The INF has delayed the qualification deadline for Birmingham 2022 by two months ©Getty Images

The International Netball Federation (INF) has decided to delay the qualification deadline for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eleven places are set to be determined by the world rankings as teams battle it out to join England, who have automatically qualified as hosts, at next year’s Games.

But with COVID-19 causing the postponement or cancellation of events, the INF Board has agreed to alter the ranking system and push back the qualification date by two months.

It is hoped the changes will ensure COVID-19 disruption does not adversely affect the integrity of the qualification process and gives teams the maximum possible time to arrange fixtures.

The deadline was originally set for November 30, but the INF said the Commonwealth Games Federation has agreed to move it to January 31 next year.

The INF has also altered the annual update to the world rankings, which normally takes place on June 30 each year and sees the oldest of the four years' worth of results used to calculate the rankings removed.

This process aims to ensure the rankings reflect recent form and is the only time when a team’s position on the standings may change other than by the outcome of an international event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the netball calendar ©Getty Images
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the netball calendar ©Getty Images

But the Board recognised that with very few international matches taking place in the past 12 months due to the impact of COVID-19 the annual update would remove about "one third" of the total data used.

Having consulted statistician David Kendix, who developed the rankings system in 2008, the Board agreed to postpone annual update until after the qualification date for next year’s Commonwealth Games.

"We were keen to recognise the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our Members while providing the maximum opportunity for teams to play qualification matches for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham," said INF President Liz Nicholl.

"The two decisions should be considered in parallel - the first decision removes one aspect of uncertainty for all teams.

"The second decision recognises the day to day challenges our Members face during the ongoing pandemic and the difficulty of returning to international play. 

"In making this decision, we considered the perspectives of those nations currently in the Commonwealth Games qualification zone and those that aspire to be so.

"On balance, the Board felt it important to provide maximum opportunity to play for qualification for a significant event in the global sporting calendar."

The INF Board is set to consider the timing of the annual update in October, but it will not take place before January 31 in 2022, it has been decided.