Coronavirus: Football's Chatham Cup axed for 2020

2019 Chatham Cup winners Napier City Rovers.
2019 Chatham Cup winners Napier City Rovers. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand's oldest and most prestigious football competition has become the latest victim of the COVID-19 cancellation train.

On Thursday, NZ Football confirmed that both the Chatham Cup and its female counterpart - the Kate Sheppard Cup - had been cancelled for 2020.

Chief executive Andrew Pragnell says the decision was made after discussions with seven federations, each working hard on how the community football season will operate once it is able to begin.

"The Chatham Cup and Kate Sheppard Cup are both hugely important events on the New Zealand Football calendar, and give clubs all over the country the chance to compete for national glory," says Pragnell.

"This is therefore not a decision that has been made lightly, but it is clear that neither competition can go ahead in its existing format within the timeframe and other constraints the football community is now facing, as a result of this pandemic." 

First contested in 1923, the knockout club tournament has been a fixture of Kiwi club football. 

This year will mark its first absence since 1941-44, when it was put on hiatus during World War II.

The women's competition began in 1994, with the Kate Sheppard Cup first presented in 2018.

Preliminary rounds of each competition were originally scheduled for this weekend, while finals day had been set for September 13.

NZ Football's focus is now ensuring community sport can begin, when the COVID-19 alert level drops to two, Pragnell adds.

"Our main priority is on getting the community game back up and running, so that the 150,000-plus Kiwis who enjoy their football every weekend can do so again, as soon as it is feasible."