CAPE TOWN – It is a history-making sporting weekend for South Africa with the country’s first ever World Cup hosting bid exclusive to a women’s sporting code.
Netball’s “put your hands up” campaign is a statement for the support of the sport and for women in sport in South Africa.
And the country, from government to the public, have responded with an emphatic endorsement to get behind Netball South Africa’s dream to bring the best teams in the world to Cape Town’s International Convention Centre in 2023.
“The response in the last month has been overwhelming,” said Accelerate Sport managing director Gary Grant.
Accelerate Sport is Netball South Africa’s sport’s business partner, and Grant and his team have been responsible for the bid document that will be delivered to the International Netball Federation’s (INF) offices on Saturday.
“It’s been an invigorating last month,” said Grant. “Our team has worked around the clock to ensure the deadline was met.
“And there has been so much work done by so many within Netball South Africa, the national government, the Western Cape government, the City of Cape Town and sponsors of netball in South Africa.
“Everyone has worked toward the common goal of showcasing the strength and presence that women’s sport has in South Africa and, in this particular instance, the standing of netball.
“No World Cup event can be hosted unless there is absolute alignment, support and endorsement from government, the provincial government and the host city.
“The thank you goes to those within these structures who, like us in netball, shared the vision of just how important this World Cup is for women in sport in the country, and also recognised the economic benefits for the city, the province and the country.”
The projections are that the 16-team Netball World Cup, hosted in Cape Town over a 12-day period in 2023, would inject R2.6 billion into the economy.
Sport and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa has told the media that government’s vision included bringing international sporting events to South Africa, and that there was an emphasis on women in sport.
Minister Xasa has also said that netball, in comparison to bids like soccer, rugby and cricket, was not as expensive. This was because the tournament was exclusive to one city and was played over a compact 12-day period.
She said hosting the World Cup would elevate the sport in South Africa, especially professionally. The sport currently is second only to soccer as a participation sport in the country.
New Zealand, winners of the World Cup three times, is also bidding to host the event for a fourth time. The last time New Zealand hosted was in 2007.
But Sascoc president Gideon Sam said it was again time to bring the world’s best in sport to South Africa. “We have an incredible track record in this country when it comes to hosting the biggest sporting events.
“We’ve done soccer, rugby and cricket World Cups and some of the biggest international tournaments within those sporting codes. Netball South Africa has our support to add to this impressive hosting record,” said Sam.
The first World Championships for netball was hosted in England in 1963. Australia won the event. In 1979, there were three winners because three teams finished on the same points. The competition structure and rules were changed to avoid a repeat.
South Africa in 1967 finished third, and in 1995 in Birmingham, England, when there were 27 teams competing, South Africa finished second.
“There will be job creation, there will be economic benefits and there will be stimulation and growth within the sport.
“Young women who play the sport will have the most incredible of motivations to be a part of a host World Cup, be it in the national team’s colours or as part of the greater netball community,” said NSA president Cecilia Molokwane.
Netball South Africa chief executive Blanche de le Guerre concurred, adding that the four-year national team sponsorship from SPAR and the consolidation of the Brutal Fruit Premier League had improved the quality of South Africa’s players.
It has also given players exposure, home and away, to the top three teams in the world in the Quad Series.
But the biggest prize, said Le Guerre, would be to host the sport’s biggest event.