World Cup benefits for Christchurch sought despite host venue snub

Mainland Football hopes the Football Ferns will still make an appearance in Christchurch during...
Mainland Football hopes the Football Ferns will still make an appearance in Christchurch during the 2023 World Cup. Photo: Getty
Mainland Football has compiled a wide-ranging wish-list to ensure Christchurch still benefits from the women’s World Cup in 2023, in spite of the city being snubbed as a host venue.

Christchurch was overlooked when the four New Zealand venues were revealed by FIFA earlier this month, with Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin and Hamilton selected to share matches with locations in Australia.

ChristchurchNZ, the city’s economic development and promotional agency, estimated hosting five pool matches would have brought 28,000 visitors to the city, and ultimately provide a $23 million boost to the region.

Far from wallowing after the setback, Mainland Football chief executive Julian Bowden has started lobbying New Zealand Football for a range of complementary events.

“We don’t know where any of this will land but some of ideas are based around the potential to have warm up games played in Christchurch, particularly getting the Football Ferns here for a warm-up game,” he said.

“Ultimately we’d like them here for a camp for a week, so they get around the community, schools and do those types of things.”

Mainland Football chief executive Julian Bowden. Photo: Chris Barclay
Mainland Football chief executive Julian Bowden. Photo: Chris Barclay
Bowden hoped some of the competing nations would also base themselves in Christchurch before the tournament, with FIFA still to appoint training bases.

“We’re not sure when that’s determined but that’s the sort of things we have to look at now,” he said.

“There are 32 teams heading down here so there could be some other warm-up games played here too.

“We’ll be working with New Zealand Football, we want to try and get as much engagement as possible. The idea of not having any teams come through here doesn’t really bear thinking about.”

Bowden said there was no time frame on when New Zealand Football or FIFA would make the next phase of tournament-related decisions but his organisation had to be proactive.

“We’re better off getting on the front foot and start thinking about how we do engage versus sitting back and waiting to see what falls into our laps,” he said.

Bowden added Mainland Football would also seeks assurances from New Zealand Football that All Whites and Football Ferns matches would be staged here when the new stadium was completed in 2024.

“If the stadium had been (built) two years earlier we might not be having this discussion. It was gut-wrenching that we weren’t selected – our challenge now is how do we turn it into something positive.”

Bowden said the snub was particularly disappointing as the code was proving popular among young women.

Mainland Football created an under-18 grade before Covid-19 struck to form a bridge or outlet for players who didn’t take the game too seriously.

“We introduced a new grade for girls who wanted to keep playing with their mates rather than play in premier teams, it gave them a grade to play in,” Bowden said.

“What we’re seeing is a bigger number of girls coming in and because of the programmes they do seem to be hanging around and staying involved. We’re starting to get a wave of girls coming through.”

A 10-team secondary school 1st XI competition and five-a-side futsal (indoors) has also kept girls in the sport.

The host cities and stadiums for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 are:

Adelaide – Hindmarsh Stadium
Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau – Eden Park
Brisbane – Brisbane Stadium
Dunedin / Ōtepoti – Dunedin Stadium
Hamilton / Kirikiriroa – Waikato Stadium
Melbourne – Melbourne Rectangular Stadium
Perth – Perth Rectangular Stadium
Sydney – Stadium Australia and Sydney Football Stadium
Wellington / Te Whanganui-a-Tara – Wellington Stadium

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