Cricket World Cup: Red setting fears allayed

Sports Minister Grant Robertson says the Cricket World Cup, set to begin at the Bay Oval in March, should go ahead in red.

Sports Minister Grant Robertson has confirmed the Women’s Cricket World Cup can “absolutely’’ go ahead under the Covid-19 traffic light red system red setting.

The tournament’s opening game takes place at Mount Maunganui’s Bay Oval, with New Zealand taking on the West Indies on March 4. A total of seven games are set to take place at the venue, including Pakistan vs India.

New Zealand has entered the red setting of the Covid-19 protection framework after confirmation of Omicron Covid-19 cases in the community.

Sporting event attendances will be impacted with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirming outdoor and indoor events and gatherings for vaccinated people are reduced to 100 people, and if unvaccinated people attend “that further reduces to 25’’.

Robertson has confirmed that the Government’s “defined space’’ criterion – which allow for pods of 100 people at events – could be used if separate exit points are available.

While sport can go ahead under a red setting, the rules will have a major impact on some codes – most notably cricket, which has a busy end-of-summer international schedule, and Super Rugby.

But Robertson, speaking at an unscheduled Government press conference on Sunday, allayed any fears that the Women’s Cricket World Cup – to be staged in New Zealand in March and April – could be in jeopardy if the red setting still applies then.

“Obviously, we don’t know how long this will last,’’ says Robertson.

Ardern earlier warned New Zealanders could expect to be in the red setting for “some weeks’’.

“The Women’s Cricket World Cup organisers have been planning for this tournament to take place in the red setting, and it can absolutely do that.

“Bear in mind, when we brought the red setting in it is possible to use the defined space rules to effectively have pods of 100 people as long as they keep separate from one and another and come into and out of the venue separately.

“I know the Cricket World Cup team have been thinking about that, if it is necessary.’’

Robertson says the peak of tournament was still “six to eight weeks away’’ and there was “a lot of water to go under the bridge’’.

Venues using the My Vaccine Pass can host up to 100 people based on one-metre distancing in a defined space at the venue at any time.

A recent example of the defined space rule being used occurred at last Sunday’s men’s and women’s Super Smash Twenty20 matches between the Northern Brave and Wellington in Whangārei, which was in the red-light setting at the time. Spectator numbers were restricted to around 500 – multiple groups of 100.

Even allowing for the defined space allowance, there is sure to be reduced attendances at many popular summer sporting events, including next Saturday’s Wellington Cup race meeting at Trentham.

Waitangi weekend Super Rugby Pacific pre-season games will also have capped attendances.

On Thursday, Dunedin’s University of Otago Oval hosts the Super Smash elimination finals, before Seddon Park in Hamilton hosts the grand finals on Saturday.

The White Ferns’ upcoming series against India may well have to be played in front of low crowds.

India open their tour with a T20 in Napier on February 9, then play five ODIs – one in Napier and two each in Nelson and Queenstown – concluding on February 24.

The Black Caps’ test series against South Africa then may have to be played in front of low numbers, too.

The red setting attendance caps are likely to be in place for Moana Pasifika’s February 4 game against the Chiefs at Mt Smart Stadium, a fixture aimed as a fundraiser or victims of last week’s Tonga tsunami.

The Highlanders and Crusaders are also to meet in their annual Farmlands Cup pre-season game at Weston Park, near Oamaru on February 4, an encounter which has traditionally drawn big crowds.

The maiden Super Rugby Aupiki women’s competition starts on March 5, with the final on either March 26 or 27.

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