This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
“I am delighted we are supporting a bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.”
With those magic words, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed on Tuesday what many people within the football community had suspected for months – Australia is aiming to host the world’s largest women’s sporting event in just six years.
While the government described their approach as “cautious”, the bid has received backing from both sides of politics, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten tweeting this week that Labor would support the FFA’s bid to bring the tournament here.
Hosting an event of this magnitude would have untold benefits for football in Australia, from the obvious opportunity for fans to experience a tournament such as this first-hand, and the potential of the Matildas being crowned champions on home soil, to improvements in facilities at grassroots level through legacy grants and increased registrations among girls and women across the country.
This halo effect has been noticeable over the last two years, with the 2015 Asian Cup said to have brought an increase of up to 20 per cent in football participation, while research showed that the national economy benefitted from an $81-million boost in spending throughout the three-week tournament.
However, despite all the potential upsides, there seems to be trepidation from some quarters that bidding for and hosting a Women’s World Cup would only come at great cost to the Australian taxpayer. After the fiasco of Australia’s bid to host the 2022 men’s World Cup, it’s understandable that people would question the wisdom of once again getting involved with an organisation proven to be murky at best and brazenly corrupt at worst.
Fortunately for taxpayers and the FFA alike, he truth of the matter is quite the opposite. While the three last three men’s World Cups to be awarded have attracted 12 exorbitant bids from across 14 countries, just five countries have bid to host the three women’s competitions up until 2019 (Germany, Canada, Zimbabwe, France and South Korea).
Similarly, a grand total of zero stadiums have been built specifically to host Women’s World Cup games in five tournaments between 2007 and 2019, while as many as 27 venues will have been constructed to hold matches for the men’s events between 2010 and 2022 – including up to nine in Qatar, costing an estimated A$250 billion.
While construction and upgrades are already planned for venues such as ANZ Stadium and Pirtek Stadium in Sydney, Australia already has the sporting infrastructure necessary to host a major sporting event. Venues such as Hindmarsh Oval in Adelaide, AAMI Park in Melbourne and Lang Park in Brisbane are already consistent with the quality and scale of venues used in previous tournaments. These include the 20,000-seat Stade des Alpes in Grenoble, the 30,000-seat Volkswagen-Arena in Wolfsburg or the 55,000-seat BC Place in Vancouver, meaning that – in theory, at least – Australia could host a Women’s World Cup tomorrow at very little cost to the taxpayer.
This is all a pipe dream until further bids are confirmed; as things stand, only Australia and Colombia have formally launched bids to host the 2023 tournament, though Japan, New Zealand and Thailand have all expressed interest, with the host expected to be announced by FIFA in 2019.
Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics could work as both a help and hindrance for Japan’s bid, while FIFA could make history by awarding the tournament to Colombia or New Zealand in what would be a first for both South America and Oceania.
Make no mistake: Australia would put on a spectacular Women’s World Cup if chosen to host the tournament in 2023, and would have a great chance of lifting the trophy at home if the current crop of players are anything to go by. For now though, all we as fans can do is watch and wait as bids come and go over the next two years, and hope that the FFA can make a strong enough case that FIFA have no choice but to award us with what would be the biggest event in Australia’s football history.
I’ve enjoyed seeing plenty of commentary in the media this week about the upcoming ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup which begins in England on 24 June with a match between England and India.
The Australian Women’s Cricket team have a couple of new faces in the squad and I’m particularly looking forward to how a bowling attack potentially featuring fast bowlers like Sarah Aley and Belinda Vakarewa handles the English conditions.
In Australia, women’s cricket has progressed significantly in the last couple of years – buoyed by the success of the WBBL, the professionalisation of the NSW Breakers and the success of the then named Southern Stars.
Women’s cricket does not owe its success to men like Chris Gayle and when I read an article this week talking about the role Gayle could potentially have in promoting women’s sport, my first thought was ‘no thanks’.
According to Hamila Khan, founder of a charity called Opening Boundaries, Gayle has a part to play in helping to increase awareness of women’s sport.
When I think about Gayle and women, I do not think of a man who recognises the importance of women as equals. Instead I think of a man who has humiliated talented female sports journalists on air, allegedly behaved inappropriately in dressing rooms and refused to apologise when his behaviour offends.
Women’s sport needs champions – but Gayle is not one of them.