Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Under-20 World Cup won't be dictated by TV demands

Aerial photograph of North Harbour Stadium Albany, Auckland. Photo / NZH
Aerial photograph of North Harbour Stadium Albany, Auckland. Photo / NZH

European television demands won't dictate kick-off times for the under-20 football World Cup in New Zealand in 2015.

Tournament chief executive Dave Beeche said today that Fifa would prefer to see bums on seats rather than games played at exotic times to fit in with overseas TV requirements.

The match schedule for Fifa's second-biggest tournament behind the senior World Cup was revealed in Wellington this morning.

Kick-off times are yet to be confirmed but they will likely be unveiled when the official draw is done early next year.

The past four under-20 World Cups have produced average crowds of 20,000 but such figures won't be attainable in New Zealand given the smaller size of the host venues.

"The feedback from Fifa is they'd rather see full stadiums as a priority over scheduling for European TV times,'' Beeche said.

Such news is great for local fans, who will likely be able to enjoy games earlier in the evening than the 8.30pm kick-offs that were prevalent at the rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011.

The under-20 football World Cup is a tournament that doesn't waste time and all 52 matches will be wrapped up inside 22 days across seven venues with Albany, Whangarei, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin all hosting games.

The final will be at North Harbour Stadium on Saturday, June 20, while Albany will also stage a semifinal on Wednesday, June 17 alongside Christchurch.

All four quarter-finals will be held on `Super Sunday', June 14 with Albany, Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington hosting the knockout fixtures. The four quarter-finals won't run back-to-back with games likely to be played simultaneously.

Beeche said one of the main priorities of the tournament was to make it accessible to the public and that would be reflected in the ticket prices. The organising committee are aiming to sell around 500,000 tickets for the 24-team event.

"I think we've got a realistic target on revenue streams selling tickets and we are still in the process of finalising our ticket strategy,'' he said.

"What I can say is we are not going to price ourselves out of the market. While this is a world tournament of the world's biggest game, we certainly don't want to risk price being a barrier to people coming along to support it.''

Some pool matches will likely be played during the daytime to allow schoolkids to attend, while double-headers will be another feature of the group stages.

Beeche said the organising committee would look at how Canada operated the same tournament in 2007, which provided a springboard for the code's growing popularity in North America.

New Zealand are tipped to open the tournament in Albany on Saturday, May 30, although their opponents won't be known until teams start securing qualification next year.

With New Zealand earning direct qualification as the host, another spot is likely to be made available to Oceania, which would see a Pacific Island nation qualify who would likely gain strong support on these shores.

- APNZ

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