to join the Board in 2023.

We established a ‘Voice of the Athlete Working Group’ of 10 current athletes led by an independent chair.  The group has provided an invaluable perspective from our athlete stakeholders on how we may give athletes a voice at the highest-level of World Netball.  I am thrilled that our Members have supported us in adding an Athlete Director to our Board next year.

We have welcomed new committee and technical panel members with Janet Young joining the medical committee and Dr Anita Navin appointed as chair of the Coaching Advisory Panel (CAP) – new CAP member appointments will be announced early in January.

Whilst in officiating we have awarded International Talent Identified (ITID) umpire status to seven more officials, International Umpire Awardee (IUAs) status to four more officials and re-endorsed another eight IUAs.

Without our volunteer workforce, at every level of the sport, we would not be able to succeed and I would like to take this opportunity to thank  each one of our many  volunteers in netball. It is you that makes our  sport so special.

This year has seen the world begin to open up once again after COVID-19, with events returning across the world allowing us to drive game development and the worldwide delivery of a portfolio of thrilling world-class events under our PLAY strategy.  We delivered the first World Rankings Annual Update since 2019 in March 2022 and ended the year with an incredible 53 countries securing a WN World Ranking.

It has also now been confirmed that the state of Victoria, Australia will host the Commonwealth Games 2026, with netball included, and the Commonwealth Games Federation has announced that the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago in August 2023, has FAST5 netball included on the sports programme.

Whilst it is exciting to look forward at the events we have locked into our future calendar, we must also stop and celebrate the netball we have seen this year.

Netball Fiji hosted their first international netball event in 400 days back in January, whilst Netball Australia hosted their first international in an extraordinary 1088 days in October. It has been fantastic to see so many netballers back on the court, with 233 matches taking place in the 10 months since the annual update of World rankings, which has broken our previous record of 169 matches in a one-year rating period.

These matches have taken place across many events throughout our five regions, including the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games (B2022) and the five Regional Qualifiers for the Netball World Cup Cape Town 2023 (NWC2023), all of which allowed us to reconnect with our Netball Family in person.

B2022 was an extremely special event, with 12 incredibly talented teams taking to court across the 10 days. Over 140,000 tickets were sold for the netball competition. Across our core markets 34.5 million tuned in around the world to watch on linear TV, whilst 5.1 million watched via digital streaming. Our congratulations of course go to Australia, who won the Gold Medal, but also to the Commonwealth Games Federation, our Member countries, Volunteers and everyone that made it such a success.

The five Netball World Cup Qualifiers were equally as successful, with 42 countries, over 500 athletes, more than 45 umpires and 200+ coaches, managers and primary carers, as well as 1000’s of volunteers involved in the ‘Road to Cape Town’ so far.

All 16 teams are now confirmed for NWC2023 in July 2023, and our thanks go to the hosts of the qualifiers, Netball Fiji, Netball South Africa, Netball Singapore, Netball Scotland and Netball Jamaica, as well as all five of our Regional Federations who made these qualifiers possible.

Keeping to our aim of delivering a portfolio of thrilling world-class events, this year we also welcomed back the FAST5 Netball World Series to our calendar. Hosted in Christchurch by Netball New Zealand, the event in November introduced invitational representative men’s teams to compete for the first time in any World Netball event – a moment in history for our sport.

The worldwide coverage of these events allowed us to INSPIRE the next generation of netballers. The launch of NetballPass, the digital over-the-top platform (OTT), enabled our international family to watch many of these matches free of charge online. Over 28,900 people have registered to the platform since its launch in June.

We have also launched our very own podcast, ‘Our Netball Family’ with the aim to shine a light on the work of individuals within our Netball Family which can often go unnoticed; by telling these stories we hope to inspire the next generation of players, administrators, officials, coaches, fans and volunteers.

The establishment of our World Netball Foundation is progressing, with the appointment of three independent directors, all volunteers, and a separate company now established.  We are now moving towards registration of the Foundation as a Charity.

As 2022 comes to an end, we look forward to 2023 with excitement and optimism at what is to come as we enter our Netball World Cup and Commonwealth Youth Games year.

While acknowledging that the Christmas period has a different meaning for different people around the world, I wish you all a very happy festive season.

Here is to another successful year ahead, working together to further develop and showcase our sport.

With my very best wishes to you all

Liz Nicholl, CBE

World Netball President

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