A new netball team, the Scottish Sirens, is to battle it out against sides from south of the border in the Vitality Netball Superleague from next year.
Netball Scotland has won one of the 10 franchises and will compete against eight English teams along with one from Wales.
From February next year, the Sirens will face Manchester Thunder, Hertfordshire Mavericks, Surrey Storm, Team Bath, Severn Stars, Team Northumbria, Celtic Dragons, Wasps Netball and Loughborough Lightning, with home games being played at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow.
The Scottish franchise, which is part of a strategy to accelerate the growth of Netbsall in Scotland, will be run in partnership with the University of the West of Scotland.
New Netball Scotland CEO, Claire Nelson, said: “Netball in Scotland has been steadily growing in recent years after the success of the Glasgow 2014 Games and this next development marks an exciting new chapter for our sport as we bring elite competition to Scotland with the Vitality Netball Superleague.
“This League is one of the best in the world, and will give the people of Scotland, as well as our netball family and aspiring young players, the amazing opportunity to watch the sport being played at the highest level in an exhilarating environment. We hope that the Sirens will inspire more people to want to experience the game at every level.
“Our vision for the programme is to create a world-class elite performance environment that attracts top coaches and athletes from across the globe. The Sirens franchise, under the direction of Gail Parata, will be a centre for elite athlete development, supporting all of the UK home nations’ objectives around improved rankings and performance.”
Claire also hopes the move will raise the profile of women’s sport, attracting increased media attention and commercial support, whilst also encouraging participation, particularly across young girls and minority groups. She added: “We are acutely aware of some of the appalling statistics around women’s sport and female participation in physical activity, and we as a governing body have a responsibility to try to do something about that. Netball Scotland is committed to trying to bring about positive change through our sport, and we believe that the Sirens can provide the platform needed to channel our messages through.”
The Franchise’s Head of Performance, and Scotland’s National Coach, Gail Parata, pictured, added: “The Sirens Franchise is an exciting and important next step for our sport here in Scotland. Not only will we be able to bring this leading competition to the Emirates for the people of Scotland to experience and enjoy, but we will also be able to expose our national athletes to an elite training environment that will enhance their own development and performance as both individuals and a team.
“Our long-term investment partner, sportscotland, who have a wealth of performance expertise in supporting elite athletes in high performance programmes, is delighted the Scottish Sirens will be a part of the Vitality Netball Superleague and together we look forward to positively contributing to the development of some of the UK’s most talented national and pathways players, including our own. A successful Superleague will ultimately mean more successful national teams for all of the Home Nations, which is in line with our long-term performance aspirations for the Scottish Thistles.”
Sports Minister Aileen Campbell said: “Since Glasgow 2014 we have seen netball in Scotland become one of our fastest growing and most popular sports with nearly half a million netball sessions happening across Scottish primary and secondary schools every year. I look forward to following the team next year and wish them good luck in the Superleague.”
Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of UWS, said: “We are delighted to be strengthening our ties with Netball Scotland through the launch of the Sirens Franchise. This is fantastic news not just for netball but for sport in general in Scotland and aligns perfectly with our university commitment to excellence, widening access, equality and opportunity.
“This further extension of our partnership with Netball Scotland will lead to entrepreneurial and research opportunities for the university, the expansion of recruitment opportunities through brand awareness-raising and reputation-building and, most importantly, to raising aspirations with young people from the most deprived parts of Scotland.”
Stewart Harris, sportscotland’s Chief Executive, said: “This is a really positive development for netball in Scotland as it will provide an opportunity for fans of the sport to regularly watch top-class action and enable Scotland’s best players to frequently play against some of the best players in the world. Netball Scotland has been doing a terrific job in growing the sport in Scotland, overseeing a very significant increase in membership in recent years, and the profile of netball will receive another boost with the Scottish Sirens competing in the Vitality Netball Superleague.”