Netball has long been a pioneer in championing women’s sport in the UK, becoming the first British sport to appoint an all-female board earlier this year.
Tracey Neville – manager of the England team – has done her bit for the sport over recent years, increasing public interest by masterminding several famous victories. The sport was even awarded a government grant of £16.9m in 2017 – almost twice as much as tennis.
But with all this succes, where do Yorkshire come into this? Unfortunately, they don’t.
The Yorkshire Jets, who were formed in 2005 have been absent from the Netball Superleague since 2016. Operations ceased for the club in September of that year when England Netball decided not to award the club a Superleague franchise.
It was a baffling decision that left many in the county perplexed, namely then chair of Yorkshire Jets Mariana Pexton.
“The overwhelming public sentiment echoed what we feel – sadness, shock and great disappointment at the removal of Yorkshire, a county of five million people, from a place in the country’s premier domestic netball competition,” she said.
Since the last round of franchises were awarded there has been a huge gap in Yorkshire as we were left without a Superleague team, especially considering how successful we have been in producing players. We see it as essential there is a franchise in Yorkshire.Kim Burns
In the years that have followed Yorkshire have continued running their own performance pathway, which gives talented young netballers the best opportunities to succeed at the highest level.
There is also renewed optimism in Yorkshire about a rebirth of a Superleague franchise.
Yorkshire-based sports specialist Park Community Arena Limited have recently announced their ambition to bring a franchise back to the area. The team’s proposed new home will be on the 35-acre Olympic Legacy Park in Sheffield, with capacity for up to 2,500 spectators.
Once building of the new arena is finished, Yorkshire will be invited to tender a bid to join the Superleague. They will be judged on their governance, financial stability and viability of home facilities.
Should the proposed moves go ahead for the Olympic Legacy Park, the county will be well placed to win a bid. Current Yorkshire Netball chair Kim Burns said: “Since the last round of franchises were awarded there has been a huge gap in Yorkshire as we were left without a Superleague team, especially considering how successful we have been in producing players. We see it as essential there is a franchise in Yorkshire and we are keen to work with the Park Community Arena Consortium and other interested parties, in making this a reality. This latest bid is a very exciting opportunity indeed.”