22 Aug 2023

FIFA sets benchmark for major sports events, govt urged to keep momentum

12:33 pm on 22 August 2023
Football Ferns celebrate the win over Norway at Eden Park.

Football Ferns celebrate their win over Norway at Eden Park. Photo: Photosport

The success of the FIFA Women's World Cup has cemented New Zealand on the sporting events world stage but there is concern Aotearoa will drop the ball now the tournament is over.

More than 340,000 fans witnessed nine matches at Auckland's Eden Park.

The record for a crowd at a football match in New Zealand - women's or men's - was broken three times, and the last three matches played at Eden Park sold out.

Auckland University professor of sports sociology Toni Bruce said the next government needed to keep the momentum going.

Professor Toni Bruce

Auckland University professor of sports sociology Toni Bruce. Photo: Supplied

"Historically, we've had these moments when suddenly it's about women's sport and everyone's really excited about it and we think things are going to change and then it's fallen away," Bruce said.

"With the development of new competitions and that pathway from young girls right through to professional athletes, this might mean this is actually the moment when women's sport finds its place."

Bruce said the National Media Coverage Survey has also had a huge impact, with the media being able to see how little they were covering the events.

Coverage has gone from 11 percent in 2008 to 28 percent this year.

"If media is paying attention, that tells the public this is an important activity. So that's another kind of layer that's building this idea that, women's sport is actually super exciting and it's important to watch," she said.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited is responsible for the city's economic development and attracting high-profile events to the city.

Earlier this year, 200 jobs were lost from the agency as the city council cut its budget.

Director of arts, entertainment and events Richard Clarke said the tournament has set a benchmark for major sporting events in New Zealand.

"Regardless of whether they're men's or women's. I think that's the really exciting outcome from a lot of the conversations and legacy outcomes of this event, we can start moving past gender comparisons and just appreciating them as amazing events in their own right."

More than 85,000 people visited the fan zone in Auckland and accommodation bookings were up by 51.4 percent on this time last year.

"Feedback, particularly from Auckland tourism operators, is they've had significant increases in bookings through this July-August period. If the tournament hadn't been on, these are generally very lean months," Clarke said.

But these benefits could be short-lived if funding to bid for future global events was not available.

"An event like the one we've just had takes eight to 10 years or more to secure, the planning and the bid process. That sort of work needs to be underway now for those future events. There's just not a lot of clarity around where the funding is going to come from for them."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said he was up for funding more global events to come to New Zealand.

"It is important we have a good pipeline of international events, that we can pick the event we can genuinely deliver well and support. We do need that pipeline to be built over coming years so it develops our infrastructure, builds our sports, our tourism and attraction to New Zealand as well," Luxon said.

Labour's sport and recreation spokesperson Grant Robertson said, if re-elected, the party will continue its focus on encouraging and inspiring women and girls in sport.

"We will build on the first-ever Women and Girls Sports Strategy which we created in 2018.

"A Labour-led government will also continue to fund the Major Events Fund, as we have done throughout our time in office, to bid for international tournaments that will provide benefits for the country," Robertson said.

Meanwhile, Taupō hopes to capitalise on FIFA putting New Zealand on the world's radar, after signing on to be the home of the V8 Supercars for three years from 2024.

Mayor David Trewavas said it was expected to attract 30,000 people each day.

"There's some boosts for tourism operators, accommodation providers, retail, all sorts of service industries as well. Not only for Taupō but the region as well. Rotorua, Hawke's Bay will benefit from this event as well. Everyone in the central North Island will be able to do some business-to-business contact. It's a wonderful opportunity."

Auckland's next big event was the international sailing competition, SailGP, in March next year, followed by the biggest global choir contest - the World Choir Games - in July.

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