England netball: Shortfall in funding for national team 'keeps me awake at night' says chief executive Joanna Adams

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Keeping netball professional is a 'huge worry' - CEO
Quad Series - England v New Zealand
Venue: Copper Box, London Date: Saturday, 20 January Time: 17:45 GMT
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England netball is struggling to fund the national team past 2019 - a concern that chief executive Joanna Adams says "keeps her awake at night".

Sport England awarded the governing body a total of £16.9m in 2017, with £3m of that for the national side.

Adams says this funding will only keep the full-time athlete programme - launched in 2016 - going until 2019, when England host a home World Cup.

"It's a huge worry. We've got to boost our commercial revenue," Adams said.

"It's the thing that keeps me awake at night. No-one wants to think that under their control the England team did not survive. And we just won't let that happen."

Despite receiving the largest investment from Sport England in February for the 2017-2021 cycle, netball suffered a 34% reduction in their grant from the previous wave.

Adams says the £3m allocated for the national side will fund their full-time athletes for two-and-a-half years, after which the sport must create their own revenue.

"We need to have sell-out arenas and we really need to model exactly how male sport commercialises their sport," she told BBC Sport.

"It's going to be a mixture of ticket income, sponsorship revenue and actually looking at how we deliver netball. Certainly post-2019 it will be a challenge for us as a sport."

Where will the money come from?

England netball team
England netball gave out 23 full-time contracts for the 2017-18 season

Netball is in a unique position because it is unable to 'piggyback' on the success and the commercial revenue of a male version of the game in the way that women's cricket and women's football can.

And, having never been an Olympic sport, it does not receive UK Sport funding.

"If you don't have a big male sport behind you that get huge TV revenues, it is more difficult," added Adams. "But we will not be defeated and we will continue to make sure this sport grows.

"Being a female sport is our unique selling point. We've talked about the empowerment of women and what netball can do in that environment."

And despite experiencing a boom at grassroots level, with over 1.4m people playing netball in England, Adams says the governing body will not allocate funds from the amateur game to make up the shortfall at the elite level.

For the 2017-18 season, a group of 23 players were awarded full-time contracts by England netball, taking up the majority of the elite spending pot.

But with a Quad Series, Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in Liverpool on the horizon, Adams says this decision will give England the edge.

"The full-time programme basically gives head coach Tracey Neville and her team much more access to the girls," said Adams.

"They get much longer to spend together and it was really important to us heading into the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup."

Former England international and Wasps director of netball Tamsin Greenway also believes the full-time programme is driving England's improvement.

"You're getting to train more and live and compete as professional athletes. We all know that's going to improve what you see out on the court.

"It's showing the sport moving forward and we want to make sure these youngsters have the opportunity to grow up and be a professional netballer, not a netballer and something else.

"In an ideal world all the female sports in this country would be professional and you'd have those same opportunities. But we've also got to be realistic and grow the sport."

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