Words: NZF Media
Thursday 21 October 2021
Picture: NZF Media
Following the news that the Auckland region will remain at its current alert level setting until at least 1 November, New Zealand Football has conceded it is increasingly unlikely that the men’s and women’s National League Championship competitions will be able to go ahead.
Under the previously announced framework, all National League Championship sides would need to be engaged in full contact training and have the ability to play preseason matches by 3 November to start the competition on time. The next likely stage for Auckland, Alert Level 3 - Step 2, sees outdoor gatherings increase to 25, which is insufficient for matches to be played. The unlikely move to Alert Level 3 - Step 3 would be required where the gathering limit is 50. Even if this move was made there would still need to be clarity around contact sport, mask wearing and social distancing - which isn’t known at this point.
New Zealand Football previously confirmed that it would not run the National League Championship without the involvement of the Auckland-based sides so as to uphold the integrity of the men’s and women’s competitions. This remains the case, but after engaging qualified club and federations sides outside of Auckland, who have continued to train at Alert Level 2, interest has been expressed for running a one-off standalone non-National League competition for both the men’s and women’s teams.
The revised format would provisionally look to include the sides currently at Alert Level 2 (six teams in the men’s competition and four or five teams in the women’s competition depending on the status of the alert levels in the Waikato).
To provide clarity to qualified sides currently training outside of Auckland and the Waikato, New Zealand Football wishes to confirm its intention to run a revised alternative competition, should the National League Championship be unable to take place. The alternative competition will look to run in the same period, starting from 6-7 November, for both men’s and women’s teams. The final decision on if the National League Championship will happen will be made on 1 November following the Government’s scheduled alert level update.
For the Football Foundation Kate Sheppard Cup and Chatham Cup, New Zealand Football intends to complete both competitions without defaulting any of the teams involved and removing them from contention because of restrictions in their region.
The alert level extension in Auckland means that the Kate Sheppard Cup will now be moved to 2022 due to the number of players involved for clubs in the semi-finals playing for federation sides. In the Chatham Cup, if the alternative competition takes place allowing finalists Cashmere Technical and semi-finalists Miramar Rangers to remain training, there is still the opportunity to award the trophy this year. This will only be possible if semi-finalists North Shore United are able to resume training, interregional travel and have a sufficient return to play period ahead of any games.
“It has been hugely challenging few months for clubs, players, federations and ourselves,” says Daniel Farrow, GM Football at New Zealand Football.
“Throughout the lockdown we have worked up a number of scenarios to try to play the National League Championship but we are well aware it is looking increasingly unlikely that we are going to be able to.
“While we have committed to not running the National League Championship without the Auckland sides, playing some form of competition for those teams who are able to be involved is something we are actively looking at.
“We know that players need high quality minutes to develop and if we are able to run some alternative competition, should the National League Championship not be possible, it is in the interest of the game for us to do so.”
In the men’s game, any alternative competition would not have any bearing on OFC Champions League qualification, which is separately being discussed with OFC.
Article added: Wednesday 20 October 2021 - reproduced courtesy New Zealand Football.