Why hosting the Women’s World Cup can transform Australia

Missing out on the hosting rights for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups left a bitter taste in the mouths of Australians. Understandably so.


Matildas players with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and FFA boss Steven Lowy Source: AAP

It made a budding football nation simultaneously embarrassed and resentful, eventually calcifying into cynicism.

That feeling still lingers; there’s an active grievance and deep distrust, both internally and externally.

Unfortunately, that attitude will get us nowhere. Seven years have passed since the vote – seven – and there’s only five years left until Qatar 2022.

To put it bluntly, we have to move on. We need to move on. And with the geopolitics of world football changing rapidly, Australia needs get back in the game as an active participant.

With the reality of a men’s World Cup decades away, news that Australia has formally committed to bid for the Women’s World Cup – with full government support – is a tremendous piece of news.

Don’t underestimate just how big this could be.

One of the most important things Australian football can do over the next few decades is engage fiercely in the challenge of being an international powerhouse in women’s football.

It makes sense on every level; way beyond gender equality. If football becomes the choice of women in Australia, that is an incredibly powerful tool for driving the development of the entire sport.

When it comes to participation, it’s mums who are increasingly driving the choices among time-poor, risk-averse Australian families. It makes their lives far easier if their sons and daughters are going to the same junior club, to play a safe, fun sport in a team environment.

We’ve always talked a good game about making football a “family sport”, but the value of hosting a Women’s World Cup means we would get six years of talking about it, the thrill of the event itself, and the after-glow of at least another year - plus a legacy that could potentially extend forever (like USA in 1999).

At the very least, that’s seven years where women’s football can unapologetically catapult itself into the spotlight.

In that time, we have the power to push the cause of the women’s game with actions, not words. On the field, there’s two Women’s Asian Cups (2018 and 2022) and one Women’s World Cup (2019) that will be fought for, too.

Besides, hosting tournaments is something Australia can't afford not to be doing. Not only does it boost the game, but it connects us with the world and provides a rare opportunity to push for upgrades to our football infrastructure.

We’re an event-loving people, too – as we saw during the 2015 Asian Cup, when we reached out to our many multi-cultural communities.

At a political level, it also provided an opportunity to build the relations we’ve sorely lacked, not only in Asian football, but in business and diplomacy.

Sadly, it’s the only major international tournament we’ve hosted in a long time; few people even know we hosted the 2006 Women’s Asian Cup because a) it began just as the men’s World Cup was ending, b) not a single marketing cent was thrown at it and c) all matches were played in one city (Adelaide).

Yes, we should ultimately aim to bring the men’s World Cup to Australia, but until a realistic opening emerges there’s no reason not to be fighting for events like the under-age World Cups, the Club World Cup and the Confederations Cup (if FIFA decides to permanently un-hitch the hosting rights, as they will do for 2021).

They’re all great festivals of football, and as Australians, we’ll probably do them better than most. Hosting any of them helps provide the rush of media oxygen the local game regularly needs.

As for 2023, the federal government's support can't be underestimated, especially after their last foray into bidding. It’s a cheap investment this time - $1 million to get the ball rolling in the early days, followed by another $4 million if we're ultimately chosen. It’s a far cry from the $45.6 million spent on the failed bid for the men's World Cup, but no taxpayer will complain this time around.

There’s even a real chance the event could make money – the brilliantly organised 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany made a net profit of $11.3 million (and gave $4.5 million to local councils and municipalities in taxes) thanks to average crowd of 26,430 over 32 matches.

That event did great things for women’s football there, but in Australia, our scope for potential is even greater.

When it comes to winning the bid, this is clearly a case of better late than never.

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5 min read
Published 14 June 2017 at 10:04am
By Sebastian Hassett