Code clash with cash implications

The Highlanders could be kicked for touch, and the company running the Forsyth Barr Stadium left out of pocket, if Dunedin secures a share of hosting rights for the Fifa under-20 World Cup in 2015.

That was because Fifa required exclusive use of all tournament venues, beginning 10 days before each venue's first match and continuing until a day after the last match, tournament organising committee interim project manager Peter O'Hara said.

That could mean a clash between Fifa's tournament and the Super 15 rugby competition at stadiums around New Zealand, as the two tournaments would overlap.

Exceptions had been granted in the past, but exclusive use was "a pretty hard and fast rule" for Fifa, he said.

At the same time, some - or all - of each venue's gate takings were likely to go to the organising committee, as part of its budget for running the tournament, Mr O'Hara said.

Venue hire fees could also be waived by competing cities to make their bids more attractive.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Darren Burden confirmed Fifa rules could lead to a clash if the Highlanders secured a home semi-final or final in 2015.

The franchise was contracted to use the stadium, "so of course any discussions that we're going to have with Fifa need to take into account the commitments that we already have in place", Mr Burden said.

Asked if he could rule out the Highlanders being forced to move, he said it was too early to make any decisions.

Details of Dunedin's bid for matches - including whether DVML would receive a venue-hire fee or a share of gate takings - needed to be discussed with council staff later this year, he said.

So, too, did the financial implications of handing Fifa a clean stadium for advertising purposes.

"Obviously, we need to understand what the final implications of that may be."

He did not yet know the details of Dunedin's bid, which was being handled by the Dunedin City Council, but hoped "sensible solutions could be found".

Dunedin was among nine New Zealand centres vying to host matches - including the final - during the 52-game tournament, which was to be beamed to a global television audience of 200 million across 200 countries.

Dunedin's bid came after last year's Rugby World Cup cost DVML about $300,000 in lost revenue, due to that tournament's similar financial requirements.

Fifa's 2015 tournament was provisionally set to run from June 19 to July 11.

Mr O'Hara confirmed the potential clash had been discussed with rugby officials and was "top of our agenda" when talking to venue operators about the Fifa tournament.

While earlier Super 15 fixtures could be moved to other venues within a franchise's territory, any disruption to a semi-final or final could be "a pretty significant issue" for a venue operator, he said.

"It's just a reality. It's that time of the year when rugby is on, so there will be in some cases ... this issue."

The organising committee was also budgeting for gate takings from stadiums for the 2015 tournament, but details were still being discussed with individual cities.

"In some cases, there may be an arrangement where a percentage goes to a venue. In other cases, there would not be."

The same was true of venue hire fees, as it was up to cities to decide whether to waive them as part of their bid, he said.

He declined to discuss Dunedin's bid, which remained confidential, and council staff also declined to release a copy of the city's bid document.

The council was expected to contribute up to $450,000 towards Fifa's tournament costs if its bid was successful, but council city strategy and development manager Sue Bidrose said that was if the city won the right to host a number of matches, including the final.

The cost could be reduced if the city's bid was only partially successful, but the true cost - including lost revenue if other stadium events were disrupted - was not known, she said.

That information, and the expected economic benefit arising from hosting matches, would be presented to councillors to make a final decision by early next year, she said.

Fifa was expected to confirm host venues in mid-February, but the council would be given an indicative programme of matches before then to accept or decline, she said.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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