Challenges facing foreign imports and clubs in low waged women’s professional sport.


Photo Credit: Ben Lumley


Recently an article in The Telegraph shared an insight into the challenges facing foreign players who join netball’s Superleague in the UK. Both fascinating and highly troubling, the article highlighted that many foreign player’s in the top domestic netball league are earning less than £12,500 a year whilst also being restricted by clauses in their sports visas which prevent them from topping up their earnings.

Whilst England’s Superleague clubs are usually able to support import players with accommodation which is a huge contribution and effort by the clubs, the players are limited in options to top up their earnings with secondary employment unable to exceed 20 hours of additional work a week and restricted to work that relates to their visa category ‘Elite Sportsperson’. Liz Bloor, NPA Managing Director, commented “Having import players in the VNSL adds massive value not only does it provide the spectacle of the skills of the international players from around the world, but it also provides our domestic players with the experience of playing against the different styles, so they know how to compete when playing for the home nations at international level.” The perennial problem of women’s professional sport being low waged is felt even more acutely by import players in Netball who are unable to get other work to support themselves due to these visa restrictions. In addition, for import players who have played in the English Netball Superleague for many years and keen to apply for residency here in the UK, they find themselves confined by the rule that a foreign athlete must earn at least £35,800 to be eligible to apply for settlement in the UK. The majority of higher-paid foreign athletes in the UK are male and with higher wages in professional men’s sport, these players are comfortably able to meet the minimum requirements. The NPA is passionate about supporting the players who make up 16% of the league but may be the only import player in their club. We have met with import players across the league to understand more about the challenges they are facing and what they are taking on when they accepting a contract in the VNSL. We have held discussions with immigration lawyers to produce guidance for players to understand their visa’s as well as offered Sports Psychology support to discuss their personal challenges. Through our work we are continuing to provide a unified voice for players to raise issues which affect them specifically. Click here to read the original Telegraph article covering this issue.

This article was written by Amy Cowd