International Netball Federation’s ‘Back to Netball’ Task Force and plan for return to international play

The International Netball Federation (INF) is hosting online Regional Roadshows to engage with its Members and Regions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The roadshows provide guidance on international events and reinforce INF’s commitment to provide and share frameworks and tools for a safe return to Netball. INF has over 70 Members spanning across 5 Regions; Netball Africa, Netball Americas, Netball Asia, Netball Europe and Netball Oceania.

INF’s first Regional Roadshow was held on Sunday 24th May 2020 with Netball Europe via the online video communication tool, Zoom. Liz Nicholl CBE, INF President, led the roadshow alongside INF CEO, Clare Briegal. 17 administrators of Netball Europe joined the online meeting. The second was held on Tuesday 26th May with Asia Netball and a further three are scheduled for this week.

The International Federation has completed a global survey of the sport to determine how Members are affected by the pandemic, their current position on lockdown and how INF could assist in their return to play.

Liz Nicholl shared the results of the survey which demonstrated that although some countries are beginning to emerge from lockdown, as their cases of the virus decline, there is still great uncertainty with over 50% of Members unsure when their Governments might be reviewing the potential for a return to safe sport.

An overview of INF’s new ‘Back to Netball Task Force’, an initiative decided by the Board in April 2020 was discussed. The Task Force is a small and agile group, comprising the President, CEO, Medical lead and one further Board member.

A key principle applied in establishing this approach acknowledges the significant dependency on volunteers and aims to reduce duplication of effort across nations by providing access to sport-specific advisory guidelines.

The Task Force will:

  • Continue to consult with Members, while emphasising the importance of operating within their own Government guidelines and prioritising the welfare of athletes, support teams and organisers.
  • Share Netball specific advisory guidelines, within a phased framework, drawing on the approach and the experience of other sports and those Netball nations that are first to emerge.
  • Receive input from the INF’s Technical Advisory Panel on matters relating to Coaching and Rules.
  • Report to and advise the INF Board on the broader strategic impact of the pandemic.

At its recent meeting, the INF Board also addressed some of the questions being raised by Members relating to international events and Clare Briegal updated Members on some of the Board’s key decisions.

The Netball World Youth Cup 2021 qualifiers due to be held in Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania by October 2020, have been cancelled and the INF Board has decided to use INF World Rankings to determine the qualifiers for these regions.

The INF World Rankings will be published in May to reflect all matches played before international events were cancelled as a result of the pandemic. The INF Board is consulting with its Members regarding the treatment of World Rankings during the return to international play.

At each of the online meetings, Members have the opportunity to ask questions on topics covered in the roadshow and have been able to feedback on the steps INF is taking to support its Members.

Clare Briegal, INF CEO commented: “The INF is fundamentally a members organisation and the growth and progression of the game depends on their support, and we, in turn, must support them. It goes without saying that all our Regions have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, some significantly more than others. The roadshows provide an opportunity to engage with our Members by understanding their current situation and how the virus has affected netball associations around the world. It also enables us to provide guidelines and advice to further support Members through this unprecedented time.”

In addition to the Regional Roadshows, INF has created a ‘Back to Netball’ hub on its website to provide resources and guidelines for Members in one place. This includes a framework which outlines 5 stages in the safe return to international netball that will support government guidelines.

For more information on INF’s Back to Netball hub, click here.