England's triumphant netball team are fighting for their professional future beyond 2019 because of a shortfall in funding that could leave the sport's governing body unable to support its gold medal-winning athletes.

England Netball is struggling to find the funds that would allow the national team to remain professional, despite Tracey Neville's side defeating Australia on Sunday to claim their first victory at a Commonwealth Games.

The ruling body is desperately trying to source enough commercial revenue to keep its elite programme in place, but its chief executive, Joanna Adams, has warned that brands and companies are not investing enough in women's sport.

"There has to be a reality check," said Adams. "People are not ploughing money into women's sport. Everybody says they are – and there are a few brave brands – but realistically people are talking a good game but not parting with money."

Advertisement

England's netball team are reliant upon elite funding from Sport England, whose remit is to cater for grassroots sport. Sport England gave £3 million to the national side in 2017 as part of a total award of £16.9m to England Netball.

But that money will fund the England national team only until next year's World Cup in Liverpool. From August 2019, the top level of the sport must generate its own revenue, regardless of how successful the England team may be.

As it stands, this would mean that the governing body would not be able to continue the full-time programme that was launched in 2016.

"We put that in place two years ago and it has delivered a Commonwealth Games gold medal," Adams told The Telegraph.

"There would be an England team but it would not be funded by us. It would be girls that had jobs and trained less regularly, and we would try to compete with the top teams in the world who are fully professional."

Netball cannot be funded by UK Sport, the body responsible for the development of elite sport, because it is neither an Olympic nor Paralympic event.

It had previously been one of the few sports to receive direct, elite-level funding from Sport England. However, Sport England's financial backing will now be focused entirely on the grassroots levels of the sport.

"It is a disaster for women's sport, when everybody is saying we are on the up, that our funding is going to stop," said Adams.

She added that the task has been made harder for netball because, unlike in sports such as football, rugby and cricket, there is no men's game that can provide financial support.

"We sell out venues but we are not a venue owner," said Adams. "Everything has gone right for us as a sport, but none of it makes a huge amount of money yet.

"If we do not have an elite team, people are not going to come and watch a second-rate England team get slaughtered by Australia and New Zealand."

The concern is that the absence of a competitive team would damage netball's remarkable growth at the grassroots level.

In terms of participation figures, netball is the fourth-biggest team sport in the country, and is by far the biggest team sport for women.

The success of the England team in Australia also appears to have had a clear impact on the lower echelons of the game, with Netball England experiencing a spike of nearly 2,000 per cent on its 'session finder' web page, which helps people find opportunities to play in their local area.

A Sport England spokesman said its funding will continue to "help women of all ages get back into the sport", adding: "Sport England's remit is to help ordinary people get active, and England Netball has always understood this means that we will no longer be able to invest in high-performance sport.

"We have been supporting England Netball to develop an ambitious commercial programme so they are not reliant on public money."