The FIFA Council’s decision to award the co-hosting rights of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to Australia and New Zealand will have enormous benefits in terms of the growth and development of the game in our region.
A delighted Oceania Football Confederation President Lambert Maltock described it as a watershed moment and a shot in the arm for our football family across the entire Pacific.
“Women’s football is on the rise in Oceania and with one of our Member Associations co-hosting a premier FIFA tournament the game will receive another major boost to continue on its upward trajectory in the coming years,” he said.
“This World Cup will also be an historic occasion, the first ever inter-Confederation FIFA World Cup which will further strengthen the ties and relationship with our close friends at the Asian Football Confederation.”
New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell was confident the world’s biggest event in women’s sport would be a real game changer.
“Yeah, there are many reasons, firstly the size and scale of the event is something we’ve never seen the likes of in this country,” Pragnell said.
“It’s going to bring down the best athletes in the world to play in our backyard, inspirational role models from around the world young kids can watch and learn from. It also brings tourists from around the world, and could create a real legacy for football in the country.
“It will bring investment into the sport and puts a real spotlight on the women’s game as well, there’s so much to look forward to.”
Though the World Cup is still three years away, Pragnell believed that organising a world class event on such a scale would be a massive undertaking.
“Yeah it will come around quickly won’t it. We would love a little bit more time but actually because the key infrastructures are in place we think we can do it and run the best Women’s World Cup ever.
“It will be the biggest sporting event New Zealand has ever hosted from a global perspective, and the way it’s growing maybe the biggest event we ever host.
“1.1 billion people watched the last Women’s World Cup and it’s growing exponentially, so if we keep tracking that way, the only way is up; 260 million watched the final, so we are talking about huge, huge global audiences, some of the fans who follow the teams are massive.
“The US team alone had a fanbase of 30,000 following them around, so, huge numbers.”
New Zealand international Hannah Wilkinson, who watched the decision in the early hours of Friday morning with her Football Ferns teammates Erin Nayler and Annalie Longo, couldn’t hide her delight.
“In the little hotel room watching on the laptop, the wait was just excruciating, but when we got the result I was just so, so stoked. We were screaming and poured a glass of champagne at around 4.01am maybe.”
Wilkinson believed 2023 would be a milestone year that could change the sporting landscape in New Zealand.
“I think it will leave an amazing legacy for women’s football, specifically, but also for football in general as well,” she said.
“It will really start promoting our sport in our country and it’s something we have needed for a long, long time so that’s really exciting for us.”
The Ferns striker said playing in a World Cup in packed stadiums on home soil would be a dream come true.
“It’s what you dream about when you are younger, that really is the dream for me in front of my home crowd in my own country in front of my family and friends, all those people who put all the investment in me, that is the real dream.”