Coronavirus hits sport: NZ Sports executives fear for future unless border restrictions lifted

NZ Warriors chief executive Cameron George fears for the future of the club, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on sport.

Due to strict border restrictions on both sides of the Tasman, all NRL games have been played in Australia this season, with the Warriors based in Gosford, 

The club faces the distinct possibility of repeating the situation in 2021, with George planning for back-to-back campaigns with no home games.

Speaking as part of The Future Of Auckland Sport webcast, George has urged the Government to consider lifting border restrictions for sporting teams and leagues to prevent a potential collapse of professional sports in New Zealand.

"We are having to take the long-term view that we will be based in Australia again next year, unless something dramatic happens over the next couple of months," George says.

"That translates into commercial challenges. Obviously, our fan base is here, and our priority is to be here and play in front of them, but the circumstances outside of our control may not allow that to happen.

"That means we lose out on membership and our commercial partners start to review their positions, and so on. From a Warriors perspective, if we are not in New Zealand, that will have some major impacts on us for sure."

George, Blues chairman Don MacKinnon and NZ Netball Players Association executive Steph Bond all spoke on the webcast, expressing the reality that New Zealand sport was in danger of extinction.

All three called for opening the border in a controlled manner to allow international teams into the country.

MacKinnon says the financial impact will filter down to the domestic game with catastrophic consequences, if revenue from marquee events such as All Blacks, Silver Ferns and Black Caps internationals isn't possible due to empty stadiums and no opposition.

"I don’t think people appreciate that international sport in New Zealand is on a knife-edge," MacKinnon says.

"If rugby, cricket and netball, in particular, can’t get international sport played in the final quarter of this year, the impact will flow right into the domestic game. We will be falling off a cliff. 

"It is a nerve-wracking time."

Don MacKinnon - Blues chairman
Don MacKinnon - Blues chairman Photo credit: Getty

MacKinnon praises NZ Rugby for the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, but describes it as a "band-aid" and unsustainable beyond the 2021 season. 

"Next year will bring more uncertainty and if there are more lockdowns, the impact is huge," he says.

"Super Rugby in its Aotearoa bubble will survive for one more year, if it is domestic, but it is not sustainable in the long-term. It is not a sustainable model commercially long term.

"Like the NRL, we need to be bigger, we need to be broader, and appeal to a greater range of sponsors and broadcasters. We can put the band-aid on for one more year, and deliver something the crowds and fans still love, but beyond that, we would be quite nervous."

Bond says a full Silver Ferns schedule is pivotal to the finances of Netball New Zealand.

"International markets are worth over one hundred million dollars from a rugby, cricket and netball perspective," she says.

"That money not coming into New Zealand and the flow-on impact on jobs - not just the player salaries, but the jobs of everyone working in sport - is significant."

Watch the full story above