While sportspeople and sporting communities across the country eagerly await the lifting of restrictions on community sporting activities, both on-field and off-field, there is a challenge for all sporting codes to describe what will constitute a “safe” environment for playing sport and socialising around sport in the future. The Association believes there are three key areas for the consideration of all community sport stakeholders.

Firstly, the “bubble” which defines “social-distancing” and has quickly become a behavioural trait of Kiwis in all aspects of their lives, actively discourages the physical contact and interaction which is a core feature of playing many Kiwi sports such as rugby union, league, football and netball. Even popular Kiwi sports where direct physical contact is not required to play the game such as tennis, bowling, golf and cricket will no doubt require new protocols concerning the handling of shared sports equipment such as bowls, balls, bats and bottles.

Secondly, for those who are keen supporters but are not actively involved in playing their chosen sport, there will be considerations concerning socialising at club facilities, maintaining club equipment, assisting with the management and support of teams etc. For example, will clubs be able to serve alcohol (which for many is a key part of their revenue model) given its purpose of relaxing social inhibitions and therefore placing people at potential risk?

Finally, sporting codes will need to consider what (if any) changes may be required to the rules of their game in order to create confidence that the health and well-being of participants is paramount in light of lingering community concerns regarding the possible transmission of the COVID-19 virus which could occur as part of playing the game.

To move community sport “from crisis to confidence”, an open and honest discussion by all community sport stakeholders with government and health-authorities will be required, with the Association willing to support this process through its comprehensive network and database of New Zealand community sport clubs.