Netball Superleague: Extra round of fixtures added for 2020

Manchester Thunder's Kathryn Turner
Manchester Thunder will play Wasps in the 2020 Superleague season opener - a replay of the 2019 final

Superleague's decision to introduce an additional round of games for the 2020 season is "senseless", Loughborough Lightning head coach Sara Bayman says.

All 10 teams will play on 22 February in a season-opener in Birmingham in addition to the regular 18 rounds.

The new Opening Round includes a Grand Final rematch between Manchester Thunder and Wasps, with Lightning facing third-placed Team Bath.

"It distorts the whole league," Bayman said.

"They [Superleague] want to make the league more competitive and get more tight games, but teams didn't want it pushed through.

"Squads change a lot over the close season and Lightning tend to start slowly. The top four was separated by one win last season, so this could have a big impact come the end of the 2020 season.

"It's senseless."

Netball Superleague independent chair Mark Evans says it is "wonderful" to start the season with a new format "which should see five really tight competitive games" played at Arena Birmingham.

Results from the curtain-raiser will contribute to the normal season points total, with teams also playing each other home and away.

The ties for the extra 19th round have been determined by teams' final 2019 season placings, with first playing second and so on.

Former England centre-courter Bayman, who has more than 50 Roses caps, said the move will cause "fixture congestion" and create "unnecessary" midweek games.

The new season opener will replace the traditional Super Saturday format, where all 10 teams competed on a single day as part of the fixed season.

"Super Saturday was not an issue, because everyone got a cut of the profits whether they were the 'home' or 'away' team and it rotated each season to make it fair," BBC pundit Bayman added.

"Fine, have the extra game but make it a pre-season friendly and not make it count or make the draw random or seed the teams."

Opening Round fixtures

11:00 GMT - Strathclyde Sirens v London Pulse12:30 GMT - Celtic Dragons v Surrey Storm14:00 GMT - Saracens Mavericks v Severn Stars15:30 GMT - Team Bath v Loughborough Lightning17:00 GMT- Wasps v Manchester Thunder

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