Netball Australia CEO Kate Palmer last week announced that they would give fans a say in what rules they would apply to the new national competition. This is a dangerous idea that puts netball in Australia further into jeopardy.
There is already some risk associated with creating a new Australian netball competition. The news last week that the rules of the game are up for debate is even more of a worry.
Netball Australia is running scared. They’ve been spooked by the WBBL and the newly announced AFL national women’s league. These three sports will be competing for athletes and market share in the opening months of 2017.
But you have to back your product and its basic roots.
Sport is based on history, traditions and rules. As soon as you start dramatically changing these rules, you’re creating a new sport. I’m not sure that’s what needs to be done here.
The world, like it or not has an appetite for instant gratification. This is extending to the sporting arena and has ensured that people have forgotten how to enjoy and maintain the traditions that got us interested in sport in the first place. But instant gratification isn’t sustainable.
It has happened in cricket, where the shorter form has had major impact on the longer more traditional form of the game.
You also need to look no further than the AFL when it comes to rule changes. Yes, some of them have changed the game for the better, but at the same time, you’ve confused umpires, fans and players and changed the spectacle too much.
Then another rule is created to fix the previously changed rule. It becomes a major debating point that takes time and energy away from discussing the talent playing the game.
Fast5 netball has already entered the market as a threat to the traditional 7 a side game of netball. The Fast5 game is based on modified rules, shorter game time and gimmicks. This has no place in the sport at the highest level. It is nothing more than a bit of fun that should be taken no further than half time entertainment.
Some of the new rules being considered for the new netball competition include having a two point shot. No. This just isn’t netball and should never be a part of netball. If you want that sort of action, go and watch basketball.
Introducing time outs is another point of debate. Again, no. Basketball is a great game, but one of the beauties of netball is that it is fast paced and there isn’t massive breaks in play.
What is even more worrying is that there is the potential for these rules to only be enforced in this particular competition. Australia’s best players would then have to adapt to the more traditional form of the game when they come up against other national teams. That seems counter productive and just not well thought out.
Netball is a brutal and an exciting game as it is. There is no need to tamper with it in the hope that new audiences will come.
New markets will come when you get the presentation and marketing of the product right and find promotable players and talent.
So Netball Australia. Since you are asking us – do not tamper with the rules of the new competition. Sure make tweaks here or there if you have to, but learn from other sporting codes’ mistakes. Changing the game too much really does change the sport and that would be a shame.