Netball Premier League: Netball South Africa presentation

Sports, Arts and Culture

12 February 2013
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Netball South Africa (NSA) briefed the Committee on the plans to form and launch a Netball Premier League (NPL), which was primarily intended to develop netball in South Africa. NSA had created a model for the premier league that encouraged the development of netball. There would be a strong provincial bias. NPL was not intending to franchise immediately, as it felt that this would run counter to initial development. It hoped to rank number 3 in netball within the next five years. Because the NPL was intended to be fully professional, it needed to generate sufficient income. National players would be contracted for a year, and non-national players contracted for the three-month period during which the NPL would run. A general manager had been appointed in each province. Supersport would be the official broadcaster for five years, and branding should attract the right sponsors. A company would be formed to run the professional league as a business, and black women with corporate governance skills were being approached to assist. In general, NSA wanted to promote women-management and aimed to appoint only women coaches, with supporting team management. Every team must have at least two black players on court. It was hoped that local coaches would be appointed in each province, and players would not be allowed to move from province to province, to try to ensure equal development in all provinces. The league would run for a three-month period and would need a budget of R52.62 million.

Members welcomed the initiative and indicated their support for the NPL. They questioned why Supersport was chosen as the sponsor, not SABC, asked further questions about sponsorship, and queried whether it was a good idea to insist that all coaches be women, or that all coaches be local. They asked for feedback on the recent tour to Australia, and said that the quality and viewership of the game must be strengthened, and asked it to re-examine the question of franchising as this had potential to bring in substantial funding. Members asked for a list of committees and administrators for both the professional league and the amateur league. They queried the interaction and funding by the Department of Sports and Recreation, urged discussion on mass participation and development of netball in all nine provinces, and continuing and strong interaction with departments of education. They raised concerns about the lack of sporting facilities to support the growth of netball, asked how NSA would support players travel costs, and wished it well in the launch of NPL.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson noted that one of the challenges for this Committee was to encourage the development of sport in an attempt to overcome social ills. The Committee would assist the Netball South Africa (NSA) in the important role of developing sport and discipline amongst the youth, and would offer the knowledge of the Committee Members to help to take sport to the next level in South Africa.

He noted that the Committee would be meeting with a parliamentary delegation from Brazil on 15 February 2013, to discuss the upcoming FIFA World Cup that would be held in Brazil. The purpose would be to share South Africa’s experiences after hosting the 2010 World Cup.

Mr M Dikgawci (ANC) stated that it would be beneficial to introduce the Brazilian parliamentary delegation to the Department of Tourism and of Police, as well as to other committees involved in the 2010 World Cup.

Netball Premier League: Netball South Africa briefing
Ms Mimi Mthethwa, President, Netball South Africa, expressed her gratitude towards the Committee for allowing the meeting at such short notice. She would be briefing the Committee on the progress of the Netball Premier League (NPL).  NSA had met with the Minister of Sport and Recreation and the Director General of the Department of Sports and Recreation (SRSA). NSA had done a lot of financial planning and research for sponsorships in the NPL.

NSA had created a model for the premier league that encouraged the development of netball. The model for the NPL would not franchise immediately, as franchising would weaken the national team. The NSA aimed to rank number 3 in the world within the next five years. By not franchising, the NSA was making sure that it still could own the NSA players and that they were available when needed for national teams. This was also intended to continue the development of netball in the provinces. NSA might consider franchising after five years.

For the NPL to be fully professional, the NSA needed to generate sufficient income. Players and officials were contracted on a part time basis, with the national players contracted for a full year. Players who participated in NPL but were not national players were only contracted for the six months that the tournament would run.

NSA had appointed a general manager in each province to monitor the development of the NPL. Each province would have a general manager, except Gauteng, who would have two general managers and two teams competing in the NPL.

NSA had held meetings with all its potential stakeholders from both sport and business. Supersport had signed as the official broadcaster and had committed to a 5-year period trying to brand netball in South Africa. The NSA was hopeful that the right branding would attract a lot of sponsors and generate a lot of interest in the NPL. NSA also invited people from the legal fraternity, hoping to gain guidance in completing contracts that would most benefit NSA, The NSA had gone on a national roadshow, identifying key role-players in each province. The SRSA played a key functioning role in the national roadshows.

There was an agreement that NSA would have to maintain a wing of development, and must establish a company to run the professional league once this became a business. NSA decided to add three people to the current six executive positions; two of the three positions must be independent black women with skills in corporate governance. NSA had approached two ladies who had agreed to meet with NSA, one currently worked in the marketing department at Standard Bank and the other worked with MTN. 

NSA had decided that all people sitting in key positions must be women, in line with its view that it was time for women to be given priority. NSA could not support a situation where a man would be appointed as a general manager over a woman, and was uncompromising on this point. General regional managers had been given guidelines by the provincial president on how the election process would be run.

NSA had embarked on a process of selecting team management, which Ms Mthethwa outlined would consist of the coach, team manager, biokineticist and physiotherapist. The NPL was something that was very crucial for development in South Africa. The appointment of team management would stimulate job creation. NSA emphasised racial development within the NPL as well, since black players from rural areas did not have as much support as white players, who were often attached to a university or tertiary institution where private coaching was provided. Each team should always have two black players always on the court.

NSA was waiting for provinces to give feedback on the selection of the coaches. It was also considering players from other countries, specifically in Africa, to play in the NPL. In the first two years, it was intended that players would not be allowed to move from province to province, as this would ensure development in all the provinces. NSA wished to appoint coaches from their own province. NSA also wanted every province to have good technical officials, and whilst it was happy that senior men may be used to assist in women’s development, it was not going to allow a male coach to be appointed instead of a female coach.

NPL was a powerful tool to empower women and create employment to over 200 women. The NPL also gave a platform on which women could interact and offer support to each other, and aimed to reduce and address the social ills that affected women, by promoting sport.

Discussion
Mr M Hlwengwa (IFP) congratulated NSA on its solid foundation and agreed with NSA on the point that social ills had a great impact on the youth. He welcomed the initiative and the specific youth focus. However, he questioned the extent to which business and sponsors would be involved and was unsure why NSA had chosen Supersport over SABC, since the latter was the public broadcaster. SABC held a wider audience because many South Africans did not have access to DSTV.

Mr M Rabotapi (DA) congratulated the President of NSA and her team for a job well done. He asked what would happen if a privately sponsored team that wished to be affiliated with the NPL started doing very well.

Mr G Mackenzie (COPE) asked NSA to reflect on its recent tour in Australia and give the Committee feedback on the results. The concept of the NPL was good but he had many reservations in terms of how the NSA was structuring the league. He suggested that the main thing that was going to raise money for NSA was raising the quality and viewership of the game. He noted that the corporate structure of NSA was a major concern, and suggested that the provincial structures and the commercial arm link up to retain balance, maintain control, and positively impact development. He recommended that the NSA should re-look at the issue of incorporating franchises into the NPL, because they had potential to bring a huge amount of money into the organisation.

Mr Mackenzie stressed that it would be important to get the best coaches, irrespective of the province from which they came, as this was to be a professional, not an amateur league. If Limpopo had a weakness in coaching, then NSA must get a strong coach from Gauteng who could mentor and prevent a technical imbalance between provinces. He felt that restricting players from trading and moving around between provinces was not advisable and might be contrary to labour law principles. International players did add value, excitement and skills to a team, but it was important to restrict the numbers so that this did not prevent local development.

Mr Mackenzie also suggested that whilst it was noble to promote female rights and recognise them within their sport, it would not be advisable to disqualify coaches and referees who showed talent and potential simply because they were male. In a professional league it was important to look at who had the appropriate expertise. If there was a shortage of female referees, then the option for the players to be trained by experienced male referees should be available.

Mr T Lee (DA) asked the NSA where this team had placed in the tournament in Australia. He queried the differentiation between amateurs and professionals in the NPL. It could be problematic when the same people were at the centre of the both the professional and amateur league. He pointed out that this Committee had an oversight role, which involved going into the provinces and finding out what was happening there.  He requested the names of the committees and administrators for both the professional league and the amateur league.

Mr M Dikgawci (ANC) asked the NSA what had been discussed at its meeting with the Minister and Director General of the Department of Sports and Recreation. It was important to discuss the issues of mass participation and development of netball in all nine provinces. He queried NSA’s interaction with departments of Education, pointing out that netball was a school sport.

The Chairperson reminded the committee how well NSA was doing and encouraged the Committee to support it in its work to develop the role of women in sport, particularly in a male-dominated society.

Ms M Mthethwa responded to the Committee’s questions by making some general comments. She reminded Members that the NPL was a great risk, but NSA believed the time was right to take this risk. She urged the Committee also to share and assist with the planning. NSA welcomed input from the Committee because it had not in the past enjoyed such support.  If the NPL were to become successful, South Africa would be the first country in the world that ran a successful professional league with input from the government, and said also that this would help to change perceptions that government was not delivering.

She explained that Supersport and NSA's agreement was that Supersport would give SABC access to live matches. NSA had a good relationship with SABC but for the purpose of quality and business NSA made the decision to appoint Supersport as the official broadcaster. The NPL was still intended to attract the masses. NSA was trying to reach everyone in South Africa by encouraging district municipalities. 47 out of 52 regions were currently participating in netball, with NSA still working to get the final five on board. In all nine provinces there had never been a situation where the NPL committee had sat without somebody from the Sports Council. The Sports Council was also involved in the selection process of the General Managers and many served on the NPL committees. NSA would provide the list of all the committees to the Committee by Monday.

NSA had analysed all the pros and cons of having privately sponsored teams on the NPL. If NSA opened up the NPL to private ownership, it would create many problems. It was crucial that, particularly at the inception stage of NPL, NSA must ensure that people who initiated the concept of the NPL would be involved in the formation of the league.  

South Africa did not win any matches in Australia, but gained valuable experience. This trip had provided the coach and players with a platform to look at strengths and weaknesses of the team. There was hope for South Africa to come back from the next World Championships in 2015 with a medal. NSA had been to New Zealand and came back with a bronze medal, after completing with the top six teams in the world.

Ms Mthethwa noted that raising the quality of the game required development of the players who already played for NSA. Each province needed to see development, and all provinces needed to play up to the level of the NPL. NSA hoped to raise the quality of the game by focusing on the provinces. Many provinces had quality players, but they needed support and assistance from NSA. The focus of NSA in the past had always been on the national team and not the provinces. Gauteng was the strongest netball-playing province because it benefitted the most from NSA, and most of the national team came from that province.

It was the wish of NSA to first look within a province for coaches, but if no local coach could be found all the committees must come together to discuss the matter, and try to keep relationships strong in the provinces. If all avenues to find a local provincial coach had been exhausted, then NSA would start looking outside or consider a mentorship programme. The national championships were used as a platform to grade coaches, managers and players.

Mr T Lee (DA) reinforced the importance of getting a strong foundation of netball in schools. School sport plays a fundamental role in development.

Ms Mthethwa said that NSA already had a tangible relationship with school netball. NSA had been working with schools and many of the squad players in the under 20 and under 21 teams were school players. NSA agreed that these relationships could be strengthened further.

Mr Mackenzie complimented NSA on its initiative in a tough economic climate. He suggested that the Committee should fully support the principle and ideals of NSA. He raised the issue of food-orientated companies with a health bias not being on board as sponsors, and suggested that senior members of such firms be specifically targeted by NSA.  

The Chairperson stated that the economic situation was not very promising in South Africa, and sponsorships would be difficult, but there was a lot of enthusiasm around the NPL and female development. He raised concerns about lack of sporting facilities to support the growth of netball.

Ms Mthethwa reminded the Committee that the launch for the NPL would be between 15 and 25 of March. NSA hoped all processes would have been completed by then, and said that at the moment, only the conclusion of teams and contracts were outstanding. The Director General of the Department of Sports and Recreation would assist with the funding for the launch. In the initial plans for the NPL, NSA submitted a budget of R80 million to the National Lotteries Board. Initially, it was hoped that the NPL would run over eight months but this had since been cut down to three months, starting in April and finishing in June. NSA had redrawn the budget to R52.62 million over the three months. She added that NSA had received a lot of support from SRSA in many provinces, who were looking to improve on sporting facilities and were building their own indoor netball facilities with wooden sprung floors.

Mr Rabotapi questioned how the selected players would travel within the provinces, pointing out the lack of development in many rural areas.

Ms Mthethwa responded that NSA was going to fund all expenses of the players, including arranging training camps for the players and covering all travel and accommodation expenses.

Mr Lee offered his full support of the NSA, NPL and development of netball in South Africa.

Mr Mackenzie expressed his concern about the funding proposals and whether it could be provided in six weeks, and encouraged an appeal to the Minister and SRSA, also suggesting that all overheads be handled by individual sponsors.

The Chairperson gave the Committee’s best wishes to NSA, and was hopeful that the NPL would be successfully launched and attract sponsorship.

The meeting was adjourned.



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