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Bernard sees Super League as pathway to regional netball development

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

MARVA Bernard, the administrative head of netball in the Americas, believes the establishment of a regional league would serve the twofold purpose of developing the sport and strengthening ties among members and affiliates.

“To fuel development we can have our own super league. This has been on the cards for this region for years. It is still a dream in my heart because of what it can mean for development,” said Bernard, the president of Americas Federation of Netball Associations (AFNA) which governs netball in South, Central and North America and the Caribbean.

“When you talk about development you're not just talking about development of a player, you're talking about development of the sport – [including] your umpires, your match officials, playing venues and the whole business side of the game. And it would see the unification of the region too. We would want players from all our member countries to be eligible to play in this league,” she told the Jamaica Observer during a recent interview.

Though the concept has long been championed, Bernard, a former Netball Jamaica president, cautioned that acquiring sponsorship and ironing out logistics are major challenges.

“There is a proposal document that was written some years ago. I had dusted it off and had actually begun discussions with local investors. It would require a regional approach to funding.

“It's proven so difficult for the members of the region to obtain sponsorship for championships that we [already] know this will be a challenge. Travel and hosting costs for teams to move around the Americas region would be a huge expense because we are divided by water more than culture,” the AFNA boss explained.

Australia and New Zealand, the most dominant countries in netball, stage their own professional netball leagues.

The world number one-ranked Australia hosts the Suncorp Super Netball League, while reigning global champions New Zealand are home to the ANZ Premiership.

In the United Kingdom, the sport's top competition is the Vitality Netball Superleague. South Africa and Singapore also host their respective elite competitions.

A number of the top players in the Americas earn a living playing overseas.

Jamaica, fourth in the world, and Trinidad and Tobago (10th) are AFNA's best-ranked teams. Currently, neither has the financial clout to match the competitions staged in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Singapore.

“It is going to take money, a united association and a stronger Americas,” the Jamaican veteran netball administrator reiterated as she explored the key ingredients for a successful regional league.

“There would have to be a buy-in from regional stakeholders. We in the Americas would have to decide on how the teams would be formed. We have to decide on what format, whether Fast5 or the longer [standard] version. There would have to be a decision as to when and where and how it would fit into the international calendar,” Bernard told the Observer.

AFNA currently comprises membership from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and United States.

Bernard said Venezuela and Guadeloupe have expressed interest in becoming members.