Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Council asked to host Fifa games

Hamilton's business and sporting heavyweights put a compelling case to the city council for hosting the Fifa Under 20s - and they didn't want to take no for an answer.

Promises of raising up to half the estimated $809,000 required for the event and finding volunteers were offered to the council should it decide to put in a late bid for up to eight games to be held at the Waikato Stadium.

About 40 people squeezed into the meeting room yesterday to convince the council to put in a bid when it reconsiders its decision not to fund the event because of financial constraints.

The bosses of some of the city's largest businesses, including Tainui Group Holdings, SkyCity Casino, Gallagher, Waikato Security Services and the two business associations, said it was an opportunity the city could not afford to miss.

They said they would pay up to 50 per cent of the costs.

Gallagher corporate services executive Margaret Comer said it would be a "wow factor" for the city and joked that she would bring morning tea when councillors decided tomorrow but they could only eat it if they said yes.

Ms Comer said that while generating new business was not the main priority for Gallagher's sponsorship, there were a number of potential opportunities with families and supporters of the players visiting the city.

Waikato Security Services chief executive Chris Mangan was tired of Hamilton being the butt of commercial jokes and being dysfunctional. "It gives us a much-needed win at the moment."

Melville United AFC president Bruce Holloway expected a large number of the New Zealand Under 20s team in 2015 to be from Hamilton.

"It would be incongruous if it turned out Hamilton had the most players in the New Zealand squad but Hamilton was the city not included in the tournament."

Waikato Bay of Plenty Football Federation chairwoman Patsi Davies did not think the council had missed its chance, despite having to put in a non-conforming bid because it had not complied with the November 30 deadline.

"At the moment Hamilton City Council has simply missed the first hurdle in the bid process. If we do nothing that's exactly what we are going to get."

Councillors asked why they should consider funding Fifa from its annual $900,000 events' budget over other occasions in the city and questioned why football fans had not shown their support earlier.

- NZ Herald

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