Coronavirus: Professional sports resume under Alert Level 2

Super Rugby and ANZ Premiership netball have been given the green light to return from shutdown under COVID-19 Alert Level 2.

On Monday, the NZ Government will lay out a timetable for the next phase of coronavirus lockdown, which most sports hope will mean a resumption of play over the coming weeks.

But Sport Minister Grant Robertson has already signalled a comeback for two staples of the sporting landscape, with professional rugby and netball well advanced in the planning stages.

"Moving to Alert Level 2 continues to expand the opportunities for sport and recreation, and reintroduces the opportunity for competitive sport - both at local and professional level," he says.

"Obviously the paramount concern is that a return to competitive sport is done safely. This means ensuring there are systems in place to implement public health measures, such as contact tracing and hygiene requirements to create a safe environment." 

Robertson confirms Super Rugby and ANZ Premiership are working through what those guidelines will mean to their respective competitions.

"Some sports will be able to return to play more quickly than others, while the necessary health requirements, modifications and restrictions on non-essential inter-regional travel are worked through.

"Sports bodies are putting in a lot of work to get the pro-sport leagues going, but let me be clear that competitions will only start when all the public health guidelines are met, so we will continue to support these sports, as they work through the necessary requirements to resume play safely." 

One thing is certain - with public gatherings limited to 100 people under Level 2, games will be staged in empty stadia.

"For our fans, our players and everyone involved in Super Rugby, we are thrilled that the Sports Minister has given the green light for professional sport to resume at Level 2," says NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson.

"As soon as the country announces what date we move to Alert Level 2, we will be able to confirm what date Super Rugby will kick off."

The five NZ-based franchises will contest Super Rugby Aotearoa, playing home-and away-matches over 10 rounds, with two matches each weekend. Players will need 3-4 weeks' preparation before games can commence.

Within the next two weeks, NZ Rugby also hopes to determine the fate the All Blacks' domestic test series against Wales and Scotland, scheduled for July. 

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