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Exclusive: World Netball CEO Clare Briegal On Rebrand And Future Of Netball

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lare Briegal first joined the International Netball Federation (INF) in 2012 as interim CEO, and nine years later, Briegal is the CEO of World Netball.

After the recent announcement of a rebrand of the INF after the board felt it was time to redefine the organisation and the sport, Briegal spoke to Ministry of Sport.

For Briegal and World Netball, the brand change isn’t just a name change but an overhaul of their organisation.

“I’m very suspicious of brand changes where nothing else changes,” Briegal told Ministry of Sport.

“We want to invest to make sure the sport is visible on the world stage,” she said.

The rebrand comes after a tumultuous year for all sport with the COVID-19 pandemic causing various sports to alter and cancel events.

The 2021 Netball World Youth Cup would have been played this month in Fiji, however, the event was rescheduled for December 2021 and then ultimately was cancelled.

“It’s been tough in that respect and we really feel for that cohort of athletes,” Briegal said.

Briegal told Ministry of Sport she believes the pandemic has strangely bought the netball community together.

“We understand the joys of zoom and that has bought us closer to our members during lockdown than we would have on a normal basis,” Briegal said.

“We’ve been running webinars practically on a monthly basis with our memberships.

“It’s been transformational for us.

“I would say in some respects we’re closer to our members now which is completely ironic,” she said.

According to Briegal, World Netball believed now was the time for growth across the netball world.

“It’s a signal to the world that we are moving beyond our traditional roots and our traditional Commonwealth countries,” Briegal said.

“We’ve been undergoing a really big strategic review which usually happens on a four-year cycle.

“What the board decided was that it was now a time to broaden netball’s appeal and to move away from a strategic plan which was heavily based on putting in the right governance structures.

“We want inspiring netballers to embrace their opportunities and achieve their full potential.

“So, we’re still building on the empowerment messages that we had in our previous strategic plan but now really engaging a wider audience.

“That’s the mission,” she said.

World Netball has three core strategies in their new strategic plan, to grow, to play, and to inspire.

When approaching growth, Briegal told Ministry of Sport: “What we’re looking at is increasing global participation, reach revenue, and capacity.”

“That means creating programs like our netball federation development program which is to understand where all our current member nations are in terms of their development and help to give them the tools that will enable them to go to the next level.

‘If everybody moves upwards, then the whole sport moves upwards,” she said.

The second strategy, play, is about driving game development across the world and growing new systems such as the Fast Five, a new program designed to engage communities across the world.

The organisation is also looking to get more males involved in the sport with Briegal saying World Netball is looking to develop participation from men and boys over the next four years.

“The final part is the inspire side and that’s around harnessing the power of netball to change lives,” Briegal said.

“We look at the growth of the number of member countries and we have different levels to our memberships.

“We have social member countries that aren’t yet playing international.

“We want to move members from that social membership into a full membership where they are competing on the world stage and have a world ranking,” she said.

Explaining how it will all come together and be achieved, Briegal points to the philosophy of World Netball president, Liz Nicholl.

“We’re people rich but money poor,” Briegal said.

“If you’ve got that kind of resource and if you got people who are ambitious that work in a friendly collaborative manner you can make great strides.

“We compete on the court but we collaborate off the court.

“We’re a bit courageous and quite bold,” she said.

There are also plenty of committees in place within World Netball with a commercial committee, nominations committee, an audit and risk committee, and a governance committee.

“Each of those include independents who help.

“You need that diversity of thought, it’s really critical,” she said.

Briegal noted the organisation will soon look for their first independent board director at the world level, which will be a recruited position as opposed to a nominated position by membership.

Speaking on the recent appointment of Netball Australia CEO, Kelly Ryan, Briegal said: “We have a really close association with Netball Australia, they are a driving force in our sport.”

“It’s the great thing about Australia, everyone knows and understands netball.

“I hope [Kelly] can challenge some of our assumptions to better the sport,” she said.

Briegal also noted it was important to recognise former Netball Australia CEO, Marnie Fechner.

“I have to give a big shout out to Marnie, she’s well respected and we’ve asked her to keep in touch with World Netball,” Briegal said.

World Netball’s focus is now firmly on the upcoming 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town, South Africa, which will be the first time the nation has hosted the event.

“They are in that beautiful sweet spot where they’ve got a product that everybody adores in the country,” Briegal said.

“There’s about 2 million people playing netball in South Africa, it’s a huge sport.

“They are in the most wonderful place because they have absolute total commitment from the government and the city of Cape Town.

“It’s been a while since they’ve done a world cup which is why they’re so keen to make it such a great event,” she said.

Briegal also pointed towards the success of the 2017 Netball World Youth Cup in Botswana, the first time an African nation had hosted a Netball World Cup of any kind.

“We had half the population of Botswana watching their national team play Jamaica on television,” Briegal said.

“All around the world the eyes were on Botswana and they pulled out the most wonderful tournament that was watched by 4 million people around the world through our Facebook page,” she said.

With the new rebrand and the upcoming World Cup, World Netball is poised to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic with a fresh and targeted approach.