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Canterbury football boss 'disappointed' Christchurch snubbed from hosting Women's World Cup games

Canterbury football administrators were in a state of shock after finding out that Christchurch missed out on hosting games in the 2023 women's world cup.

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NZ Football boss Andrew Pragnell says Christchurch’s stadium infrastructure didn’t reach FIFA standards. Source: 1 NEWS

FIFA has confirmed that Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin and five Australian cities will host the 32-team tournament.

The original proposal had Eden Park, Waikato Stadium, Wellington Stadium, Christchurch Stadium and Dunedin Stadium hosting games along with Adelaide, Brisbane, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth and Sydney.

Launceston and Newcastle have also missed out.

While Christchurch stadium hosted games during the 2015 men's under-20 FIFA tournament, a multi million dollar upgrade of the temporary ground was needed.

New Zealand Football CEO Andrew Pragnell says it just wasn't up to scratch.

"The standards for a tier one FIFA event, one of their biggest events, are very high and they're well aware that the stadium is temporary so in that regards it's a fairly cut and dried case."

"It's sad given they (Christchurch) have got a stadium that would be perfect the following year."

Mainland Football CEO Julian Bowden was shocked that they'd missed out and says it'll be hugely disappointing for the locals.

"It'll be tough on the football community here, It means we're obviously going to have to get on planes and trains and cars to go and watch games in other parts of the country so yeah it is disappointing."

Both New Zealand Football and Mainland Football say they'll now be working to make sure Christchurch is involved in the tournament somehow.

"We have to make sure the city is involved in the event and there are opportunities we'll explore with FIFA around having team base camps there," Pragnell says.

"There is also a legacy plan and resources that sit behind that plan is for the whole country and not just the cities hosting so it's critical that they become a massive part of that."

The football tournament is the last in a trio of women's world cups to be held in New Zealand over the next two years.

The women's 50-over Cricket World Cup and Rugby World Cup, both originally planned for this year have been pushed back until next year - due to Covid-19.

Northern Region Football Federation chief executive Laura Menzies, says these events need to have an impact beyond the pitch.

"If we don't showcase some of the equity and equality challenges we still have, which we can use these events as a showcase but also a stepping stone to make some really significant change for those athletes for the administrators for the sports and all the young girls and boys around the country who are watching, then we have missed an opportunity and absolutely these events are really crucial," Menzies said.

The opening match of the tournament involving the Football Ferns will be played at Eden Park while New Zealand and Australia will host one semi-final each and the final will be played in Sydney.

While the eyes of the football world will be on Eden Park for it's a venue the home side aren't familiar with.

The Football Ferns have never played at the Auckland stadium and for New Zealand age-group representative and Aucklander Saskia Vosper it signals a big moment for football.

"You think of Eden Park as a rugby or cricket turf and football doesn't get played in this kind of big stadium in New Zealand and so to be even able to walk on the pitch today was exciting," Vosper said.

Down the road in Hamilton, WaiBOP chief executive Karyn Walters is waiting on the match schedule announcement later this year.

She's got her fingers crossed for a match involving the world champions USA at Waikato Stadium but said the 2015 tournament showed them what to expect.

"It's not always the big guys that bring the passion and the level of spectator support.

"Being at the stadium and seeing some of those smaller countries celebrating each other back in 2015 was amazing and the city really got behind it."

It is the first time a senior World Cup finals will be held in Oceania.

The tournament will run from 10 July to 20 August 2023.

The expanded 32 team tournament will start with eight groups of four teams with the top two from each group entering a knockout tournament.

New Zealand and Australia automatically qualify for the tournament as hosts.

The 2019 World Cup in France attracted more than a billion viewers and Auckland mayor Phil Goff expects more the 2023 event to be unparalleled in Auckland.

"For the city financially it's probably the biggest event ever, we think that the Rugby World Cup was huge, that was 450 million people watching internationally, they're predicting 1.3 billion will be watching this Cup."

rnz.co.nz