Netball Australia has begun a process to find additional teams to compete in the ANZ Championship, the biggest netball league in the world, from the 2017 season.
The governing body are seeking expressions of interest from clubs to join the league, which currently includes five teams from both Australia and New Zealand and is held annually over an 18-week period from April to June.
The announcement comes as part of a review process being conducted by Netball Australia and Netball New Zealand aimed at furthering the development of the sport in the two countries.
The process is due to close in March, with the outcomes of the review expected in mid-2016.
“There is no doubt that the success of the competition was a contributor to the spectacular results we saw this year at the Netball World Cup in Sydney and the subsequent Constellation Cup series between Australia and New Zealand, which set new benchmarks for both match attendance and television audiences,” Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer said.
“Now we need to further capitalise on that success and realise the commercial potential of our sport.
“Here in Australia, that means securing a long-term broadcast partner who we can work with to create an even more dynamic entertainment product that will attract new viewers and fans.
“We now have five strong, successful and sustainable teams and there is no doubt that we have the capacity for further growth.
“All the research in Australia points to the opportunity for more Australian teams and more home games.”
The news was also heralded by Netball New Zealand chief executive Hilary Poole, who believes the potential expansion of the competition is a “real positive” while confirming her organisation will commit to including the usual five teams in the tournament.
“The league needs to both grow and innovate as we enter the next phase of development of the competition,” Poole said.
“Netball New Zealand remains committed to its current five teams.
“We support Australia’s initiative in recruiting additional Australian teams to the competition and look forward to determining the structure of the competition once they have tested the market and we have further clarification around the broadcast rights from 2017 onwards.”
Queensland Firebirds are the reigning ANZ Championship holders after they beat New South Wales Swifts 57-56 in a closely-fought 2015 Grand Final.