Dana Johannsen on sport

Dana Johannsen is a Herald sport writer

Netball: 'Hoisting players' pay up in air in new broadcast deal

By Dana Johannsen

Anna Harrison. Photo / AP.
Anna Harrison. Photo / AP.

The push towards netball becoming fully professional has reached a significant point with the transtasman league broadcast deal up for renewal in Australia.

Generating broadcast revenue out of Australia is seen as key to the ANZ Championship's modest $300,000 salary cap being raised and allowing the athletes to become professional.

The issue of player wages returned to the spotlight this week with the New Zealand Netball Players Association (NZNPA) currently renegotiating the collective bargaining agreement.

But NZNPA boss Tim Lythe is realistic about the landscape in which the sport operates, acknowledging that until the league can find more revenue streams, the issue of increasing player payments will be off the agenda.

When the ANZ Championship came into being in 2008, most of the revenue that underpinned the competition came out of New Zealand, with the backing of Sky Sport a key factor in getting the new league off the ground.

There was not the same level of enthusiasm for a new netball league from the Australian networks, with the television deal across the Tasman failing to yield any financial return.

The hope was that once the sport had gained a secure foothold in Australia, they would get a paid deal. While no timeframe was put on when the league would start generating broadcast revenue in Australia, the expectation was that after five years they would have made significant ground in this area.

However, it appears a paid deal is still some way off.

Andy Crook, general manager of the ANZ Championship, says money is not the sole consideration of the current negotiations. The bigger sticking point is likely to be that of live versus delayed coverage, with the league experiencing a huge backlash this season from netball fans across the Tasman who are unhappy with the coverage. At present only two games are shown live each round in Australia, with delayed coverage of the remaining games.

"It's about getting the best overall scenario in Australia, it could be more live games, it could be an increase in revenue, it could be a different type of coverage. It's about trying to balance all those objectives and come out with a good overall package," said Crook.

"Network 10 have done a great job this year of putting together two live Sunday afternoon games, which has been hugely successful. I think probably the natural progression is to see more live netball."

As a joint shareholder in the transtasman league, the broadcast deal in Australia will have a significant impact on Netball New Zealand. But chief executive Raelene Castle did not want to comment on the situation while the negotiations are taking place.

- NZ Herald

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