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It has been nearly a year since Netball South Africa (NSA) announced their five-year broadcast partnership with SuperSport, whom they said would broadcast live netball matches featuring the national netball team. This announcement came after SuperSport broadcast eight matches of the International Diamond Challenge in August 2012. SuperSport was then meant to broadcast the new Netball Premier League starting in 2013. Mimi Mthethwa, the president of NSA was quoted as saying “I have always said that netball is the sleeping giant of South African sport, and now finally it can take its rightful place alongside other major sporting codes”.
As a huge netball fan and former player, I was beside myself with excitement at this news! Needless to say, if there actually was a Netball Premier League (NPL) or in fact substantial coverage of such, you and I dear sports fan would know about it. So naturally, wanting to get to the bottom of this and not end my case in speculation, I set up an interview with Spar Proteas captain Maryka Holtzhausen. Maryka confirmed that unfortunately netball is still not a professional sport in South Africa “like rugby and cricket” she deliberately added. “And my greatest wish is to see netball grow in this country”.
I then spoke with Mimi Mthethwa, who as it turned out, had just left a meeting with the Department of Sports & Recreation, where discussions about this very topic had been at the top of the agenda. Mimi indicated that although last week’s African Netball Championships, where South Africa reclaimed their place as the number one netball team in Africa, was not broadcast due to a clash in broadcasting rights of African matches, we can definitely look forward to more netball on SuperSport in the future.
Mimi informed me that the NPL would commence before the end of the year. This would mean that netball becomes a professional sport in the country (like rugby and cricket). The league will consist of ten teams, one team from each province except Gauteng, which will be represented by two teams. The reason for this being that the strongest players in the country hail from Gauteng and they therefore want to give the country’s top players a platform to compete at the highest level.
So here I am again, excited like a little girl with new shoes! So there will be more netball on my television after all. SuperSport will cover schools netball and varsity leagues too according to NSA. Bliss! Netball fans will not be left wondering “To be, or not to be”. And by the way, SuperSport could not be reached for comment. Seriously. Enough said.
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