Grassroots sports are dying on their backside.
Or that’s what we’re led to believe. And before you start pointing the finger – yes, I’ve played my part in giving the oxygen of publicity to declining numbers in the local football scene.
Perhaps it’s not quite as bad as the media and several figures in the Government would have you believe.
But facts are facts and many sports are simply facing a big decline in participation figures.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom and I’m more than happy to spread some positivity from my tiny corner of the press.
Put simply, netball is booming. Locally, nationally and internationally, it’s bucking the trend. Just look at the numbers around us. Eighteen teams in the West Norfolk (Winter) League and 27 in the Wisbech equivalent.
That’s without taking into account teams involved in youth leagues and completely ignoring the many players who live around here but compete at a higher level elsewhere.
Some of those, like Emma Barnard, feature for Rookies, a little club based a stone’s throw outside of West Norfolk in Wisbech who compete one level below the national league against huge clubs from cities such as Norwich and Cambridge.
Makes for impressive reading doesn’t it?
So why, when two of our country’s biggest sports in football and cricket are in decline, especially locally, is netball in such rude health?
While it has never featured at the Olympics, a surge in the popularity of the top-flight Superleague and improvement in England’s results have only helped boost interest.
That interest has resulted in record participation figures. A 44 per cent increase in the numbers (more than 275,000) taking to the court regularly is phenomenal – as was the effort to get them there.
Clever PR campaigns from the sport’s governing body have made it accessible and appealing for youngsters and former players to get back out in the middle.
I’ve seen my fair share of netball over the years watching my twin sister and, while it’s quick and competitive, netball still feels safe, fun and not overly time-consuming.
Netball clearly has a lot going for it. So if you’re not already on the bandwagon, now seems as good a time as ever to jump on it.