New Zealand Football is still hopeful of a decision on the 2023 Women's World Cup hosting rights in June, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic around the globe.
New Zealand's joint bid with Australia is one of four submissions angling for the event, alongside Colombia, Brazil and Japan.
If the Anzac bid is successful, it would be the biggest football event to come to these shores, superseding the Under-20 men's World Cup in 2015.
Fifa's operational arm have completed their inspection tours and were due to deliver their evaluation reports next month, with a subsequent vote of the 37-member Fifa council at the annual congress to decide who will host the ninth edition of the marquee event.
The Fifa congress has been pushed back until September due to Covid-19, but that doesn't necessarily mean the vote will be delayed.
"Officially it is still the first week of June," NZF CEO Andrew Pragnell told the Herald.
'We've had no formal advice that they are moving that decision; the latest they could move it would be September.
"We are hoping the decision is in June otherwise it is a bit unfair to whoever gets the rights," added Pragnell, pointing out that the hosts for the 2026 men's World Cup were decided in 2018. "It would reduce the preparation time for one of the biggest sporting events in the world and 2023 is not that far away. It doesn't seem like it could be delayed more than a few months."
The Covid-19 global lockdown has scuppered plans for the meetings and advocacy with various Fifa council members, but plenty of advocacy has gone on behind the scenes, since the As One delegation met with UEFA in early March.
The trans-Tasman bid is seen as one of the strongest contenders, alongside Japan, and Pragnell remains quietly confident.
"Generally we are optimistic in terms of where the bid is at and the fact that New Zealand and Australia are doing well in the battle against Covid-19 can't hurt," said Pragnell.
He added New Zealand's successful staging of the Under-20 World Cup in 2015 was an important feather in their cap in Fifa circles.
At a local level, Pragnell is focused on ensuring the post-Covid sustainability and survival of the sport here.
Clubs will take a massive hit from the compressed winter season — whatever shape it takes — and there are big challenges for the regional federations.
"There are one or two in particular where it is going to be hard," said Pragnell. "But it's across football – and sport in general, as there is a reliance on class four gaming money and affiliation fees."
NZF has reserves — mostly garnered from the intercontinental playoffs with Mexico (2013) and Peru (2017) — but they need to be managed carefully, given the number of age group World Cups that New Zealand are involved in and the fact that the income stream varies markedly across a four-year cycle.
"We have a lot of challenges going forward and need to manage our business model carefully, to make sure we are not selling ourselves short in a couple of years."
All NZF staff will be taking a 20 per cent pay cut from May 1, to be reviewed monthly, and around 20 contractors (tied to various World Cup campaigns) have been released.
Pragnell also said last week's cancellation of the Chatham Cup and Kate Sheppard Cup was unfortunate but inevitable given the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and the desire not to place extra financial pressure on struggling clubs.
"Our priority is getting community football going again," said Pragnell, who is hopeful that the sport can resume when New Zealand moves to level 1.
Pragnell declined to talk about the situation with Oly Whites coach Des Buckingham, whose contract expires in August.
Buckingham wants to stay on for the rescheduled Olympic Games next year, but the financial pressures on NZF and the questions over ongoing international match activity mean that scenario seems unlikely.
"I wouldn't comment on any employment matters but certainly we will have to be mindful of everyone concerned and the needs and sustainability of the whole organisation," said Pragnell.