SYDNEY (AFP) – A decade ago Australia spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a disastrous quest to host the 2022 men’s World Cup, but its football boss is quietly confident that crushing defeat will not be repeated this week.
Australia and New Zealand’s joint bid to host the 2023 women’s World Cup, using the slogan “As One”, is up against Colombia, with the decision due on June 25 after the field was whittled down from 10.
Japan, whose ‘Nadeshiko’ women’s team won the 2011 World Cup, withdrew on Monday, a move seen as taking Australia and New Zealand’s biggest rival out of the race.
Tomorrow’s announcement by the FIFA Council comes with women’s football, and women’s sport in general, on an upward trajectory. The last women’s World Cup in France was a big success, watched by 1.12 billion people globally.
The next edition will have 32 teams for the first time, up from 24, with pressure on to take it to another level. Australia and New Zealand both have experience in hosting major events and their bid was regarded as the frontrunner after scoring strongly in FIFA’s evaluation report.
“When you look at our bid, we think it ticks a lot of the boxes,” Football Federation Australia (FFA) Chairman Chris Nikou told AFP.
“Whether that’s infrastructure, or the facilities, whether it’s the legacy or the commercial outcomes for FIFA.
“Or just our genuine engagement with women’s sport and women’s issues… and Australia and New Zealand are great places to visit too, so as a package we hope it’s a compelling proposition.”
There was also optimism in 2010 when billionaire Frank Lowy, then FFA Chairman, vigorously pursued hosting rights for the 2022 men’s World Cup, only to win just a single vote as the event controversially went to Qatar.
It was a humiliating outcome for Australia, and was followed by bloodletting at FIFA as allegations unfolded of corruption at the world body’s highest levels.
Nikou said it was a different ball game now, with FIFA having a new president in Gianni Infantino and a new constitution, while each vote will be public as opposed to the previous secrecy.
“Comparing the two eras, the previous bid to this one, I think it’s like comparing apples to oranges,” he said. “FIFA have been very adamant about a transparent process, a fair and open process, and it’s been very comprehensive.”
If Australia and New Zealand win, it will be the biggest sports event to be held by either country since the Sydney Olympics 20 years ago.