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Hard road back for local sport

Pioneer’s home ground at Jeans St is part of an open public park. PHOTOS/FILE

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When community sport is given the green light, as anticipated, how will local sport progress?

Let’s start with the easy one, junior sport. The major winter codes rugby, netball, football and hockey have all indicated that local sport at primary and secondary school level won’t commence until school term three, after July 20.

That makes sense and it will give clubs and schools time to organise teams, get the kids’ fitness levels up and hold trials in the six weeks up to the end of term two.

Sport New Zealand last week published their guidelines for community sport to be played and the various national sporting bodies are expected to provide their directives to member associations this week.

The Sport NZ guidelines require all facilities to practise sanitation measures.

A contact tracing register for all participants and spectators must be in place.

All facilities must adhere to requirements regarding mass gatherings – a maximum of 100 people indoors or outdoors.

Measures should be taken to minimise the sharing of equipment and balls. However, for sports or activities where equipment must be shared all participants must wash and dry their hands before and afterwards, and clean and disinfect the equipment before and afterwards.

Also, people should exercise caution with common touch points such as gates or doors, and wash or sanitise their hands after touching these surfaces.

People may participate in team sport and physical activity, including where physical distance cannot be maintained. This means that training and competition for contact sports will be possible if other public health measures are observed. Participants should maintain physical distancing when not playing or practising their sport.

The biggest hurdle facing Wairarapa sports organisations is likely to be around the limit of 100 people for a mass gathering, whether indoors or outdoors. By the way that is 100, excluding players, officials and support staff.

Hockey Wairarapa and Netball Wairarapa have somewhat of an advantage with their facilities enclosed and the ability to have entry through one gate, allowing them to control numbers relatively easily.

However, with much of local sport played on open public facilities, how is this going to be policed?

Crowds like this won’t be allowed under Alert Level 2.

For example, take club rugby, which arguably attracts the biggest regular crowds. Apart from Memorial Park, Carterton, Gladstone and Greytown, the home grounds are on open parks.

Most noticeably Pioneer, who play their home games at Jeans St, at the opposite end of the Park Sports Ground to the Douglas Villa Football Club with open spaces in between. Does the 100 apply to the whole ground or to each individual field?

Then again, who’s going to count them, and who is going be the one to tap some bloke on the shoulder, who’s relishing the chance to finally watch his favourite team, and say “sorry mate, you’re number 101, you have to go”?

What about the changing rooms, which can be used, but will require cleaning and disinfecting after every game, providing clubs another potential nightmare?

Will this have sport programmed in a different way? Instead of a senior reserve game being scheduled to finish 20 minutes before the start of a premier game, the gap may need to be extended to one hour or even longer.

The tough requirements don’t stop at the playing field, with the Level 2 regulations relating to bars and restaurants, also necessary in clubrooms.

That is “the three S’s” – seated, separated and single servers.

Seated means clubs would only be able to serve as many as can be safely seated.

Separated requires social distancing between tables of two metres, and every club must use single servers, meaning tables will only be served by one bar person or volunteer.

It will be table service only and players and supporters won’t be able to simply wander up to the bar for another round of drinks or a pot of chips. But then again, how is that going to be policed?

There’s an awful lot of work and preparation before local competition gets back under way. But in the end I hope it will be worth the effort to get sport up and running, even though it will be quite a bit different.

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