No Team Bath in relaunched Netball Super League

Jayda Pechova
Team Bath last won the Super League in 2013 [Getty Images]

Five-time Super League champions Team Bath have not been included in the relaunched Netball Super League (NSL), which reduces to eight teams as part of plans to go professional from 2025.

Birmingham Panthers and Nottingham Forest Netball are the new teams added, with Strathclyde Sirens, Surrey Storm and Severn Stars the other sides to miss out.

Netball's big three - Manchester Thunder, London Pulse and Loughborough Lightning - are included.

A rebranded LexisNexis Cardiff Dragons, London Mavericks and Leeds Rhinos are the other three clubs to retain their places in the revamped league.

Selection was based on the "ability to deliver the on and off-court advancements" in order to "raise the standards of the league" to increase competitiveness.

The NSL is the sport's elite domestic competition in the UK but many players currently work or study alongside their semi-professional netball careers.

Claire Nelson, the NSL's managing director, has previously said player salary increases would be gradual.

Plans for the relaunch will include increasing the average salary by at least 60%, with the minimum salary payment more than doubling.

"Going from 10 clubs at present to eight next year will be a case of fewer, bigger, better," Nelson said.

"We have big plans as a league and believe that we have the right clubs who can come on this incredible journey with us."

The sport's governing body - England Netball - announced plans to relaunch in October last year, opening a tender process for expressions of interest in joining the newly reformed league.

The revamp comes after England won a silver medal at the 2023 World Cup.

Netball is the women's team sport with the highest participation in England with more than three million women taking part annually.

The new NSL plans aim to translate that to consistent interest in the elite game by improving the league with 50% of games to be played at major arenas, better salaries and increased competition across the teams through smaller squads.

England Netball chief executive Fran Connolly said it was "a pivotal moment for our sport".

"This is without doubt the right time, and the right thing to do for the future of our sport that will help to strengthen every area of the game and inspire generations to come."

The NSL also said every match will be available to watch from home.

This season, one match per round is will be streamed on the BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app with one further match per round available on Sky Sports Youtube and two others on subscription app NetballPass.

The hope is that the new league will rival Australia's fully professional Suncorp Super Netball League.

The NSL began in 2005 with eight teams but there have been several changes over the years with some franchises dropping out and new clubs admitted.

The league increased to 10 teams in 2017 and added an 11th from 2021.

That was until Coventry-based Wasps went into administration in 2022 and the league reverted back to 10 teams.

The 2024 season, the last in its current guise, began in February and is still ongoing with the Grand Final taking place on 29 June.

Loughborough Lightning won the 2023 Super League, beating London Pulse in the final, but the top four teams who made the semi-finals had already booked their place with four rounds of the season left to play and the competition levels in the league were called into question.

Thunder, Lightning and Pulse and Thunder occupy this season's top three places with Stars well placed for a semi-final spot in fourth.

New franchise Birmingham Panthers "will work with the University of Worcester to build on the success of Severn Stars", the NSL said when announcing its decision.

It said this would help "to establish netball and its players as a leading force across the region and beyond".

Nottingham Forest Netball is owned and managed by the Premier League football team, which has "major plans to develop a multi-sport model for the football club".

Who will play in Netball Super League 2025?

  • Birmingham Panthers

  • LexisNexis Cardiff Dragons

  • Leeds Rhinos

  • London Mavericks

  • London Pulse

  • Loughborough Lightning

  • Manchester Thunder

  • Nottingham Forest Netball

What next for Bath, Stars, Sirens and Storm?

The NSL said it would "work with all exiting clubs to ensure they receive a fitting farewell and are celebrated for the significant impact they have had on the league and the sport as a whole to date".

And on Bath in particular, it added: "With such a significant netball participation and fanbase in the south and south-west of England, and exciting new arenas planned in Bristol in the coming years, England Netball will continue to work closely with Team Bath and Netball South West to explore options for the future."

However Team Bath head coach Asha Francis said the news felt like "a really bad dream".

"People just never thought that we would be one of those clubs under threat," she told BBC Radio Somerset.

Francis added the decision would leave a "gaping hole" in the region for aspiring netball players, and a lack of role models for them.

"Everyone is now living this uncertainty so it’s going to be really key for us to make sure we manage that and support our players.”

Liz Bloor, managing director at the Netball Players Association, said: "The changes in the club roster will inevitably be challenging for some players but we are certain that this is the right move for netball."

She added the NPA would be working with players "to support them through the transition period from the end of the 2024 season to wherever their individual paths take them on and off the court".

'Statement of intent from Super League’ - analysis

Jess Anderson, BBC Sport netball writer

This is a pivotal moment for elite netball in the UK.

There have long been calls for the league to professionalise, particularly after England won a first Commonwealth Games gold in 2018.

Australia's Super Netball League is seen as the benchmark, with their national team the best in the world and the hope is that the relaunch will also help England to close the gap on their rivals at international level.

Leaving out Team Bath, the league’s most successful team, feels like a statement of intent.

But questions remain for players and staff in the league.

Will they give up careers to play netball full time? Will salaries increase enough to allow that to happen? And what about those players whose team has been omitted from the new league?