Fifa in town to assess bid

By Mike Dinsdale

Whangarei's success in hosting Rugby World Cup games and the legacy left from the event, will stand the city in good stead as it bids to host games in the Fifa Under 20 World Cup, a member of the world football body says.

A high-powered delegation from Fifa was in Whangarei yesterday, evaluating the city's bid to be a host city for the 2015 Fifa Under 20 Football World Cup.

The evaluation team has already visited the other eight cities bidding to become one of six to eight host cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Wellington.

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Evaluation team leader Rhiannon Martin said Fifa was looking at some specific requirements for host cities, including a minimum 8000-seat stadium, medical facilities, a minimum of 22 top-class hotel rooms per team, plenty of training facilities, top-class media facilities and other infrastructure.

Ms Martin said the city showed with hosting games in the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC) that it could handle major events.

She said Toll Stadium, which was rebuilt for the RWC, was an impressive stadium, but it may require extra changing rooms as there will be some double-header games that would need four separate changing rooms.

The lack of a top-class hotel may also count against the city, but the Whangarei District Council is in talks with developers to build a 12-room, four-star hotel in Dent St.

Deputy Mayor Phil Halse said the hotel would be built in time for the Under 20 games if the city was chosen.

"New Zealand has already hosted the Under 17 World Cup and has a good reputation for holding these events.

"That's one of the reasons why we came back to New Zealand again," Ms Martin said. "Having the RWC here two years ago has left a good legacy with your stadia having very good facilities, with good TV and broadcasting facilities."

So what do the good people of Whangarei need to do now?

"Show their enthusiasm.

"Fifa's main objective is to take football to the world, to encourage more young people to participate," Ms Martin said.

The under 20 world cup is Fifa's second largest tournament after the Football World Cup.

It is broadcast in more than 200 countries and watched by an audience of about 500 million.

A successful bid could bring in $3.5 million and expose Whangarei to thousands of international visitors.

- Northern Advocate

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