Sport & recreation  |  16 Jun 2020

Local community sports teams have jumped at the chance to get back on the field following months of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Team numbers across all winter codes are similar to last year’s despite the impact of the two-month shutdown, showing the importance of sport in Canterbury.

Until just a few weeks ago, community sport was in doubt this winter, but following a huge collaborative effort between Christchurch City Council’s Parks and Recreation team, Sport Canterbury and Canterbury Regional Sports Organisations, 539 football teams and 167 basketball teams were able to play their first game of the season on Saturday 6 June.

Community rugby league and rugby teams will kick off this weekend, and netball will start the following weekend, with some junior players starting later in June or July. Rugby has 118 senior teams registered and the number of junior and secondary team numbers appears strong based on early registrations. Netball has 519 teams and there are 119 rugby league teams across all grades. 

Council Recreation and Sports Manager David Bailey says it’s really positive that so many players are getting involved, even with the delays and disruption caused by the global pandemic.

“Participation is on a par with last year which really highlights how much people want to get active and be part of a team. To go through this experience and be in lockdown for two months and then for everyone to be able to get back to play on the fields and courts so quickly is fantastic, but it’s thanks to a huge behind the scenes effort.”

He says winter sports codes had more certainty about their relaunched season thanks to open communication and a spirit of partnership between all of the parties involved.

“It was a real collaborative effort. Sports codes and Council staff were in constant communication and adapting to a dynamic situation. Summer and winter sports quickly agreed to season date changes so it worked well for all involved and was in line with guidelines that had been developed by the national sporting bodies. This meant we could plan games earlier and get underway faster here than in many other parts of the country.”

Sports arranged COVID-19 safety plans, rescheduled their seasons and worked with Council staff to rebook indoor sports facilities for basketball, volleyball, korfball and water polo, allocate outdoor sports fields and mark fields in record time - three weeks instead of the usual five weeks.

Mainland Football Chief Executive Julian Bowden says it was an impressive effort and allowed thousands of local players to return to a sport they enjoy on 6 June.

“We wanted to get back into games as soon as we could and the Council did everything possible to make it happen. It took a lot of effort from them and our clubs to get posts up and fields mowed and marked in time, but it went off without a hitch.”