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A THORNY ISSUE – Let’s give netball a lift

Andi Thornhill

A THORNY ISSUE – Let’s give netball a lift

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THE?ENTERPRISE?shown in both the LIME?Pelican Football Challenge and the David Thompson Memorial Classic has got me thinking.
I am wondering if some sports entrepreneur or some Government agency can introduce a tournament with monetary incentives for netball.
I can only see a win-win situation for those who are of the same persuasion.
Netball is the lone all-female sport and there are hundreds or maybe thousands of products used exclusively by females that any number of businesses can market during such a competition.
The sport has a ready-made following that attends games organized by the Barbados Netball Association and the organizers of the Barbados Workers’ Union’s tournament.
Netball’s level of support supersedes that of other mass-based sports like basketball and volleyball who only have consistently big crowds during play-offs in domestic action or in regional championships.
The standard of play is on par with any of the other sports and begs for the same opportunity for its players to earn some extra change, especially in these hard economic times.
There are no international rules against netballers being paid as there are professional leagues in countries like Australia and New Zealand. In fact, a few West Indians earn a living in them.
Beyond that we have to accept that the time has long past when teams and individuals are expected to play just for trophies and medals.
For the love of the sport is an ancient concept as societal values and expectations have changed and people lean towards more tangible ways to reward their talent.
I am not suggesting, though, that the standard of play in netball will rise automatically but a chance to play for money could very well see a change in attitude towards training and how to be more competitive. Both of these attributes have emerged in the current football competitions.
Yet again, it could be argued that personal pride should trigger a certain sense of commitment to a discipline on the field or on the court. But let’s be honest, the promise of monetary gain will also fuel that extra charge for excellence.
The football tournaments have proven that.
And please don’t let us introduce any talk that financial incentives in out-of-season competitions don’t assist in the development of the sport. We should be clear by now that development is strictly down to the various sporting organizations. It is their responsibility to design concepts that will lay the foundation for the game’s improvement.
The out-of-season models simply serve to enhance the community spirit and in most cases afford organizers to pay the players stipends. I got first-hand experience of this when I was part of the committee that organized the defunct Spooner’s Hill Out Of Season Football Tournament back in the mid ’70s.
I believe netball’s time has come to be taken to the next level.
It could be organized along the lines of the current football tournaments or have the 10 top teams play a shotgun competition among themselves for prize money.
It could happen just before the start of the regular BNA season and put the players at the cutting edge for their league and not to mention, if it is played on a club basis, put extra cash in their coffers notwithstanding that some of them are already sponsored.
So who else is thinking along the same lines as I am?
I know there are companies and promoters in conjunction with the BNA that can make this proposal a reality.
Who will raise their hands on account of the country’s netballers?
Andi Thornhill is a freelance sports journalist.