Netball South Africa (NSA) has confirmed that they will follow the example set by their football counterparts and will run their elite club programme in a biologically safe environment, known as bio-bubble in the wake of Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
This was revealed during the launch of the 2020 edition of the Telkom Netball League in Johannesburg on Monday.
The tournament was initially set to start in May but was put on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak and competition will resume at the Mangaung Indoor Sports Complex in Bloemfontein between October 14 and 27.
The games will be played behind closed doors as spectators remain prohibited at sports events even under lockdown level 1.
“All the 12 participating teams will enter the bio bubble on October 8 and will undergo training sessions while observing very strict health protocols before they play their first game on October 14. As with many other sporting codes globally, spectators will not be allowed at the arena during this period,” NSA said on Monday.
“Initially the tournament would have been played over a six-week period across three provinces. However, due to lockdown and travel restrictions, the event will now be hosted in one location and played across two weeks. All teams will be placed in a biologically safe environment and this is done to try and minimise the spread of the virus.”
The local Premier Soccer League successfully completed their delayed season in a bio-bubble, housing 32 clubs across the premier and first division.
NSA announced that two new teams, Tornadoes from the Western Cape and the Kingdom Queens from KwaZulu-Natal, will be participating in this year’s competition.
“As we have been talking over the years that we want to see the sport grow, this is one way of doing that. The decision to have two more teams comes as no surprise because if you look at the Western Cape, they have appeared at almost every single final of the tournament, KwaZulu-Natal is our biggest province and we therefore decided to make sure that we start there,” said NSA president Cecilia Molokwane.
The Under-21 national team will also be playing some exhibition matches to get some game time after their Africa qualifiers for the 2021 Netball World Youth Cup in Fiji was cancelled.
Meanwhile, NSA also confirmed that mobile operator Telkom have extended their partnership deal by another three years and will remain the headline sponsor of the elite netball league tournament until 2022.
“We are grateful for partners like Telkom who believe in our vision of turning the sport professional. Their partnership with us is the stepping stone we need in ensuring that we work towards bringing this vision to life. We hope that this relationship will continue to yield the desired results and grow from strength to strength,” said Molokwane.
“Our partnership with Netball South Africa over the past year has been rooted on both Telkom and Netball SA’s desire to empower women in the sport. We sought to take part in a mission to help women realise their potential and the skills they have on the field," said Telkom brand and product segments executive Gugu Mthembu
"It is the skills on display in the Telkom Netball League that inspire them to do better and to reach higher. We are honoured to be part of this, and we are looking forward to playing our part and impacting the lives of talented girls and young women in the sport positively."
NSA also announced that, in a first, all the teams participating at the tournament next month will be kitted in the brand. This include the umpires, technical officials and ball girls.
“Puma, as technical sponsor, is proud to be associated with Netball South Africa and congratulates the team for pulling out all the stops to ensure the Telkom Netball League tournament goes ahead during such challenging times,” said Puma South Africa marketing director Brett Bellinger.