Aus­tralia, New Zealand to co-host Women’s World Cup

Orlando Sentinel - - Weather - By Gra­ham Dun­bar

GENEVA — Aus­tralia and New Zealand will co-host the Women’s World Cup in 2023, with the fol­low­ing edi­tion pos­si­bly set to take place just two years later.

The is­land neigh­bors beat Colom­bia 22-13 in a vote Thurs­day by FIFA’s rul­ing coun­cil, which judged them as hav­ing the best com­mer­cial prospects for women’s soc­cer.

FIFA Pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino was one of the mem­bers who voted for Aus­tralia and New Zealand to stage the first 32-team Women’s World Cup, then re­vived a sug­ges­tion aired at last year’s tour­na­ment in France to stage it ev­ery two years in­stead of ev­ery four years.

“We need to boost women’s foot­ball,” In­fantino told reporters from FIFA’s head­quar­ters in Zurich. “If you have to wait four years all the time, maybe it’s a bit long.”

FIFA’s de­ci­sion means South Amer­ica is still wait­ing to host its first Women’s World Cup, a tour­na­ment that was first played in 1991.

The voter pref­er­ences were quickly pub­lished by FIFA and split along con­ti­nen­tal lines. Colom­bia had all nine del­e­gates from Euro­pean soc­cer body UEFA join­ing four el­i­gi­ble vot­ers from South Amer­ica’s CONMEBOL.

In­fantino ac­knowl­edged that he was “sur­prised” by the al­liance of soc­cer’s tra­di­tional con­ti­nen­tal pow­ers, who have been crit­i­cal of his plans in the past — in­clud­ing a 24-team Club World Cup in China that is on hold due to the pan­demic.

For New Zealand, the tour­na­ment is be­ing billed as the largest sporting event the coun­try has hosted. New Zealand prime min­is­ter

Jacinda Ardern worked the phones this week to urge sup­port for the bid, and her gov­ern­ment has al­ready set aside NZ$25 mil­lion to help prepa­ra­tions for the tour­na­ment.

“It will be a his­toric tour­na­ment of firsts that will cre­ate a pro­found and en­dur­ing legacy for women’s foot­ball in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and be­yond,” Ardern said. “We are look­ing for­ward to de­liv­er­ing the best ever FIFA Women’s World Cup in both na­tions, one that will el­e­vate the women’s game and in­spire women and girls around the world.”

The Aus­tralia-New Zealand bid had far outscored Colom­bia in an eval­u­a­tion pub­lished by FIFA in­spec­tors this month.

“Th­ese re­ports have to mean some­thing. It was not the case in the old FIFA,” said In­fantino.

His com­ments seemed like an ap­par­ent jibe at the 2010 by a soon-dis­cred­ited rul­ing com­mit­tee which picked the higher-risk op­tions of Rus­sia and Qatar as men’s World Cup hosts in 2018 and 2022. The fall­out and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions aris­ing from that bid process re­moved a swath of soc­cer of­fi­cials in Zurich and South Amer­ica and helped lift former UEFA of­fi­cial In­fantino into the pres­i­dency.

The win­ning

bid Thurs­day pro­posed play­ing in 12 cities — seven in Aus­tralia and five in New Zealand — in July and Au­gust. It in­cludes the main sta­dium used for the 2000 Syd­ney Olympics.

Af­ter a suc­cess­ful World Cup last year won by the de­fend­ing cham­pion United States, FIFA wants the next women’s tour­na­ment to fur­ther es­tab­lish its in­de­pen­dence from the men, and show it is com­mer­cially at­trac­tive.

At least $100 mil­lion is ex­pected to be paid by FIFA in 2023 for prize money, team prepa­ra­tion costs and to clubs re­leas­ing play­ers for the tour­na­ment.

In­fantino lamented Thurs­day that longterm broad­cast­ing and spon­sor deals he in­her­ited at FIFA lim­ited its abil­ity to com­mer­cial­ize the women’s event.

“Our hands are still a bit tied up by old con­tracts which were done by the old FIFA,” he said, blam­ing a cul­ture of sell­ing men’s World Cup pack­ages so that “ev­ery­thing else was given as a gift.”

One com­mer­cial chal­lenge for the 2023 tour­na­ment will be the time zones: Auck­land in New Zealand, which should host the open­ing game, is 16 hours ahead of New York.

Seven of the quar­ter­fi­nal­ists last year were Euro­pean, and an af­ter­noon kick off in Syd­ney would be break­fast-time view­ing in Paris or Ber­lin.

The 2023 tour­na­ment will be the first time a World Cup for men or women will be shared across two coun­tries from dif­fer­ent FIFA con­fed­er­a­tions. Aus­tralia is a mem­ber of Asia’s soc­cer body and New Zealand is in the Ocea­nia group. It is also the first co­hosted women’s edi­tion.

Both Aus­tralia, the No. 7-ranked team in women’s soc­cer, and No. 23 New Zealand will qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the tour­na­ment.


Aus­tralia’s Stephanie Cat­ley, left, and New Zealand’s Re­bekah Stott helped sup­port the joint bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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