Netball Australia has seen almost AU$18 million in federal government funding cut from the sport over concerns it will not be appropriately spent by the governing body and amid its ongoing pay dispute with top players.
Australia’s sports minister Anika Well confirmed the money is no longer set aside for netball and will be redirected to a pool for women’s sports in general after Netball Australia failed to provide a “satisfactory case for the funding.”
Wells said: “I’m focused on outcomes for female athletes and quite simply, this money needs to be directed to areas I’m confident positive outcomes will happen.
Funds of AU$30 million had been set aside for the sport as part of a 2019 election pledge by the then-prime minister Scott Morrison. At the time, Netball Australia said the money would “fund numerous initiatives – from grassroots through to high performance – which aim to secure a strong and long-term future for the sport.”
Of the AU$30 million, just over $12 million has already been used on programs including digital initiatives and its successful bid to host the Netball World Cup in 2027.
However, earlier this year, the Sports Commission asked Netball Australia to submit a formal business plan for how the remaining funds would be spent over the next 18 months.
The business case submitted by Netball Australia was described as “not sufficiently robust” by Wells’ office.
The government currently provides almost $4 million in funding per year to the sport and the code may still be able to access some of the remaining $AU$18 million through a competitive tender process.
Wells added: “Netball is too important for it to not be successful, and we will continue funding discussions with a view to ensuring the 2027 World Cup provides the sport its Matildas moment.”
Responding to the news, Netball Australia chief executive Kelly Ryan said: “Importantly, the minister for sport has confirmed the government is still open for discussion and Netball Australia will re-submit an updated business case.
“We will continue discussions with the federal government and provide them with a proposal that enables their investment in the growth of the netball community that is made up of over one million people.”
The funding cut comes amid a bitter pay dispute between Netball Australia and its Super Netball players, which culminated in several players declining to attend the governing body’s awards night.
The last collective bargaining agreement struck between Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players’ Association expired eight weeks ago, which has resulted in missing payments for some players.
On Wednesday, Netball Australia offered an interim deal to backpay players but it was rejected with the ANPA describing the move as a “publicity stunt.” Both the ANPA and Netball Australia are set to meet in the coming days to negotiate a deal.