Empty feeling: The NZ sporting events at risk of being significantly hurt by Covid-19 situation

The recent alert level changes around New Zealand in response to Covid-19 community cases in Auckland has already seen multiple sporting events forced to adjust, but plenty more could be affected.

The North v South match was scheduled to take place at Eden Park on August 29. Source: Photosport

At Level 3 – which Auckland currently is in – sporting events are impossible with people asked to stay home where possible and gatherings restricted to only 10 people for events such as funerals, tangihanga and weddings.

The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2. While still possible, things remain difficult for major sporting events with gatherings still restricted to just 100 people.

The Government is reviewing alert levels every 24 hours but a return to Level 1, where restrictions are significantly eased, is not guaranteed with questions still being asked of the three community cases in South Auckland.

With those restrictions in mind, here’s a list of the major sporting events taking place around New Zealand over the next month that could be hindered by Level 2 restrictions.

Rowing: NZ Rowing Championships, February 16-20, Lake Ruataniwha

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Lake Ruataniwha remains perfectly still despite hundreds travelling from around NZ to race on it. Source: 1 NEWS

As reported last night, almost 1000 rowers are currently in limbo and lockdown in the McKenzie Basin as they await a tough decision from organisers.

With almost 1000 athletes competing, it was impossible to start the regatta today under Level 2 restrictions, however Rowing NZ told 1 NEWS it is looking into condensing the schedule so it can begin on Thursday when the Government has reviewed the alert levels.

If not though, everyone will have to pack up and head home without ever getting on the water.

North Shore Rowing Club’s Mat Jensen said it was an uneasy time.

“There’s been a few sleepless nights and I think they'll continue until some hard decisions are having to be made.”

It comes as another blow for New Zealand's rising rowing talent after the Maadi Cup - the biggest schools regatta in the southern hemisphere – was cancelled last April.

Sailing: Prada Cup / America’s Cup, February 17 – March 15, Auckland

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The Prada Cup final has been postponed while Auckland is in lockdown. Source: 1 NEWS

The Prada Cup is the other immediate event to have been affected by the alert level changes with tomorrow’s racing on the Waitematā Harbour postponed.

Thankfully for the syndicates, under Level 3 they are able to work on the boats and practice but racing is out of the picture.

With that said, the news isn’t anywhere near as good as for sailing fans who will unlikely be able to enjoy the festivities of the regatta even if Auckland moves to Level 2, with gatherings restricted to 100 people.

The Prada Cup finals are scheduled to finish by February 22 with the America’s Cup then taking place from March 6-15.

A reserve racing date is posted for February 24 if needed, but America’s Cup organisers say they have other plans at the ready as well if restrictions remain in place.

Luna Rossa currently lead the first-to-seven series 4-0 over INEOS Team UK, meaning they could wrap up the Finals in just two days of racing if they continue their dominant form.

Halberg Awards Decade of Champions event, February 18

The special Halberg Awards acknowledging New Zealand sports champions from the past decade has been forced to postpone following Auckland's move to Covid-19 Alert Level 3, organisers announced yesterday.

The ceremony was meant to be this Thursday evening at Spark Arena but has instead been postponed to a later date.

"While we are disappointed, we are unable to hold the live event, we support any decisions that protect the health and safety of all New Zealanders,” organisers said.

"We continue to work with our broadcast partner Sky Sport on reshaping the televised Awards ceremony which will now take place at a later date, so that we can announce and honour the decade champions."

Cricket: Black Caps v Australia T20 series, February 22 – March 7

The Black Caps celebrate a wicket against England in Nelson Source: Photosport

With Australia already here preparing in the South Island, time is ticking on the T20 series and what New Zealand Cricket can do to maximise it in the current circumstances.

Hagley Oval is set to host the first match next Monday under the lights with a sell-out crowd but if Christchurch remains at Level 2, the stands will be empty.

After the series kicks off in Christchurch, the Black Caps and Australia are scheduled to play in Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland and Tauranga.

Cricket: White Ferns v England ODI and T20 series, February 23 – March 7

The 31 matches will be played between 4 March and 3 April, 2022. Source: Photosport

The White Ferns and English Women are in the exact same boat as the above, with the two sides featuring in T20 doubleheaders from March 3 to March 7.

Before that though, the White Ferns will play England in ODIs in Christchurch and Dunedin where, once again, no fans will be allowed in under current circumstances.

Rugby: Super Rugby Aotearoa Opening Round, February 26 – 27, Dunedin and Wellington

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Andrew Hore felt leaving a decision until Thursday was too late for many. Source: 1 NEWS

Super Rugby has already been hit by the alert level changes with the Blues forced to cancel their “Footy Festival” with the Crusaders at Eden Park this Saturday.

Outside the regular issue other events have of the potential for no fans – something Super Rugby Aotearoa already experienced in the final round of last year’s competition – the immediate concern is with the Blues in Auckland.

With their pre-season game against the Crusaders cancelled this weekend and players currently forced to train at home in their bubbles, a lack of contact training could be a safety issue with the competition less than two weeks away.

Blues CEO Andrew Hore told media today they are looking at multiple options to negate the issue, including playing the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend or changing the draw to give the Blues a bye in the opening round instead of the Chiefs, but things remain in the air.

Boxing: Joseph Parker v Junior Fa, February 27, Auckland

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Jerome Pampellone joins Commonwealth Games gold medallist David Nyika on the undercard of the February 27 bout. Source: 1 NEWS

The clash between Kiwi rivals Joseph Parker and Junior Fa has already been postponed once but it could be delayed once again.

The alert level changes has hurt the event on two fronts – both Parker and Fa will have their preparations affected as their trainings will be moved to inside their bubbles during the lockdowns and the event itself could be hindered significantly if Auckland is at Level 2 on fight night.

It’s understood promoter DUCO Events would postpone the fight if fans are unable to fill Spark Arena and would not hold it until Auckland returned to Level 1.

Netball: Silver Ferns v Australia, March 2-7, Christchurch and Tauranga

Australia's Caitlin Bassett receives the ball in a match against the Silver Ferns. Source: Photosport

The Diamonds and Silver Ferns are meant to play their four-game Constellation Cup series early next month in Christchurch and Tauranga.

While the series is unlikely to be delayed by the alert levels situation, it could be yet another event that goes ahead without fans.

Netball NZ has already run a domestic competition without fans in stands, meaning they have experience in the area but a loss of crowds for an international event will still be a much more significant loss in contrast.