Struggling with a reported debt and loss of around $11 million, the Australian Netball league might turn to more non-sporting commercial opportunities, including starting to accept gambling advertisements and sponsorships.
Bad Financials Grow, Gambling Ads Might Help
It’s been six years since the split in Trans-Tasman Netball League, aka the ANZ Championship, which gave birth to Netball Australia (NA) and Netball New Zealand. The Australian Netball Championships are live now, with the Super Netball finals underway. However, on Friday, chief executive officer Kelly Ryan issued a statement, visible on the NA official website, stating that they are “not on the brink of financial ruin”, addressing reports about increasing debt and lack of sufficient cash flow. To calm the waters a bit, in the same news statement, Ryan assured everyone that they “know what is needed to protect the future of Netball Australia.”
Apparently, action plans do not exclude “gambling sponsorships”, which Ryan commented are “very significant and very lucrative in sports,” when discussing the possibility. This might not have been the very first choice, however, as Ryan told the ABC that “Netball has to put itself a little bit more outside its comfort zone,” commenting on this opportunity. Ryan seems to be realistic about the whole ordeal, knowing full well that money needs to come from somewhere, saying that “We just need to be focused that it is a commercial asset, that netball is a commercial business, and we need to start thinking with that mindset so we can change the way it’s been tracking,” signaling preparedness to implement “other commercial opportunities as well.”
And the way NA has been tracking is not very positive, with News Corp reporting a $7.2 million loss in the last two years, with bank loans totaling around $4 million. Just last year’s season was cited by the Guardian to have lost about $4.4 million, however back then the pandemic was the answer to most questions. Ryan ended her news announcement with a positive note, reiterating that netball “has a bright future.”
The 2016 Fork – Good Idea, Bad Execution
The 2016 move to split the Australian and New Zealander netball teams seemed to make sense at the time. Out of the 24 matches competing with each other that year, 17 were wins for Australia, meaning the Australian talent might actually benefit from the move. Indeed, the Suncorp Super Netball championship is probably the home of the best players in the world, and enhancing the entire league to that level might not have been possible without the 2016 fork. However, as good as the sport is evolving on the court, being plagued by these financial issues signals that an equivalent change hasn’t materialized off it, yet.
The decision to split was announced before any news regarding any new broadcast deals for Australia, and even if the Channel Nine one was hitting the headlines heavily, it was in effect substituting financial security for advertising and sponsorships. However, as Ryan puts it, “female sport doesn’t attract the value in sponsorship dollars that some of our male counterpart sports do,” further affirming the possibility of gambling advertisements becoming reality. So, in the end, it seems like a lack of preparation and insufficient planning was bound to come back to the league at some point. And, come back it did, with the reported loss and debt climbing to $11 million, as we mentioned, putting the league in a tough financial position.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only bad news surrounding the Australia Netball. Beginning of June, it was announced that the sports organization is selling the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball hosting rights to the highest bidder, which turned out to be Perth, for $300,000 in cash and $350,000 in contra. However, the participating athletes were never consulted about this move, spurring dissent by the players. And this wasn’t the first time that players in the league were caught unawares, with the 2020 introduction of the two-point super shot, when it was done in a similar fashion – without consulting players or clubs and on short notice.