Last night I attended the first round of Monday night netball at the NSW Swifts home court, the State Sports Centre, with the Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy.
Just five days earlier a historic broadcast deal was inked by Fox Sports and SBS to broadcast live all 69 games of the ANZ Championship, plus the final series.
According to a press release sent by Netball Australia last Thursday, the multi-platform deal will also allow SBS 2 to air live Sunday afternoon’s Match of the Round simultaneously with Fox Sports. SBS also has the rights to finals matches and weekly highlights shows on its free-to-air television network.
“We’re thrilled the new broadcast deal will provide Australians with the ability to watch every game of the ANZ Championship live through subscription and free-to-air platforms,” ANZ Championship general manager Andy Crook said.
“The latest announcement supports our ambition of setting the benchmark for female sports leagues, not just in Australasia, but around the world as we continue to engage with our current fans and inspire a new generation.”
That said, the broadcast deal came down to the wire. As a director of Netball Australia I can tell you that many people worked long, hard and almost desperately in the end to land a deal that the single largest participation sport in this country should have been able to take for granted.
On the weekend, Sunday Telegraph columnist Angela Mollard asked her readers to imagine “a sport unsullied by drugs, sexual assault charges, betting scandals, salary cap scams, tankings, sackings and prank calls. A sport blessed with leadership, committed players, close matches and inspiring teams”.
“Now imagine this sport, five days from its annual international competition, still without a broadcaster,” Mollard writes.
“It’s not an oversight that netball is so blatantly ignored, that women make up only 9% of sports news coverage, it’s shameful and sexist.”
There were senior representatives from both Fox Sports and SBS at the event last night. They sat proudly alongside Crook in a courtside box as NSW Swifts took on WA’s West Coast Fever. It was an exciting, physical game that was won by the local side.
I counted seven cameras around the court, demonstrating that Fox Sports’ commitment to this championship is solid. Fox Sports CEO Patrick Delaney has said the broadcast deal would deliver fans “the depth and quality of coverage they’ve always wanted”.
So finally, in 2013, fans of a major female sport will be able to access live coverage, something that fans of major male sports have been able to take for granted for decades.
I look forward to the day when this will no longer be a big deal.