Netball History

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, 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.

Now, in 2018, netball is played across the whole country, managed and developed by Local Associations such as the Aberdeen District Netball Association, Ayrshire Netball Association, Borders Netball Network, City of Edinburgh Netball Association, Glasgow Netball Association, Highland and Moray Netball, Lanarkshire Netball Association, Netball Orkney, Perth Netball Network, and the Shetland Netball Association.

Read more about Netball Scotland here.


The International Netball Federation (INF), formerly known as the International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA), is the worldwide governing body for netball.  INF was created in 1960, and is responsible for the management of netball’s World Rankings, rules of the game, as well as organisation of the Netball World Cup and Netball World Youth Cup events.  INF work across 5 regional areas:  Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

Visit the INF website.

Netball Europe is the regional body within INF that governs netball across Europe.  One of NE’s main objectives is to actively promote and encourage netball and to further its growth and development across the region.  In keeping with this aim, the annual Netball Europe Championships (at Under 17, Under 21 and Open levels) provide a performance environment and opportunity for participating members thus raising the profile of the game and supporting member countries in developing netball at all levels and for all age groups.

Visit the Netball Europe website.

The Netball World Cup (NWC), previously known as the World Netball Championships, brings together the world’s top teams and represents netball’s flagship event.  The INF website hosts a wealth of information on the Netball World Cup including all previous winners and hosts.  Check it out here.

The event is showcased around the world through a range of broadcast partners introducing Netball to a whole new audience.  INF Congress is also held alongside the event providing a global forum for Netball nations to come together, to innovate, share ideas and celebrate women in sport. In 2019 the event will be held in Liverpool, England hosted by England Netball supported by UK Sport.

In January 2018, Netball Scotland hosted the first of the 5 regional qualification events, which will determine which 16 teams will play in the 2019 event.  The Scottish Thistles beat both Wales (52-40) and Northern Ireland (52-31) in front of fantastic home support at Perth College UHI, and in doing so secured their place in the Netball World Cup 2019 line up.


The Netball World Youth Cup is the pinnacle of netball competition for emerging players who are under 21 years of age and the INF has held an U21 international competition every four years since 1988.

In 2017 the event was held in Gaborone, Botswana – the first time the INF has held an international event on the African Continent.  At this event, Scotland secured their most successful finishing position in recent years, having played outstanding netball, competing against the world’s best, finishing 8th out 20.  The excitement around this group of talented young athletes is palpable and we look forward to following each players’ journey through International netball.  The next Netball World Youth Cup event will be held in 2021, hosted in Fiji.

For more information on this event and it’s history, head on over to the INF website.

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.

If you would like to find out more about netball’s Commonwealth Games history, head on over to the INF website for the details.


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.