Government announces boost for women's sport in latest round of Sport Winter Survival Package funding

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sport England have today announced the latest tranche of funding from the Government’s Sport Winter Survival Package, which provides a boost for women’s sport, including netball.

At the end of 2020, the Government named 11 sports, of which netball was one, that would be eligible for the funding due to the financial impact caused by the pandemic.

After going through a further application process to assess the level of investment required, the Government has today confirmed that netball would receive £4.2m in grants to be used across three key areas; the central delivery of the Vitality Netball Superleague (VNSL) 2021 season, direct investment into protecting the financial stability of VNSL clubs and fund their participation in the league, and the restart of grassroots netball to help rebuild participation levels.

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Prior to the pandemic, netball in this country was experiencing huge growth in all areas of the sport from viewing figures to participation numbers. England Netball’s participation programmes were growing year on year with 1.6 million women and girls taking to courts across the country and the start of the 2020 VNSL season enjoying record attendances.

When COVID-19 hit England Netball was forced to halt all netball activity in March from grassroots to elite level.

As a result, the 2020 VNSL was cancelled after just three rounds and there were concerns about whether the 2021 season could go ahead, because of the financial impact on clubs. However, thanks to the Sport Winter Survival Package, we have been able to restart the league this year.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it brings to delivering elite sport, a decision was made to host the VNSL behind closed doors across two central venues this season.  By operating at central venues, the VNSL and England Netball were able to implement and control all COVID-19 protocols and introduce an extensive testing programme to give the VNSL the best possible chance to restart and complete the 2021 season. Moving to a central venue also enabled increased visibility of the sport with every single game of the season now broadcast live, giving the league its greatest exposure to date and rewarding the Netball Family who can’t be there in person to support the league from screens.

The restart of the VNSL last weekend has lifted the mood of the Netball Family. And thanks to this significant sum of money, clubs can not only survive, but get back on court and play in the most exciting season ever.

Fran Connolly, CEO of England Netball, commented: “All of us at England Netball and across the Vitality Netball Superleague are incredibly grateful to the DCMS and Sport England for this investment.

“This funding has come at such a critical time for our sport, and will allow us to return visibility, momentum and continued opportunities at all levels of the game. This money has already helped us to restart and deliver the Vitality Netball Superleague 2021 season, which without it wouldn’t have been possible. It’s provided vital security and protection for our clubs within the league who are currently without the usual income from ticket sales.

“We have been particularly concerned about the significant impact COVID has had on women and girls who play the game at a community level, particularly on women’s mental health and physical wellbeing. Research has shown a clear drop in activity levels amongst women and girls so it’s vital that we get them back on courts as soon as it’s safe to do so, and the Sport Winter Survival Package will help us do that.

“We are delighted we have this support and are excited about the future of our game.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We are committed to helping our treasured sports through these challenging times. And today’s announcement is more evidence of our support for them.

“In particular, women’s sport has faced acute pressures. The past few years have seen fantastic progress – with greater participation, employment, commercial opportunities and visibility in the media. I am determined not to let it take a back seat again.

“This targeted funding will enable sports to keep playing and inspire many more stars of the future.”

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