Christmas Message From World Netball President, Dame Liz Nicholl DBE

December is always a time when we pause, reflect, and celebrate what our Netball Family has achieved over the past 12 months, and as I look back at 2023, I feel very proud and thankful for the selfless commitment of so many in our World Netball family.

We started this year on our #RoadToCapeTown campaign, as we prepared to host the first ever Netball World Cup on the continent of Africa and to celebrate 60 years of our pinnacle event.

Netball South Africa and the whole continent of Africa embraced the Netball World Cup 2023 (NWC2023) with open arms and the event exceeded our high expectations in so many ways.

Before the event began, the most successful sponsorship and broadcast programme ever seen for a World Netball (WN) event had already been secured, and the 10 days of competition that followed that did not disappoint, showcasing the very best international netball. Our fans were clearly impressed showing their passion and energy in the arena and fan parks in Cape Town and across South Africa.

Congratulations to Australia for being crowned Champions for the 12th time and England on making their first ever Netball World Cup Final.

Globally, the Netball Family tuned in via our OTT platform, NetballPass, or on their TV’s, with broadcasters showing the event live in over 90 countries . Again records were broken, with a report commissioned by YouGov showing that the event reached a live linear TV audience of 14.9 million, more than double that of the 2019 edition in Liverpool (7.3 million) and had a total linear TV audience of 27.6 million.

Our newly launched TikTok account also helped us reach a younger audience online, and during the 10 days of the NWC2023 alone we gained over 7,500 followers on this platform, with our content receiving 940,000 video views. Our social media content on TikTok, Instagram, X and Facebook contributed to the 1,588 social media videos referencing the NWC2023 that generated 12.7 million views.

It is a testament to the Netball Family that the NWC2023 has since been awarded two prestigious ‘Event of the Year’ Awards at both the Sports Business Awards in the UK and the Hollard Sports Industry Awards in South Africa.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all the players, team management, officials, volunteers and fans as well as Netball South Africa and the NWC2023 Local Organising Committee for making this possible.

Although 2023 was the year of the Netball World Cup, as a Netball Family we achieved so much more in all areas of our strategic plan.

We have continued to GROW, gaining eight new Full Members in Burundi

British Virgin Islands, France, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and the Soloman Islands, and one new Associate Member, Niue. This takes our current Member count to 84.

Not only did we GROW our Membership we also grew our Leadership team, with new World Netball Board Directors appointed at Congress in July.

Following the hard work of the Voice of the Athlete Working Group, we welcomed our first ever Athlete Director, in Stacey Francis-Bayman, whilst we also appointed Suri Bartlett as our Independent Finance Director. We are so grateful to Ann Tod MNZM who stepped down as Finance Director and Chair of both the Finance and Audit Committee and the Governance Committee. Ann gave us    12 years of dedicated and knowledgeable service.

Gaby Hochbaum and Marva Bernard OD also stepped down from their roles on the Board as Asia and Americas Regional Directors, with Dr Bridget Adams and Victoria Lakshmi, replacing them. Thank you to Gaby and Marva for their fantastic contribution to the WN Board and the growth and development of netball.

I am looking forward to working with our experienced and our newly appointed Board Members in 2024 and beyond.

Our volunteer workforce has been growing significantly in other areas.

In officiating, we have also welcomed five new International Umpire Awardees (IUA), six new International Talent Identified (ITID) Umpires, three new International Test Panel (ITP) Members and two new ITP cadets.

A growing cohort of officials is essential to allow us to achieve our PLAY strategy as we are seeing a significant growth in the number of international matches being scheduled.

Under our core strategy ‘PLAY’ our panels, including the Coaching Advisory Panel (CAP) and Rules Advisory Panel (RAP), helped to ensure that we continued to drive game development throughout 2023.

RAP finished their Rules Review process, which started in 2022, hosting a series of webinars for Members to give them feedback on their rules proposals, and then presenting their changes to Congress.  The new Rules were approved and will now come into effect in all International Matches from the 1st January 2024.

You can view the new rules book, educational videos and explanatory PDFs on our website, here.

A new look CAP, Chaired by Dr Anita Navin, launched a new coaching section on the WN website including new foundation resources; hosted two webinar series’, pre and post the NWC2023;  helped to educate coaches within South Africa with their NWC2023 workshop;  and went on to launch their Coaching Endorsement programme in November allowing Members and stakeholders to submit coaching courses to WN for endorsement.

We reappointed our Medical Advisory Panel (MAP) in 2023 with Dr Christa Janse van Rensburg taking over as chair.  MAP has progressed the implementation of a number of key medical policies for WN events and provides guidance on anti-doping and athlete wellbeing.  Many thanks to Dr Grace Bryant who stepped down as Chair after spending one four-year term in this position, in addition to her 10 years as a panel member.

Whilst our panels worked hard behind the scenes, our teams across the world took part in 202 ranking matches from the annual update on the 1st March 2023, up to the 10th December 2023, with competitions being held in all five Regions.

Thank you to all the event administrators and volunteers that ensured that all these matches could take place.

For the second year running the World Netball FAST5 Netball World Series was a huge success in Christchurch New Zealand, with both men’s and women’s events taking place.

Congratulations go to Australia women and New Zealand men on defending their tiles and winning the two respective competitions. My thanks also go to Netball New Zealand for being such brilliant hosts.

We added new events to our world-class thrilling international events calendar too, with netball included in the Commonwealth Youth Games for the first time in August.

Eight teams took part in a FAST5 competition at Trinbago 2023, with Australia crowned champions when they beat South Africa 39-29 in the Final.

Keeping with the theme of events for the next generation of netballers, we also announced the dates for the Netball World Youth Cup 2025, which will take place in Gibraltar from the 19th – 28th September 2025 with the qualifiers set to take place across the world in 2024.

In saying this, I am pleased to welcome Megan Fey to the WN Netball Family as the Technical Delegate for the event.

It is so important that we continue to INSPIRE the next generation of players and harness the power of netball to change lives too.

Under our INSPIRE strategy in 2023 it is of significance that the World Netball Foundation (WN Foundation) has become a reality.

The WN Foundation launched its strategy at Congress in 2023, setting their intention to create new possibilities for individuals, communities, and societies to achieve through netball under their three inter-linking strategies Individuals, Communities, and Societies.

I am excited to see what 2024 has to bring for the WN Foundation as it begins to deliver on its promise.

Finally, as always everything we do has continued to be underpinned by good governance and as your President and Chair of the WN Board, I assure you that this remains a priority.

At our Congress in July, when our new Directors were appointed, I was also appointed for another term as your President.

I am thrilled that you have trusted me to lead you for another term, it’s a big responsibility and a privilege. I will always try to give of my best  look forward to continuing our journey to GROW, PLAY and INSPIRE with you all in 2024.

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.

With my very best wishes to you all.

Dame Liz Nicholl DBE