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World at our feet: Australia, NZ to host soccer showpiece, with no thanks to the Poms

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Australia and New Zealand have won the right to stage one of soccer’s showpiece events – the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – but it has been partly soured by the decision of England to vote against their bid.

 

 

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The Trans-Tasman bid received 22 of the 35 valid votes from the FIFA Council on Thursday to pip Colombia for the showpiece event which will take place between July and August in 2023.

It will take place across 12 cities in Australia and New Zealand, with the opening match to be played at Eden Park in Auckland and the final in Sydney.

However the English FA’s decision to snub the trans-Tasman bid has been labelled disrespectful by FFA chief executive James Johnson.

Despite scoring 4.1 out of five in a FIFA evaluation report compared to sole rival Colombia’s 2.9 score, the combined Australia and New Zealand bid was overlooked by English FA chairman Greg Clarke in the vote at the FIFA Council meeting.

Clarke’s vote was part of a block decision by the UEFA confederation, which gave the South Americans eight of their final tally of 13 votes.

While it had little impact on the final margin, with the Australia and New Zealand bid claiming 22 votes, the snub by England left Johnson fuming.

“I actually don’t find it very funny,” Johnson told Fox Sports.

“I think that was quite disrespectful to be perfectly honest with you.

“It was a process that was, I think, run very well by FIFA … we scored very highly on a report that was an objective report.

“We know now what the voting was like, and I must say we are disappointed with the way that the FA voted.”

FIFA president Gianni Infantino  believes Australia and New Zealand are the perfect hosts to deliver the “greatest ever” Women’s World Cup.

“There will 32 countries unlike in France where we had 24 which means when you qualify for this event it is the biggest boost ever for women’s football,” said Infantino.

“We welcome that and I am sure we will have the best World Cup ever, in Australia and New Zealand.”

Clarke’s decision to align with the Colombian bid appeared set when reports emerged before the vote he had refused to take a phone call from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Infantino admitted he was surprised to see a block vote in favour of Colombia from football’s most powerful confederation but refused to criticise the decision, calling it “democracy”.

UEFA said in a statement their vote for Colombia was an attempt to try to increase the growth of the women’s game in South America and their block vote was a solidarity agreement by the European members of the FIFA Council.

“It was a choice between two countries – Australia and New Zealand – where women’s football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential.”

The Australia and New Zealand bid outscored the Colombia bid emphatically in the evaluation report that was submitted to the council members.

It scored 4.1 out of five and bettered the South Americans, who scored 2.9, in every criteria – stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, International Broadcast Centre (IBC), competition-related event sites and commercial.

Infantino said the report, which in the past has been no guarantee of a successful bid, was too good for him to not award his vote to – despite the nine-strong UEFA contingent voting in favour of Colombia.

“It was a difficult decision for me,” he said.

“I love Colombia and I am sure they would have been able to organise a fantastic tournament.

“But at the end of the day we have to look and analyse and look at the bids.

“FIFA in the past has been accused of not giving enough attention to the technical evaluation reports.

“But we have to show that these reports mean something or we are going to have to stop organising biddings.

“If that was not the case with the old FIFA well it won’t be with the new FIFA and I am very proud of that.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern said it would be largest and best Women’s World Cup ever.

“This is a huge positive for the footballing and sporting industries on both sides of the Tasman as we recover and rebuild from COVID-19,” they said in a joint statement.

“As sporting nations we have had a long history of producing some of the best female footballers in the world and this tournament will further inspire our next generation and provide the platform for them to compete on the world stage.”

Australia joined forces with New Zealand to submit a joint bid in December 2019.

Matches will be held in 12 cities with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Launceston to be the Australian hosts.

Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin will host the New Zealand fixtures alongside Auckland.

Football Federation Australia chairman Chris Nikou said the successful bid was an enormous opportunity to grow football in the region.

“FIFA today has made not one, but two countries very happy,” said Nikou.

“We know there is a lot of work to be done.

“But our pledge to the FIFA family is that no stone will be left unturned to produce the best World Cup and grow the women’s game globally and in the Asia-Pacific region.”

New Zealand Football Federation president Johanna Wood promised the two nations would work together to deliver a tournament to remember.

“We’ve always said with this bid, that it is as one and making history and creating opportunities,” she said.

“Chris mentioned when he spoke to council that this is a gift we have been given and we add to that by saying we have been given a treasure.

“We will look after the treasure and make women’s football even more front and centre and we will do that as a team.”

-AAP

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