Netball Superleague returns behind closed doors but all Saracens Mavericks games will be screened live
- Credit: STEVE PORTER PHOTOGRAPHY
Saracens Mavericks will finally get their Netball Superleague season under way on Sunday - although fans will have to make do with seats in front of the television.
In a deal heralded as the "sport’s biggest media deal to date" all games in the 2021 season will be televised or streamed live, either on Sky or YouTube.
Only two venues will be utilised too, the Copper Box Arena in London and Wakefield's Studio 001, the latter for the first nine weeks and the former for the remaining fixtures. This will allow the league to apply "strict and consistent COVID-19 protocols for all games, supported by an extensive season-long testing programme across the league".
This year's campaign will see an 11th team added to the mix, Leeds Rhinos - another with rugby connections.
They will be the second opponents for the Hatfield-based Mavericks on Monday, however, it is old sparring partners Surrey Storm who provide the opening test just over 24 hours earlier.
That starts at 4pm with game two on at 7.15pm.
Fran Connolly, CEO of England Netball, said: "We were delighted to bring elite netball back to the court during the Netball Legends Series that saw England Roses play an international All-Stars side and we cannot wait to continue that momentum and give our Netball Family something to look forward to.
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“This partnership [with Sky] is a huge milestone for netball in this country and underlines the continued interest in our sport.
"The increased visibility this will bring will shine a light on the incredible role models in our game and help to inspire a nation of women and girls to take to the court."
Steve Elworthy, independent chair of the Netball Superleague, said: “As part of our partnership, Sky will broadcast more league games in 2021 than ever before, covering all 114 matches across the season in some format, helping to drive exposure of the league and directly benefiting our clubs and the wider netball community.
“Their coverage of the league is vital for the return of women’s sport in 2021 and the visibility of netball and marks a very important and ground-breaking moment for our game.”
Rob Webster, Sky Sports Managing Director, said: “Popularity for the sport has increased in recent years as viewing figures saw 550k people tune in to watch England in 2019’s thrilling Netball World Cup semi-final."