The Sal’s New Zealand Basketball League (NBL) has taken steps to proactively address the threat of COVID-19.
It will be a mandatory for all players and team management who are arriving from overseas to follow the Ministry of Health’s self-isolation guidance, regardless of which country they are arriving from. That is currently stated as 14 days on the MoH website.
NBL General Manager, Justin Nelson, says that with sporting leagues and events being cancelled or suspended around the world, the NBL has chosen to be proactive in the hope of protecting the community, including fans, teams, and the League.
“The health and safety of our players, coaches and team staff is paramount, particularly at this time during our preparations for the coming season. But it is also a business decision. We have seen other sports around the world suspending all activity when a player has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If a case was brought into the NBL community, it would affect the League’s ability to play games. The ramifications of that possibility are significant, and we are taking this very-real threat seriously.
“It appears New Zealand is fortunate that cases have been kept to a minimum and people appear to be following self-isolation requests if they feel unwell. In the current climate we may still be able to play a full season and broadcast all games. We are making this call to try and protect that,” says Mr Nelson.
The NBL says more than 50 of the League’s players across both the men’s and women’s leagues are arriving from overseas in the coming weeks, including New Zealand citizens. Nelson says the NBL does not want any players arriving from overseas to show up to practice without being cleared.
“We realise this is a step up in what’s currently required from others arriving from abroad, but we have decided it’s best to be proactive.”
Nelson adds that announcing this precaution now gives the teams time to consider how best to manage their risks and discuss options with their players arriving from overseas. It also gives players the option to get to New Zealand early should they wish to start in game one of the season. Round one of the NBL tips off 9 April.
“The teams are understanding despite this being unsettling for them. The teams are now reaching out to players to discuss options, but we apologise if players are finding this out through the media first – we decided it was best to get this decision out quickly so that our messages are clear as to why we are taking this step,” says Nelson.
The NBL are continuing to monitor updates from the NZ government and the Ministry of Health. Nelson says the NBL has also consulted Basketball New Zealand’s Medical Director, who backs the decision as a strong but important precaution.
“We’ve seen other sporting competitions around the world facing big challenges due to COVID-19. This decision is to ensure the best preventative measures are in place and right now we fully expect the Sal’s NBL season to proceed from Thursday 9 April” says Nelson.
Basketball New Zealand has a number of other tournaments planned in the coming months, to be held throughout New Zealand. Basketball New Zealand Chief Executive Iain Potter says the organisation is closely following advice from the experts.
“We are still monitoring the advice from the New Zealand Government and Ministry of Health. At this stage we are proceeding with our planned national events. We will be taking precautions around these including the promulgation of government advice around hygiene and preventative measures,” says Potter.