UK RulesNewsSports › Netball is Booming in England
Why is England Netball Thriving?

As a sport, netball is booming across England - despite the game never featuring at the Olympics. So, what is causing its rise and why are there record numbers of participants playing netball?

NETBALL ON THE UP! There is no shortage of girls who live and breathe netball. But, there is a current buzz and boom in the sport.

One of the obvious reasons for the surge is its involvement in Superleague.

The national team’s successes, ranked third in the world [2018] also add to the upward momentum.

Another reason why netball is thriving and on the up is its participants. Nowadays, England netball is not ‘only’ for women. There is an equivalent game for males called ‘Nets‘.

The men’s version gains global support and recognition. Thus, the inclusion of more males into netball could create the seal of approval at Olympic level.

Most of the people involved in ‘female sports’ would generally agree on it being a challenge. Not so for netball in Australia and New Zealand. Both genders play in equal numbers in these southern hemisphere counterparts.

But, the game does not yet enjoy the same ‘male to female’ participation in the United Kingdom. Competition organisers agree that male participation needs to increase. That would be the best chance for netball getting included in the Olympics.

Even so, the numbers are impressive and noticeable. The game is seeing around a 44% increase in participation at the basic levels. That statistic converts to 30,000+ players pounding indoor and outdoor netball courts across England.

The Boom of Netball in Numbers

  • A May 2016 to May 2017 survey suggests close to 300,000 people play netball at least twice in a 28 day period.
  • Another survey completed at the end of 2016 showed almost 200,000 people aged 16 and upward played on a court at least once a week.
  • That showed an increase of 16% on the same period for the previous year. The rise since 2006 is closer to a 61% year on year increase.
  • England Netball also confirmed a significant rise in those affiliated to playing in the leagues. The governing body had over 103,000 members during the 2016/17 season. That is a 3.42% increase in the number of members compared to the previous year.
  • The sport launched ‘Back to Netball‘ schemes in 2009. Results suggest the schemes have helped over 60,000 people get back into playing netball.

Netball is Thriving in Birmingham

The busy and bustling city boasts two Superleague sides – Severn Stars and Wasps. They are both within a short journey (around 30 miles). That has helped to raise the profile of netball in and around Birmingham.

Having a Superleague team on the doorstep creates a great opportunity for the players and supporters.

You can see the effects of the current boom in the Birmingham Netball League. It generates winter and summer competitions. Each competition features 12 divisions containing eight teams.

This particular league has been running for more than 75 years. In fact, many of the inaugural teams still play in the top flight of the divisions.

The Rise of Indoor Netball ‘Nets’

One of the latest trends to hit the game is Indoor netball or ‘Nets’. This fast paced version gets played in netted courts. Thus, the netball ball never goes out of play.

Nets features women’s, men’s and mixed teams. The teams compete ‘internationally’, like the England women and under-18 sides world champions.

The critics say netball is a women’s sport. But, ‘Nets’ is a fast game and very exciting to watch as a spectator sport. There seems to be no slowing down of men joining in the games.

Walking Netball Rules and Program

Women of different age groups and physical abilities are also coming back to play. One of the latest initiatives by England Netball is ‘Walking Netball‘. They say it is the fastest-growing programme in the sport.

It is ‘loosely’ based on the official rules of netball, but with one big difference. As the term suggests, participants play the game at a much slower pace. The aim is to embrace anyone to play – regardless of their fitness level or their age.

Key Points of Walking Netball

  • One role of netball umpires is making sure all participants ‘walk’ during the sessions.
  • All players must have at least part of one foot making contact with the court at all times.
  • Players can take an extra step once they receive the ball. The aim of this rule is to reduce the impact on landing. It also helps to improve the flowing momentum in the game.
  • A player can receive the ball with one foot grounded and then take two steps while in possession. Following that, the player must throw the ball or shoot.
  • Walking Netball gets an extra second of ball possession time. This increases the decision making time during possession. It should also encourage improved ball passing and placement.
  • Thus, each player can throw the ball within four (4) seconds of receiving it instead of 3 seconds.

Netball Fast 5

There are even more attempts taking place to open up the sport to a wider audience. A shorter and faster form of the game called Netball Fast5 is sweeping across the nation.

Fast5 is an adaptation of a older version called Fast Net. But, instead of the 7 netball player positions on court, Fast5 uses… you guessed it… 5.

A match lasts for 12 minutes instead of the standard 60 minutes. But, the introduction of a two-minute power-play means teams can score double points. Fast5 games also include a chance to score five-point goals.

England won the 2017 Fast5 World Series Champions played in October. They also hold the crown for the ‘Fast5 All Stars Tournament’ launched in the same year.

England Netball chief executive explained how Fast5 is breaking down ‘psychological’ barriers. There are those who still feel that netball is a playground sport. Fast 5 netball is far from it – despite being a divergence to the traditional form! Take some of the ethos behind Twenty20 cricket and the pace of rugby sevens rules and you have netball Fast5.

It may take a few years to appreciate the long term impact of these programs. But, the continuing growth of a sport that is thriving and on the up can only be good news for everyone involved in netball.


Articles about Popular Sports: All the top news headline stories on sport rules and regulations.
England Netball Rules: A simplified version of the rules according to the governing body IFNA.
Netball FAQ: Find the answers to the most popular asked questions in the game of netball.
Netball Terminology: Find out why ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ in this phraseology section.


Reasons Why Netball is Thriving across England