Australia and New Zealand will co-host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, FIFA said on Thursday, sending one of its two largest tournaments – and its first women’s championship with 32 teams – to two nations that have adopted the women’s game.
FIFA, the governing body of world football, announced its decision after its governing council voted by video conference. It was also announced that the council has approved $ 1 billion in women’s football investments over the next four years. This funding could prove crucial to developing enough competitive national teams to fill the field with 32 teams.
“We got a treasure,” said Johanna Wood, a member of the New Zealand FIFA Council, who withdrew from the vote. “We will take care of the treasure and work towards making women’s football more and more the focus and focus of the world stage.”
The council voted 22 to 13. A block of European and South American members voted for Colombia. The US member, former US football president Sunil Gulati, voted for the Australia-New Zealand offer. As with the vote for the 2026 Men’s World Cup two years ago, FIFA was the first since the reforms after previous voting scandals released the votes of the members after the decision.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said he was surprised by the block votes in the tender process. He said that the technical reports must have an impact on the final decision of voters and that he based his own vote on their conclusions.
Infantino also suggested that the decision about future hosts be taken out of the hands of the Council and decided by FIFA member associations at their annual convention, a change that has already been made to the choice of the World Cup host.
“There is no reason to treat men and women differently,” said Infantino.
The Australia and New Zealand joint offer, the first from two countries from two different confederations, has been considered the leading candidate for landing the tournament for months. Several other candidates had previously dropped out in the process. Until Thursday, the only remaining competition was an offer from Colombia.
The winning plan included the use of 13 stadiums in 12 cities – seven in Australia and five in New Zealand. Two of the stadiums would be in Sydney, including the 70,000-seat facility that was built for the 2000 Summer Olympics.
Australia and New Zealand will try to take advantage of the home advantage. The Matildas, as Australia’s team is called, have participated in every Women’s World Cup since 1995, and the team has perhaps the best player in the world Chelsea striker Sam Kerr. But Australia has never finished the quarter-finals of the World Cup and, despite great hopes, left France in 2019 after losing a penalty shoot-out against Norway in the round of 16.
With four appearances in a row, New Zealand has also become an integral part of the World Cup. The Football Ferns are the dominant force in their FIFA confederation and have players competing in some of the best professional leagues in the world. But New Zealand’s isolation and the spread of its top players to other parts of the world kept it from getting up to the top tier of women’s football.
FIFA evaluator had rated The offer between Australia and New Zealand was the highest, taking into account not only the infrastructure of the countries, but also that the offer would be “the economically most advantageous offer”, which is important in any FIFA discussion.
Colombia’s supply would require substantial infrastructure investments. The same evaluators warnedand “it is not clear whether this level of investment will be available.”
Colombia and the South American football regional governing body lodged a complaint about the technical assessment, saying that it had drawn “wrong and discriminatory conclusions”.
Initially, the winners expected to face a much larger field. FIFA announced in August last year that a record 10 associations had expressed interest in hosting the 2023 event, in line with the success of last year’s Women’s World Cup in France, which was won by the United States. It was done accidentallyIt turned out and several others finally decided not to make any formal offers.
In fact, only three offers went into the evaluation phase, and Japan’s announcement on Monday to withdraw after doing more than Colombia in the ratings made FIFA’s decision a lot easier.
Still, the growing interest in even thinking about hosting was encouraging for FIFA. After more than 1.1 million fans attended the last edition in France, it took Infantino less than a month to gather the support he needed to expand the event to 32 teams In 2011 the field was still half as big with 16 teams.
Infantino said FIFA would look into the possibility of turning the Women’s World Cup into a biennial event instead of the usual four-year event. Such a move would increase interest in women’s play, but also increase the number of hosts and allow FIFA to take it to places it hasn’t been before, such as South America and Africa.
While FIFA often chooses the host of the Men’s World Cup at least one cycle in advance – the next host country, Qatar, had a dozen years to prepare in 2022 – it emerged from last year’s women’s championship with more enthusiasm than concrete plans. The countries finally had until September 2 to confirm their intention to offer. Completed bid books had to be submitted by December 13, which further restricted the field, and FIFA then carried out official inspections earlier this year.
The pandemic delayed a vote scheduled for May until Thursday. This means that the winners have a little over three years to prepare.