Despite unbridled delight among football fans after Australia and New Zealand won joint hosting rights for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, local fans won’t see any games in Canberra after the ACT Government declined the opportunity to get involved with the international event.
At least five cities in Australia and five cities in New Zealand will host games. Candidates for games include Adelaide, Melbourne, Launceston, Newcastle, Brisbane and Sydney (two games) in Australia; and Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland in New Zealand.
However, the ACT will not be nominating to host a game. Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the costs were exorbitant and would make hosting Women’s World Cup games one of the most expensive events ever run in the ACT.
“We are talking millions of dollars per game plus the requirements would have taken Canberra Stadium out of action for months of the winter football season,” Mr Barr said.
“We very carefully considered both the costs and the implications of being a host city and determined that rather than spending millions and millions on one or two games of football that would not involve the Australian team, that we would instead invest $20 million into the home of football in Throsby.
“It was just not economic and the asking price was too high for the sorts of matches we were going to get. [The cost] was unbelievable, all of the revenue from the ticket sales also go to the organisers, so there’s no possibility of the ACT making any money out of it at all.”
But Chair of the Capital Football board, Fran Sankey, said Canberra will still be involved in the WWC, one way or another.
“Whether it is through training grounds or as a tourist destination as the nation’s capital … hopefully, Canberra will also be producing some future Matildas,” she said.
“There are lots of locations around Australia that would have liked a game but missed out, but three years is a long way away so we will see.”
"The host of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 will be…. Australia & New Zealand!!"
— Westfield Matildas (@TheMatildas) June 25, 2020
Football Federation Australia (FFA) board member Heather Reid said it was a huge moment for Australia and for women’s sport in the country.
“Often family members, spectators and fans cannot get to places like France or Canada or China but they will be able to get to Sydney Olympic Stadium,” she said.
“Hopefully [Canberra] will be putting in an application to be a training camp or pre-tournament preparation and everybody still get behind the World Cup and the Matildas.
“It might be the last time [Tuggeranong junior] Lydia Williams turns out in the green and gold and, of course, Karly Roestbakken is in the front seat for making her World Cup home debut.”
Roestbakken, a Canberra United star who made her Matildas debut at last year’s WWC in France, was equally excited at the announcement.
“What exciting times for football in Australia,” she said. “The thought of being able to play in front of friends and family, a home crowd on home soil, is just unreal and a dream come true.
“It is an amazing opportunity for women’s football in Australia!”
Opposition Leader Alistair Coe says the Liberals will strive to host a game in Canberra, showcasing the capital’s and Australian women’s football to an international audience.
“It would be a real shot in the arm for our economy. Regardless of what the game was, there would be huge interest right around the world. Canberra as a city would be beamed into lounge rooms right across the globe,” Mr Coe said.
Deputy Canberra Liberals’ leader Nicole Lawder reinforced how important it is for aspiring sports stars and young women to see their idols in action.
“We hear the saying ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ and for young girls and women’s sport that opportunity to see their idols in action here in Canberra is an opportunity we should not miss,” she said.
Shadow Sports Minister James Milligan says the proposal to host WWC games in Canberra is in line with the Liberals’ 10-year strategic vision for sport and recreation in the ACT, Find Your Game.
The plan aims to make Canberra the “amateur sporting capital” by establishing the city as a sports innovation and research hub and offer a broad range of high-performance options for athletes and spectators.