26 Jun 2020

NZ Football celebrate, look towards next steps

5:43 pm on 26 June 2020

The football community across New Zealand is in celebration mode after the country was awarded the rights to host the 2023 Women's World Cup alongside Australia.

NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell celebrates after their joint bid with Australia won the hosting rights for the 2023 Women's World Cup.

NZ Football CEO Andrew Pragnell celebrates after their joint bid with Australia won the hosting rights for the 2023 Women's World Cup. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

A vote of the Fifa Council in Zurich at 4am on Friday saw the trans-Tasman partnership comfortably prevail over lone rival Colombia.

For New Zealand team goalkeeper Erin Nayler, the early morning announcement was a whirlwind of emotions.

"It was actually more nerve wracking than I thought it was going to be, so my heart was racing.

"We didn't look the best at 4am in the morning but apart from that it was great."

The good news even produced a few tears for some.

Football Ferns legend, and New Zealand Football's first head of Women's Football, Michele Cox said it was cause for her to reflect how far things had come.

"Seeing the journey from where we've been, where we were prevented from playing in some circumstances right through to having the biggest sporting event for women in the world, that's pretty amazing.

"You sort of think, oh my goodness, we've got there, finally."

For those most closely connected to the bid process, there were emotions of a different kind.

New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell said, after the initial relief subsided, he was able to reflect on just what they'd achieved.

"When we entered this race we didn't actually conceive that we might win it.

"We were entering a bid because there was an opportunity and it's quite surreal to come to the finish line and cross it like this."

Paige Satchell and Tameka Yallop pose for a photo at Eden Park after New Zealand and Australia won the hosting rights to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.

Photo: Photosport

Pragnell didn't get a wink of sleep last night but said a day full of media commitments was still well worth it.

"To a certain extent it may have flown on the radar how big this is.

"A lot of the football community are well aware of the way this has been growing but some of the mainstream or non-football community are now seeing how big this.

"This is huge. This is one of the biggest sporting events in the world."

With that in mind, and just three years until the tournament, the time for celebrations are short-lived.

Work on an initial operating phase of around six months began in earnest on Monday.

"I'm expecting we will receive a letter and a few other contacts from Fifa quite early on and begin to lay those foundations.

"Once that's laid, you begin recruiting a workforce and another entity to help run this major major event."

New Zealand was no minor partner in this joint venture, either.

The country would receive 45 per cent of the matches, including the tournament opener at Eden Park and a semifinal.

With last years' Women's World Cup in France attracting a global audience of more than a billion people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the event presented a huge opportunity.

"It is an incredibly large event but off the back of what we've seen with cricket and rugby it's a chance for us to showcase our athletes, what role models they are and the work we're doing to bring equality into sport as well."

Paige Satchell and Football Ferns team celebrate her goal.


Sports Minister Grant Robertson agreed.

"The old saying you can't be what you can't see applies in sport as much as anywhere.

"We want to make sure that young girls and young woman in New Zealand get the opportunity to see a tournament like this up close, and achieve their dreams as well.

"This is a really important day in crystallizing that strategy."

A strategy which had also led to New Zealand winning the rights to host next year's cricket and rugby World Cups for women.

And a strategy New Zealand Football were very much on board with.

Andrew Pragnell said they want to ensure a large portion of the $14 million in direct investment the national body was receiving from the Government towards the legacy the event leaves.

"Upskilling the capability of our female and woman's coaches, referees, administrators and strengthening the woman's game up and down the country.

"There's opportunities, of course, for infrastructure and all of those things need to be explored.

"We want to not just run a great tournament, the best tournament ever, we want to actually transform football in this country as well."

An ambitious goal, but one which seemed less lofty after you've pulled off what even you thought was impossible.