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Netball pushes for Olympic Games inclusion

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The netball fraternity has stepped up efforts to ensure that the game makes its Olympic Games debut when the Australian city of Brisbane hosts the event in 2032.

As the first step towards Olympic inclusion, a sport has to be governed by an IOC ‘recognised’ federation. World Netball achieved this recognition in 1995 and has enjoyed a good relationship with the International Olympic Committee since then.

Netball has never been an Olympic sport despite fulfilling the first step towards inclusion, which is that a sport has to be governed by an IOC-recognised federation.

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World Netball achieved the recognition in 1995 and has declared its intention to work with Netball Australia in making a compelling case for the game’s inclusion in the global tournament.

The just-ended 2020 Tokyo Games saw games such as karate, skateboarding and sport-climbing making their debuts.

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The only big international contest that netball features in is the Commonwealth Games.

England National Netball Team Coach Jess Thirlby told BBC Sport that taking netball to the Olympics would be a great opportunity for countries that have never made an impact at the Games.

“It is played in over 70 nations across the world, some of which, the likes of Malawi, are nations that haven’t medalled this time around in Tokyo.

“So it really offers up the chance for other nations to actually get on an Olympic medal table.

“We appreciate it’s not yet played, most probably, broadly enough within the men’s game. That is something I feel pretty confident about, that in 10 years’ time, the game will reach a much broader audience.”

Through a statement posted on its website, World Netball claims that the game now has more than 20 million participants across 76 member nations in five continents of the world.

“Netball’s World Cup attracts record crowds. When the event was held in Liverpool [in] 2019, over 100,000 tickets were sold to over 30,000 unique spectators from across 40 nations; over six million people attended, watched and/or followed the event which achieved a Net Promoter Score of 81 percent,” the statement reads.

The website quoted World Netball President Liz Nicholl as saying that all member nations are excited at the potential of being part of the Olympic family in 2032.

“We are committed to ensuring that our case for inclusion adds significant value to this very special Olympic movement,” Nicholl said.

Netball Australia Chief Executive Kelly Ryan told BBC that netball deserves to be played on the big stage.

“We want our junior netballers to dream of Olympic glory in the sport they love. We want our netball fans, who are the proudest and most passionate supporters, to cheer on their favourite athletes as they compete in the green and gold with the whole world watching on,” Ryan said.

Netball Association of Malawi General Secretary Isaac Chimwala hailed the efforts, saying they would help in the local game’s development.

“This will be an extra opportunity for us to compete at another big competition besides Commonwealth Games and the Netball World Cup. Competing at the Olympics is every athlete’s dream.

“We are known for our exploits in netball and competing at the Olympics would be great news to all of us. Playing at such big tournaments will make our team better,” Chimwala said.

Netball Australia is also working with the Australian Olympic Committee and IOC to advance the bid.

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