Players Resolve ‘Crushing’ Call to Sell Grand Final as Netball CEO Explains Reason for $8 Million Move

Kelly Ryan, CEO of Netball Australia, has defended the organization’s plan to sell hosting rights to Super Netball’s grand final to the highest bidder

But Super Netball players have called for “a culture change” at the organization, saying the decision to move the game so late in the season is “disturbing” and “shattering”.

The controversial deal, first reported yesterday, sees Perth host this year’s grand final – regardless of the results – after Western Australia reportedly defeated rival bids from two other states.

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The decision will allow prize money to be awarded – $100,000 to the winners and $25,000 to the runner-ups – and the competition will be rescheduled for Sunday, July 3 at 7:00 PM AEST (5:00 PM local).

The winner of the grand semi-final between the teams ranked first and second after the regular season has almost always been awarded hosting rights dating back to the league’s inception in 1997. The only exceptions were during the pandemic.

In the grand semi-final, the Melbourne Vixens will almost certainly receive West Coast Fever as the Vixens are two games clear on top with two rounds to go, with the Fever two games ahead of third.

But now the leaders of the ladder were able to beat the Fever for the third time this season, after two regular season wins, and they have yet to play them in front of their home fans in the grand final.

Alternatively, the Fever, who have lost two of their last three games, could miss the Grand Final altogether, meaning two non-WA teams would have to play there, raising questions about how many fans would come.

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Covid-19 forced the decision-maker to play in a biosecure hub in Queensland for the last two seasons – and the impact of the pandemic on Netball Australia’s profits has prompted them to pawn the competition’s flagship product.

“The reality is that Netball Australia is in a very difficult financial position,” Ryan explained to Fox Sports’ Center Circle.

Netball Australia had a loss of approximately $4.4 million for the 2021 season and unfortunately now has bank loans of just under $4 million.

She added: “We are making this decision in the interest of the sport.”

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Fans have been outraged by the deal, while players and coaches were only made aware of the decision this week – 12 weeks into a regular 14-round season.

The chairman of the Australian Netball Players Association, Jo Weston, released a statement Thursday evening.

“The professional Netball players in Suncorp Super Netball have called for a culture change at Netball Australia in the wake of the one-sided, rushed, late season and fundamental change to the league’s playing arrangements, and the way the players have been treated for and after the decision,” it read.

“The players are devastated, both by the decision and the way it was handled. It was extremely disappointing to learn of such an important decision afterwards, and once again not have been consulted in the process. But it was still more disturbing to then be deliberately misled by Netball Australia, about the status of the decision and the nature of their engagement with us.

“To move the goalposts after round 12, when each team has ‘broke their guts’ for the chance to host a grand final for family, friends, members and fans after two years of Covid compromise, without even a single to ask a single player what they thought is crushing. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of why we play and what we have sacrificed.

“The players put their heart and soul into our sport, its promotion and development – ​​commercially and socially. Netball Australia tells us we are the game’s ‘most important asset’ and a priority ‘partner’. And yet they treat us as the lowest priority.

“Either the behavior has to change, or the people have to change. We want to partner with a Netball Australia who understands that if they want the game to grow and they want the players to be valuable partners in that venture, they need to change the way they interact with us.

“What Netball Australia doesn’t seem to understand is that one of the best things about playing netball is that the sport attracts and develops strong, smart, independent-minded women. We want Netball Australia to recognize the great talent – on and off the pitch – that we have in our playing group and are treated with respect and trust.”

Former Diamonds star and Fox Netball commentator Nat Medhurst told Fox Sports News on Wednesday that the leak came as a complete surprise: “It’s a shock that it was announced today.”

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“It’s been a lot of information, a big commotion. We’re only two weeks away from the final and the timing of it is a little worrisome… Mind baffling.”

Medhurst compared the decision to Super Netball’s most controversial decision – introducing the Super Shot with little input from players, fans or clubs, adding: “Having not made this decision before the start of the season doesn’t matter. sense and has clearly led to a huge amount of backlash,” she added.

In a competition statement, Ryan said: “Western Australia has a fantastic track record of hosting major sporting events, and we are excited to bring the 2022 Grand Final to Perth.

“Having a fixed location every year will improve the overall event experience by maximizing grandstand turnout at the grand final and increasing the viewership of the match through Foxtel and Kayo Freebies, for fans across the country.

“For the first time in Suncorp Super Netball League history, the prize money will provide a significant financial boost to both Grand Final teams. This allows the teams to invest in growth and engagement activities in the wider community.

“Netball Australia would like to thank the WA Government for their support of the 2022 Grand Final and their commitment to growing the sport in their state.

“We will do everything necessary to ensure that our sport remains strong for every level of community across the country.

“We understand that the netball community is disappointed with the timing of this announcement. We had to act quickly to secure this funding investment for our sport.”

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