7 May 2020

Watch live: Sport the focus of Epidemic Response Committee meeting

12:23 pm on 7 May 2020

Today's Epidemic Response Committee meeting is focussing on sports and the impact that Covid-19 is having on the sector.

Watch the meeting here:

First to speak to the committee was Netball New Zealand chief executive Jennie Wyllie.

"We're really grateful for the support we've received to date ... but a lot more work needs to be done for us," she started off saying.

Netball is the most played team sport in secondary schools, most played sport by women and girls in New Zealand, with high numbers of Māori and Pasifika players.

She said $47m is invested into local netball in New Zealand.

Revenue is predicted to be down 47 percent in the upcoming financial year because of a loss of streams such as broadcasting.

She said for Netball New Zealand to be successful its broadcast partner (Sky Television) also needs to be strong and she believes the paid-TV provider will also need financial support from the government.

Wyllie said the pandemic has also highlighted the problem in the funding model for National Sport Organisations (NSOs) that rely on TAB spending in New Zealand. The TAB pays a dividend of their revenue from betting on competitions like Super Rugby, NRL and ANZ Premiership to NZR, NZRL and Netball NZ.

She is calling on the government to urgently look at the funding model for all NSOs in New Zealand so they don't rely so heavily on gaming proceeds.

Wyllie says NSOs need to be at the table in those discussions with the government re urgent funding, rather than the government using Sport NZ and High Performance Sport NZ to divvy up the money.

"New Zealanders should not squander this chance to fix the systematic inequalities across sport," she said.

Following Wyllie, Warriors chief executive Cameron George joined the meeting.

"It [Covid-19] stopped our revenue stream in its tracks," George said.

Because of this, the Warriors have had to redistribute its investments across the organisation.

He says community engagement, which the Warriors does a lot of and reaches around 30,000 New Zealand children a year, will be put on hold for a while.

George said a consequence of this will be young potential Warriors will head to Australia to join other clubs. He also said it will impact the women's game in New Zealand.

Earlier this week, the Warriors left for Australia after being given clearance by the Australian government to take part in a rejigged NRL season.

The Warriors turnover $30m in revenue per annum, George said.

"We are looking in the millions of dollars (lost) ... and it will be a long time to get back to square one," he said.

Committee chair Simon Bridges asked George bluntly: "Will you survive?"

"We will survive," George said, however, the club will be pulling back on spending.

George said if New Zealand's border restrictions are eased that allow players to skip the 14-day quarantine currently in place then he will be advocating to the NRL that games return to Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland. He said that is at the discretion of the New Zealand government.

Following George was ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie.

ExerciseNZ's members are organisations that exist within the health/fitness/exercise industry. The majority of which are organisations that operate fitness/exercise facilities.

ExerciseNZ is bigger than rugby, rugby league, cricket combined in terms of participation.

Beddie came to the committee with a comprehensive framework on how gyms can work under level 2 and says he wants to work with the government to make it work. The framework was based on overseas research on Covid-19 guidelines and pre-existing guidelines for physical activity.

Beddie was hesitant to criticise the government's approach to Covid-19 but did say he had limited contact from MBIE, Sport New Zealand and the Ministry of Health during the lockdown.

The current cost of physical inactivity in New Zealand is $1.3bn, Beddie said.

Beddie said 10-15 percent of New Zealand gyms will close because of the pandemic/lockdown.

He said it will happen over the next couple of months rather than the past two months.

Next to speak was Sport Fishing Council president Bob Gutsell.

Gutsell represents 36,000 members across 55 affiliated clubs in New Zealand.

He said recreational fishing is ranked fifth most popular activity for New Zealanders in 2016.

According to statistics, more than 600,000 New Zealanders do recreational fishing.

Gutsell says fishing from boats being banned under level 3 was not consistent with people being able to kayak, mountain bike, swim etc.

He said he wrote to both the prime minister and Sport and Recreation minister Grant Robertson asking for boats to be allowed out but was told by Robertson earlier this week that won't happen because of concerns around boaties welfare and the risk of coming into contact with other people on their journey.

Gustell says his main message is he wants the government to reconsider the rules around fishing from a boat under level 2 or if level 3 is extended.

Following Gutsell, NZ Athletes Federation representative/NZ Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol spoke to the committee.

Nichol said the real mantra from his association's members is that they look back on this in two to three years and know they contributed to society during this time by sticking to the rules and joining New Zealanders on this journey.

He said he hasn't had any engagement from the government or Sport New Zealand during this process, says that's been a frustration but isn't the first time this has happened. He mentioned that there has been good engagement from NSOs.

We thought that from the athlete federation level this would've been the time to have direct engagement with the government and Sport NZ.

The key message his members want to bring to the committee is the viability of their sport for the future. He has serious concerns for the future of women's sport due to the commercial restraints Covid-19 will place on NSOs and professional clubs.

Nichol said NSOs need confidence from the government that they will be supported to continue competitions such as the Farah Palmer Cup (women's provincial competition) and the sevens circuit - tournaments that are a cost to NZ Rugby rather than a revenue generator.

He says if extra funding is sent the way of the sport industry, it needs to be targeted and that it can't be up to NSOs to put the money where they want.

Nichol is very hopeful professional sport is allowed back at level 2 and given the amount of precautions around testing etc that clubs take, there will be a very low risk of transmission amongst the industry.

Still to speak at the meeting is Game Animal Council chairperson Don Hammond.

Earlier today, a $25 million sport relief package was unveiled but it comes at a price for the likes of programmes such as KiwiSport.

The package is primarily aimed at local and regional sport and recreation groups struggling due to Covid-19.

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