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Netball - 28. April 2008.

Netball faces uphill battle to be included in Olympics

Softball, baseball and golf are among seven sports under consideration for inclusion at the 2016 Olympics when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) holds its session in Copenhagen in October 2009.



The host city for 2016 will also be selected at the same meeting.

Rugby sevens, squash, karata and roller sports will also be considered for the two vacant sports.

Softball and baseball were cut from the programme by the IOC for the 2012 Olympics in London while the other failed to gather enough votes to replace them.

But netball have still not given up hope of being included in 2016.

The Co-operative’s director of food retail marketing Debbie Robinson asked its members to support the programme.

The Co-operative Group is the sponsor of the netball Superleague, and was also the headline sponsor of the recent three match test series between England and world number five Malawi, which England won 3-0.

Robinson said: “Netball is the most popular team sport in the world for women, so in many ways it is unbelievable that it has not achieved Olympic status sooner.

“In England alone it is played by over a million women and girls every week, and it is one of the core sports of the Commonwealth Games.

"And yet, despite being a recognised sport by the IOC, there are currently no plans to include it at either the London games or in 2016.

“The inclusion of netball could have far reaching consequences on the health and fitness issues – as well as social problems – facing the UK’s girls and young women.

"Netball clubs play a vital role in their communities, and the increase in participation that Olympic recognition would bring could have a really positive effect.”

The bid already has the backing of England and the other Home Countries Netball Associations, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also indicated that he would like to see netball included in the London 2012 programme as a showcase event.

Paul Clark, the chief executive of England Netball, believes the inclusion of netball in the Olympic programme will be the catalyst for increasing and sustaining participation in the game -especially amongst young people, as it will significantly raise the profile of the game and showcase the top players as role models.

He said: “This is an exciting time for sport in general and for netball in particular, as the emerging Government sports strategy seeks to establish a world class sports system in this country - a system that will seek to attract new and retain existing participants and allow talented athletes to fulfill their potential as netballers.

“The Government strategy recognises that women and girls are under-represented in sport generally, and possess the highest drop-off rates – and netball is superbly positioned to address all of these issues.”

The Olympic bid has further support from England international Eboni Beckford-Chambers, who has set-up a Facebook group and is looking to get half a million signatures.

But netball faces an uphill task to be included before 2020 after the IOC did not include it among the seven sports being considered for 2016.

Under a new formula approved last year, it will take a simple majority for a sport to be voted onto the program.

Previously, a two-thirds majority was needed.

The sports programme is fixed seven years in advance of each Olympics.

The same 26 sports on the London programme will also be put forward for 2016 in Copenhagen.

The IOC has set a ceiling of 28 sports, meaning there will be room for only one or two new additions.

THe IOC will send out questionnaires to the seven sports federations in December, with replies to be returned by March 2009.

The IOC programme commission will prepare a report assessing the seven sports in April 2009.

For the first time, leaders of the seven sports will make presentations to the IOC's ruling Executive Board in Lausanne in June 2009.

The Executive Board will then submit proposals to the full IOC in Copenhagen on which sports to include.

The procedure has been streamlined following widespread criticism of the arduous procedures at the IOC session in Singapore, where members voted individually on each of the 28 sports.

Softball, a women's sport in the Olympics, joined the games in Atlanta in 1996.

Baseball debuted as a medal sport in Barcelona in 1992.

Golf, which was last played in the Olympics in 1904, got a boost earlier this month when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem endorsed the sport's bid to get back into the Games.

Rugby union last played at the 1924 Olympics when it was won by the United States, has proposed a Sevens tournament rather than the traditional 15-a-side competition.

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