HomeAustralia and New ZealandNetball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan resigns amid funding loss

Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan resigns amid funding loss

Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan resigns amid funding loss

Netball Australia’s CEO, Kelly Ryan, has resigned with immediate effect, concluding a challenging two-year stint marked by a $17 million loss in federal funding, a contentious pay dispute with players and the Hancock Prospecting logo controversy.

Despite mounting calls for leadership change, the governing body asserted that there were no prior discussions with Ryan before her abrupt resignation on Tuesday. Ryan cited the timing feeling right, particularly after reaching an in-principle pay agreement with netballers, the details of which are set to be finalised soon. She also highlighted the success of the Diamonds at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and 2023 Netball World Cup.

Netball Australia Chair Wendy Archer, at a press conference on Tuesday, denied any prior knowledge of Ryan’s decision, emphasising that it was solely her choice. Archer urged fans to continue supporting the sport amid the ongoing challenges.

Addressing the damaged relationships with stakeholders, Archer stated that the board is actively working to “have better relationships with everybody” making it the sport’s top priority.

Amid criticism of Netball Australia’s handling of off-court dramas, Ryan’s resignation comes as the organisation faces increasing scrutiny. Stacey West, the head of performance, has been appointed as interim CEO.

“During my time as CEO I have delivered on the objectives of the board,” Ryan said in a statement.

“We overcame the challenges of coronavirus pandemic to continue a national competition through border closures, experienced strong growth in the national competition, grew netball’s already strong participation numbers and strengthened the game’s finances.”

Calls for governance change intensified recently, with Diamonds legend Joyce Brown leading a petition for immediate leadership change, garnering over 4500 signatures. Liz Ellis, Australia’s most-capped netballer, expressed concerns about the poisoned relationship between the governing body and players.

While acknowledging Brown’s respect, Archer disagreed with her statements. Last week, it was revealed that Foxtel, the broadcaster, had concerns over the sport’s viewership and questioned Netball Australia’s strategic direction for growth.

Australian Sports Commission boss Kieren Perkins criticised the handling of a proposal for $17 million in federal funding, stating that due diligence was not conducted. Archer, however, refused to admit failure, emphasising a shift in strategy and the need for a clear plan.

Addressing responsibility for the sport’s current state, Archer emphasised lessons learned, including better communication. She called on fans to continue supporting the sport and expressed a commitment to working together to heal.

“I don’t agree that we failed. I think that there was a shift perhaps in strategy, and we need to be very clear … on what our strategy is and the outcomes that we’re looking for,” Archer stated.

“Everybody has to take responsibility. Everybody sitting at the table has played a role in the events of the last little while. I don’t want to focus on what has happened. We need to learn the lessons … to heal our sport.”

The board will discuss changes in directors at an upcoming meeting and the sport’s AGM early next year. With a vacant position following Jane Seawright’s departure in October, it remains uncertain if other directors will resign.

Archer characterised Ryan’s tenure as having successfully navigating the challenges of the COVID pandemic, improving netball’s financial situation and growing community participation.

Despite announcing a $300,000 profit in May, Netball Australia still faces over $4 million in debt, extending long-term loans to 2025 in a bid to reset its finances.

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