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Restrictions On Club Sport Are Strangling The Chartered Club Industry

If the Alert Level restrictions are not eased soon, we will see clubs closing their doors for good, says Clubs New Zealand.

“Clubs have continually supported the measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, however, the current restrictions, which prohibit most club activities, including sports are strangling our clubs and reducing them to nothing more than food and beverage outlets”, says Chief Executive Larry Graham.

“We are incredibly concerned with how quickly the guidance can change and the inconsistent approach to enforcement. Our member clubs are doing everything they can to create a safe and welcoming environment in compliance with the Public Health Order, and yet, we are hearing reports daily of other venues operating with full bar service and little physical distancing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for clubs to enforce the restrictions when customers can “go down the road” and not be restricted.

“When the country (excluding Auckland) moved to Alert Level 2 the guidance provided that recreational and sporting activities such as pool, snooker, darts and bowls could resume within clubs (with restriction) as they have under previous instances of Alert Level 2. Since then, the guidance has been reviewed multiple times, with clubs being told that sports were prohibited, then allowed, and then once again prohibited all within the space of one day. The reason these activities are prohibited within a club is the food and beverage rules which requires customers to be seated at a table at all times.

“The loss of club activities such as pool, snooker, darts, and bowls has severely restricted club operations with many of our member clubs reporting a reduction in trade of 80% or more at Alert Level 2. Clubs within the Auckland region have advised Clubs New Zealand that they are better off remaining closed at Alert Level 3, then trying to operate at such a reduced capacity at Alert Level 2.

“Clubs New Zealand believes that the loss of these activities coupled with the frequent changes to guidance has resulted in an increase in abuse towards club employees and volunteers. We are receiving daily reports of abuse towards club employees which is a serious health and safety concern on top of the concern posed by covid. The average New Zealander is not privy to the Public Health Order or varying interpretations of covid guidance, and therefore does not understand that their sporting and recreational activities (which are critical to their sense of health and wellbeing) are not permitted because their club is licensed under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

“Clubs are telling us that members are not coming back under this instance of Alert Level 2, because their sport and recreational activities are not available.

“Chartered Clubs do not operate for the primary purpose of the sale and supply of alcohol, but rather to conduct, administer and maintain a club for its members. The current Alert Level 2 restrictions and in particular the requirements placed on food and drink businesses reduce a club to a food and beverage service and fails to acknowledge the club’s primary purpose, simply because it holds a club licence.

“Recreational and sporting activities are a fundamental part of club life and should not be confused with “pub games”. Recreational and sporting activities within clubs are the home to New Zealand’s amateur sports covering codes such as 8-ball, darts, billiards and snooker, indoor and outdoor bowls, table tennis, golf, fishing and more. These activities are member-based activities (i.e., they are not open to the public) and are the basis for more than 50 regional and national sporting tournaments a year. Recreational and sporting activities play a major role in preventing social isolation among our members and are critical in preventing the negative impacts Covid-19 is having on our members mental health and wellbeing.

“Clubs New Zealand understands that initially there was a greater need for caution in response to delta, however, we are now urging the Government to ease the restrictions and allow recreational and sporting activities to be conducted under the Alert Level 2 settings as they have under previous instances of Alert Level 2. To date Clubs New Zealand has received no response from the Covid Response Minister.

“Clubs New Zealand strongly believes that allowing recreational and sporting activities to resume within a club setting will not increase the risk of covid transmission but will instead go some way to alleviate the negative impacts covid has on mental health and wellbeing among club employees, volunteers, and members.

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