Netball History

The Game


The game of netball is derived from the early development of basketball in the USA. The origin of basketball is traditionally credited to James Naismith, a 30-year-old Canadian immigrant to the USA, who in 1891, invented an indoor game for young men at the School for Christian Workers (later the YMCA) in Springfield, Massachusetts.


Netball was first played in the UK in 1895 at Madame Ostenburg's College. In the first half of the 20th century, Netball's popularity continued to grow, with the game being played in many British Commonwealth countries. There were no standard rules at that time with both nine-a-side and five-a-side versions of the game.



Netball Scotland 


Netball Scotland, formerly the Scottish Netball Association, was founded in 1946. At this time most netball was played in the Glasgow and Lanarkshire area, but since this date, the game has spread throughout Scotland.





During an Australian tour of England in 1957, discussions took place concerning standardising the rules of the sport and this led to representatives from England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The West Indies meeting in Sri Lanka in 1960, to establish The International Federation of Women's Basketball and Netball. Formal rules were established at this inaugural meeting and it was decided to hold World Championship tournaments every four years, beginning in Eastbourne, England, in 1963. 



World Championships


World Championships have been held in Australia in 1967, Jamaica in 1971, New Zealand in 1975, Trinidad & Tobago in 1979, Singapore in 1983, Scotland in 1987, Australia in 1991, England in 1995, New Zealand in 1999, Jamaica in 2003 and Sydney 2015. Throughout this period, Australia has dominated, winning the event in 1971, 1975, 1979, 1983, 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2015. New Zealand won in 2003.


As part of the Australian Bicentennary Celebrations in 1988, a Youth Tournament took place in Canberra for players aged under 21. Its success led to this event being held once every four years. Fiji hosted the 2nd World Youth Netball Championship, Canada the 3rd, Wales the 4th, and the USA the 5th. Winners were Australia in 1988, New Zealand in 1992, Australia in 1996, Australia in 2000, and New Zealand in 2005. 


The next World Youth Championships will be held in August 2013, with Scotland not only competing but also hosting.  The Championships will be played in the recently built Emirates Arena in Glasgow's East End.  For more details on the World Youth Netball Championships 2013 and for information on how to get involved as a volunteer, please visit



Netball an Olympic & Commonwealth Game Sport


In 1995 netball became a "recognized" Olympic sport and looks forward to programmed status.


Netball is also a core sport for the Commonwealth Games after first being included in the programme at the 1998 games in Kuala Lumpur where Australia took the Gold medal, New Zealand Silver and England Bronze. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Australia took the Gold medal.


Netball will play a large part when the 2014 Commonwealth Games arrive in Glasgow, with our very own Scottish Thistles competing in the competition.  These matches will be played at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow, with the final stages being played at the (currently under construction) Scottish Hydro Electric Arena in Glasgow. 


Why We Play in Purple


The very first International game that Scotland competed in was against England during the 1947/48 season.


At that time Margaret Cassidy, who was the Northumberland County Netball President, was trying to grow the sport of netball and so organised the first international game between our country and England to increase greater awareness and interest.


A few weeks prior to the game Scotland, which was a brand new national squad, still had no official playing uniform, so Margaret came to the rescue – she borrowed a kit from Essex Netball and it’s colour was purple!


Following this early outing, Scotland decided to keep purple as its registered national colour as the team felt that ‘it was meant to be’, especially as the Thistle, Scotland’s national emblem, was also purple too.


The blue of the Saltire was registered as our second or ‘away’ colours.


Agnes O’Brien

Netball Scotland Hall of Fame Inductee and National Coach 1982-87


Netball Scotland is really proud of our Purple Legacy – 70 years in the making - and as no other international team plays in this colour our girls always stand out on and off the court.  We will continue to honour our proud traditions by being the ‘Thistles’ in both name and colour.

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