Netball New Zealand has made the decision to postpone the 2020 ANZ Premiership for two weeks due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was made following the New Zealand Government’s announcement on Thursday regarding indoor mass gatherings.

The postponement will take effect immediately for the scheduled games in Round 2 and Round 3 that were due to be played on the 22nd/23rd and 28th/29th/30th March.

Netball NZ Chief Executive Jennie Wyllie said the decision has been made due to uncertainty in a rapidly changing environment and our desire to protect the welfare and wellbeing of our players, staff and volunteers.

“Protecting the health of our Netball players, officials, volunteers and staff is our number one priority, and that means we need to consider their welfare and wellbeing alongside the advice of Ministry of Health and Government,” she said.

“We will continue to monitor the situation in New Zealand and follow the information and consultation with the appropriate channels,” she said.

“We understand it is disappointing for all of those involved and our fans, but safety is our top priority. We would also like to acknowledge the incredible support of our partners at this time and in particular Sky Sport and ANZ, without whom this league would not exist.”

ANZ Head of Sponsorship Sue McGregor said the right call has been made.

“In these uncertain times the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders is what’s most important. We commend Netball NZ for their decision and continue to support them as they navigate through this season.”

The announcement also affects the Beko Netball League, which sits directly below the ANZ Premiership, with Netball NZ opting to suspend the competition at this time.

Wyllie said the call to suspend the Beko Netball League was difficult to make but they felt it was an appropriate move given the changing environment.

New Zealand Netball Players Association Executive Manager Steph Bond supported the decision.

“We are all in this together – Netball NZ, players and Netball staff across the country along with stakeholders and partners of the game. We fully support Netball NZ’s people first strategy and the need to align this with the advice of the government.

“While there is no play at the moment, when the players do get the opportunity to get back on court they will be looking forward to Netball playing a part in supporting the country recover from the impacts of the virus.”

Sky Chief Executive Martin Stewart said the health and wellbeing of players and game officials was of utmost importance, and they supported their partner Netball NZ in the decision to postpone the ANZ Premiership for two weeks.

“We know it’s disappointing for fans, as it is for our Sky crew and everyone else involved in these matches, but we’re living in unprecedented times and keeping people safe is really important. We’ll all be doing our best to bring some great live Netball back on air in two weeks, and in the meantime we’re putting up some cool sport content including great archives to entertain Netball fans,” he said.

The ANZ Premiership completed its opening round in Dunedin on Monday night when the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel and Splice Construction Magic’s match was closed to the public.

The decision to return to play will be reviewed in just over a week and Netball NZ remains in close consultation with ANZ Premiership teams regarding the season ahead.

Tickets for affected matches remain valid for the postponed matches at this time. Purchasers who require a refund should contact their relevant ticket agency.

The 2020 ANZ Premiership season is planned to recommence from Round 4 with no change to scheduled fixtures on 5 and 6 April.

Rescheduling of Round 2 and Round 3 matches will form part of the return to play review, with dates of rescheduled matches to be advised in due course.