Fifa U20 soccer
WAS IT McLean Park? Maybe it was because Napier was outside the mystical geographic spread or perhaps it had something to do with Whangarei having the edge on panoramic views?
Well, no one really seems to know after the Art Deco city of New Zealand was left stone cold out of Fifa's equation for the Under-20 world cup soccer tournament in 2015 amid widespread disappointment in Hawke's Bay.
"It's up to Fifa to say why they don't want us because we did put our best foot forward," Napier mayor Barbara Arnott said last night after the bid from parks, asset, sports facilities manager Andrew White failed to find traction.
Arnott did concede, though, the Napier City Council probably didn't apply as much funding as Fifa had envisaged.
With McLean Park having secured the rights to stage three one-day internationals in the Cricket World Cup in the same year, the mayor said the council could only do so much in a year.
"Fifa are a law unto themselves so they made the decision. You don't know and they don't tells us either so it's beyond our control," she said, wondering what gave Whangarei the edge.
Toll Stadium in the Far North, which hosts the rugby ITM Cup, has a capacity of 24,000.
McLean Park has only 19,000 which would have meant the council would have had to boost its seating.
"It is disappointing. It would have been great to have some games here because football, a European sport, is becoming more and more important in New Zealand as it grows," she said.
Napier had hosted four games in Under-17 Soccer World Cup in 1999, which was "absolutely fantastic".
Ultimately, the council did its utmost to secure global events that would showcase the region
The "beautiful game" has a universal appeal as the biggest team sport in the world. The 2015 tourney will expose the venues here to an expected worldwide television audience of 170 million people in more than 100 countries.
"We have a few silver linings so I don't think our city will be in mourning," Arnott said.
Central Football CEO John McGifford said: "We're very disappointed as Napier City Council put in a lot of hard work to claim host city rights at our venue.
"We're a great tourist destination, too, but now we're not going to showcase that," McGifford lamented.
Local organising committee CEO Dave Beeche said last night it was ultimately Fifa's decision, albeit a tough one.
Beeche understood the Bay's dismay, acknowledging "it was a great bid Napier had put in and it had local support".
"It's difficult to keep everyone happy."
Traditionally Fifa adopts a six-city model with as many pools but the committee here had persuaded it to adopt a seven-city one, employing the 2011 Rugby World Cup's 13 host cities as the starting point.
Six months later it was whittled down to nine with Napier among the shortlisted cities.
In January this year a Fifa delegation visited the prospective cities, including Napier, where they inspected factors such as stadiums, accommodation, training facilities and local interest.
"Unfortunately two cities had to miss out. Nelson missed out, too," Beeche said. "It's difficult to put a finger on any one particular thing.
"We can't sit here and say the stadium or accommodation as it's a whole range of factors."
Beeche said the "geographic spread" for New Zealanders to travel was pivotal.
That means Hamilton is the closest for Bay fans and Wellington is the next one although it begs the question how Whangarei's proximity to Auckland fits into the equation.
New Plymouth has to go in as another bolter although Yarrow Stadium is believed to be far superior to McLean Park, albeit with a seating capacity of 23,000.
North Harbour Stadium, seating 25,000, will stage the final and one of the semifinals, the second largest event Auckland has had a role in hosting.
It will also host four pool matches, a quarterfinal and semifinal, the bronze medal playoff and the opening and closing ceremonies.
The other host cities are Christchurch, Dunedin and Hamilton.
Christchurch will stage the second semifinal while Wellington has one quarterfinal and two rounds of 16 matches, the only knockout fixtures.
The U20 World Cup is expected to inject $6 million into Auckland's economy and result in an additional 47,000 international and domestic visitor nights for the city.
The tournament runs from May 30 to June 20 and Fifa hopes the world's best emerging players will inspire the large number of Kiwi youth players.