Sport England have awarded England Netball £1m extra funding as a direct result of the success of the Back 2 Netball scheme, and say that netball is their 'star performer' in increasing sport participation.
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April 2009 saw Sport England invite 46 National Governing Bodies to apply for funding, with applicants to address the GROW, SUSTAIN and EXCEL criteria, to explain to investors how they would grow the numbers of people playing their sport, sustain the numbers, and how they would find new talent and progress it through the talent system.
England Netball submitted a business plan which earned them £17.5m for the four year term.
Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England said that "This was a pretty significant sum for a sport of netball's size if you compare it to other sports who have a larger participation base, England Netball did well... it was seen to be an excellent business plan."
Following a review Sport England found that certain sports had not met their targets consistently and were not performing as well as they should have been. As a result some money was clawed back from the under achievers to be reinvested back into six of the most successful sports: Netball, Cycling, Running, Canoeing, Lacrosse and Wrestling. These six were invited to bid for the residue of cash.
"We only invited applications from sports that were already doing well and we did the same process again. We asked them to submit a business plan asking them how they would they spend an extra amount of money and what they'd be able to achieve with it. As has now become consistent with England Netball they've submitted a good plan which shows us where they'll get extra people from, in this case 8500 extra weekly players."
Just shy of £4m was shared out between the six NGBs, with England Netball receiving a cash injection of £1,002,842.00 - another 5.7% on top of their original Whole Sport Plan investment.
Smith praised England Netball for their efforts, saying "All of that money is credited on performance and because England Netball have done so well they are in many ways the star performer in participation sport in this country. They've carried out their original business plan with great effect and we thought it advisable to award them more money, in return for which they'll provide us with even more participation."
The numbers of over sixteen's playing netball on a weekly basis has gone up from 118,800 to over 140,000. (Latest figures published in June 2011, relating to results up to April 2011 ). This doesn't include netball in schools, or occasional participants, only very committed players with a weekly participation habit.
"England Netball have increased these figures by a greater percentage than almost any other sport with the exception of running, (which has the benefit of various social trends that netball doesn't have) so almost against the tide really, netball's done a terrific job. And especially when you compare netball to the other team sports, like volleyball, basketball and rugby, netball's done a stunning job.
"We think more can be achieved in all those sports with an extra amount of funding."
England Netball CEO Paul Clark cites the achievement as a direct result of the highly successful Back 2 Netball program.
"Primarily our track record over the last three years in delivering increased participation of sport was key. The number of people regularly participating in netball has increased by 18% over the life of the sports plan, much of that increase can be attributed to our Back to Netball programme. Sport England see this as a highly innovative programme which re-engages women in the sport which meets one of their strategic outcomes.”
The Back 2 Netball scheme provides women with the chance to re-enter the sport on their own terms. Essentially a 'pay and play' system, players don't have to join a club, commit to regular training sessions or pay subscriptions.
"Around 98% of children play netball within a school environment and a lot of these for various reasons drop out as they leave school or university. What we're now doing very successfully is bringing these women back into the game. We can start to access and engage with some of the enormous demand for netball that there is.
"It sets us up nicely as an NGB that can deliver growth in participation in this country, and also for a significant award next time around in 2013."
Clark was delighted to be labelled 'star performer' "I like that! It's great to be sitting there at the top and actually be recognised as a top performer by our major funder, it's a good place to be."
So how will England Netball spend the extra dough?
Over the next few months they will be appointing nine extra Netball Development Community Coaches (NDCC's) in areas with a high rate of demand. They're also going to employ a Back 2 Netball Program Coordinator. There is also another amount within the million that is going to provide for a new customer services program - CRM system - a way of getting even closer to the participants and players.
Clark is also very happy with the broader impact that this cash boost will have on the sport.
"It raises the profile of the sport. Sport England were on Radio 5 Live mentioning netball, the BBC are interested, and Sky Sports News have made enquiries about coming down and filming the Back 2 Netball sessions, so all of this just raises the profile and puts netball out there over and above a lot of the other sports. It reinforces what a good fun sport it can be to engage in."
Phil Smith and his team will review the progress of participation numbers: "We sit down with all the sports we invest in and we work out where we're going next, what's right, what's wrong, and whether that has any effect on our investment."
Whilst Sport England's strategy lies within community participation, England Netball still can't call down any funding from UK Sport for elite performance as netball does not currently feature on the Olympic program.
"It's a real shame that netball isn't going to benefit from the Olympic showcase that other sports will, however it certainly isn't doing netball any immediate damage with regards to their efforts in participation, in that they are doing far better than most of those Olympic sports that they are up against. " said Smith.
"I suppose the question is would they be doing even better if netball was in the Olympics? I know they (England Netball) put a lot of effort into the Commonwealth Games and we're happy to support that. A lot of our investment goes into preparing that England team and those athletes to do well on the Commonwealth stage."