Urvasi Naidoo- CEO, International Federation of Netball Share PDF Print E-mail
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Urvasi Naidoo is CEO of the International Federation of Netball, a position
she has held since July 2008. Before assuming this role, Naidoo was senior counsel and company secretary of the ICC. She has a wealth of experience in sports volunteering and is a keen supporter of
gender and ethnic minority equality in sports. She is a trustee of Sporting Equals and a member of the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport.
What do you think of the iSportconnect concept?
The more you can get from your colleagues and peers, the better. If people are sharing ideas, initiatives and best practice, it's always helpful.
You're involved in the Commission for the Future of Women's Sport, what do you see as the major obstacles facing the development of women's sport?
It really comes down to certain areas like lack of media coverage. When you see the coverage of
women's sport and female athletes, there's certainly much less than male athletes even though they
might be training more and their achievements might be as equal too. The coverage is not equal,
particularly in things like women's football with the England team doing so well, yet that's hardly ever covered. With sports like swimming, it seems there is no coverage unless it's the Olympics.
The second thing is the lack of commercial revenue put into women's sport; most of the money goes to men's sports events or men's sports teams.  Women's sport is still struggling to catch up and break the perception that you can't make money from women's sport. You can, in fact, in some ways more as most of the shopping is done by girls and women so if you're missing out on
that market, you're missing out on quite a lot, but unfortunately sponsors haven't yet clocked
onto that.
The third thing is the lack of female leaders and role models at the very top. The more female coaches, umpires, officials, CEOs, administrators, sports journalist and people working in sponsorship and marketing, the more you can perpetuate giving women better opportunities in
sport.
How can these obstacles be overcome?
The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport has had various research and educational campaigns on the issue of commercialisation of women's sport. Those reports can make
a difference in the sense they're trying to reach the corporate world and give them a different
perspective. They've also done some research into viewership; the number of women who
watch sport is surprisingly high, not just women who by default end up watching the football but women who enjoy watching sport and will pay money to either attend sports or pay for premium TV to watch things like tennis, golf and so on. By failing to televise some of the sports, you are losing out on a market.
In relation to the media, it's a case of constantly trying to court the media in some way to come to
events. We had a netball event in Liverpool, it was fantastically well-attended by a local crowd and
netball supporters but media was few and far between. England won, and it's such a shame for them
that there were no broadsheets, or somebody from the BBC, there. Anybody could pick it up. I think it's a case of trying to get a few friendly journalists on your side, making sure they know when your events are and that they can see how fantastic and dynamic the sport is.
Which individuals do you see as particularly good ambassadors for women's sport?
There are some important high profile ones in the UK, like Rebecca Adlington and Zara Phillips, but also some which never get any publicity like our triathlon world champion Chrissie Wellington.
What kind of impact can the London 2012 Olympics have on increasing popularity of women's sport in the UK?
I think it's fantastic, because what we've seen in the two most recent summer and winter Olympics is
there's almost an equal number of women to men athletes in all of the sports , when it comes to
London, I think it's going to be similar.
Things like changing the programme to allow women's boxing shows that they've been awarded the
same coverage, exposure and rights in terms of competing as the men. Things like that make a big
difference to how the event is viewed. I think the Olympics itself has a universal appeal to men and
women. The viewership research has shown that it's almost equal viewership in terms of male and
female audiences. It's not just things like the gymnastics that women watch, they like the athletics as
well and everything about the Olympics. 2012 is going to propel a whole new generation of young
females into thinking about sports in a serious way.
You're also involved in the Sporting Equals organisation, how does this promote ethnic minority
involvement in sport?
It's the only organisation in the UK that is focussed entirely on promoting equal opportunity of black
and ethnic minority groups within sport. It's also a research and campaigning body, which tries to
promote programmes and work with governing bodies to ensure that they're doing their bit to attract black and ethnic minority participants. Whether it's swimming, badminton, boxing we try to ensure the sports are accessible to everybody.
With black and ethnic minority participation, there are similar problems to women's sport; lack of
leaders, role models, coaches, volunteers trying to break down some of the barriers that might exist.
People have certain reservations about going into sports because they feel they can't or because they haven't enjoyed the experience in the past.
The organisation itself doesn't run a lot of programmes; it mainly works with other bodies. We've done a project with Age Concern to try to get older black and ethnic minorities to play sports. We've done some projects with football clubs to try to get them to get more Asian kids to go on their junior programmes. That's always been an issue in the UK, we don't see many Asian footballers.
There's quite a big Asian community here and they're playing in Sunday leagues and taking part so why are they not progressing to professional level?
Our other targets are Asian women. This has always been a group that in our society doesn't play sport enough that's perpetuated from school onwards. Whenever I play sport, I'm almost always the only Asian woman, which is quite sad. We're trying to make it easier for Asian women to participate by running programmes for them, whether it means women only or modified uniforms if necessary so that they feel comfortable and are taking the opportunity to do some form of sport or physical activity.
Why do you think there are so few Asian professional footballers compared to the number playing at an amateur level?
We need to make sure those kids have the same chances that other kids do, that they know about them, that there are some schemes that identify that and work with community leaders  so that they know about it and they can speak to the youngsters about it and promote it.
Within professional sport, there's a large number of black players and athletes but there's a very small minority in coaching and managerial roles, do you think the Rooney Rule that is in place in the US is a good solution to this issue?
You've got to appoint people on merit and I don't think quotas work, but I think there has to be some way of encouraging people to come forward for those posts. In the UK people don't put themselves forward and that's part of the problem.
As CEO of the International Netball Federation, what do you find is the most challenging aspect?
As international organisation, it's very difficult to be fair to all the members. It's the same as any
organisation. If you're trying to run a global organisation from one office it's a matter of how you
spread your time. We are a very small organisation.
How do you service somebody who's in Africa or in a small country in Oceania when you don't get to see them every day?
Whereas England or Scotland I might be able to visit once a year. So it's a case of how you balance that out with a very small staff. We have a staff of five people. We have someone based in Africa full time, it's amazing the difference that one person can make. Our ultimate aim is to have an employee in each of the five regions of the world.
You're also involved in volunteering in sports, how big is the role that volunteering plays in sport and
does it get the media coverage it deserves?
Volunteering is my passion and London 2012 will be the fourth Olympics that I've volunteered at. It
depends on the sport. Some, more than others, rely very heavily on volunteers. Sunday league football clubs, women's netball clubs are run by volunteers. They're not paid, they do it because they love sport or because they want to do some exercise themselves. Some sports are better
than others at recognising their volunteers, rewarding them and thanking them. England
Netball, for instance, have an awards night every year just for their volunteers to reward them for the work they've done over the year.
I think the Olympics this year is a different model, but when we had the Commonwealth Games in the UK in 2002 a lot of volunteers wanted to take part. I think is part of our culture; we do volunteer, but maybe people don't get recognised for that as much as they should.
What do you find most rewarding about being involved in volunteer work?
I love the excitement of being part of an event like the Olympics, but my most rewarding moments are related to volunteering at the Paralympics because it's inspiring and really touches you to see these athletes who are absolutely amazing. It really puts things into perspective when you see someone with one limb missing running faster than I could run or skiing down a mountain.
It touches me and I certainly value that.
Is there a particular event that you're looking forward to next summer?
They're all great. Wheelchair basketball is very popular and has sold out quite quickly. Personally, I
really like the athletics.

 

Urvasi Naidoo is CEO of the International Federation of Netball, a position she has held since July 2008. Before assuming this role, Naidoo was senior counsel and company secretary of the ICC. She has a wealth of experience in sports volunteering and is a keen supporter ofgender and ethnic minority equality in sports. She is a trustee of Sporting Equals and a member of the Commission on the Future of Women's Sport.

By Edward Rangsi & Colin Robinson

What do you think of the iSportconnect concept?

The more you can get from your colleagues and peers, the better. If people are sharing ideas, initiatives and best practice, it's always helpful.

You're involved in the Commission for the Future of Women's Sport, what do you see as the major obstacles facing the development of women's sport?

It really comes down to certain areas like lack of media coverage. When you see the coverage of women's sport and female athletes, there's certainly much less than male athletes even though they might be training more and their achievements might be as equal too. The coverage is not equal, particularly in things like women's football with the England team doing so well, yet that's hardly ever covered. With sports like swimming, it seems there is no coverage unless it's the Olympics. 

The second thing is the lack of commercial revenue put into women's sport; most of the money goes to men's sports events or men's sports teams.  Women's sport is still struggling to catch up and break the perception that you can't make money from women's sport. You can, in fact, in some ways, you can make more as most of the shopping is done by girls and women. If you're missing out on that market, you're missing out on quite a lot, but unfortunately sponsors haven't yet clocked onto that.

The third thing is the lack of female leaders and role models at the very top. The more female coaches, umpires, officials, CEOs, administrators, sports journalist and people working in sponsorship and marketing, the more you can perpetuate giving women better opportunities in sport.

How can these obstacles be overcome?

The Commission on the Future of Women's Sport has had various research and educational campaigns on the issue of commercialisation of women's sport. Those reports can make a difference in the sense they're trying to reach the corporate world and give them a different perspective. They've also done some research into viewership; the number of women who watch sport is surprisingly high, not just women who by default end up watching the football but women who enjoy watching sport and will pay money to either attend sports or pay for premium TV to watch things like tennis, golf and so on. By failing to televise some of the sports, you are losing out on a market. 

In relation to the media, it's a case of constantly trying to court the media in some way to come to events. We had a netball event in Liverpool, it was fantastically well-attended by a local crowd and netball supporters but media was few and far between. England won, and it's such a shame for them that there were no broadsheets, or somebody from the BBC, there. Anybody could pick it up. I think it's a case of trying to get a few friendly journalists on your side, making sure they know when your events are and that they can see how fantastic and dynamic the sport is.

Which individuals do you see as particularly good ambassadors for women's sport?

There are some important high profile ones in the UK, like Rebecca Adlington and Zara Phillips, but also some that never get any publicity like our triathlon world champion Chrissie Wellington.

What kind of impact can the London 2012 Olympics have on increasing popularity of women's sport in the UK?

I think it's fantastic, because what we've seen in the two most recent summer and winter Olympics is there's almost an equal number of women to men athletes in all of the sports. When it comes to London, I think it's going to be similar.

Things like changing the programme to allow women's boxing shows that they've been awarded the same coverage, exposure and rights in terms of competing as the men. Things like that make a big difference to how the event is viewed. I think the Olympics itself has a universal appeal to men and women. The viewership research has shown that it's almost equal viewership in terms of male and female audiences. It's not just things like the gymnastics that women watch, they like the athletics as well and everything about the Olympics. 2012 is going to propel a whole new generation of young females into thinking about sports in a serious way. 

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