Bath Voice Comment: booting out Team Bath Netball from the new professional league is a short sighted decision made by ‘big money’ executives with no understanding of grass roots sport for women

By Harry Mottram: The decision by the management of the Netball Super League to kick out Team Bath Netball from next season is a monumental mistake by the sport. Team Bath Netball has been at the forefront of the nation’s elite netball leagues since its inception and to ban the Blue and Golds is short sighted as it excludes the South West completely from the league let alone Scotland and the rest of the south of England. Why the arena in Bath is considered too small is simply to fail to understand how grass roots sports work. Stadiums are not built over night and are subject to planning wrangles, massive budgets and local politics. You only have to look at Bristol and its long running saga of building a large indoor stadium suitable for sports like netball to realise the lack of understanding by the money men and women of the NSL.

The Bath arena at the University holds 1,500 people and is usually a sell out for the netball games. Bath City FC’s Twerton Park ground holds far more but the average gate is not far from the 1,5000 figure – and yet that club is professional – torpedoing the arguments given by the NSL.

Worse still the new league is a closed league – so Bath or the other clubs locked out like Strathclyde Sirens, Surrey Storm and Severn Stars have no hope of promotion to the top flight. County cricket for years has shot itself in the foot by not allowing club sides from entering the sport’s top tier while Rugby Union currently has a closed top division which has been hit by clubs going bust leaving the premiership smaller – that may change soon but it shows the limitations of leagues that are reduced in size. The most successful sporting structure in the world is that of football in England where clubs can rise from obscurity to the highest levels on merit – not by the dictate of ‘franchise’ executives.

The decision is a joke – just read the comments of angry players and fans online to see how wrong the powers that be are. As someone wrote her local team (she lives in Scotland) is now Manchester! While those in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset are expected to travel up to Cardiff, Birmingham or London to watch a game. And if you do not have Sky Sports TV you might as well forget it.

Netball will continue to be played in Bath at not only at the University but in schools, colleges and clubs – but to showcase young women the top players as role models is part of what Team Bath Netball was all about. The team showed a career path in that sport which now will be shut down by the very people who should be championing the sport – not caving in to big money.