Australia and New Zealand move towards joint 2023 Women’s World Cup bid

Caitlin Foord of Australia contests the ball with Abby Erceg of New Zealand during a 2019 Cup of Nations match (by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Football Federation Australia (FFA) chairman Chris Nikou has stated that a joint bid with New Zealand for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup “makes sense” with under a month to go before a bid book needs to be entered to world football’s governing body.

Australia and New Zealand are currently listed as separate bidders for the next edition of the World Cup, but July’s decision by the ruling Fifa Council to expand the tournament from 24 to 32 teams has placed extra strain on infrastructure if the event is hosted in one country.

Speaking today (Tuesday), Nikou said that the increased demand for stadia has led to talks over a joint bid, with a decision expected in the coming days. “We’re still in dialogue with New Zealand and a decision will be made shortly as the bid book is due on December 13,” Nikou said, according to the AAP news agency.

“We’ve had really constructive dialogue with Football New Zealand and we have a great relationship. A dual bid makes sense – the competition going from 24 countries to 32 means we need to go from six to eight venues to eight to 10…it’s certainly a possibility.”

Nikou was speaking as Victoria became the latest Australian state to commit to FFA’s bid, putting forward Melbourne’s AAMI Park for the tournament. Victoria’s Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, Martin Pakula, said the June-July timing of the World Cup means that no AFL Aussie rules football venues, including the MCG, would be available.

“I don’t think we’re the only city in Australia where ground availability is challenging,” he said. “You have to provide almost exclusive access to the World Cup for a number of weeks.”

Eight candidates currently remain in the running to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, with Bolivia dropping out in September following Fifa’s announcement that the tournament would expand from 24 to 32 teams.

Along with Australia and New Zealand; Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, South Africa and South Korea are the nations that remain in the running, with South Korea’s bid potentially including venues in neighbouring North Korea. Sport has become an increasingly important peace-making tool in relations between the two countries.

In August, the Royal Belgian Football Association (KBVB/URBSFA/KBFV) denied that it would bid after Fifa announced that it had expressed interest in hosting rights to the expanded tournament. National federations must submit their final detailed bid plans by December 13.

The candidates will then face a full evaluation in January and February of next year, with a Fifa Council vote set to take place in May, giving the winning nation a little over three years to prepare to host the showpiece of the women’s international game.