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Francesca Williams - "Uncovering the Professionalism Gap: A Comparison of Netball in England and Australia"

Blonde netball player looks up through the net of a netball goal whilst holding a ball up toward the camera
Get some net!

I feel really grateful with my journey. I joined the England Roses program in the September of 2018, two months after the Commonwealth gold medal win in Australia. So netball was really riding high and on that wave of everyone wanting to get a piece of the netball action. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a full time, funded program with England ever since I joined, however it’s semi-professional at the Super League level at the moment. The girls that play in the Super League all have full time or part time jobs that they’re balancing alongside playing the sport. Participation rates at grassroots are amazing for netball currently. It really is one of, I think, the most participated women’s sports in our country and that’s great. But if you go to social leagues lots of the players might not be able to name you all the Super League clubs or wouldn’t be able to recognise all the players.

Francesca Williams, female netball player sits against a photography studio wall looking toward the camera
An impromptu pose at the studio

Creating excitement around the elite side of the game and getting people attached to teams and wanting to turn up every week to support their team and feel that loyalty that you see in football, for example, is important for growing our sport. I think Super League level is definitely where England Netball are wanting and focusing their time now in order to really take our sport to that next level. Going to play in Australia is an opportunity I’ve always wanted. There’s obviously the netball benefits that at the moment it’s the top league in the world and hosts the best international players. So week in, week out, I’ll be getting to test myself not just in my own training environment but in competitive environments, which hopefully will allow me to be in a better position when I represent England as well. I’ve been told that each week feels like playing in a World Cup final so there’s no better practice. You see how competitive and close the games are each week in Australia and I think that its really important to have a professional league. People want to turn on the TV and watch something that’s going to be nail biting for 60 minutes. And also I think it tests us as players and makes us improve our game if you’re having to go above and beyond each week to get those wins.

As an England team, I’m nothing but proud of what we did last summer getting the Silver medal at the Netball World Cup. But my mind and body is already wanting to go again and be like, no, we’re not coming away short next time. And hopefully we’ve given enough of the girls in that team the experience and motivation to go for that. But also we’ve got such exciting talent coming through. I think enjoyment is so important in a team environment and I want everyone that steps inside the England team or any club side to be having the best time. Because when you ask all the girls why they first got into sport its because they loved playing and you don’t want to lose sight of that love of playing the game and that can be hard to do when you’ve got pressure, when you’ve got media attention and when you’ve got results to be hitting.

Francesca sitting on a windowsill laughing towards camera
Happy days

Away from the court, I’ve been player chair of the Netball Players Association for the last couple of years, being a really strong advocate in the importance of growing our game and its professionalisation, particularly at Super League level. You want the league to grow organically and be sustainable so that it’s here for a while. It can’t just be an injection of one big block of money and be like, make do with that. We’re all going to need to learn how best to grow the league and where resources need to be prioritised. I feel passionately in the players having a voice and being a part of the process in making this next level for netball happen.

Francesca WIlliams

 Thank you for reading this article. We hope with some work and a plenty of awareness we can increase the professionalism of netball in England

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