She Cranes World Cup Triumph Reignites Calls to Prioritize Netball in Budget Allocation

The national netball team, the She Cranes, received a warm reception Monday evening after their impressive performance at the Netball World Cup in South Africa. The team secured a commendable fifth-place finish, emerging as the top-performing African nation in the tournament.

Marking their third consecutive appearance on the global stage, the She Cranes outplayed the hosts, South Africa, in a decisive match that determined the fifth-place finish courtesy of exceptional performances by star players such as Mary Nuba and Margret Baagala, as well as the collective efforts of the entire team.

The She Cranes arrived on Monday evening at Entebbe International Airport before being hosted at a celebratory dinner at Kampala Serena Hotel where several figures from the government and devoted netball enthusiasts gathered to share in the team’s success.

However, as each of the speakers took the microphone to address the gathering, a recurring theme echoed throughout their messages—the call for the government to harmonize sports funding, with a particular emphasis on bolstering netball funding.

Over time, several sports administrators have pointed out gaps in the government’s sports funding criteria, while others have consistently advocated for prioritizing funding for sports disciplines that yield notable results. This trend began with athletics, followed by boxing, and now, netball.

While unveiling the 2023/2024 financial year budget, the sports subsector’s funding saw an increase to 48.9 billion Shillings. But, it is the Federation of Uganda’s Football Associations (FUFA) that once again secured a lion’s share of around 17 billion Shillings, while netball received a paltry Shillings 300million. The She Cranes Head Coach Fred Mugerwa couldn’t hide his emotions while addressing the guests who cheered him on.

He said that while Ugandans are happy with the current results, he reflected on the potential for even greater success if the She Cranes were provided with the necessary resources and support, akin to the globally renowned netball powerhouses.

In the midst of their preparations, the She Cranes encountered the challenge of securing a fitting training venue, which saw them spend at least three weeks at the Kamwokya Sports Complex, where they faced the blistering sun on fair days and endured suspended training sessions when rain transformed the court into a treacherous surface.

Adding to their trials, the team encountered fierce competition to access the bustling MTN Indoor Arena, which is perpetually booked by a multitude of other sporting disciplines. This prompted the She Cranes to ultimately opt for the Nakirebe Sports Complex, a decision that necessitated a daily pilgrimage of 50 kilometers from Lubowa to Mpigi for their training regimen.

Speaking to URN on the sidelines, the official Uganda Netball Federation- UNF President Sarah Babirye Kityo who has for long been critical of the National Council of Sports alleged unfair funding practices towards sports federations. She said that the current amount that the sports subsector receives could be adequate if it were allocated in alignment with its intended objectives.

Drop in rankings 

The newest netball rankings published by the International Netball Federation saw Uganda’s ranking drop to the eighth position. Tonga has overtaken Uganda, further continuing the decline that started last year when Malawi overtook Uganda and secured the sixth spot. This was so because She Cranes has not participated in any ranking games since November 2022.

This saga started when the local netball Federation was compelled to withdraw the She Cranes from the world cup qualifiers because they did not have funds to facilitate the team.  

Subsequently, the International Netball Federation- INF imposed a USD 5,000 fine which they had to pay before taking part in any ranking games recognized by the INF which kept the She Cranes out of action since November last year.

According to world netball, for a country to accumulate points in the latest rankings, it must have played six International Netball-sanctioned matches from the last time of rankings, to the newest ranking time. As a result, they have been unable to accumulate any points to improve their rankings after failing to play any match since November 2022.

Kityo told URN that while the She Cranes’ world cup triumph, could have a significant improvement in their rankings, they will drop if they continue skipping international competitions.

Responding to queries, State Minister for primary education, Joyce Moriku Kaducu said that the government is committed to having excellent facilities to ensure the competitiveness and proper recruitment of young players. “We will put in more money, our wish is to ensure that we have excellent facilities for sports, especially netball,” she said.

On whether netball deserves better funding, Kaducu noted that while football has historically taken the forefront, it is now time to extend recognition to netball, given its evident success.

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