A 'beautiful' result

The news Dunedin will host seven of the matches in the 2015 Fifa Under-20 World Cup is fantastic for football and sporting fans alike - and a timely boost for the city.

Prime Minister John Key announced on Thursday the cities to share hosting rights for the 24-team, 52-match football tournament, and Dunedin deputy mayor Chris Staynes, Forsyth Barr Stadium staff and Football South officials later outlined this city's allocation - six group games and one second-round match.

While there will be some who are disappointed the city missed out on hosting a quarterfinal given many believe we now have the best stadium in the country, it was always likely that larger centres would host the tournament end-games and that was why Hamilton was therefore chosen over Dunedin for a quarterfinal.

(Auckland will host the final and share other games with Wellington, Hamilton, Whangarei, New Plymouth and Christchurch).

In many ways, however, a second-round game is on par with a quarterfinal, and certainly the quality of football will be the best the city - and country - has experienced live, an exhilarating prospect for fans.

Support from those fans will be the key to hosting success.

Previous football games at the stadium - Wellington Phoenix matches and even the All Whites' 2014 World Cup qualifier against New Caledonia in March - undoubtedly could and should have been better supported. It is encumbent on the city's and province's football fraternity to field good numbers for the Under-20 World Cup matches.

In order to make that possible though, it is also essential that tickets be priced realistically so games are accessible to families. After all, it is a youth event, and a target market must surely be our football and sport-playing youngsters.

Pressure will undoubtedly be on the city, but we have shown we are more than able to host top-level tournaments, with our recent success during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, various cricket internationals, and further back the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in 1999.

Confidence in the city has also been reflected in the decision to award us three of the 2015 Cricket World Cup matches. But in terms of global appeal, the 2015 Fifa Under-20 World Cup will be the most significant event the city has hosted.

The opportunities from it are considerable - it is a chance to showcase the stadium, city and the province both to visitors and through the global television audience of more than 170 million people in 100 countries.

And those opportunities cannot come at a better time, given the feeling Dunedin has been sidelined in government decision-making, through job and service cuts.

The announcement is certainly a welcome boost to the region's Stand Up Otago call being led by this newspaper.

But amid the back-slapping, it is important to make sure the numbers stack up.

The Dunedin City Council shelved its official bid to host games given concerns about the cost - then about $1 million.

The council and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd have reportedly reached a better deal with tournament organisers. This will still cost ratepayers $150,000 (and $160,000 in non-cash council costs is to come from existing budgets), but, given the exposure and potential earnings to the city through visitors during games and further tourism spinoffs down the line, could be considered reasonable.

DVML also believes it will break even, and possibly post a small profit, which would certainly be desirable given its $300,000 Rugby World Cup loss.

The excitement is clearly palpable and we have much to play for.

And the chance to see the world's next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo live, and to put Dunedin on the world sporting stage once again? Priceless.

 

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