Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan has denied reports that the sport is on the verge of financial collapse but says it must look for “commercial opportunities outside the sport”, which could include gambling sponsorships, as it works to repay its debts and stabilize the organisation.
- Netball Australia CEO Kelly Ryan says the pandemic is primarily responsible for $7.2 million in losses over the past two years
- A News Corp report has claimed the sport is $4 million in debt, which must be paid by the end of 2023
- Ryan says decisions such as selling the SN grand final to Perth and potentially taking money from gambling sponsorships are being made with this overall financial picture in mind
Speaking on ABC News Breakfast on Friday, Ryan, who took over as CEO last year, said taking money from gambling companies was not “out of the realms of possibility” as the organization looked to generate more revenue following reports that its coffers took a $7.2 million hit over the past two years, leaving the organization in $4 million of debt.
“The reality is that gambling sponsorships are very significant and very lucrative in sports,” Ryan said.
“Netball has to put itself a little bit more outside its comfort zone in terms of what it does contemplate and consider.
“We have to understand the commercial viability of the [Super Netball] league, the make-up of the assets and how it flows between teams and the league, and more importantly, we need to drive the consumer connection with the sport: turning the grassroots participation base, which is incredibly strong across the whole country, into avid fans of Super Netball and also the Diamonds.
“That will help propel the commercial model of the sport, so that’s what we’re fixed on now.”
Ryan’s comments come the day after a News Corp investigation claimed that years of poor financial management dating back to the beginning of the SN series, as well as an over-reliance on special government handouts, had meant the sport could face foreclosure within 12 months if debts were not settled.
The report suggested that NA did not have “a commercially viable plan” after walking away from the Trans-Tasman series to launch the current competition in 2016, with consecutive years of revenue losses resulting in debts of approximately $4 million that must be paid by the end of 2023.
Ryan was not part of NA when that decision was made, but said the move to the SN from the Trans-Tasman series was in the sport’s best interests at the time.
“It’s definitely not a mistake,” she told ABC Local Radio earlier on Friday.
“I think that the league is phenomenal. It is an absolutely first-class league with first-class athletes, so it’s definitely not a mistake.
“What we need to do from a sport point of view is make sure it realizes its full potential from a commercial [perspective]. Unfortunately, female sport doesn’t attract the value in sponsorship dollars that some of our male counterpart sports do, so we really need to challenge and change that because it is absolutely worth the investment in every sense.
“The sport offers a lot and gives back a lot, so we just need to be focused that it is a commercial asset, that netball is a commercial business, and we need to start thinking with that mindset so we can change the way it’s been tracking.”
Another strategic decision, which caused outrage among fans and players, included selling the 2022 SN grand final to Perth — a decision Ryan said was geared towards netball’s overall growth strategy.
“The decision to move the grand finale this year was absolutely a decision that we made a number of weeks ago. We did think that was in the best interests of the sport,” she said.
“So it was a big move and it was a bold move, and I know it’s challenging when you do make big changes, but that’s the position that we’re in.
“We don’t want to limp out of the situation that we’re in; we want to come out of it really quickly and really strongly and therefore we’ve got to make some of these really tough commercial decisions, but we do it because we know the sport is going to be better for it.”
According to the report, other issues that have affected netball’s financial position include the previous broadcast deal, increased player payments (which consume 92.85 per cent of the new broadcast money), and bank loans on assets.