Wellington Phoenix players face the prospect of months away from home after the A-League club announced Tuesday they will be based in Australia for the upcoming season.
The Phoenix, New Zealand’s sole team in the Australian competition, said quarantine restrictions meant travelling across the Tasman would be impractical during the season, which runs from December 27 to late June.
Instead, it said players would assemble in New South Wales next week and remain there unless a trans-Tasman travel bubble is eventually established.
The team has already spent nine weeks in Australia from June to August to complete the 2019-20 season.
“The club would like to recognise the continued sacrifice of its players, coaches and technical staff, who again face the prospect of being separated from their families and loved ones for a long period of time,” the Phoenix said in a statement.
“Should a trans-Tasman bubble eventuate during the season, the club will review the potential to play home games in New Zealand later in the season.”
“It’s a huge ask. But really there is no option,” Phoenix general manager David Dome told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Under current rules, Kiwis can travel to some Australian states, including NSW, without going into isolation, but all arrivals into New Zealand must undergo two weeks’ quarantine.
Both countries have been among the world’s most successful in containing the pandemic.
Wellington’s season came to an end at the hands of the Perth Glory earlier this year after almost three months in Australia.
Despite the challenging circumstances the Phoenix finished the regular season in third spot, a club record.