Fast5: Netballs answer to twenty20 cricket?

International Netball Roadshow at Berkhamstead

Twenty20 has had an enormous impact on the game of cricket, sparking international interest in this new, shorter format and seeing a revival in popularity like never before. The main differences between Twenty20 and regular cricket are the length of the game – two and a half hours with an average innings of around 75 minutes – shorter boundaries and a generally much faster pace, which has led some to criticise Twenty20 as a less technical game. However, the reality is that this new format makes the game much more accessible and requires considerable skill to achieve results in less time. If any validation of Twenty20’s popularity was needed, then the enormous numbers of supporters who regularly pass through the turnstiles is it.

Where Twenty20 has revolutionised the game of cricket, Fast5 is looking to do the same for netball. With just five players on the court, as opposed to seven in a traditional game, each quarter lasting six minutes rather than 15, and rolling substitutions as you might expect to see in basketball, Fast5 is a much quicker game than traditional netball. It is also a much more demanding prospect with multiple points available for certain goals – for example ‘Power Plays,’ where each team can choose one quarter of the game in which all their goals are worth double points.

Inevitably, Fast5 will come in for the same criticisms as Twenty20– i.e. that it is not as technically demanding as the old game. However, Fast5 makes the game accessible in the same way as Twenty20 does for cricket, which is likely to improve participation at grass roots level, as well as at the top of the sport. And with the speed of the game comes a whole new set of demands, from having to think under pressure, move quickly to keep up with the game, make tactical choices at speed, as well as the likelihood that with less players on the court, there will be more touches of the ball for each player, resulting in better participation.

In the same way as Twenty20 has, Fast5 could also have a significant impact on netball’s finances. Twenty20 makes money for the sport because of the crowds that it attracts – there is a greater sense of spectacle and drama and the time commitment is much less – and this of course attracts more sponsors. There is more money in ‘T20’ for the players too, which means that big names such as Kevin Pietersen have been attracted to the Twenty20 leagues.

For young netball fans keen to pick up some transferrable netball skills, the Activate Sport International Netball Roadshow is a great way to do it. With a combination of training drills and fun games it’s a great all round netball experience, whatever type of game you want to play.