Commonwealth Games success reignites hopes of Olympic netball
The International Netball Federation is set to hold talks with the International Olympic Committee at SportAccord in Bangkok this week to discuss a renewed attempt at getting the sport included in the sports programme at the Olympic Games, it has been reported.
Over the last two weeks, an exciting tournament at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast helped draw attention to a sport that has never featured at the Olympics.
England beat hosts Australia 52-51 in the last second of the final. It marked the first time that Australia and New Zealand had not contested the gold medal.
Netball has been on the Commonwealth Games programme since 1998 and although it has been an IOC-recognised sport since 1995, detractors have cited the lack of competitive nations and limited participation among men.
However, speaking to the UK's Times newspaper, Claire Briegal, the chief executive of the INF, said that she was looking forward to the upcoming meetings.
She also claimed that talks had already been held with the organisers of the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles about including a five-a-side format of netball in the games.
Briegal said: “It’s wonderful when everyone turns around and says why aren’t you in the Olympic Games. Absolutely it is an ambition [to be in the games], but it is a stretch target and we are not that close at the moment. But what we are doing to grow our sport is also what the IOC wants to see for Olympic sports."Netball missed out on being added to list of new sports for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and will have to wait until Paris 2024 or LA 2028 to make an appearance..
The IOC wants all Olympic sports to be competitive and inclusive but Australia and New Zealand have contested five of the last six World Championships finals (the exception being 1995 when South Africa were runners-up behind Australia), and at present synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics are the sole women-only sports in the Olympics.
In an interview with Sportcal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Briegal stressed that the focus on the women's game should not hold it back.
She said: “Netball is a women’s game. We do not have the men’s game out there. Some men are playing netball, but we do not have the resources to put into it to build a strong men’s game. Imagine we had to try and create a men’s national competition. It just would not have the quality. We would have to put so much into it.
“I talked to some sporting bodies and asked is it an issue. They said ‘don’t be ridiculous, this is a sport for women’. In some parts of the world they would not let girls participate if there were men and boys around so it actually opens up doors for women. Until the world is equal with opportunities, there is probably still a good argument for women only sports.”