HomeFree ArticleLatest NewsNetball Faces $18 Million Funding Blow Amid Pay Dispute

Netball Faces $18 Million Funding Blow Amid Pay Dispute

Netball Faces $18 Million Funding Blow Amid Pay Dispute

Netball Australia has been dealt a significant setback once again, as the federal government withdraws nearly $18 million in funding following the rejection of a crucial proposal by the Australian Sports Commission. The sport finds itself at a crossroads as Netball Australia (NA) and top players grapple with a pay dispute that is crippling the game.

Sport Minister Anika Wells confirmed that the allocated funds for netball would no longer be earmarked for the sport but redirected to a general pool for women’s sports. Wells stated, “I’m focused on outcomes for female athletes and quite simply, this money needs to be directed to areas I’m confident positive outcomes will happen.”

Under the revised arrangements, netball retains the possibility of accessing funding through a competitive tender process, opening the door for other sports to vie for the financial support.

The funding, originally promised through a 2019 election pledge by then-Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, aimed to provide netball with $30 million. NA had pledged to utilise the funds for various initiatives, from grassroots to high performance, ensuring a robust future for the sport. Only just over $12 million has been used so far, covering programs such as digital initiatives and securing the hosting rights for the Netball World Cup in 2027.

The Sports Commission had been awaiting a formal submission from NA for 18 months, with the recent submission deemed not “sufficiently robust” by Minister Wells’ office.

Despite the funding cut, Wells expressed the government’s commitment to ongoing discussions with NA, stating, “Netball is too important for it to not be successful and we will continue funding discussions with a view to ensuring the 2027 World Cup provides the sport its Matildas moment.”

NA CEO Kelly Ryan remains optimistic, stating that the organisation intends to submit an updated business case, emphasising the importance of the 2027 World Cup in their proposal.

“Importantly, the minister for sport has confirmed the government is still open for discussion and Netball Australia will re-submit an updated business case,” Ryan said.

“We will continue discussions with the federal government and provide them with a proposal that enables their investment in the growth of the netball community that is made up of over one million people.”

Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan

Amidst these challenges, the pay dispute between NA and players intensifies. The Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA) President Jo Weston was visibly emotional at a press conference discussing the turmoil surrounding the Netball Australia awards night. ANPA and NA plan to meet to negotiate a resolution to the ongoing dispute.

“It’s been really hard, and all of us just want to be able to move forward with what we think is fair and reasonable for our playing group,” Weston explained.

“We want to feel like we’re valued, we’re respected and listened to, and hopefully tomorrow when we’re in the room we’ll be able to get something done for our players.”

The players rejected an offer from NA, with ANPA CEO Kathryn Harby-Williams describing it as a “publicity stunt.” She went on, “I thought a page was missing because there was no reference to revenue-sharing or the commercial arrangement.”

“I speak to players and I have had players sobbing, I’ve had them weeping,” Harby-Williams said. “Players have slept in their cars, players have had to move out of their homes and move across the country back to their families. That’s the toll that this is taking on these players.”

The ongoing battle over pay could potentially impact the 2024 Super Netball season, with Ryan acknowledging potential long-term consequences for the sport in Australia. “We’re still in a financial tightrope,” Ryan told SEN on Thursday. “We’re trying to make sure we make the right investments in the right areas, that includes our players, but minimising the impact on us longer term. We want to get from where we are today to out of this financial situation as quick as we possibly can.”

As the parties strive to find common ground, the federal government’s intervention may become necessary, adding a layer of complexity to an already challenging situation. Former Diamonds captain Liz Ellis expressed concern about the ruined relationship between the parties, cautioning that an agreement might be elusive in the near future.

“I find the media release which has come out this afternoon with this offer … that we’re going to give the players almost everything that they want, it’s a little bit offensive,” Ellis said.

“The players are standing strong and saying no, we want to talk about this revenue-share model and this partnership model.”

“My only concern now is the relationship is so poisoned between the two parties that we may not end up with any kind of meaningful agreement in the near future.”

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