Another Olympics announced, another year of netball not getting a look in.
Let’s review: netball is the biggest female sport in the world, played by 20 million people in 80 countries. It’s an eligible Olympic sport, ready and waiting to go. The main argument given against its inclusion: there are no non-Commonwealth countries inside the top 20 (read: USA, Russia and China). The ‘gender issue’ is often cited as well though there doesn’t seem to be any statement from the IOC confirming this.
When sports were being chosen for Tokyo, we watched as netball was again overlooked in favour of surfing, sport climbing, baseball/softball, karate and skateboarding. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) say their priorities are to encourage female and youth participation, with IOC president Thomas Bach even saying “The IOC is taking a leadership role in the world of sport to push gender equality globally and effect real change,”. Why, then, keep ignoring the biggest female sport, one of the only ones where women take centre stage?
Now we are hearing eSports is being considered for inclusion by the Paris 2024 committee. eSports, where women make up approximately 5% percent of players. eSports, where female players face vile abuse from other competitors and fans for daring to take part.
Contrast that with netball – even though there are mixed- and male-only versions of the game from grassroots to international level, the netball governing bodies and community as a whole recognises the men’s game needs to grow and is actively encouraging it. Tell me again how netball’s gender problem should prevent it from being in the Olympics?
In the coming weeks, the #whynotnetball campaign will be back with a bang. We’ll be examining all the issues and trying to figure out why netball is still being left out. We’ll also see if we can get the IOC and Paris 2024 organisers to take notice.
Please keep sharing and talking #whynotnetball online – let’s make this happen.