At a time when women’s sport needs support and investment more than ever, London Pulse have announced a three-year, six-figure partnership with Atlantic House Investments that head coach and CEO Sam Bird believes takes the franchise a step closer for professionalism.
At a time when Vitality Superleague franchises have been turning to their fans for support with crowd-funding initiatives, Pulse find themselves in the fortunate position of being able to secure a principle partner that secures their future.
Women’s sport is feeling the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic more than their male equivalents and netball is striving to keep franchises alive, build squads for the new season and secure a return to training and venues for their athletes.
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Why not be ambitious? Why not be brave and strive to be the best? That’s what sport and competition is about.
London should have a top-class Superleague team, there’s no question about that.
We have an obligation to grow the game and spread netball into communities that still don’t even know that it exists.
Bird, who combines her role as head coach with director of netball and CEO responsibilities, is perfectly placed to see just how important the announcement is, in giving the franchise security off the court and allowing them to prosper at a time when all the sport’s league, competitions and clubs need all the support they can get.
“We have a really strong backing in terms of our ownership, so to then add this very significant partnership on top really does put us in the driving seat in terms of moving our sport on and driving it towards becoming truly professional, I don’t think that can be understated,” London Pulse chief executive officer and head coach Sam Bird told Sky Sports.
“We are the only club that’s saying that we want to get rid of the salary cap because we’re in a position to offer players going forward a genuine career so that in two or three years’ time they don’t have to have another job, they could be a full-time professional netballer.
“There are only a few full-time netballers at the moment at Superleague level and we want to be able to provide a removal of the salary cap so that we can start to pay serious money for athletes who we want to reward properly.
“We recognise that our club has to be run like a business and that we need to be ambitious financially so that we can support our elite level athletes but also support all of the community work that we want to do at the grassroots.”
This is phenomenal to see from @England and @Lionesses #Rise #Equality https://t.co/FJRzO4Sre1
Financial futures in netball have been under the microscope and bleak in some cases, so Pulse’s three-year-deal – believed to be one of the biggest in British netball – has been welcomed.
Atlantic House Investments will sponsor the Superleague and Pathway Squads as well as become match-day sponsor at the team’s Copper Box Arena home venue and work with the franchise on improving diversity in the financial services sector.
Pulse entered the Vitality Superleague in July 2018, replacing Team Northumbria, and after finishing bottom in their first season, found themselves behind only champions Manchester Thunder before the season was cancelled in May due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With the 2021 season now confirmed for February next year, the signings window is official open until October 31 and Bird was quick to underline how importance that financial security brings in building and keeping a squad together to challenge for the Superleague title.
“I’m still the director of netball and the players that work with me, they know that I’m very keen to give them opportunities so that they are treated as people and not just as netball players.
“Our approach has to be that we set the standard of proving the best professional facilities, the best professional environment that we can provide to help the players that we have develop and to retain those players over the next two or three years to win titles with that talent that we already have.
“With this extra financial investment, we may look to bring in a couple of extra players but essentially, I have faith in that ones that I have and I want to give them the best environment to train and improve as possible.
“Our philosophy is to build our own, create our own and then win with our own. We have so much talent in London that I want to nurture that, keep it and get it through to Superleague level within one club.”
Equally as important for Atlantic House Investments is the opportunity to work within elite women’s sport to raise awareness of the lack of diversity and gender equality in the financial services industry.
“Equally important for us is the chance to similarly demonstrate to young women from a variety of backgrounds that real opportunities exist for them within the financial services industry.
There is a clear lack of gender equality and diversity in the City and we hope that our partnership with London Pulse will help attract more female professionals, not just to Atlantic House Investments but to the investment industry as a whole.”
Tony Stenning, Group CEO Atlantic House Investments
Many of the Superleague players combine training and playing with a career and Pulse’s athletes now have the opportunity of work experience, internships and mentoring to support them in achieving their long-term sporting and professional goals.
For Bird it’s another step on the road to taking netball, Pulse and the players closer to the community and giving the capital’s young people a team to support and to connect with.
“I genuinely want us to be a part of London and for people in London and the South East to recognise London Pulse the netball team, in the same way they might recognise supporting West Ham or Arsenal’s football team,” she added.
“We don’t have that in our sport yet and we need to have that in our sport.
“That’s why you will have seen us doing the work with the blind and visual impaired and delivering community camps for some of the poorest kids in London – we want to be able to provide that access to netball across the whole spectrum and these sorts of deals allow us to do that.
“I think what we’re seeing is the reward for us being proactive during the pandemic off the court and we were with our athletes.
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