Shuffle aside ladies, the men are moving in

Netball has been identified as a sport for women, but clubs like the Copenhagen Netball Club are battling that stigma and trying to increase the involvement of men

Netball is not a well known sport in Denmark. When most Danes are asked about the sport, the common response is: “What is netball?”

Netball is a seven-a-side team sport predominantly played in the Commonwealth countries. It originated from basketball in the 1890s and later became recognised as an Olympic sport in 1995. According to Netball Australia, the sport is played in more than 70 countries, with over a million people playing in Australia alone. It’s therefore safe to say that netball is no recent development in the sports industry … yet it is still unheard of by a large chunk of sports enthusiasts worldwide.

According to Rene Von Bech – a local Copenhagen sports buff who had never heard of netball – the description of the game found on Wikipedia doesn’t paint a great image. “It sounds like a not so fun version of basketball,” he said. “I then looked at a clip on YouTube – it looked fast-paced and interesting, but more like organised chaos for girls.”

Well, organised? Yes. Boring? No, or at least according to Mandy Chilcott from the Copenhagen Netball Club, a city-based team with 40 regulars and 200 members on Facebook. “Netball played at the highest level looks incredibly boring, but that’s because it is so beautifully choreographed and well-timed that you simply don’t notice the strategic elements underlying it,” she contended.

The fact that the sport is predominately identified as a sport for women is true. Despite the rise in male and mixed-sex teams worldwide, the International Netball Federation (INF) still brands the sport “women only”. “The INF markets netball this way because empowering women is a key part of their strategy,” explained Chilcott.

But the Copenhagen Netball Club is one of the many expat-orientated clubs across the world that is pushing for the sport to be more inclusive of males rather than being an exclusive female sport. “In Denmark we have done a lot to brand netball as a mixed sport to distinguish ourselves from other sports and to be able to offer something unique,” said Michael Bryrup, the president of the Copenhagen Netball Club.

One key issue with mixed-sex sports is whether males dominate the game play and, in doing so, intimidate women’s involvement. But Chilcott explains that as a female, she feels equally intimidated playing against some women. “The roughest and scariest games of netball I’ve ever played were women playing against women,” she recalled.

Paul Verrenkamp has been playing netball on and off for 20 years now, in both Australia and Copenhagen, though only feels intimidated playing around women due to their knowledge and understanding of the sport. “Women play a tactically smarter game than their male opponents, but because it is a non-contact sport, I know it is an equal playing field,” he said.

The teams at the Copenhagen Netball Club are divided with an equal ratio of men to women where possible, and the club encourages new players of all experience levels to join in and learn the game.

The club was started in 2008 after the founders experienced difficulty breaking into other expat sports clubs in Copenhagen.  For those who have played netball in their home countries, the club offers the luxury of having something familiar in a foreign country.  In addition, the club’s working language is English, which offers interaction that expats rarely get at the gym.

Copenhagen Netball Club also has a high focus on social aspects and offers a space for members to meet other expats as well as network professionally.  Regular social events include summer barbecues, bowling nights, regular dinners and nights out in the city, as well as annual international tournaments for those players who want to compete against other European teams.

The club meets every Wednesday night at 19:30 at Brønshøj Stadion. New players can just turn up without worrying about paying membership fees in advance. For more information, visit or send an email to