Netball Australia tax fairytale starts to end sour after wrong turn at fork | Megan Maurice

OOnce upon a time, two countries—let’s call them Australia and New Zealand—packed a basket of goodies and set out through the woods on a netball trip, seeking a meadow full of gold medals and piles of sponsorship money—as only ever seen by men’s sports. For a long time this journey was pleasant and collaborative. When they got a snag, they worked it out and happily moved on. But one day they reached a fork in the road. New Zealand was eager to take the smooth, flat path, while Australia thought the dark and dangerous route would be faster and ultimately more rewarding.

And so, in 2016 netball Australia announced it would split the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship and go it alone with a brand new Australian domestic league. This announcement – ​​which at the time seemed like a turning point – now seems to mark the point where things started to go horribly wrong for Netball Australia’s finances.

As reported by News Corp this weekNetball Australia is now in deep financial trouble, with losses and debts of up to $11 million – the $300,000 of which is in cash and $350,000 as opposed to the organization secured by sale of the hosting rights to the Suncorp Super Netball Grand Final in 2022 barely touch. This fork-in-the-road moment is worth examining more closely, as it is indicative of many of the problems that continue to plague the sport.

The decision itself is one that made sense at first glance. Statistics confirm the suggestion that New Zealand teams were not strong enough to maintain the competition as it was. In 2016, Australian and New Zealand teams played 24 matches against each other. Of those encounters, Australia won 17 matches with an average margin of 18.29 goals. New Zealand teams won six with an average margin of 8.33 goals and one draw.

While on the international stage the two countries could hardly be separated, at the domestic level there was a serious discrepancy in the depth that needed to be addressed. Understandably, New Zealand has resisted reducing the number of teams in the league, as a significant portion of the funding came from their broadcast deal with Sky Sport, which was not open to more games with two Australian teams, who are their local teams. subscribers would have limited interest in it.

As is often the case, there were plenty of merits to Netball Australia’s decision. It’s the timing and execution that were questionable. Leaving New Zealand so quickly, and without a definitive staffing contract and proven marketing plan, did not give the new league the time and preparation it deserved.

The decision to leave was made and announced before Australia negotiated its own new broadcasting deal with Channel Nine – groundbreaking and momentous at the time. In effect, the deal took away the financial security that Sky offered and relied instead on sponsorship and advertising.

On the field, the Suncorp Super Netball competition is the best in the world. The game has evolved incredibly since the New Zealand split and it’s doubtful that such an evolution would have been possible if Australia had kept the status quo. Off the field, though, not enough has changed to keep up with that evolution.

Marketing efforts continue to target young girls; an audience that has been targeted since netball’s first forays into elite domestic competition. Until November 2021 Netball Australia has partnered with My Little Pony – a franchise whose audience is mostly made up of two- to five-year-olds – younger than even the smallest netball participants.

There seems to have been an assumption that only a higher quality league would be enough to bring in more fans, more sponsors, and more broadcast dollars. When this turned out not to be the case, instead of researching strategy and evolving the marketing of the sport, another quick fix was sought in the form of the two-point supershot. While the rule change itself was questionable, what’s more concerning is that it seems to be enough to just create an audience for itself — without the marketing or game day experience behind it to bring that audience in and connect with the sport.

Kelly Ryan, CEO of Netball Australia, said on Friday that netball is “not on the brink of financial ruin”, but desperate times call for desperate measures, as she indicated that gambling companies as sponsors are not “out of reach”. The move is as disappointing as it is confusing and further highlights a lack of understanding of a cohesive target market and a plan to engage them. The scattergun approach is one that probably won’t work in the long run.

As Australia continues to follow the twists and turns of the treacherous path it is on—the basket of goodies is now empty and wolves are beginning to approach—it will take serious navigating and a long, hard battle if they hope to ever reach that golden Meadow.

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