The announcement from FIFA that the Australia-New Zealand bid had won selection for the 2023 women’s World Cup has sent the football community over the moon.
But now that we’ve won this bid, it’s time to look to the next men’s bid while there’s momentum.
The 2022 edition will be held in Qatar (grr…) while the 2026 event will be held by the United States-Canada-Mexico bid. Multi-nation bids such as this seem to be the future. The next opportunities for Australia to be a host will be in 2030 and 2034.
The 2030 edition of the World Cup will be highly contested.
So far there are bids from UK-Ireland, a South American bid from Uruguay-Argentina-Chile-Paraguay and another from Colombia-Ecuador-Peru. There’s a standalone bid from Morocco. An Eastern European bid is coming from Bulgaria-Greece-Romania-Serbia as well as another European bid by Spain-Portugal.
Then there are two separate possible bids from West Africa and North Africa, each jointly held between three nations. Finally, there are two more standalone bids with one each from Egypt and another from China as a trial run for a 2034 bid.
The UK-Ireland bid and Spain-Portugal bid will both be strong, while the Uruguay-Argentina-Chile-Paraguay bid includes two former World Cup winners in its lineup. Morocco is interesting and can’t be ruled out, but the main competition for Australia comes from China.
In the bidding for the 2034 edition there are bids from Egypt and China again, plus a Southeast Asian bid from ASEAN and a proposal by Australia for a joint bid with Indonesia. There has also been interest from Zimbabwe and Nigeria, but these would be the clear outsiders.
Another bid by Australia-New Zealand would have to be a distinct possibility off the back of the successful bid for the women’s tournament, but to this point the FFA seems to be looking north.
The question for Australia then, is which bid would give us the best possible chance of successfully being selected as a host nation?
The main problem for the Australia-New Zealand option will be FIFA’s stadium requirements and availability, which hampered Australia’s failed 2022 bid and which will only be exacerbated with the need for 16 stadiums in the new tournament format. Nonetheless, it might be possible to put together a joint bid with a few minor concessions and a few temporary stadiums and stands.
Starting with large rectangular stadiums we have Homebush, Docklands, Lang Park, Eden Park and the new stadium at Moore Park. As for Perth and Adelaide, new stadiums could be built with the ability to increase the design’s capacity to 40,000 seats with temporary stands.
Carrara on the Gold Coast had its capacity increased like this during the Commonwealth Games and the stadium in Newcastle could do likewise, each to 40,000 seats. Geelong could take a few games on the road and Kardinia Park could be upgraded to 40,000 seats as well.
So that gives us ten stadiums with over 40,000 seats that won’t clash with other codes. But you would still have places like Canberra, Wollongong, Townsville, Wellington and Christchurch that would be stuck with smaller ones while Parramatta is too good to leave out.
If FIFA were willing to allow slightly smaller stadiums to be used in the group stage, then we might be able to convince them that we can put a 16-stadium bid together. Or if we have to, we could build temporary stadiums with the required capacity from scratch, much like QSAC was for the 1982 Commonwealth Games.
So, it may be possible for Australia and New Zealand to host the men’s World Cup together.
But the next issue to overcome is the politics. If we go with the Australia-Indonesia option that puts us in conflict with ASEAN, which has much more global clout. Even the FFA’s approach to Indonesia for a joint bid with them wasn’t entirely well-received when the ASEAN bid is all about regional integration and cooperation.
On the other hand, if we side with the ASEAN bid then we don’t have the problem of needing to convince FIFA to change their stadium requirements. A few regional cities will miss out, but all of the major ones will still get to host matches and be represented.
ASEAN has a lot going for it with the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei having 640 million people between them. As a destination, its food, beaches, cities, wildlife and diverse culture are all very popular with tourists. There’s huge potential in the region and hosting the World Cup could help boost its stature.
As for the Chinese bid, they may not have as many friends as they did before and their use of investment in sport for political influence operations has even been cited in a high-profile American defence paper. They may not get as many votes as they were hoping for.
The choice then is which path should we take? Should we go with New Zealand which worked for us in the women’s World Cup bid, or should we go with ASEAN for the extra political clout and stadium infrastructure?
Either way, we seem to be in a good position and we should actually have a real go at making a serious bid. We shouldn’t just think that China will run away and win simply because of their money and President Xi Jinping’s global ambition.
With their mercantilism, aggressive posturing and coercive tactics toward other nations, they seem to have lost a lot of goodwill. Not to mention their handling of the virus.
The window is now open for a rival to outbid them, and that could be us.