While the controversy surrounding Eden Hazard was gripping sports fans last night and dominating back pages this morning, you may or may not have heard about history being made at Wembley Arena last night.
England’s Netball team recorded a historic series win against the World Champions Australia, beating them 51-49 in the second test of the International Netball series. You can see a full match report at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/netball/21161065
They won the first test 58-53 on Sunday.
Before the series started, England had only beaten Australia twice in their history so this achievement is being hailed as the defining moment and they will now look for a series whitewash when they take them on in Saturday’s third and final test.
It will also boost Anna Mayes’ team’s confidence with only 18 months until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where England, who are ranked 3rd in the world, will look to build on their bronze medal from Delhi.
So what does all this mean?
Participation in netball in England has been increasing steadily over the past few years with a healthy 30% rise in the last three years, comprising of players from grass roots right through to older women, with the introduction of schemes such as ‘Back to Netball’.
However, England netballers tend to play their sport abroad, particularly in Australia because they do not get paid to play in the England and Wales Superleague. The series victory is sure to draw more attention to this debate and is something the players would like to see. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/netball/21018553)
There is also the issue of media coverage. Sky Sports 3 and 4 have been showing this series and Sky Sports also cover some matches in the Superleague.
But coverage of women’s sport in the media is something that has been addressed recently in Parliament. At the beginning of January, Julie Hilling, MP for Bolton West asked The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller about the media devoting about 5% of their sports coverage to women’s sport. She also pointed out statistics such as:
· 20% of the BBC’s coverage is of women’s sport
· 36% of the medals won at the Olympics were won by women
But Women’s sport receives only 0.5% of sport sponsorship
Medway’s own Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford also asked Maria Miller what could be done to increase commercial opportunities to encourage girls and women to participate in sport more.
Admittedly, despite having been to see England play live, I would not recognise an England netballer from a glance on a street in the way I might if it was an England footballer such as Steven Gerrard or Joe Hart.
But these players have their international matches shown on mainstream television and their sport is part of our culture.
And with an increase in participation and a flurry of interest in the national netball team thanks to a remarkable performance, there seems to be an appetite for more coverage.
It would be great if this netball series win could lead to more victories for women’s sport too.