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Making the Super League: Leanne McClernon on pushing the boundaries of sports broadcasting

Taken during the Netball Super League game between Manchester Thunder and Loughborough Lightning at the Belle Vue Arena, Manchester, England on 3rd March 2023.

Leanne McClernon is challenging the rules of sport broadcasting and bringing netball along for the ride.

McClernon became the Senior Producer for Netball at Sky Sports six years ago and has fought to create a new and dynamic way to showcase women’s sport on the small screen.

Using a creative approach to attract a younger audience in the sport, McClernon has introduced a series of new approaches to bring women’s sport to the forefront of broadcast innovation.

“I first went to a television studio when I was 10 years old and just fell in love immediately,” she said.

“When I got my job at Sky Sports 24 years ago it coupled my love for sport and television, which was a perfect blend.

“I had done women’s sport previously through golf, working on the Solheim Cup and the LET and I had touched on other sports like athletics, but I had never worked on anything like netball which I used to play and loved.

“When I joined Sky, I sent a running order to the heads of the company which was quite punchy, but I was asking for us to show netball and it’s been amazing to see that now happen.

“And we’re now not only showing it but doing it in an amazing way.

“So, it’s great to see how we’ve improved and changed things within Sky for netball.”

With a sustained viewing on YouTube and a mostly young and female audience ready to be inspired, McClernon has introduced a wave of new and creative ways to produce and broadcast netball over the years.

And as a female Senior Producer in a male dominated industry, the netball fan was keen to create a diverse and inclusive workforce to represent the sport and what it stands for.

“It was a very male orientated environment but because I had played sport my whole life, everyone really worked together as a team and it felt very much like actually playing sport,” she said.

“There’s no doubt about it that there are differences in women’s sport and it’s a different environment.

“But equally we are really engaged and really passionate about what we are doing which is what makes it so special.

“Sky’s involvement with netball has been long-running. When I took over, I wanted to continue the good work that had been done and as part of a push for women’s sport at Sky I was able to build a new team from scratch.

“We don’t just have women working in the team, it is very diverse, and we challenge things and can try things that we wouldn’t do on other sports.

“We’re trying to create some really energetic performance pieces, such as TikTok dances and trying to push the boundaries on that for engagement. It’s about us trying to be creative.”

Over her impressive career working at Sky, McClernon has been the spearhead of incredible events such as a Netball World Cup in Liverpool in 2019 and has produced several seasons of Netball Super League coverage.

And the senior producer has been thrilled to see the league grow and adapt over her time in charge.

“Whilst I’ve worked on netball, I’ve seen so much change in the Netball Super League,” she said.

“It all stems from the players coming up from the grassroots level and their quality of play.

“Seeing them play in the Super League and then go on to play internationally, it makes you feel like you are part of their journey and part of something bigger.

“My aspiration for the Netball Super League now would be tighten what we already have.

“We’ve already seen increased fan engagement and people turning up to games so if we could now get into bigger stadiums and start filling them, from a broadcast perspective that just makes the sport easier to sell because it looks polished.

“I’ve learnt so much over these past few years and I’ve fallen in love with netball again because we’re constantly challenging everything; we can be creative which really makes me proud.”

The Netball Super League’s spotlight series Strong Women Supporting Strong Women: Making the Super League will continue throughout March to celebrate some of the women behind the scenes of the league, who are driving netball forward boldly, unapologetically and fearlessly.

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