The Government says New Zealand's successful bid as co-hosts of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup will have "substantial benefits for the country", but the Covid environment complicates things slightly.
New Zealand and Australia were announced as hosts of the tournament overnight – a historic result that would see both countries host their first top-class FIFA competition – beating Colombia after other contenders had dropped out of the race.
While the result was celebrated in the football community across both sides of the Tasman, the successful bid was also a win for all New Zealanders according to economic development minister Phil Twyford, who said the Government is investing $25 million into the project.
"This is an important economic development announcement today," Twyford said. "Through the major events fund, the Government has backed NZ Football on this bid – the AsOne bid working with Australia.
"We've put $25 million behind the bid, which includes $14 million which is a direct contribution to the event costs through NZ Football to FIFA who will be running the event on the ground. That leaves about $11 million which will go towards a lot of the on-costs for running an event of this scale – so border agencies, security, a number of government agencies will be part of this effort.
"We'll also be investing in what we call leveraging – so trying to make sure that New Zealand, the community here and football here benefits from the event.
"It's part of our economic strategy to promote events that will really bring in investment and visitors into New Zealand, promote New Zealand's brand internationally and there will be very substantial benefits for the country, particularly in the Covid recovery era."
Sports minister Grant Robertson said the tournament would provide invaluable exposure for the country, adding that over a billion fans tuned in to watch last year's Women's World Cup tournament in France, significantly more than the viewership of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
However, the uncertain nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the tournament being three years away, complicates preparations and the potential economic benefit from hosting the event – and a lot of work is still left ahead of the World Cup in 2023.
"I think in the early days I can recall a figure of around $100m from direct involvement of people coming here," Robertson said of the economic benefit of hosting the tournament. "Obviously we have to calibrate that [because of the uncertainty of Covid]. But that doesn't include the wider spinoff benefits as well."
Jason Pine: What hosting World Cup really means for NZ Football
'What a low act': British football boss slammed for snubbing Ardern
'The group chat is going crazy': Ferns, fans react to NZ result
"It's very hard to say particularly because of the effect of Covid on international travel," Twyford added. "We'll be working through that. It's obviously a very fast moving situation right now because of Covid. But by the time the event comes round, we hope that borders are open and the international community can come and be part of this event."
Getting stadiums in New Zealand up to FIFA's standards, particularly a stadium in Christchurch, are among the other things that needs to be worked on ahead of the tournament.
Robertson was also excited by the result and the impact it will have on women's sport in New Zealand.
"I think it would make a big difference. And it's the reason why when I became the minister of sport I made women and girl's sport my number one priority because I recognised, as many others have, that we haven't given the attention, the visibility, we have not valued women and girl's sport the way we should've. And it's our responsibility as the Government to lead that along with the national sporting bodies.
"Let's give credit to New Zealand Football. I think they were the first football federation in the world to provide pay equity between the two national teams. I don't think many other countries have even caught up with that yet.
"Football's been a good lead example. They've got at least 40 per cent on their board. We want to see that across the board in sport and we want to support these big major flagship events that provide role models. The old saying 'you can't be what you can't see' applies in sport as much as anywhere. We want to make sure that young girls and young women in New Zealand get the opportunity to see a tournament like this up close and achieve their dreams as well."
The joint tournament would see games played in 13 venues across 12 cities, with the opening match at Eden Park in Auckland and the final in Sydney. Seven cities in Australia would host games, and five in New Zealand.