29 Nov 2018

Men's Netball: Two wrongs make two wrongs

5:35 pm on 29 November 2018

Sports Call - Men have never been included to play professional netball under the International Netball Federation but why is the world ok with that?

New Zealand men's netball team playing Australia at 2018 the trans-Tasman Cup

New Zealand men's netball team playing Australia at 2018 the trans-Tasman Cup Photo: Clusterpix Photography

Discrimination of any form in sport prompts outrage - and rightfully so.

Women have battled for equality in recognition, pay and opportunities in male dominated sports and that has prompted controversial discussions and in some cases even change.

The fight for equality has seen women not only become players, coaches, officials, managers and chief executives but most importantly respected in the sporting arena.

So what happens when reverse sexism occurs? (Yes, it's a thing)

Last month men from New Zealand and Australia took part in the annual Trans-Tasman Cup series with no acknowledgment from netball's governing body, the International Netball Federation. That caught my eye.

  • Men's netball rejected by governing body
  • Men have never been recognised by the INF which prides itself on a focus to keep international netball female only. It is documented on the INF's position statement as of February this year along with a list of reasons why men won't be included any time soon.

    New Zealand men have played and competed in netball at every level for over 35 years and have never questioned the INF's refusal to sanction them which is understandable when netball is pitched to the world as a female sport.

    So how has this gone undetected for so long?

    If you aren't part of the men's and or mixed netball communities it's very hard to find an opinion on the matter. The choice for men to create their own national and international tournaments creates a sanctuary for men to play and participate in netball away from the negativity, rejection and opinion often associated with men playing netball.

    In simpler terms: Netball is regarded as a female sport therefore inferior, period.

    INF CEO Claire Briegal states "While New Zealand may be ready for men's netball, other parts of the world aren't," a statement that cannot be denied.

    For the past 16 years an Islamic women's netball tournament in Auckland does not allow men to partake or even watch the tournament. The ruling is to ensure religious beliefs are adhered to. Briegal reiterates the INF's responsibility is to all females so that netball remains accessible no matter how much evolution has taken place around the world.

    That evolution goes much deeper than gender though. In the wake of my story I read a comment on social media, "Well what will they do if transgender participate? That won't be fair at all." The transgender athletes have been participating for years, this is how out of touch the nation is on the matter.

    It also shows it hasn't affected the women's game at a development level at all. Men's teams have acted as training partners to domestic and international teams, and players like Silver Ferns Elisapeta Toeava and Sulu Fitzpatrick come from a national mixed netball background. Former Silver Fern Catherine Tuivaiti has also participated - the list goes on.

    The INF have done a great job in channelling a sport to where women are champions on the world stage. Netball has been a foundation for professional athletes to start with some excelling in it, and others moving on to other sports like former Northern Mystics player turned Black Fern Portia Woodman.

    Netball has had a hand at creating some of the most memorable sporting moments, but an exclusion of this magnitude sets a tone... doesn't it?

    The underlying principles for international netball were created nearly sixty years ago and to this day are defended. Men more than pay their dues for the sport so what message does it send if to strengthen its sport it exclude others, and more importantly why is that okay?

    - RNZ