Netball – definitely for girls

barbie vomit

Now before I begin I am just going to make it clear that I love England Netball.  Their drive to get women of all ages and abilities playing netball and engaging in a sport is ridiculously commendable, from their High Fives primary school games to their online database of all netball clubs within a 5 mile radius of your postcode, including cost to play and gametime.  However there is one little thing I have a slight quibble….

…Why oh why England Netball does your site look like the inside of a stereotypical 10 year old girl’s bedroom?  Yes, we get the point that you are trying to appeal to women, but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be every shade of pink Pantone has listed.  It also doesn’t mean that the ‘Bratz Doll’ like characters flanking the page are particularly necessary either.  They’re not even wearing clothes you’d actually play netball in.  I’ve never tried to play netball in a fluffy trimmed cardigan and stripy tights, but I can imagine it wouldn’t be very conducive to the game.  And please don’t get me started on the hair.

England are about to embark on an international series against the world netball champions, Australia here in the UK.  This is the first time the Ozzies have ventured over to our fair isle in 3 years and it promises to be an exceptional series.  These squads contain not only the best players in each team’s respected country, but probably some of the best players in the world, pitching their skills, strength and stamina against each other for a brutal hour.  So it makes obvious sense that the branding for this grudge match looks like the front of my school jotter book in year 6.  There’s hearts on it, pink text and the hashtag #girlsdayout…

I’m sure that England Netball have a full PR and Marketing Team with far more experience than I behind this latest campaign, however it almost seems to me that everyone is trying to disguise the fact that netball is a sport and I haven’t quite got to the bottom of why.  There’s very little point encouraging women to play a game that the game itself won’t acknowledge is a sport. Netball is one of the few sports that girls play from a very early age and therefore a great opportunity to demonstrate to young women that there’s nothing wrong with getting exercise, having fun and working up a sweat on the court regardless of your gender.  Young women’s worlds are already filled with bug eyed dolls with no realistic features, figures or personality, so therefore it could be down to England Netball to present healthy role models in the shape of their players as alternatives instead.

Furthermore, England Netball are ceaseless in their efforts to encourage older women back onto the court, yet anybody over 12 currently approaching the website for the first time may be put off somewhat by the hemorrhage of pink and assume the site, and game, isn’t for them after all.  Don’t even get me started about any men who may be interested in playing or attending matches.

I’m not saying that all sport must be taken 100% seriously, but there’s ways to have fun with the branding for women’s sports without making it look like Barbie has vomited up everywhere.  Has anyone seen the Gilmore Girls episode where smart, independent Rory Gilmore stays in the room her Grandma has just had decorated for her?  There’s a lot of pink, a lot of fluff and a lot of N*sync posters and although Rory pretends she likes it to not hurt anyone’s feelings, she looks out of place in the sea of lace and frippery.  Which is kind of how I feel netball looks currently on the England Netball page.


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