COMMENT:

Yes, Australia and New Zealand won the right to host the 2023 Women's World Cup. And won comfortably with a 22-13 vote against Colombia.

But a closer inspection of the voting revealed a villain in England's Football Association boss Greg Clarke.

Despite plans for the trans-Tasman tournament being marked significantly higher than Colombia by FIFA's technical committee, Clarke still sided with his European colleagues by voting against the Aussies and Kiwis.

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Clarke fell in line with UEFA's stance the South American bid could do more for the game given it's already well-established in Australia and New Zealand.

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Colombia is as football-mad as any country on the planet but to this point hasn't quite backed the women's game as well as it could have.

"Even though the Colombian bid was not the one rated highest technically by FIFA, European members of the FIFA council felt it represented a strategic opportunity for the development of women's football in South America thanks to the legacy and increase of attention for the women's game that the tournament would bring to the continent," UEFA explained in a statement.

"It was a choice between two countries – Australia and New Zealand – where women's football is already strongly established, and a continent where it still has to be firmly implanted and has a huge development potential. It's important to add that European members of the FIFA council agreed to vote together on major issues as a matter of solidarity."

ENGLAND REFUSED TO ANSWER ARDERN'S CALL

The Guardian reports Clarke and France's representative Noel Le Graet were "frustrated at the position they found themselves" following a "perceived steamrollering of the decision" in UEFA's meeting ahead of the vote.

But reporter Suzanne Wrack indicated Clarke was forced to toe the line because he's up for re-election as a UEFA representative on the FIFA council next year and would also be conscious of keeping the right people on side as England bids to host the men's 2030 World Cup.

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He was such a team player he even turned down a call from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who did a ring-around this week in a bid to sway votes.

Football reporters from England were surprised by Clarke's decision.

The Athletic UK's Matt Slater tweeted: "Wow, Greg Clarke, the chairman of the English FA, voted for Colombia instead of a technically superior bid from Australia & N Zealand."

All of Colombia's 13 votes came from Europe and South America, but with FIFA chairman Gianni Infantino and the CAF (Africa) and CONCACAF (North America) delegates voting in favour of Australia and New Zealand, it wasn't a close contest.

Infantino admitted he was surprised to see a block vote in favour of Colombia from football's most powerful confederation but refused to criticise the decision, calling it "democracy".

EDDIE MCGUIRE: 'THIS IS STAGGERING'

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Speaking on Triple M's Hot Breakfast, Eddie McGuire slammed the Poms.

"It's good to see that England has voted in solidity with Europe ... that's the mob they've just 'Brexited' from, remember that?", McGuire said.

"So just remember, next time we have a world war and you call us up, we'll remember, OK?

"That is staggering that the Poms could look themselves in the mirror today not voting (for Australia and New Zealand).

"Here's the other block they're involved in mate, it's called the Commonwealth, how about that one?

"They've voted... Columbia or Australia and New Zealand, 'Ah OK, which ones? That'd be the ANZACs wouldn't it? Yeah, that's good we remember them at Gallipoli don't we? Two world wars, yeah yeah yeah, sent all the food parcels over during the wars, yeah nah we'll vote for Colombia'.

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"Fair dinkum. So when they come, remember OK? What a low act."

Football Federation Australia CEO James Johnson was also upset. "I think that was quite disrespectful to be honest with you," he said. "I must say we are disappointed with the way the FA voted."

Socceroos legend Tim Cahill had the best response to Australia's win, tweeting "football's coming home" — a cheeky poach of England's famous catchcry.


The expanded 32-team tournament - eight more than the 2019 edition in France - is expected to open in July 2023.

The winning bid proposed 12 cities with seven in Australia and five in New Zealand. It includes the main stadium used for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

After a successful World Cup last year, FIFA wants the next women's tournament to further establish its independence from the men, and show it is commercially attractive.

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At least $100 million is expected to be paid by the governing body in 2023 - for prize money, team preparation costs and to clubs releasing players for the tournament - FIFA president Gianni Infantino pledged last year in France.

Ahead of the bid the Australia-New Zealand team left nothing to chance, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally hitting the phones in an attempt to secure the tournament.

Ardern and Australian counterpart Scott Morrison both featured in the campaign's final presentation, which was seen before the vote.

Auckland's Sky Tower and The Sydney Opera House and were lit up on Thursday to celebrate the joint bid.