Expanded World Cup offers financial windfall for All Whites

Marco Rojas celebrates his first goal for New Zealand All Whites v New Caledonia. Photo/Photosport
Marco Rojas celebrates his first goal for New Zealand All Whites v New Caledonia. Photo/Photosport

Football New Zealand would likely enjoy a financial windfall of "considerably greater" than $US10 million (NZ$14.3m), if the All Whites can qualify for the proposed 48-team FIFA World Cup format.

The game's international body has approved the expanded tournament for 2026. It is expected to flesh out more details in May, but projects an increased profit of $640 million from the event.

Football New Zealand chief executive Andrew Martin believes the financial reward for making the cut would be in excess of the $1US10 million received from the All Whites' last foray onto the global stage - the "unbeaten" 2010 campaign in South Africa.

"We want to make sure the prizemoney available isn't diluted," Martin told Radio Sport's Nigel Yalden. "I think that's important.

"Going all that way and finding the prizemoney is diluted would be a big negative, but that hasn't been mentioned.

"Indeed, it looks like that could be a positive in that the financials that FIFA is talking about are going to considerably greater, so that's great."

The new format is expected to include at least one automatic spot for the Oceania Confederation, which would make All Whites qualification much easier than is currently the case.

Since Australia moved to the Asian zone in 2006, New Zealand has dominated its Pacific neighbours at the initial stage, but had to beat Bahrain from Asia to qualify for South Africa and lost to Mexico from CONCACAF (North & Central America, Caribbean) four years later.

The All Whites are currently at the Oceania qualifying stage for the 2018 tournament in Russia. If they emerge as expected, they then face the fifth-placed South American team in November.

Martin estimated the current four-year World Cup cycle would cost $7-8 million, so the reward needed to recognise that level of expenditure.

"It's a big investment and people want to see the team perform and see the team play well, but we have to make sure we balance the books along the way," said Martin.

What would a 48-team World Cup mean to New Zealand?

But he was cautious about whether a more consistent presence at the World Cup might result in increased funding from High Performance Sport NZ.

"Let's hope," he said. "Ultimately, the challenge with HPSNZ is they're really focused on Olympic medals or top six/top eight performances.

"As we argue every cycle, at a World Cup with 211 countries, it's very difficult for a small country to get into that top eight.

"It's a continued debate we have and it will continue for years to come. We just need to make sure our team is competitive and performing, and then who knows what will come."

Although the revised format is still nine years away, that gives Football New Zealand enough time to realise the fruits of the development cycle.

"Developing players in a sport like football takes 10 years plus," said Martin. "Going back to the investment made after the 2010 World Cup, when we developed the Whole of Football Plan, we're starting to see the benefits now, six or seven years on.

"These cycles take time. That six, seven or eight-year-old watching the World Cup final, watching players that he wants to emulate, that takes a 10-year cycle to get them through.

"If New Zealand is on the world stage more often ... we'll get more Steve Sumners, Wynton Rufers and Winston Reids, which is what we want."

WORLD CUP TEAMS IF IT STARTED TOMORROW (BASED ON CURRENT FIFA RANKINGS)
USA, England, Croatia, France, Costa Rica, Panama, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovakia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Argentina, Wales, Belgium, Spain, Honduras, Curacao, Algeria, New Zealand, Italy, China, Peru, Australia, Brazil, Poland, Germany, Uruguay, Mexico, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Republic of Ireland, Uzbekistan, Japan, Iceland, Portugal, Colombia, Switzerland, Chile, Ghana, Egypt, Haiti, DR Congo, Iran, Turkey, South Korea, Holland

- NZ Herald

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