The history of netball can be traced to the early development of basketball. A year after basketball was invented in 1891, the sport was modified for women to accommodate social conventions regarding their participation in sport, giving rise to women's basketball. Variations of women's basketball arose across the United States and in England. At a physical training college in England, the rules of women's basketball were modified over several years to form an entirely new sport: "net ball". The first codified rules of netball were published at the start of the twentieth century, and from there the new sport spread throughout the British Empire.
From the beginning, netball was widely accepted as a sport suitable for women. Domestic netball competitions arose in several countries during the first half of the 20th century. Starting from the 1920s, national associations were formed to organise the sport in netball-playing nations. International matches were played sporadically in the early 20th century, but were hampered by varying rules in different countries.
By 1960, the rules of netball were standardised internationally. An international governing body was formed to oversee the sport globally, now called the International Netball Federation (INF). The second half of the 20th century saw international competition expand, with the sport's premier international competition, the World Netball Championships, starting in 1963. Netball has also been contested at the Commonwealth Games since 1998.
Today, netball is popular in Commonwealth nations, and is reportedly played by over 20 million people worldwide. It remains primarily a women's sport, although male participation is increasing in some countries. Netball is still largely an amateur sport, despite some countries having high local-level participation. Further developments to the sport are being trialled, including a shortened version of the game played in a World Series format; netball is also being advocated for possible inclusion in the Olympic Games.
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