New Zealand cricketers cleared for nets, fans ready for Super Rugby

New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson assures cricket will resume in summer, requests fans to cough in their elbow at Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Grant Robertson

Grant Robertson, New Zealand's Minister for Sport and Recreation, has assured that cricket will resume in summer.   -  AP

New Zealand declared itself a coronavirus-free nation and lifted most of its lockdown restrictions. This weekend, rugby union is set to return and what separates the sport from other disciplines that have resumed elsewhere is the presence of fans.

At least 20,000 people are expected to pack the stands in Dunedin when the Highlanders host the Chiefs in the Super Rugby Aotearoa — the first sports event with spectators since mid-March — on Saturday.

In an interview with Sportstar, Grant Robertson, Minister for Sport and Recreation, New Zealand, assures that cricket will resume in summer. He spelled out the guidelines for fans in stadiums, the recovery plan post the COVID-19 pandemic and why hosting international sports is not a possibility at the moment.

Super Rugby is going to be the first sports event with fans after three months. What are the rules and regulations that are going to be followed at the ground?

Event organisers have been asked to sign up to the COVID Code which sets out good practice for hosting safe events at Alert Level 1. Spectators are asked to ensure they stay away from the event if they are sick, ensure they wash their hands regularly, and that if they cough they do so into their elbow.

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QR codes will be available so that people can keep an individual contact tracing record.

What about the players?

For players, there are health and safety protocols that ensure, as far as possible, they remain healthy and virus free. All players are monitored on a daily basis by the team doctor for any symptoms and are referred for testing if they develop any cold or flu like symptoms. All Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa games will be played under regular Alert Level 1 health guidelines.

What are the chances of New Zealand offering its venues to other nations for sports tournaments?

At this point in time New Zealand’s borders remain closed to non-New Zealand nationals entering the country so there are currently no confirmed sport tournaments to be hosted in New Zealand by other countries.

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What would be the rule for New Zealand athletes and players returning to their country?

Our athletes, along with all New Zealanders are required to complete the 14-day quarantine period when they return to New Zealand. Decisions regarding opening of the New Zealand borders for non-nationals and requirements for entry are still being considered by the New Zealand Government.

How much did the virus hit the sports sector financially and what's the recovery plan?

The sport sector has been significantly affected by the virus. Traditional funding streams such as membership fees and lotto funding grants essentially dried up overnight. In recognition of the importance of sport and recreation to New Zealand and New Zealanders, the Government has allocated an additional $264.6 million over the next four years to support the sector to recover from the impact. The funding has been allocated as follows:

- $82.6 million in short-term support to help get through the initial impact of COVID-19,

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- $104 million to help organisations rebuild in the medium term and make changes in order to operate successfully in the post-pandemic environment,

- $78 million for innovative approaches to sustainably delivering play, active recreation and sport into the future.

Is every sport allowed in New Zealand now?

Yes, all sports and active recreation activities that were previously enjoyed in New Zealand can now be undertaken in Alert Level 1.

When is cricket likely to start in the country? Can all players train and hit the nets now?

Cricket will start in our summer season and players should they wish to get ahead of the game can start hitting the nets now.

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