Netball - International Competition

International Competition

Netball is a popular participant sport in countries of the Commonwealth of Nations. Non-Commonwealth entities with full IFNA membership include Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Argentina, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the United States, along with former Commonwealth members Zimbabwe, Ireland and Hong Kong. According to the IFNA, over 20 million people play netball in more than 80 countries. International tournaments are held among countries in each of the five IFNA regions, either annually or every four years. School leagues and national club competitions have been organised in England, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica since the early 20th century. Franchise-based netball leagues did not emerge until the late 1990s. These competitions sought to increase the profile of the sport in their respective countries. Despite widespread local interest, participation was largely amateur.

Netball was one of three new sports included in the 1998 Commonwealth Games and has been a fixture ever since. Twelve teams competed there in 2010. Australia and New Zealand have won two golds and two silvers each, while England has three bronzes and Jamaica one bronze.

The major international tournament in Africa is organised by the Confederation of Southern African Netball Associations, which invites teams from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and the Seychelles to take part. The tournament is hosted by a country within the region; senior and under 21 teams compete. The tournament has served as a qualifier for the World Championships. South Africa launched a new domestic competition in 2011 called Netball Grand Series. It features eight regional teams from South Africa and is aimed at increasing the amount of playing time for players. It runs for 17 weeks and replaces the National Netball League, which was played over only two weeks. According to Proteas captain Elsje Jordaan, it was hoped that the competition would create an opportunity for players to become professional.

The American Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) hosts two tournaments each year: the Caribbean Netball Association (CNA) Under 16 Championship and the AFNA Senior Championship. The CNA championship involves two divisions of teams from the Caribbean islands. In 2010 five teams competed in two rounds of round robin matches in the Championship Division, while four teams competed in the Developmental Division. Jamaica, which has lost only once in the tournament, decided not to play the 2011 tournament. The AFNA Senior Championship includes Canada and the USA along with the Caribbean nations. The tournament serves as a qualifier for the World Championship. Jamaica, with its high ranking, does not have to qualify; this leaves two spots to the other teams in the tournament.

The Asian Netball Championship is held every four years. The seventh Asian games were held in 2009 and featured Singapore, Thailand, Maldives, Taiwan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, India and Pakistan. There is also an Asian Youth Netball Championship for girls under 21 years of age, the seventh of which was held in 2010.

The major netball competition in Europe is the Netball Superleague, which features nine teams from England, Wales and Scotland. The league was created in 2005. Matches are broadcast on Sky Sports.

Netball has been featured at the Pacific Games, a multi-sport event with participation from 22 countries from around the South Pacific. The event is held every four years and has 12 required sports; the host country chooses the other four. Netball is not a required sport and has missed selection, particularly when former French or American territories host the games.

The ANZ Championship is a Trans-Tasman competition that has been broadcast on television in both New Zealand and Australia since 2008. It is contested among ten teams from Australia and New Zealand. It began in April 2008, succeeding Australia's Commonwealth Bank Trophy and New Zealand's National Bank Cup as the pre-eminent netball league in those countries. The competition is held annually between April and July, consisting of 69 matches played over 17 weeks. The ANZ Championship saw netball become a semi-professional sport in both countries, with increased media coverage and player salaries.

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