Netball has been moved to a larger venue for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, while rugby sevens has been relocated to a different stadium by the local organising committee in Birmingham after it was forced to remove Villa Park from its plans.
After a significant increase in its profile since Team England’s gold medal win at the 2018 edition of the multi-sport event on the Gold Coast, and Liverpool’s successful hosting of the Netball World Cup in July, Birmingham 2022 has moved netball from the Coventry Indoor Arena to Birmingham’s NEC, increasing capacity and allowing more netball fans to watch games.
The news was announced today (Tuesday) after a routine review of venues, nearly two years on from Birmingham landing the Games. Rugby sevens will relocate from Villa Park, home of Premier League football club Aston Villa, to Coventry Stadium, home of Premiership rugby union club Wasps. Judo and wrestling will now be held at Coventry Indoor Arena.
The changes mean that Villa Park no longer features as a host venue at the Games. Birmingham 2022 said that due to the anticipated early start of the football season in 2022, with the Fifa World Cup kicking off in November that year, Aston Villa has been unable to commit to the dates required for the Commonwealth Games in July and August 2022. Birmingham 2022 added that detailed assessments of venues included in the bid also revealed a number of challenges in operating Villa Park at Games time.
Ian Reid, chief executive for Birmingham 2022, said: “As is common practice for all major multi-sport events, we have been considering how best to optimise the mix of venues available to us, making sure we’re being as efficient as possible in terms of usage and cost, and ensuring that we are developing a fantastic experience and showcase for the sport, the athletes, the spectators and the host city and region.
“We are delighted to be able to relocate netball into a larger venue as this sport’s profile has massively increased since the 2017 bid. We’re disappointed that Villa Park will unfortunately no longer be part of our venue portfolio, however we hope to continue working closely with Aston Villa in the run up to the Games.”
The venue refresh follows on from the recent announcement that Birmingham’s Edgbaston Stadium is an official venue for Birmingham 2022, after women’s Twenty20 cricket was added to the sports programme.
The latest venue update has been approved by the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF’s) Executive Board, ahead of its general assembly in Rwanda on Thursday, which will see a team from Birmingham 2022 presenting an update on preparations for the event.
Liz Nicholl, president of the International Netball Federation (INF), said: “While the Coventry Arena is an excellent venue, this move to the NEC will increase the capacity significantly. This will be welcomed by the netball family and the significant fanbase that our sport now attracts, as seen at the recent Netball World Cup in July 2019 when over 110,000 tickets were sold.”