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The pros and cons from FIFA’s review of 2023 Women’s World Cup bids

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The bullet points from FIFA’s review of the three 2023 Women’s World Cup bids.

United States of America v Netherlands : Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Joosep Martinson - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Update: Japan withdrew their bid on June 22 and stated that they would support the joint Australia/New Zealand bid.

FIFA has released their bid evaluation report for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, looking at the bids from the three host candidates: Australia and New Zealand in a joint bid, Colombia, and Japan. Brazil formally removed themselves from candidacy for hosting this week, and has said that they will instead support Colombia’s bid in bringing a WWC to the CONMEBOL region.

Leaving aside that still not having a host three years out from an event that, on the men’s side, is given far, far more prep time (bidding for the 2022 Men’s World Cup began in 2009 and Qatar was selected in 2010), the FIFA technical report breaks down their evaluation into several categories including, stadiums, team and referee facilities, accommodation, commercial, transport, security, and (don’t laugh) sustainability and human rights.

You can read the full report here, while we’ve broken down some of the key findings and the major pros and cons for each host below.

Overview

FIFA has ranked each country’s bid on a scale from 0 to 5, compiling scores from various categories where 0 = “does not meet minimum requirements” and 5 = “very good,” although the report specifies that bids needed to reach at least a 2 in key infrastructure components like stadiums. FIFA conducted site visits throughout January and February of 2020 in addition to reviewing their bids.

The Australia/New Zealand joint bid came in the highest at 4.1, with Japan close behind at 3.9, and Colombia scoring 2.8. The categories are weighted, though, so the final numbers need some context. Based on the weight percentages, the most important factors that FIFA is considering by far are stadiums and commercial viability (including balancing costs against revenue, sponsorship, and media sales), followed by team and referee facilities. So even though Colombia has a relatively low overall bid score, their high-risk commercial assessment is particularly dragging down their average.

Colombia

Proposed host cities: Armenia, Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Cúcuta , Manizales, Medellín, Pereira

Pros

  • Could be vastly important in kickstarting development of the women’s game in the region
  • Single time zone that aligns with American market
  • Plenty of proposed stadiums
  • Low staffing costs “due to local wage expectations”
  • No other major competitions in country during the proposed dates
  • Previous experience hosting international football tournaments (eventually including 2021 Copa América)

Cons

  • Proposed opener/final stadium well below required 55k capacity (El Campín in Bogotá, 39,512 capacity)
  • Stadiums may not meet space requirements for hospitality, VIP, and media areas and may require extensive upgrades, including “significant investment” in IT&T infrastructure and upgrades to wired and wireless network services at all but two venues
  • Extremely humid playing conditions in August, high wet-bulb globe temperatures in some host cities, and extra acclimatization days needed for Bogotá due to elevation
  • Proposed training sites need “considerable” renovation and upgrade
  • Low revenue forecast, including low projected ticket sales
  • Time zone doesn’t line up with European evening viewing times
  • Limited media sales opportunities due to existing commercial agreements
  • One third of routes between host cities require connecting flights
  • Concerns about labor rights of workers, particularly in construction and operational services

Japan

Proposed host cities: Kobe, Kyoto, Saitama, Sapporo, Sendai, Suita, Tokyo, Toyota

Pros

  • Strong track record in delivering major sporting events
  • Japan has a clear plan for using the WWC to establish a “pan-Asian women’s football movement” to drive development from the grassroots level up
  • Innovative event promotion proposals integrating technology and targeting national sponsors
  • All proposed stadiums are event-ready without need for major upgrade work in terms of accommodation
  • Excellent local accommodation within range of match venues
  • “Significant” estimated ticketing and hospitality revenues and strong sponsorship revenue forecast
  • Single time zone with strong domestic media sales
  • Strong inter-city connectivity by air, rail, and road
  • Telecom service providers have high level of experience in live broadcasting high-profile international sporting events

Cons

  • Sendai stadium is below minimum 20k capacity required for group-stage stadiums
  • Most match venues need wired and wireless network service upgrades
  • Some pitches do not currently meet size requirements
  • Some proposed team hotels are too far from training sites, and most proposed training sites don’t have on-site gyms
  • Higher staffing and international travel costs and very high estimated rental fees for stadiums and training sites
  • Time zone doesn’t line up with European evening viewing times
  • Competition period (July 10 - August 20) is the hottest and most humid part of the year in Japan; Japan has suggested moving the tournament start to early June, which would require amending women’s international match calendar
  • Some concerns about sustainable event management and applying accessibility legislation to stadiums and host cities

Australia/New Zealand

Proposed host cities:
AUS: Adelaide, Brisbane, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney
NZ: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Wellington

Pros

  • Hosts have detailed plans for using existing women’s football programs in conjunction with WWC to develop the game in the Asia-Pacific region
  • Strong communications plans includes post-tournament “legacy” programs for further development
  • Plenty of proposed stadiums, with most significantly exceeding capacity requirements
  • Most proposed host cities have excellent local accommodation
  • Strong revenue forecasts in tickets and sponsorship
  • Significant support of both host countries’ federal and regional governments with approximately USD $75M in funding allocated subject to conditions
  • Strong TV appeal to Asian markets
  • Considerable experience from both countries staging major tournaments
  • Most host cities have good international connectivity and telecom service providers experienced at broadcasting high-profile international sporting events

Cons

  • Three stadiums are currently short of minimum capacity requirements
  • Some base camps and match venues are significantly far apart
  • Significantly higher organizing costs than previous tournaments due to staffing costs for two co-hosts, considerable geographical footprint, technical services, and a few other issues
  • Multiple time zones that don’t line up with American and European evening viewing times
  • Considerable journey times between host cities
  • Some host cities may have “moderate wintry conditions” in July/August that pose some challenges
  • Bid doesn’t describe clear plans for 5G mobile services in New Zealand

The overall sense here is that Australia and New Zealand have, so far, completed the most comprehensive bid, which includes assurances from their respective governments. Japan’s bid is also good, although the FIFA report notes that they were legally unable to submit government support documents using the approved FIFA template, instead providing equivalent documents but in the form of government support letters; these documents are for government guarantees around things like host cities, stadiums, airports, tax exemptions, labor laws, and visas. Meanwhile, Colombia has provided most of these government guarantees in FIFA’s template and illustrated a “firm level” of support from the national government, but the report notes that their bid lacks detail or concrete plans in many areas.

Now that each country’s bid has been submitted and evaluated for minimum hosting requirements, the bids will go to the FIFA Council for final selection pending appointment of the host on June 25. The results of each ballot, including the individual votes of each FIFA Council member, will be public.

Who do you want to see hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup? Let us know in the comments!