One year on: how one team helped change a sport in England

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Gold medalists England pose during the medal ceremony for the Netball Gold Medal Match on day 11 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Coomera Indoor Sports Centre on April 15, 2018 on the Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

One year ago today, the Vitality Roses made history by winning gold at the Commonwealth Games for the first time in their history, with a 52-51 win against Australia.

The historic last gasp moment was watched by 1.8m people live or via the re-run later that day on the BBC and since, England Netball has seen record growth in participation and engagement with the sport across the country.

The Vitality Roses, who moved to second in the International Netball Federation’s World Rankings in 2018, inspired more than 130,700 people to play netball or play more netball as a result of their gold medal.

According to our annual Big Netball Conversation survey, 77% of members, programme participants, coaches, officials, volunteers and spectators that completed the survey and paid attention to netball at the Games, revealed that they believe the Vitality Roses are an inspiration to young girls, and 96% of respondents said they are proud to tell people they’re a netballer now.

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A whopping 80% of people taking part in Back to Netball since the Commonwealth Games were new to the programme. In addition, Walking Netball saw a 106% increase in the number of its participants since April 2018 compared to that in March 2017-18, 81% of those people were completely new to netball.

Following their triumphant success at the Games, the Vitality Roses also secured a number of prestigious accolades, including Team of the Year and Greatest Sporting Moment at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards, and Team of the Year at the Sports Journalists’ Association British Sports Awards and the BT Action Woman Awards.

Ama Agbeze who captained the England team during the Commonwealth Games and who was recently named Sportswoman of the Year at the British Ethnic Diversity Sports Awards, said: “I can’t believe it’s been a year since we competed for that gold medal. It has been an exhilarating 12 months and what is amazing is that we still get people coming up to us to congratulate us on our success and to tell us about how they’ve been inspired to take up netball or get back into it because of that final game.

“It is a privilege to see this sport grow and to know we have encouraged people to get active and participate in this wonderful game. The excitement and buzz from the Commonwealth Games has never died down and I’m sure netball fever will only continue to spread as we gear up to the Vitality Netball World Cup which takes place in Liverpool this July.”

England Netball has enjoyed unprecedented success over the last 12 months and has seen increased investment and commitment from long standing title partner Vitality, as well as some exciting new strategic partnerships with global brands such as Nike, Red Bull and also Jaffa, Elastoplast and Oasis Clothing. We have also experienced record ticket sales and international game attendance has been at levels never seen before by a women’s team sport.

Joanna Adams, Chief Executive at England Netball, said: “Winning gold at the Commonwealth Games has brought netball to the attention of the masses and encouraged many people to get involved with the sport. That moment gripped the nation, changed perceptions of netball and inspired thousands of people to hit a netball court near them.

“It is fantastic to see that more women than ever before are playing netball each week because we know it can make such a positive difference to people’s lives. The Commonwealth Games result had a huge impact on the country, even though it took place all the way out at the Gold Coast, so I can’t wait to see what effect the Vitality Netball World Cup will have since it’s on home soil!”

You can re-watch the Roses’ dramatic gold medal win against Australia via BBC iPlayer now.

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