Those of you who don’t spend every waking second on Twitter (what else do you do with your time?!) might have missed #whynotnetball trending over the past couple of days. If that’s you, you’re in for a treat: we’re campaigning to get netball into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
(A bit of background for the uninitiated: despite having been an ‘Olympic-approved sport’ for over 20 years, netball has still never been played at an Olympic Games. This is surprising given the fact that netball has 20 million players worldwide, is played in 80 countries and has a thriving international competition. Rugby, for example, made it in with only 5 million players worldwide. If rugby can play, #whynotnetball?)
The story of this particular campaign began on Thursday, when netball player Melanie shared the news that English Heritage had started a petition to get jousting into the 2020 Olympics. Here’s her original quote:
I’ve never attempted to get a hashtag off the ground before, but this is beyond belief #whynotnetball
Netball is a recognised Olympic sport (after 25 years of lobbying), but not an accepted Olympic sport i.e. it has never been played at the Olympics.
This is indicative of the lack of acceptance of, funding and media attention for, women’s sport globally. Women’s sport is growing A LOT slower that men’s sport for this exact reason. Not being recognised as an Olympic sport is a huge hindrance to netball funding, popularity and spreading of the game globally.
AND NOW A SPORT PLAYED BY MEN IN THE 13TH CENTURY MIGHT GET MODERN RECOGNITION AHEAD OF NETBALL.
Credit to Laura Graham for the phrase and the heads up.
We shared this on the Netball Squad pages and saw loads of you responding on Twitter and Facebook, saying how ridiculous you thought it was that netball still wasn’t included:
— Natalie Morris (@Nmozz) July 21, 2016
Is this a joke?! There is a bid to get jousting in the Olympics. Netball has to be in there first! #whynotnetball
— Beccy Lewis (@Beccylewis18) July 22, 2016
Kind of a joke that netball still isn’t an Olympic sport. Far more accessible than most sports that are and fun to watch #whynotnetball
— SVL (@autojector) July 22, 2016
I spoke to Melanie and we decided to set up a petition to rival that of English Heritage (sorry guys, no hard feelings). The page on Change.org went live on Friday and hit 2000 signatures in two days. There’s already been comments from people from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Barbados, Switzerland, South Africa, Ireland, Singapore, Israel, Jamaica, Dubai, France, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea. If that doesn’t look like a great Olympic medals table I don’t know what does.
In all seriousness, we need to get netball into the Olympics. Netball is already enjoying increasing success, growth and professionalism worldwide but inclusion in the Olympics would give it an enormous boost. Funding naturally follows medal sports, more countries would start to play and players worldwide would see it as a serious option to take up.
Why netball? Even ignoring the obvious participation stats, anyone who’s played knows how great it is. It’s the ultimate team sport since players have to work together to score a goal. Like football, it’s massively accessible – all you need is a court and two hoops, or failing that, just a ball. And it looks like an Olympic sport. Emma John wrote in the Guardian recently:
at a mere domestic match, the feats of athleticism made the game look like an Olympic highlights montage. The players leapt like high-jumpers; they moved across the floor like sprinters coming out of their blocks. They had ball-handling skills worthy of an All Black, the balance and precision of a Russian gymnast.
Most importantly, it’s also one of the only sports where the women’s league is the best and brightest. What better way for the International Olympic Committee to support their ‘women in sport’ agenda by showcasing the sport that 20 million of us choose to play?
Thank you to all of you who have already signed the petition and please please tell all your friends to get involved. Let’s see how big we can get this!