England netball: New chief executive Fran Connolly wants side to be 'world number one'

By Denise EvansBBC Sport
Fran Connolly and Jo Adams
Fran Connolly (right) has replaced Jo Adams as England Netball CEO

England Netball's new chief executive says the Roses want to "become world number one" and the sport needs to prioritise becoming professional.

Fran Connolly, announced on Wednesday as Jo Adams' successor, has been with the England set-up since 2001.

"Jo is leaving the organisation in a great position - but I want to do things differently," Connolly told BBC Sport.

"We need to work harder to become a professional sport," she added.

"You'll see more emphasis on that over the next couple of years."

And to do that, Connolly says England Netball will focus on "growing and developing" the UK Superleague until it is a professional league, to bring it on par with Australia's Super Netball and New Zealand's ANZ Championship.

The Diamonds top the global rankings and world champions the Silver Ferns are second, ahead of England, who sit third.

Since the World Cup in July where the Roses won bronze, England Netball has replaced head coach Tracey Neville with Jess Thirlby and now Adams has stepped down after 10 years as chief executive.

Connolly, who was appointed development director in 2010, says it is an "exciting time" with Thirlby taking the reigns.

"Jess has come in with a the beginning of a new four-year cycle and she gets the chance to stamp her own identity with some young talented players, and she is very positive about that, " Connolly said.

England play two internationals series: in South Africa in November and on home soil in January. With a number of senior players such as Geva Mentor, Jo Harten and captain Serena Guthrie taking a break from the sport, it is an opportunity for fringe players to step up.

"We've made great leaps in the last couple of years and now need to keep winning - on and off court," Connolly added.

"Playing on home soil will be good for our players, to put them under pressure with Birmingham 2022 just around the corner.

"The supporters want the Roses to deliver every time they take to the court and hopefully, if we can create anywhere near the same electric atmosphere as we did in Liverpool, it will be a great competition regardless."

'Door still open for Neville'

Neville, who led England to Commonwealth glory and two World Cup bronze medals during her four-year tenure, quit in July after announcing she is pregnant.

But Connolly says the "door is absolutely open" for the 42-year-old to return to England Netball in the future.

"Nothing has been discussed but Tracey is a great ambassador for the sport and it would be silly for us not to want her to be involved in the future," Connolly said.

"We want to give her space to go and be a mum, and when she's ready to come and talk to us, she can. We have a great ongoing relationship with her."

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