It’s still a bit far from 2023, but the host for the FIFA Women’s World Cup could be decided any minute. According to a FIFA technical report released on Wednesday night, the Australian-New Zealand joint bid scored 4.1 out of 5 when judged on stadium, facilities, accommodation, broadcast, fan zones and commercial return. By comparison, Japan scored 3.9 for its bid, while Colombia was rated 2.8.
Therefore, Australia and New Zealand have rightfully boast its chances of hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup, after being ranked the highest by FIFA’s evaluation.
Undoubtedly, it’s the biggest boost yet for the Tasman bid but is a position Australia has been in before. Heading into the 2010 vote for the 2022 men’s World Cup, Australia scored highly in its assessment but just obtain one vote, a humbling lesson that a bid is only as strong as those selling it.
In this case, Australia and New Zealand have ticked nearly every box in the FIFA report’s categories: Appropriate stadiums, strong commercial return, modern facilities, health and security and government support. Now, the task is to sell the bid and its legacy to the 35 eligible voters on FIFA’s council. Commercially, it shouldn’t be a problem.
While costing $104M – which is double Japan’s bid – the Australian-New-Zealand bid will clearly draw the most revenue, with more than $113M projected in ticket sales, local sponsorship and government support alone. And if we compare it, Japan is already forecasting a $6M shortfall and is lacking of financial government support at all, while Colombia is deemed at a high commercial risk by FIFA due to modest projected ticket sales, low match-day revenue and no government support.
If money talks (which often does), the commercial aspect is one the Tasman bid wins big. However, there could be an only problem; the country’s legacy. If that’s the case, Japan and Colombia’s could turn the table.
After all, Japan has proposed establishing “a pan-Asian women’s football movement… using its skills and leadership to develop other AFC members,” FIFA said.
Japan’s claim that a Women’s World Cup will boost female participation beyond its borders will be easily believed, as men’s and women’s football is treated fairly equal.
“It is clear that the bidder envisages a tangible benefit from hosting the competition – not only for Japan, but also for the whole of Asia,” FIFA said.
On the other side, Colombia’s main stadium in Bogota is 16,000 seats short of reaching the minimum requirement, while another in Cartagena isn’t up to scratch. Yet, a World Cup could prove the shot in the arm for the women’s game in a football-mad region. Women’s football has seen slow growth in South America, so a little investment could improve things for the women’s game, as we have been seeing mainly in Europe and US.
But for now, Australia and New Zealand have already convinced FIFA of the legacy within its borders:
Fifty-fifty female participation in Australia by 2027 and year-on-year growth of 7% in New Zealand. Clearly, persuading African, European and North American council members of the broader benefits of giving the World Cup to a small corner of the Pacific will be the big task over the next 14 days. But the true politics lie in the purpose of the report.
FIFA has already declared the Tasman bid the best option for hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup. So, having done so publicly is a stride towards transparency in a FIFA voting process and winning back public trust, while selecting Japan or Colombia as hosts could be high risks, and could be seen as two steps back.