Australia and New Zealand win race to host Women’s World Cup in 2023
Australia and New Zealand have won the vote to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup, despite the outsiders Colombia having won the backing of Uefa, the confederation with the largest number of members on the Fifa council. The vote was not as close as anticipated, with the combined bid of Australia and New Zealand receiving 22 votes to Colombia’s 13.
Australia and New Zealand had received public backing from the Asian Football Confederation, which has seven votes, and won support from all members of the council from the Confederation of African Football and Concacaf, which represents North and Central America and the Caribbean.
The president of New Zealand Football, Johanna Wood, said: “We believe we have been given a treasure and we will look after that treasure. We will work towards putting women’s football even more front and centre on the world stage.”
On the eve of the vote a meeting of Uefa delegates to the Fifa council appeared to have swung the odds in favour of Colombia after two members criticised the Fifa technical reports into the bids and argued that because the Women’s World Cup was a “development tournament” representatives should back Colombia.
Falling in line, all nine Uefa members did so, alongside the South American delegates, despite, according to a source, the French representative, Noël Le Graët, and the Football Association’s Greg Clarke feeling frustrated at the difficult position they found themselves in following a perceived steamrollering of the decision in the meeting.
Clarke is up for re-election as a Uefa representative on the council next year, and the FA will also be conscious of which confederations it upsets before a likely bid to host the 2030 men’s World Cup.
It is understood Clarke turned down a call this week from New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who took part in last-ditch phone calls to urge delegates to back the joint bid.
Fifa’s technical reports gave the Australia and New Zealand bid a score of 4.1 out of five and Colombia a score of 2.8. The neighbouring nations ran a slick campaign that involved recruiting more than 800,000 public backers to its #AsOne team and a joint letter to the Fifa council from Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, and Ardern two days before the vote that promised to create “a profound and enduring legacy for the future of women’s football within the region and beyond”.
Uefa explained its decision to back Colombia by saying: “Even though the Colombian bid was not the one rated highest technically by Fifa, European members of the Fifa council felt it represented a strategic opportunity for the development of women’s football in South America thanks to the legacy and increase of attention for the women’s game that the tournament would bring to the continent.
“It was a choice between two countries – Australia and New Zealand – where women’s football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential. It’s important to add that European members of the Fifa council agreed to vote together on major issues as a matter of solidarity.”
Brazil withdrew its bid on 8 June, unifying the South American vote behind Colombia, which Japan cited as a factor when it pulled out of the race on 22 June.