Local netballers are amplifying their calls to government for a new purpose-built facility, as one of Jersey's most popular sports faces becoming ‘homeless’ in just 11 months.
The Jersey Netball Association, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, has been using the indoor courts at Les Ormes, provides for the majority of the programmes the association runs. But from March 2020, they will no longer be available.
The JNA provides after school classes and holidays courses for children, a youth league, a winter league, ‘Back to Netball’ for people who have given up or have gone away and want to come back to the sport, as well as ‘Walking Netball’ for the older ladies. There's also training at a professional level, with the Jersey Jets, who are making waves in the English Premier League.
“You can come in Netball at any age and there will be something to suit you, whether it’s club or whether you want to get into performance,” Linda Andrews, the president of the JNA, told Express.
Pictured: The Jersey Netball Association is frantically looking for a new home as it will lose access to Les Ormes forecourt in March 2020.
Losing access to the forecourt at Les Ormes was “a big blow” for the association - “We’ve been there for eight years now and we thought we were going to be there forever" – especially since no other facility can offer even half of what they need.
Netball is currently the biggest female participation sport in Jersey with over 600 participants, aged six to 80, taking part on a weekly basis. Despite this, Ms Andrews says the association has never really been “on the States' radar”. “I think what’s happened is because we’ve been at Les Ormes for eight years, they haven’t had to think about us because we were catered for. And then now obviously, we really got our begging bowl out to just to say, 'What can you do to help us?'”
“When you look at other minority sports, they’ve all got their own home,” Ms Andrews added, “Obviously the major ones are football, the cricket and the rugby, but there’s also the badminton, tale tennis, athletics, pétanque, cycling… There’s lots and lots of other sports who are already catered for with their own home and that is really what we would be striving to achieve - something permanent and ours.”
Pictured: “You can come in Netball at any age and there will be something to suit you," says Ms Andrews.
Grilled on the issue by Deputy Rob Ward, Senator Lyndon Farnham, the Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture, said his department had identified two options to resolve the issue: providing a temporary sports hall, until netball can be integrated into the design and build of an Island Sports Hub in the longer term, and building a Sports Air Dome as a standalone permanent ‘Netball Centre’ utilising a Sports Air Dome product.
This, he said, would “ensure netball is catered for in any necessary timeframe and would reduce the sports hall space that might be required in an Island Sports Hub.” “If this was built at an existing secondary school, it would have the added benefit of becoming a valuable resource for the school," he added.
“Ideally we would just love our own home with a purpose-built sprung floor, which I don’t think is unachievable,” Ms Andrews said, adding that the Association is not asking for anything “futuristic".
“All I want is a home and you look at other clubs and think, ‘How often is it used?’ We know we use it every single day of the week,” she said.
Pictured: A purpose-built facility would help the JNA accomodate all of its needs.
Ms Andrews said such a facility would cost around £2million, adding that it would have great benefits for the association and the programmes it offers to the community. It would also help local clubs pull resources together and save money on equipment, among other things.
She said it would also provide an arena for the Jersey Jets to have their own games - a significant benefit, as the Association currently spends £30,000 a year on hosting just nine games at Fort Regent.
“If we had a home of our own that would be brilliant,” Ms Andrews said. “The Jets would be included in that, because I have the pull-out seats and I’ve got my arena on my plans. If we had a home of our own, we could literally accommodate everything we do within this. We could all go together and that would be fantastic for Jersey Netball.”
Jersey has already been the training ground of gold medal-winning England netballer and Sports Personality of the Year winner, Serena Guthrie. A new facility could, perhaps, provide a platform for another star.
Pictured: Serena Guthrie, a celebrated England netballer who started her career in Jersey.
For Ms Andrews, the benefits of netball extend far beyond just performance, however, and into the realm of "wellbeing". This is why she feels it should be nurtured in the island. “Netball is not just about turning up and playing on a court. There’s so much more to it," she explained.
"For girls to learn commitment to do something, the positive aspects of getting out there and running around, keeping yourself happy and working as a team, that’s massive. We always say to the girls, especially in Team Jets, you have to sacrifice something of yourself to give to the team and if you don’t want to sacrifice something then you can go and join the swimming club.
“Team sports are special in all the other qualities they bring.”
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