The origins of netball can be traced back to basketball. The students of Madame Osterberg’s college of physical training in London’s Hampstead were first introduced to netball in 1895.The game was known as women’s basketball – there were no printed rules, no court lines, circles or boundaries and the goals were simple baskets hung on the walls. Over the next 2 years the English students added rings and divided the court into 3 equal playing areas; in 1901 the first rules were published in England. From that point on schoolteachers started to introduce the game to children across the British Empire.


In 1924 the London and Home Counties Netball Federation was established, it intended to set itself up as the first national association for the sport. Two years later the All England Women’s Netball Association was formed; at this time over 10,000 rule books were in circulation. In 1932 the first All England Inter County Tournament was won by Essex. The first radio commentary of a netball game was broadcast in 1947 with the first international matches for England against Scotland and Wales played in 1949.In1956 England’s first touring team of ten players, who had to pay their own airfares, took four days to fly in a two-engined Viking aircraft to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and South Africa. The tour was a great success with England winning all its games. Televised games followed, as interest increased new rules governing international play were introduced to bring consistency to the world game, up to that point for example, New Zealand played with 9 players!

The 1960’s

In 1963 the All England Netball Association (AENA) held the first World Netball Tournament. Eleven countries took part with Australia emerging victorious beating New Zealand to second place; England took third. Netball had finally graduated from the school playgrounds and was recognised as an exciting world sport.

In England the first National Clubs Tournament took place in 1966 the event was sponsored by Woman magazine. AENA’s development team planned to encourage more people to play, coach and umpire at all levels across Europe. In 1968 Middlesex became the first county to win both Senior and Junior County Championships; a record 25,000 rulebooks were sold during the year.

The 1970’s and 1980’s

In 1973 ATV filmed the final of The National Clubs Tournament where Sudbury (Middlesex) beat Linden ( Birmingham). In 1980 AENA became a member of the British Olympic Association. In 1983 during the 6 th Netball World Championships in Singapore femininity and drug tests were introduced for the first time, that year England finished in 4 th place.

By 1984 the corporate world had realised the potential benefits of netball with Barclays Bank sponsoring the National Youth Tournament for the first time. This started a trend with the brewers of Fosters draught lager sponsoring the Inter County Championship and the Butter Information Council sponsoring the National Clubs Tournament.

By 1989, six Netball Centres of Excellence sponsored by Evian were opened, in the same year the Daily Telegraph sponsored and Channel 4 broadcast the Netball Challenge Cup for the top 4 county teams; Birmingham beat Essex Met to first place, Hertfordshire and Surrey were runners up. Individual affiliation to AENA jumped to 44,000.

The 1990’s

In 1995 the 9th World Championships were held in Birmingham, a record 27 countries competed. The Commonwealth Games included netball for the first time in 1998 with England winning the bronze medal.

Further information at www.englandnetball.co.uk. Ask them for more recent info.