Regional netball clubs have expressed dissatisfaction with a new promotion and relegation format introduced by Netball Namibia (NN) for determining teams that will compete in the Premier Netball League this year.
The new rule will see the four teams that finished in the bottom half of the league participating in play-offs against the six teams that won their respective regional leagues, rather than the last four teams being relegated automatically as in the past.
According to NN President Rebekka Goagoses, the decision to keep the four bottom-half teams in the play-off is intended to improve the quality of the league.
“The decision was taken to give a chance to clubs, which ended up last four, a survival chance in order to enhance the quality of the play,” she said.
The four teams that finished in the bottom half are Northern Fly Ballers, Grootfontein, Blue Waters and Young Stars – and they will be joined by Wanderers (Khomas), Fotau Netball Club (Omusati), Afrocat Wild Cats (Oshana), Young Eleven Stars (Erongo) and Tsumeb NC (Otjozondjupa).
The play-off is scheduled to take place next Saturday in Tsumeb, while the league is expected to resume in March.
However, various teams said they have not received any official communication about the event.
Sunnette Burden, head coach of Wanderers Netball Club, said the new rule is unfair and will not benefit all teams.
“The likelihood of all four teams to return in the league is very high, which will now deprive other teams of playing in the NNPL. I also think this is not going to benefit a lot of teams in terms of development because all the teams would not get the exposure they want,” she said.
Afrocats Wild Cats Chairlady Nyambali Mwahafa echoed similar sentiments, stating that the new rules are designed to benefit specific teams and will have a detrimental effect on the overall development of the sport and its players.
“This is sad because only certain teams will benefit from them. I believe most of the teams that have won the leagues in the respective regions are likely to go back and start over again, which is not fair after playing many games in the league last year. It feels like the hard work would not be rewarded,” she said.
The head coach of Tsumeb Netball Club, Sofie Mendos, also expressed agreement with the concerns raised by other coaches, stating the decision to include the four bottom-half teams in the play-off will discourage teams from giving their full effort in their respective leagues.
“In every league – be it football or other sports, it’s all about challenges and opportunities. But this new format seems to indicate the opposite. It’s questionable why the rules were not changed at the beginning of the season. This will present a significant challenge, as the four teams that have been kept in the play-off have already gained experience and exposure, putting them in a strong position to regain their spot in the league,” said Mendos.
Mighty Gunners are the current MTC NNPL. NN in 2020 received a three-year sponsorship, worth 4.2 million, from MTC to assist with the establishment of a premier netball league and the development of netball countrywide.