The Co-operative Group has announced plans to support England Netball’s bid to make netball an Olympic sport in the 2016 games.
Speaking at the inaugural Co-operative Netball Superleague Player of the Year awards at the ICC in Birmingham this evening, The Co-operative’s Director of Food Retail Marketing Debbie Robinson announced the business’ intentions to encourage its 2.5 million members and customers to support the campaign.
The bid already has the backing of England 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.
Ms 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,” concluded Robinson.
The next review of the Olympic programme is scheduled for 2009, and The Co-operative hopes that the publicity from this campaign will have an impact on the decision-making process.
Paul Clark, CEO 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.
“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,” said Clark.
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 to back the bid. You can lend your support by searching Facebook for "Bid to get netball in the 2012 Olympics" or click through from the England Netball group.
The Co-operative Group is the sponsor of the Netball Superleague, and was also the headline sponsor of the recent three match international test series between England and world number five Malawi, which England won 3-0.
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