Rob Nichol is calling on the Government to find flexible solutions that allows New Zealand to host foreign sporting teams without isolation, warning of the dire consequences if the stringent one size fits all model does not evolve in the coming weeks.
The Government last week outlined a cautious approach to reopening New Zealand's border that begins with permitting citizens and residents to skip MIQ when returning from Australia from January 17 - and other countries from February 14. Foreign nationals will be able to bypass MIQ from April 30.
In each case, however, a seven-day self-isolation period is required.
Those stipulations immediately threw plans for transtasman sporting competitions to resume next year – from Super Rugby Pacific's inaugural season to the Breakers, Phoenix and Warriors – into major doubt.
For much of the past two years the Breakers, Warriors and Phoenix have been based in Australia while Super Rugby organisers are now scrambling to devise contingencies – the most likely being front loading the draw with local derbies.
Nichol, the New Zealand Rugby Players' Association and Athletes Federation boss, is pleading with the Government to adopt a more flexible approach to sport, claiming the industry could otherwise be left devastated.
"Everyone is cognisant there are families that want to get into the country as well but at some stage you've got to design plans around travel that allow people and industries to get on. We're really struggling," Nichol said.
"We appreciate the Government has a big job and they've come out with some guidelines but it needs a better solution to enable different industries. The solution for tourism might be slightly different to the solution for sport. It's about diving deeper.
"From a sports perspective, we can't afford to keep being constrained. It's getting pretty serious. We really are talking about an industry that could be brought to its knees. Many other industries will be starting to feel the same thing."
Drawing comparisons between the All Blacks, Black Ferns and Black Caps, all of whom travelled the globe in tight Covid bubbles this year and had one positive case, Nichol suggests New Zealand could adopt similar protocols with visiting teams rather than the prohibitive seven days isolation.
"That's being done with the expectation people will do their seven days and then mix in the community. We can bring a sports teams in for three days, play a game of football, they can operate in a bubble like all our sports teams have been doing the last three months overseas, and be gone within 48 hours.
"Sports teams globally have shown themselves to be incredibly adept at travelling in a pandemic. The protocols put around teams can really minimise risk.
"It seems quite strange we come back to our own country and we can't play our own competitions."
Nichol says recreational and competitive sport's absence, particularly in Auckland after almost four months of lockdown, has underlined the crucial role it plays in our communities.
"We know lots of kids and adults are missing that. We all want to see it come back as quickly as it can. At the professional level it's also a business and industry. The rest of the world is well and truly moving on. Everyone is very tolerant and we've all been trying to work together globally but there's a point at which the rest of the world is going to say 'sorry, we can't do much to help you. If you're out, you're out'.
"We have enough challenges competing professionally whether it's motorsport, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket, hockey whatever it might be. We need to get on with it otherwise we're going to really fall behind and it could be devastating. We're talking really significant periods of recovery."
Meetings are scheduled with New Zealand sports bodies and Minister for Sport Grant Robertson from next week in the hope concessions to the seven days isolation can be made. But the clock is ticking.
Robertson has indicated teams may be permitted to train while serving their seven-day isolation but that is unlikely to allow transtasman competitions to resume.
While Melbourne prepares to host the Australian Open tennis tournament next month, featuring leading athletes and their support crews from all over the globe, Nichol is warning Ireland's three test tour of New Zealand in July, along with the women's Cricket World Cup (March 4 to April 3) and Rugby World Cup (October 8 to November 12), could be under threat.
The Black Caps also have no MIQ booked for their return from Australia in February or spots for Australia when they are scheduled to play Twenty20s in New Zealand in March.
"They need to know now whether they can come and what it's going to look like," Nichol said. "How do you explain to the Irish rugby team there could be a problem coming to New Zealand next July when we've just been up there and all of the Southern Hemisphere have been playing them in packed stadiums? It's quite challenging.
"It's going to be really important to show the world we're open for sport. If we're unable to run a Super Rugby Pacific competition between Australia and New Zealand then how will the rest of the world be confident we can run a Rugby World Cup? The situation is not going to be better next July. We're living with Covid now. You're seeing it around the world with different strains.
"If the current situation doesn't allow us to stage basketball, league, football and rugby union games with Australia then that's going to have people asking some questions about our ability to stage major events.
"We would like to think the Government is open to seeing if they could do more to allow us to stay in touch with the world.
"A lot of teams and countries are not going to be prepared to wait until the last minute about what protocols will apply. If this is the protocol that's going to apply, then we've got real challenges. If we can't influence some change with Government then any international sporting athlete or team looking to come to New Zealand, there's a big question mark next to it."
Rather than working retrospectively and providing financial handouts, Nichol is imploring the Government to take a proactive approach to sport.
"Even when you look back over the last seven or eight months we're saying Argentina and South Africa could not come into New Zealand to play some test match rugby yet those teams have travelled all around the world and it hasn't been an issue. And that's in areas where there is Covid. We didn't have Covid at the time.
"Financially that has had a devastating effect on rugby in this country but that's been replicated across other sports whether it's rugby league, basketball or football.
"At some stage we've got to recognise we haven't been good in this area and we could have done better so what can we do to ensure we don't drop off the end of a cliff and lose touch."