Worcester's Stars feared big cities netball impact

Severn Stars boss Mick Donovan admits the Worcester-based club feared the direction English netball was moving in last year when they were first asked to prepare a presentation to compete in a restructured Super League.

Stars have missed out to the newly-created Birmingham Panthers franchise as the West Midlands' representatives in a whittled-down eight-team Netball Super League.

"To say it's a setback is an understatement," the University of Worcester vice-chancellor told BBC Hereford & Worcester.

"There is a lot of disappointment throughout the club from players, parents, kids and the coaches.

"But we always knew there was a keenness to get the big cities involved.

“The league made this decision about a year ago. They wanted to drop clubs to make it more competitive and they want 50 per cent of games in bigger arenas.

"They think by making the pot smaller it will grow the product.

"We were invited down to London, where we had to make a presentation and were grilled on all aspects of the criteria."

Birmingham simply has bigger arenas - the 15,000-capacity Utilita Arena, formerly the National Indoor Arena, and the National Exhibition Centre are both much larger than the 2,000-capacity University of Worcester Arena, also the home of basketball side Worcester Wolves.

"We get about 1,800 at our games," said Donovan. "But we have the second highest attendances in the league and a great coaching set-up.

"It will be interesting to see whether our fans will engage with the new franchise.

"But at least we still have one club in the Midlands. Some regions don't have one at all. And we’ve met with Birmingham Panthers on a few occasions and may still host some of their games."

Stars have played in the Super League since 2017 but their highest finish has been sixth place, achieved on three occasions.

"We thought we had something sustainable," Donovan added.

"But we just have to find a way of being engaged enough to stay involved with our younger players. That is a big carrot. Working with the players is something we feel very enthusiastic about.

"We have met with our players for a conversation this week. It will be a bit more challenging for some of them to get a spot in the new team.

"Some may get in, but some may struggle and may stop playing. There is going to be a big divide between the top levels."

Mick Donovan was talking to BBC Hereford & Worcester's Elliott Webb

'A big disappointment for the Stars'

Analysis - BBC Hereford & Worcester sports editor Trevor Owens

There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a big disappointment for Severn Stars.

They have become one of the most successful, affordable and inclusive of all the netball franchises. They have sell-out crowds and huge numbers of young players participating.

It’s a setback but they say they’re in discussions to take forward the successes of recent years.

They hope to have a strong relationship in the future with Birmingham Panthers, who they hope to welcome to the University of Worcester Arena in their inaugural season.