Netball: Glitz and hype turn netball into money game

By Dana Johannsen

The catch-line for the new ANZ Championship reads: "Netball, like you have never seen it."

And judging by the pre-season marketing campaign it is certainly proving the case.

With billboards littered around Auckland's central city, ad campaigns portraying the netball stars as super heroes and new sponsors climbing on board weekly, the transtasman competition is already breaking new ground.

League general manager Tony Holding said the hype surrounding the new competition, which starts next weekend, is unprecedented in the sport.

"There's been an enormous push going on and there's more to come.

"One of the really pleasing things is a lot of people are saying `this is unprecedented, we've never seen anything like this'."

The ANZ Bank's involvement with new competition is believed to be the biggest sponsorship deal for women's sport in Australasia.

With more money than ever being poured into netball it appears only a matter of time before the competition becomes fully professional.

Holding said embarking on a semiprofessional era was a huge step for the sport and any further expansion needed to be well-considered.

He believes a fully professional environment is a definite possibility but he is unwilling to put a time frame on it.

"At the end of the day it's all about money.

"It all depends on how long it takes before the sport generates enough money to be fully professional."

Northern Mystics chief executive Mark Cameron believes a fully professional environment could be closer than we think.

"In two to three years I can certainly see players making a good living from the sport," Cameron said.

"Some of them are already doing it now, certainly for their six months they're doing okay."

It is believed the top players earn around $50,000 from the competition alone.

With personal sponsorship and endorsements on top of that, a marquee player such as Irene van Dyk would be earning well into six figures.

But with the salary cap for the league only at $300,000 for each franchise, for the bulk of the players netball isn't their bread and butter just yet.

With the minimum player payment at $12,000, the New Zealand Netball Players Association has negotiated terms that allow players to hold down fulltime jobs outside of netball.

This is where the idea of semi-professionalism could become problematic.

The collective players' agreement stipulates players training, playing and promotional activities cannot exceed 20 hours a week during the season, while trainings cannot be held between the hours of 9am and 5pm unless the players agree.

In a highly competitive league, these restrictions are not ideal.

Holding said as netball certainly had the potential to generate the revenue needed for a professional environment, the biggest barrier to overcome might in fact be resistance from the players.

"The big issue is - does the sport truly want to go fully professional?

"There are a different mix of requirements than male sports.

"These women have to balance family, their jobs and study."

The ANZ Championship season starts on April 5.

THE NUMBERS

* Salary cap $300,000

* Minimum player payment $12,000

* Top players earn $45,000-$50,000

- NZ Herald

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