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Sara Bayman suggests Superleague draft

Speaking to Sky Netball Sara Bayman shares thoughts on an auction

Sara Bayman says the Vitality Superleague would benefit from an IPL-style auction or NFL Draft to make an even more competitive competition.

Two years on from the Superleague’s relaunch, the competition has just crowned Wasps as back-to-back champions after a thrilling victory over Loughborough Lightning at the Copper Box in a repeat of last year’s final.

The battle for top-four places went all the way to the final round of regular season fixtures but, with Team Bath pinching fourth spot, the same four teams returned to the post-season to contest the semi-finals – Manchester Thunder joining Bath, Wasps and Lightning.

Bayman believes that after England’s Commonwealth Games gold medal there is a chance for the sport to make more headlines domestically and a more competitive league season is crucial to that.

“After the Commonwealths there is a huge opportunity to keep netball relevant,” Bayman told Sky Sports.

“The Games have a global audience but when we return back to the domestic league you need to keep people’s attention and that the Superleague product is a strong one.

“That is where the next step needs to come with a more equal spread of talent, tighter games week-in, week out.

“When I was younger, there were a lot of us who were at Bath together – Pamela Cookey, Rachel Dunn, Tamsin Greenway – but we dispersed and went elsewhere and it made for a more competitive league back then.”

Bayman told us earlier in the season that she took a risk by challenging herself with a move to Glasgow to join UWS Sirens – as part of a wider remit to grow the league which she feels the players have a responsibility to do.

The IPL auction sees all of the teams in the competition given an opportunity to bid for players from around the world, while the NFL Draft gives the worst-performing team in the league the chance to pick the very best college talent available.

With the very best from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda and beyond mixing it with the best of the Roses squad, Bayman believes that both offer options for the Superleague as it looks to go from strength-to-strength.

“If we are moving to professional players with the England squad who are full-time then what is there to stop those players being drafted by teams or auctioned,” she added.

“That would give us a much more even spread of talent and a competitive league throughout.

“As professionalism increases, I think that is likely to become an increased possibility and it would boost the league and also make the off-season interesting as well.”

Tuesday’s announcement that Team Northumbria will be dropping out of the league, a couple of years after the Yorkshire Jets were overlooked for a franchise means the league is beginning to face one or two questions – and debate about the competition has to be a good thing.

With bigger crowds than ever before, better media coverage and unprecedented success for the national team it could be argued that an auction or draft would encourage wider investment in the game from sponsors and Bayman feels the chance to grow the sport has never been better.

“I am keen to see players move about in the league and have a competition of 10 teams where you don’t know who is going to win any given game,” she said.

“At the moment we have a split between the top five teams and that is where the top players are concentrated.

“If players spread across the league a little more, it would be better for the league and better for individual – pushing them out of their comfort zones and challenging them to put under pressure in teams that might not be full of stars.

“While top teams have a bit of a stranglehold, the newer teams like Sirens and Stars are having to inch their way into things.”

ORIGINAL SKY SPORTS NETBALL ARTICLE

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