Netball Australia’s embattled CEO, Kelly Ryan, has been here before: that awkward place where it seems like there’s another dose of bad news everywhere.
She’s doing a good job of staying upbeat, but how long will she keep the muttering from turning to howling?
Will he stay or will he go? Will she quit or will she be pushed?
This week alone, Netball Australia has been hit with three issues.
Collingwood Super Netball club confirms it will return its license at the end of the season.
The Collingwood players, while acknowledging that the club and players are partly responsible for their lack of success, have detailed their lack of confidence in the sport’s governing body by alleging “unsustainable dysfunction and disharmony” between players and administrators. and “lack of confidence in strategic direction.” of Netball Australia”.
On the same day, Australian Netball Players Association President Geoff Parmenter resigned, adding to the widely held view that the relationship between the players’ representative body and Netball Australia is currently unworkable.
As it is, all the players, from the eight Super Netball teams, are out of contract this September. Neither of them knows what the future holds, even though the Netball Australia CEO remains confident that there will be a new team to replace Collingwood.
Setting up a new team will cost money, of which Netball Australia doesn’t have much. Being up and running before the next season starts means they’ll be short on time, too.
Dr Hunter Fujak, author of Code Wars: The Battle for Fans, Dollars and Survival, told The Ticket that netball’s current dilemma reflects the battle rugby union has faced.
“The overall Super Netball competition is in a huge state of flux,” said Dr. Fujak.
“There are probably parallels to the experience rugby union has had in recent years, where once there’s a bit of negative momentum around the sport and certain elements start to fade, the problems tend to build up in terms of a bit of a spiral. of death”. , one might say.
“The concern for netball is that maybe they are stuck in one of these death spirals where there are a lot of negative implications that build up with each other.”
Those challenges include fulfilling a broadcast contract that guarantees an eight-team competition, locating where a replacement team will come from, the mental health challenges for players on the Collingwood team facing unemployment, and more generally for all players. They require certainty that the competition will survive.
An already strained relationship between the gaming group and management took a turn for the worse seven months ago following the fallout from what Netball Australia saw as a vital sponsorship deal they had agreed to without consulting the players.
Mining magnate Gina Rinehart ended up pulling her multi-million dollar offer from Hancock Prospecting when players raised concerns about using the company’s logo.
The Diamond national team, at the time, included only the third First Nations player in the history of the sport. Lang Hancock, the founder of the mining company, said in a 1984 television interview that the “indigenous problem” could be solved by sterilizing and breeding them.
In a sport that had pledged in 2020 to “build a strong strategy that enhances our community’s engagement with First Nations people,” it failed at the first step.
The sponsorship withdrawal left Netball Australia millions of dollars in debt. The Victorian government stepped in to provide much-needed funding and Netball Australia made enough cuts to its budget to run a small surplus of $300,000.
Ms Ryan highlighted the failed deal in the sport’s latest annual report:
“Total revenue was $3.8 million under budget. This was primarily due to the commercial sponsorship budget being missed due to widely reported events in the last quarter.”
In what could be seen as good news for the sport this week, Netball Australia joined other major Australian sporting codes in announcing that they would support a Yes vote on an Indigenous Voice referendum to Parliament later this year.
Unfortunately, unlike other sports, Netball Australia did not consult the playing group before making its announcement.
The players had organized briefings in the coming weeks to learn more about Voice, a position Netball Australia was aware of.
It is the players who are in front of the media and will be asked why they support Voice. Like many Australians, they probably haven’t decided which one they will vote for yet. Netball Australia has unnecessarily put them in a difficult position.
Unlike Australia’s main football codes with large numbers of indigenous players, Netball’s elite competition has just one playing regular and one playing reserve.
All this takes place in the week that Super Netball will celebrate the indigenous round.
Only the Queensland Firebirds will have a First Nations player to cheer on, which begs the question: what is Netball Australia celebrating this weekend?
Netball’s Indigenous Advisory Committee is inactive and no one from Netball Australia was available to discuss what progress has been made since the sport’s 2020 “statement of commitment” to improve indigenous representation.
Two weeks ago, Netball Australia announced that Wadjuk Noongar wife Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker had been appointed to the board.
His knowledge and experience should prove invaluable to a sport that has put all the right ticks in the right boxes. It’s time for the sport to turn symbolism into genuine change.
The question now is, how much time does Ms. Ryan have to mend the broken relationship with the players? And is the board more confident than the players in their ability to do so?
Netball Australia has declined to comment.
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