This weekend sees the finals of the Vitality Netball Superleague take place at the Copper Box Arena in London.
In a year like no other, it is an incredible feat to be on the cusp of the season finale, showing every match live on Sky Sports.
To thank all our employees, athletes, clubs, coaches and officials who made this happen we have written a joint letter celebrating their inspirational efforts in these tough times.
You can find out more about the 15-year partnership between Sky Sports and England Netball in a series of interviews with those at the heart of it including England Head Coach Jess Thirlby and Vitality Roses international Eboni Usoro-Brown.
Jonathan Licht, Sky Sports Managing Director & Fran Connolly, England Netball CEO
Here if you need
When the pandemic called a halt to all sport in 2020, Sky Sports had broadcast just three rounds of the Vitality Netball Superleague season. None of us would have predicted that the national domestic league would stay off our screens for almost a year.
There’s a phrase in netball, ‘here if you need’. On the court it’s a reminder from your teammate that they’re available to help, but during the sport’s toughest year, its sentiment has never been more important off the court too.
It’s difficult to describe the impact of COVID-19 on the sport. Courts fell silent across the country as the Government stopped play across the grassroots sport landscape as part of efforts to control the virus. And the elite game encountered postponed fixtures, challenges to training schedules, and of course a cancelled Vitality Netball Superleague.
The timing couldn’t have been worse for netball. The sport had significant momentum after the Vitality Roses gold medal win at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2019 Netball World Cup held on home soil in Liverpool. The Vitality Roses had inspired thousands the length and breadth of the country. Participation figures were at an all-time high, with over 2.5 million women and girls playing the sport in England each year. Sell-out crowds at iconic venues signalled a huge demand in watching and following the sport. And global brands such as Nike, Red Bull and Vitality were excited to partner with the sport to help it reach ever greater heights. Netball was on a high.
We knew it was vital to get elite netball back on the court, and on our screens, so together we took to restarting the league and rebuilding the game. Not just to continue to drive the league forward, but to support the athletes and their development too. Critically, we needed to maintain the hard-earned growth and spotlight on netball in this country and ensure the sport remained visible to fans at a time when those in the Netball Family needed some light in a dark world. And it didn’t disappoint.
Sky Sports has been a partner to netball for 15 years, broadcasting the game since 2006. During those years Sky Sports has worked hand-in-hand with England Netball to support the growth of the sport. The broadcast coverage is treated with the same high-quality production standards of every other sport on Sky. It includes statistical analysis from Tamsin Greenway and Tracey Neville, and experienced journalists and commentators who bring the sport to life.
It’s because of this strong and long-standing partnership that we have been able to bring every match of the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague live, to every fan at no extra cost on YouTube. Moving to a central venue model this season not only allowed strict COVID-19 protocols to be put in place to help protect the health and safety of everyone involved in the delivery of the game, but it also enabled production standards to rise and the league to be consistently showcased as a premium product amongst the elite sports landscape. With nearly 100 more matches than a regular season, the netball community have been able to stay connected to the sport they love, and the league has been delivered to an unrivalled level in uncertain and challenging times.
We take nothing for granted and must pay tribute to the tireless efforts behind the scenes from the clubs, athletes, coaches, officials, Sky Sports production team and England Netball and Vitality Netball Superleague employees and volunteers, who have gone above and beyond to help to return the league and deliver the season. Their commitment, dedication and respect for the game is the reason we are where we are.
As we head into the finals this weekend with fans back in venue, ready to watch some of the best netball action in the world showcased at the Copper Box Arena, there is no doubt this season has been one of the most exciting to date.
In the same way that every player from each of the four finalists will stand on the shoulders of the grassroots coaches, the volunteers and the friends and family who have supported them on their journey to the UK’s highest netball stage, so too has the 2021 Vitality Netball Superleague season been made possible by the efforts of countless brilliant people on and off the court, working together towards one goal.
As the talented teams take to the court this weekend, it is gratifying to know that netball has so many people who are ‘here if you need’.