She Speaks with Lindsay Impett, Netball World Cup

At a time when equal pay and large crowds are being celebrated as milestone moments in women’s football, it is interesting to remember that there are sports which are really female-dominated and pull their own weight without comparison with the men’s version of the game. Netball is in the unique position of looking at ways to encourage more boys and men to take up the sport, even as the women’s game remains ever popular.

For this edition of She Speaks, we were in conversation with Lindsay Impett, Event Director of the very successful 2019 edition of the Vitality Netball World Cup.

Lindsay Impett. Photo credit: SWPix

The 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup

The Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 was a great success, I am delighted to say.  Every session met or greatly exceeded its target capacity and the feedback from the fans showed how much they enjoyed the high quality sport, top level event presentation and additional activities in both the fan-park and throughout the city.  Sky and the BBC provided an exceptional broadcast seen by over 3 million spectators in the UK alone. Our teams, our volunteer community and the International Federation provided hugely positive feedback on their experiences.

I have been lucky enough to work in Australia, South Africa as well as across a variety of events in the UK. I got my first break while volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Role at the World Cup

Netball World Cup 2019 Ltd. was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary of England Netball, to focus on the organisation and promotion of the event. My role involved leading the company and overseeing the delivery of the event.  On a daily basis, it was about managing the project timeline, budget, risk and readiness, but in a wider context it was about building the team and creating a culture that allowed them to thrive, to grow and deliver to the best of their abilities. The performance of the staff on the event is something I will always be very proud of.  

2019 Vitality Netball World Cup. Photo credit: SW Pix

Netball is the only sport where there is little or no comparison to the established men’s version of the game for female athletes. This is a real strength of our sport and we need to maintain this while developing the mixed and men’s games.

Netball’s unique position

For the first time at the Netball World Cup some of the teams played warm-up matches against men’s sides. I believe it is important to develop the men’s and mixed games, whilst keeping netball as a leader in women’s sport. Netball is the only sport where there is little or no comparison to the established men’s version of the game for female athletes. This is a real strength of our sport and we need to maintain this while developing the mixed and men’s games.

From Netball court to the boardroom

Netball is the ultimate team sport. Even though you need a captain or a leader, it is very difficult to win without each and every member of the team. I believe in valuing my team and what they can do, to deliver the best performance. 

Key Performance Indicators for the ‘best performance’

When England Netball moved to Loughborough in 2017, one of the first decorations we installed was a large wall with information about the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019. The detail that kept me focused right from the beginning – when I was the sole member of the organisation – was a target of selling more than 60 thousand tickets.  We smashed this KPI selling over 112,000 tickets for the event.

Equally important to me, however, was the objective of 100% staff retention throughout the duration of the project. Again, without the right team in place it is impossible to achieve the KPIs.

Moderating panel on female leadership, October 2019
2019 Vitality Netball World Cup. Photo credit: SW Pix

Netball has seen global growth in recent years with countries such as Argentina and Zambia developing their coaching networks.

100k+ tickets! How did you generate enthusiasm in a crowded year that included the Women’s Football World Cup and the men’s Cricket World Cup.

Early in the planning process, we decided to move the event from 5th to 12th July to avoid Wimbledon and the men’s Cricket World Cup. We wanted to ensure that the Vitality Netball World Cup 2019 had its own platform and space to shine. We found that other sporting events such as the Women’s Football World Cup in France accentuated the narrative around female sport, which only benefited our event. 

Is the sport growing in popularity globally?

Netball has seen global growth in recent years with countries such as Argentina and Zambia developing their coaching networks. In the UK, off the back of the Commonwealth Games and the World Cup, England Netball have seen a rise in the number of enquiries about clubs, more back-to-netball attendance and an increase in ‘session finder’ use (on the website).

In fact, one person was so keen that she emailed England Netball from inside the (Liverpool) Arena while watching a World Cup match, in search of her nearest playing opportunity! England Netball have done a great job in tapping in to the various reasons why people want to play and creating a product that meets that need. Other member nations are also adopting this approach.

Does ‘being the only woman in the room’ apply in Netball?

Although our volunteer community of Pivoteers was made up of a high percentage of females, our delivery team at the event had a good gender mix. Our Head of Sport Competition was Ian Holloway and I don’t believe there are many people in the UK who could have run our netball competition better. It wasn’t about male or female for us, it was about who was best placed to do the job at hand. 

Professional journey so far

I have been lucky enough to work in Australia, South Africa as well as across a variety of events in the UK. I got my first break while volunteering at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. I pushed myself forward and introduced myself to the representatives of Fast Track. Having been an athlete myself, I knew Fast Track ran track and field events and I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in. Fast Track then gave me opportunity and experience in a wide range of event operations and this set me up for all the jobs that followed! 

I have since worked at Wembley Stadium and been involved in a variety of events including Youth Olympics, World Masters Games, FIFA World Cup, the London 2012 Olympics, European Archery 2016, the Rugby World Cup and even a medieval pageant! Each role has provided me with new skills as well as contacts and I take experience and value from every thing I do.