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South Africa drops out of race to host 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup

Australian football star Sam Kerr is hoping to play in front of a home crowd at the next Fifa Women's World Cup (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

The South African Football Federation has announced that it will not be continuing with its bid to host the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

Fifa’s deadline for the submission of bid books and other relevant documentation is today (Friday), but Safa has confirmed that will not be going ahead with its efforts to stage the tournament.

Officially, Safa is briefing that it wants to focus on developing the status of women’s football in South Africa, including growing its nascent national women’s football league, before bidding for a major international tournament, suggesting it may come back with a fresh approach for the 2027 edition.

However, the economic crisis in the country, and reluctance of the government to embark on a potentially expensive campaign to host the World Cup, have also worked against the proposal.

“We resolved that as an association we should not proceed with the bid,” said Safa’s acting chief executive officer Hay Mokoena. “We want to strengthen our women’s national league first before we invite the world to come and play. Definitely, we will consider doing 2027 and we think by that time, we will have a stronger women’s league and a much stronger women’s national team”.

South Korea has also announced that it has dropped out of the running, bringing an end to its mooted joint bid with North Korea. Relations between to the two countries had seemingly thawed, and Fifa president Gianni Infantino had strongly encouraged the two to work together on a World Cup bid.

However, the relationship between the two has worsened again in recent weeks, preventing dialogue around the joint bid from taking place, and South Korea has said it cannot continue with a sole bid due to new Fifa legislation around organising committees that run counter to South Korean laws. While the Korean Football Association attempted to reach a compromise with Fifa, this was not possible within the time frame, and the South Korean government could not approve the bid.

Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, have confirmed that they are moving forward with a joint bid, something that had been mooted since Fifa confirmed that it was expanding the 2023 edition to include 32 teams. 

Speaking to SportBusiness earlier this year, Fifa’s chief women’s football officer, Sarai Bareman, said that the organisation would welcome joint bids, both as a way to take the the flagship women’s football event to more people, and to spread the costs and burden of hosting 32 teams.

Read this: “Women’s football is about so much more than what happens on the pitch” | Fifa’s Sarai Bareman

The football associations from both countries are heavily backing the bid. Twelve host cities have been included in the proposal, with seven in Australia – Adelaide, Brisbane, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Sydney – joined by five in New Zealand – Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Sydney’s 75,000-seat Olympic Stadium has been put forward as the host venue for the final.

Chris Nikou, president of Football Federation Australia, said: “The decision to host the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2023 in Australia and New Zealand, two leading nations in the promotion of women’s football and gender equality, will accelerate the game at both the grassroots and professional levels, lighting a path for future generations of footballers, administrators, and fans in Asia-Pacific.”

The final candidates who submit bid books will be officially revealed by Fifa later today, with Colombia, Japan, Brazil and Argentina expected to be in contention.