Auckland City FC are nervously waiting to hear when the Government are planning on replacing MIQ with home isolation.
If the answer is much later than early February next year, the amateur Kiwi football club may be forced to withdraw from the 2022 Fifa Club World Cup, miss out on their $432,000 guaranteed purse and cop a heavy fine from Fifa.
The latest tournament is set to take place in the UAE early next year and Auckland City FC club president Ivan Vuksich told NZME that on advice, they decided against applying for MIQ spots for 35 people (23 players and 12 staff), instead hoping home isolation would be on offer for returning New Zealanders by February.
Auckland City withdrew last year due to MIQ and were threatened with a fine by Fifa which didn't eventuate. The tournament went ahead with German giants Bayern Munich winning for a second time.
Vuksich said having to pull out of another Club World Cup would be a "disaster" for football in New Zealand.
"This time last year we were in line to go to Club World Cup in Qatar but we had to pull out in late December," Vuksich told NZME. "And this caused a major furore with Fifa and instantly the next morning they sent us a massive fine, about NZ$35,000 plus costs, which never got established but it could have been $50-60,000 worth.
"We couldn't pay of course and we started to panic and we got Oceania Football, New Zealand Football and a few other people to go back to Fifa and say this is the situation in New Zealand with MIQ and we couldn't get it. So they withdrew the fine.
"This year it came around and we were in line to go and they sent us a participation agreement which clearly spells out if you pull out after saying you are going then you cop all costs, including a fine. On that basis, after missing out last year and needing to go for the good of football in New Zealand, and the reputation of New Zealand Football especially with the Women's World Cup coming up in 2023, and a whole lot of other reasons – the prizemoney gets shared with us and the other clubs that participated in the national league. So it's good for a lot of people in New Zealand. To have to pull out would be another disaster."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has indicated that home isolation will be introduced in the first quarter of 2022 at the latest, with the Government set to announce details of a "progressive" MIQ phase out in the next two weeks.
"The second stage of our plan will see New Zealand moving towards having more vaccinated people able to self-isolate at home instead of in MIQ," he said in a release last month.
"This option will be made available to increasing numbers of fully vaccinated travellers in the first quarter of 2022."
Hipkins told Radio NZ yesterday the Government was awaiting some public health advice before making an announcement on the future of MIQ in the next two weeks.
Vuksich admits it was a gamble to agree on the tournament entry without confirmation of home isolation.
"We had a look at it and got information from different people. And it appeared looking back on the first of November that the Government was probably going to look at home isolation come the new year. On that basis, having spoken to a few people that should know about these things, we decided to take the plunge on the basis it would be home isolation.
"But things have developed over the last few days and I'm thinking it might not be until March that this is happening. So I'm starting to get a little bit worried.
"All this stuff has happened in the last few days that it's starting to look like it's [home isolation] not going to be in February. So we've got to go through to someone in the Government, OFC or New Zealand Football and figure out in the next 24 hours what we're going to do.
"So we took a punt. We thought it was a reasonably good punt but with the advice coming out of the government in the last few days, I'm starting to panic a wee bit."
Auckland City are due to open the Club World Cup against local side Al Jazira on February 3, in a knockout tournament when they would be unsure when to expect a return home.
"If we lose they put us on a plane the next day. If we win that match it could be another week to 10 days, so we can't actually so we can't have a definitive arrival date back into New Zealand," Vuksich said.
"We are financially committed. If we don't go we will cop this fine. If we do go and can't get back in, the cost there would be horrendous. Just imagine 35 people for two weeks, it's just a mind-blowing number."
Auckland City have previously appeared nine times at the Club World Cup, with their best showing coming in 2014 when they finished third in Morocco, bringing home $1.3 million in prizemoney which they split with New Zealand Football.
The team is set to bring home at least $432k for showing up to the tournament and another $720k if they win their first game.
"All our party will be double-vaxxed. They'll be checked over there and checked when they get back in New Zealand. You go straight over there and into a bubble and it's very secure. We're not going to be exposed to hardly anything over there that could give us Covid so I think it's a damn safe bet," Vuksich said.