OP-ED: England Netball's 'Adventure Strategy'

01 Dec 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Last week, England Netball unveiled a new 10-year 'Adventure Strategy' that sees the governing body for netball in England share its purpose-led ambition for the game, to build on the momentum the sport has seen in recent years and take it to new heights for the decade ahead. Fran Connolly, CEO of England Netball, writes below the significance of the strategy and how it will lead a movement to impact lives on and beyond the court.

We are so thrilled to be announcing the exciting launch of our new ‘Adventure Strategy’.

First of all, it’s a great relief to eventually reveal the secret – it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time, so it’s amazing to have it out there and we’ve been overwhelmed with lovely messages from across the sports sector.

The ‘Adventure Strategy’ is England Netball’s purpose-driven 10-year plan that carries our new brand which will clothe us for the next decade and beyond.

The strategy’s bold ambitions – epitomised by our desire to make the Vitality Roses the most recognised and respected women’s sport team in the world – are designed to accelerate the growth and the development of the game at every level across our sport, reimagining netball and connecting with new audiences on and beyond the court. It’s bold, it’s ambitious and it’s an indication of our intent as we approach this exciting next decade.

We began the strategy work in 2019 and at that time, the sport was on an all-time high following a historic Vitality Roses victory in the Commonwealth Games, a home world cup, an explosion in participation across the whole sport and visibility and new crowds like we’ve never experienced before. This momentum encouraged us to reach out to the netball community and ask what they wanted from the sport for the next ten years.

Fast forward to now and it seemed like the right time to launch the ‘Adventure’ as we journey into 2022 - which hopefully will be an incredibly exciting year for our sport with a Commonwealth Games on home soil as defending champions - it just seemed the perfect time to share our bold ambitions for the game in the years ahead.

The name of the strategy – the ‘Adventure Strategy’ – is a marker of our approach and our intent and we hope it excites and inspires.

To lead a movement on and beyond the court.  To uphold an unapologetic focus on women and girls whilst opening up the game for new audiences to belong, flourish and soar.

The purpose of the strategy was carefully created through all the words we heard in our consultation with over 3000 members of the Netball Family, our partners and stakeholders – to lead a movement  represents the clear role we want to play as a sport, and as an NGB, moving forward.

The unapologetic focus on women and girls is something we had long discussions about before concluding that actually, this is our uniqueness. While every other sport is facing a battle to grow female participation and representation, this is our super power.

The final three words within the purpose of the ‘Adventure Strategy’ are really important to us. ‘Belong’ was the most used word when people talked about what netball meant to them – and therefore the first word we had on the page. We want all of our audiences to feel they can belong in the sport.

‘Flourish’ represents our ambition to support everyone involved in the game to become the best versions of themselves and then finally, ‘soar’ represents our ambition to help people within the game and new audiences reach ever greater heights. These words have been carefully embedded  across the whole of the strategy – the purpose will really become the heartbeat of the new plan. 

We are also really excited about the partnership with the England Men's & Mixed Netball Association (EMMNA) as a way to compliment our female focus and drive new audiences. They share the same purpose and passion as us and are equally as motivated to open the game to many more people and communities to enjoy.

In terms of our destinations, the ‘game for life’ destination is one of the two leading pillars within the strategy. By 2031, it’s our goal to have a true game for life and an offer for all communities that is unlocked at every age – and most importantly supported at every life stage. And then the ‘a world leading game’ destination, for us, is all about setting new standards for netball. It’s about supporting our national team to become recognised on the world stage and working hard to fully professionalise the domestic game and innovate through our events experiences.

‘A visible presence’ and ‘resonant voice’ are two underpinning destinations in the strategy – they almost fuel everything else.

We know visibility fuels the whole netball ecosystem, but we equally know that if we deliver ‘a world leading game’ and ‘game for life’ really well, that will create visibility in its own right. There’s a real appetite to showcase our sport globally, elevate the profiles of our athletes to household names through compelling storytelling, and use new platforms to engage with consumers of the future.

The ‘resonant voice’ destination is also something we feel really passionate about. We have deliberately partnered with organisations to help elevate our collective voice and shine a light on issues that are important to women and girls.

We are going talk to our Netball Family and communities about the things that matter most to them so we can champion, lobby and really impact change to make a significant difference in their lives.

We are so thrilled to be embarking on a journey to realise our bold and ambitious goals, continuing to reimagine and reinvent ourselves, to connect with new audiences and grow and develop the game at all levels for years to come.