Why Football May Not Overtake Netball In Women’s Sport

For many years, sports like netball and hockey were seen as being among the sports of choice for girls. But if you live in a football stronghold like Manchester, you may be tempted to choose that sport over netball classes.

Of course, you should have a go at all sorts of sports to see what you like and what you play best, as there are many ways to get fit, have fun, make friends and build up team camaraderie.

However, while women’s football has undoubtedly grown rapidly in recent years, helped by the Lionesses winning the Euros, the close relatives of legendary Manchester footballers may have other ideas.

The names Gary and Phil Neville, along with Paul Scholes, are etched in football folklore as members of the ‘Class of 92’, local lads who emerged from the youth ranks to be superstars at Manchester United and England. However, the ladies in their families have been pursuing very different careers.

Phil and Gary’s sister Tracey Neville not only played for England at netball 81 times but also coached the national team from 2015 to 2019. Now working in Australia, in August she switched from assistant at Adelaide Thunderbirds to become head coach of a new team in Melbourne.

In the case of Paul Scholes, it was the next generation who expanded the family sporting connection from football to netball. His daughter Alicia made her debut for Manchester Thunder in 2021, playing at wing attack.

She subsequently moved south to play for London Pulse at the Copperbox Arena and made her full England debut against New Zealand in September this year.

So, while it is true that football now offers more to girls than it once did, netball is still a potential path to stardom, even in a footballing family. After all, if you think about the 2018 Commonwealth Games, netball came home first.