Women's Sport: We must support the Vitality Netball Superleague while we still can

As COVID-19 tightens its grip on the sporting world it’s hard as a fan not to be pleased that the Superleague has chosen to plough on.

While it may raise eyebrows given the stance of other major sports, the Superleague’s decision is in line with current government guidelines announced yesterday. In a statement released earlier today the Superleague said:

“During the Prime Minister’s announcement on 12 March 2020 regarding coronavirus, the government advised that all sporting events should take place as normal for now. We are therefore continuing to follow the national guidance and currently have no plans to cancel, postpone or otherwise change upcoming fixtures.”

But any delight I feel about this news is, and can only be, fleeting because underneath it all I know this will not last.

And nor should it.

Gary Lineker yesterday tweeted: “Football is not that important.” And he’s right, ultimately football – sports – they aren’t that important. Not when the health and lives of the netball community: those playing, those supporting it and those behind the scenes making it happen, are at stake. That is and must always be the priority.

The reality of it all though is still a bitter pill to swallow. Looking at the 2020 season, even in its infancy, it’s clear to me – as a writer and as a fan of the game – that there is a special energy around this league right now; there’s momentum.

We had a sold-out Season Opener, we’ve had at least three sold-out fixtures or fixtures with capacity crowds. Looking forward, 85% of tickets for the Grand Final have already been sold. The games themselves have been, quite literally, breath-taking and we have only really begun to glimpse the magic of our newest imports and our youngest players as they rise through the ranks.

Netball is growing.

And as much as it might well be denied by the powers that be it’s hard not to believe that this precious momentum gained was factored into the decision to keep the league going for now.

Whatever the Superleague does decide to do, whether that is an all-out cancellation, postponement or to green-light matches behind closed doors I have no doubt that fans of the game everywhere will respect the call.

Like the players, we turn up to watch week-in, week-out and we are a resilient bunch. Closed-door matches are almost our reality anyway; we certainly know our way around a Twitter thread or two… I have faith in us.

So let’s not take for granted this round as it approaches. Relish it, revel in it; let the players and clubs know you’re here for them on and off the court. We need to keep our energy up and our attention focused. We need to keep it going for the sake of the game in these uncertain and turbulent times.

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