Hawke's Bay will be involved in the next Fifa Women's World Cup football tournament despite not hosting any of the games.
Speaking after Fifa's overnight announcement that New Zealand and Australia will host the tournament from July 10 to August 20, 2023, Napier City Council events manager Kevin Murphy said Hawke's Bay will be a team training base.
It will mean one of the teams will be based in the region during the tournament, and train at McLean Park or Bluewater Stadium in Napier, possibly both.
Murphy said Napier had been one of six cities originally proposed as match hosts at a time the bid was for a 24-team tournament based only in New Zealand.
Fifa's expansion of the tournament to 32 teams resulted in the host base being expanded to both sides of the Tasman, with up to eight venues in Australia and just five in New Zealand.
"Napier effectively lost out to Hamilton because of Hamilton being closer to the airport in Auckland," he said.
New Zealand venues will still be the five Super Rugby grounds, in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin – each with spectator capacity of more than 22,000.
The capacity of McLean Park, which has hosted World Cup matches in rugby and cricket and the 1999 Fifa Under 17 World Cup football tournament, is about 20,000.
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While the men's World Cup has a history dating back to 1930, the women's tournament has been staged eight times since 1991 and is said to capture a worldwide TV audience of more than 1 billion. Its biggest crowd was over 90,000 at the 1999 final in the US.
Murphy said further negotiations are expected over the next few months and as qualifying nations become clearer, before it will be known which team will be based in Hawke's Bay.
Battling the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis, which is currently all but blocking sports teams from overseas, Murphy said he is continuing to look at all options for attracting events to the region, with an All Blacks test match, NRL rugby league matches and Phoenix A-League football on the table, along with other sports – including boxing – and concerts.
McLean Park has staged two All Blacks tests, against Samoa in 1996 and Argentina in 2014, and Napier is forever in competition for matches with a range of other cities outside the main centres.
A contract is about to be signed linking Hawke's Bay to Australia-based international agents placing hundreds of events in more than 30 sports, he said.