INF eyes Fast5 at 2021 World Games to trigger growth of US netball
By Jonathan Rest
The International Netball Federation is to submit a bid for the Fast5 discipline to be part of the 2021 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, which it hopes will have the knock-on effect of finally developing the sport in USA.
Clare Briegal, chief executive of the INF, told Sportcal that the governing body has had “terrific meetings” in recent days with the Birmingham 2021 organising committee over the potential inclusion of Fast5, the shorter, faster version of the sport with five players per team rather than the traditional seven.
Bids must be submitted to the International World Games Association before the end of this year, and the proposed new discipline will be a major part of the agenda at July’s INF Congress in Gaborone, Botswana, at the time of the Youth World Cup in the city.
IWGA chief executive Joachim Gossow has already met with the INF board and top netball nations when he attended the Fast5 World Series in Melbourne last October.
Briegal said: “One of the challenges for us is that the World Games is not really well-known by Australians and Kiwis, so they needed to understand why we would go into that. The games are developing, so that is of interest to us.
“It would be a great opportunity for us to showcase the sport and to bring the top teams in the world over is the best way to do that. We would be very keen to promote netball around the US through the Fast5 format… and we have talked to the organisers about development activities within Birmingham and the wider region.”
The INF has, in Briegal’s words, “dipped our toes in the water” in USA, staging its second World University Netball Championships in Miami in 2016.
A large expatriate community in USA means there is enough knowledge and expertise for netball to develop, but the sport has been held back by governance issues.
The INF officially recognises the United States of America Netball Association (Usana), but since 2006 former Usana members have left to form Netball America.
Netball America, which has unsuccessfully sought recognition from the INF, claims to have more state associations as members.
Briegal said that being part of a multi-sports event on US soil “will enable us to look at our governance structure there,” adding: “It would be our goal to bring those bodies back together to have a really strong netball federation. It presents a really good opportunity.
“It will take a long while, but we are starting to make the right connections.”
If the bid to IWGA is successful, the tournament at the World Games would double as the Fast5 World Championships, with the Fast5 World Series held in the three other years of the quadrennial cycle.
Melbourne is contracted to host the World Series in 2017 and 2018, with the bid process for 2019 and 2020 to be launched at this year’s INF Congress, when expressions of interest will also be sought for the governing body’s showpiece Netball World Cup in 2023.
The 2019 edition will be staged in Liverpool, England and Briegal believes it would have been opportune for South Africa to bid for the 2023 edition until Durban was stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games last month having failed to meet criteria demanded by the Commonwealth Games Federation.
Netball is one of the core sports of the Commonwealth Games, and Briegal said: “I am disappointed it is not in Durban because there is so much netball played in Africa, and also it would be an opportunity for our own netball federation [in South Africa] to think about hosting the World Cup in 2023. You can imagine that would have been a great development with all of the learning they would have had from organising the netball competition in Durban that they could have taken forward.
“That’s not to say they still can’t bid for 2023, but from a development point of view we would really have liked to see South Africa hosting.
“We understand that opportunity has gone for the time being….It’s just always nice when you can try out new markets. We’ve been brave to put our under-21 competition in Botswana this year and it’s a really interesting experience. We have lots of risks to manage but we are getting there, and it’s going to be great. I just think we’ve got to trust some of these other countries more.”