IOL Sport's athletics writer Ockert de Villiers.
Netball South Africa’s (NSA) decision to bid for the 2023 World Cup has the potential to transform women’s sport in the country. Constantly fighting for a piece of the sports sponsorship revenue, female sport in South Africa also battles for media exposure.

It was revealed last weekend that NSA has been lobbying the government to get behind its bid for the 2023 World Cup which would be hosted in a single city.

The 16-team showpiece is expected to inject approximately R2.5-billion into the South African economy. Hosting the annual netball showpiece would serve as the perfect remedy to South Africa’s failed 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

The spotlight in South Africa would finally shift to a female-dominated sport which would hopefully see the entire country rally behind the national side. South African netball has been making massive strides not only on the court but also off it as it looks to take the sport into the professional era.

The national side has gone from perennial underdogs to contenders in the Netball Quad Series which includes the three best teams in the world  Australia, England and New Zealand.

The Proteas team under the tutelage of iconic Australian coach Norma Plummer has gone from strength since the previous World Cup. More of South Africa’s top players are plying their trade in professional or semi-professional leagues in England, Australia and New Zealand.

Last year the Proteas beat eventual Commonwealth Games champions England 54-51 and have come close to beating the world’s top two sides, Australia and New Zealand.

Last weekend’s four-point defeat to the Aussies was their smallest losing margin ever while the Silver Ferns’ 51-46 victory was the lowest over the Proteas since 1995.

Netball is the only sport that caters almost exclusively to women where it is organised, owned and dominated by women. Bringing the World Cup to South Africa could go a long way in highlighting the strength of women in society.

It would hopefully be wholly organised by women which would also create job opportunities and empower local female talent. A successful bid would hopefully aid in the push to see netball turn professional in South Africa, breaking the stigma that women can’t make a living out of sport.

Netball holds the potential to break the glass ceiling for women’s participation in sport. The sport’s greatest defining feature  catering mostly to women – is also the biggest drawback in its bid for a place in the Olympic Games.

Among the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) criteria for a sport participating at the Games is that there is a gender balance. It would mean more men would have to participate in the sport for it to stand a chance of becoming an Olympic sport.

That would mean that the already scarce resources netball has to grow the sport among women would also have to be allocated to promote it among men.

The world is already warped towards male participation and the criteria would have to be reconsidered in a bid to bring one of the world’s most female-friendly codes to the global showpiece.


Saturday Star

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter