The International Netball Federation (INF) has announced its decision to cancel the Netball World Youth Cup 2021 (NWYC) which was scheduled to take place from 2-11th December in Suva, Fiji. Meanwhile the Asia Netball Federation (ANF) has come to the same decision on the Asian Youth Netball Championships 2021 which were due to take place in Korea.
INF, in consultation with the Fijian Government, the NWYC Organising Committee (OC), and the twenty netball nations who had qualified to take part, identified significant Covid-19 related challenges surrounding the event. A comprehensive risk assessment was undertaken, highlighting a number of challenges including welfare of youth athletes; the inability of teams to adequately plan and prepare together for an intense level of international competition, on-going border closures, travel restrictions including quarantine measures and costs, and the protection of Fiji, a nation which has seen low Covid-19 numbers as of March 2021.
The NWYC is the pinnacle of netball competition for emerging players under 21 years of age with INF hosting an U21 International competition every four years since 1988. INF announced on the 8th of February 2017 that Netball Fiji had won the rights to host the second staging of the Netball World Youth Cup. In July 2020 INF announced that the due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the NWYC would be postponed from June to December 2021.
ANF consulted with the 12 countries taking part in the event to understand their views. 8 countries gave feedback with only 1 country confirming they would be able to attend but there was uncertainty around vaccinations.
The decision took into account:
- Almost all countries could not confirm when their players would be vaccinated (only Maldives’ youth team has been vaccinated).
- Countries could not be sure if they would need to quarantine on their return. All but 1 country said that they would be responsible for the quarantine costs and testing.
- Even if there was just 1 case of the virus in the teams then the impact will be too great. This could impact on the reputation of ANF, INF and the sport.
- The number of cases across Asia are increasing with some countries exploring the option of further lockdowns.