Friday 24 March 2023, 18:00

Legacy in focus as Australia & New Zealand 2023 looms

  • First-ever Legacy Working Group established for a FIFA Women’s World Cup

  • Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau workshop discussed FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ legacy initiatives and goals

  • The Legacy Working Group Meeting, chaired by FIFA Council Member, Johanna Wood, features representatives from New Zealand Football, Football Australia, OFC, AFC, and FIFA

Hosting a FIFA Women’s World Cup™ offers a massive opportunity to grow football locally, regionally, and globally. With that in mind, FIFA has established a collaborative working group to help to amplify and measure the legacy of the ninth edition of the tournament to be co-hosted by Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Stakeholders from New Zealand Football, Football Australia, OFC, AFC, and FIFA came together in Auckland / Tāmaki Makaurau last month following the conclusion of the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup Play-off Tournament. The group united to share their legacy plans and initiatives, network and inspire one another, and to ensure that years of hard work and outcomes by the respective Member Associations and Confederations are accurately captured and brought under one umbrella by FIFA.

“This is a tournament of firsts,” said Sara Booth, Head of Women’s Competitions at FIFA. “It’s the first time we have ever co-hosted a FIFA Women’s World Cup. It’s the first time we’ve ever hosted it across two confederations. And it’s the first time we’ve ever actually had a legacy programme directly attached to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. So, we are very proud of that. “We know that World Cups drive development, but we’ve only ever shown that anecdotally,” she added. “Now, for the first time ever, we will capture the data [and] we will show that there is a direct link between competitions, particularly the Women’s World Cup, and the growth of the game.” Legacy can, of course, operate across number fields, be it sporting, community, social, financial, infrastructure, or otherwise. In Aotearoa New Zealand there are numerous aspects to New Zealand Football's Legacy Starts Now plan, from building football connections with Māori and Pacific communities, to creating opportunities for women in leadership programmes, to operating the nation’s first women’s professional team – the latter of which has already been achieved in the form of Wellington Phoenix FC.

“Leveraging the FIFA Women’s World Cup is critical,” said Paula Hansen, General Manager, FIFA Women’s World Cup Legacy & Inclusion at New Zealand Football. “It’s about making sure that anybody who wants to kick a ball, coach a team, pick up a whistle, or be a leader in the game, has the opportunity and access to those opportunities. Ultimately, we all want to provide opportunities for girls and women in our wider communities.” Across the Tasman Sea, Australia has a Legacy ‘23 plan that features five key pillars, ranging from participation at grassroots level to, at the other end of the scale, providing a world class environment for their national teams. Since 2020 when the plan was announced, participation in Australia has boomed, while the Matildas have captivated the nation, playing in front of record crowds and TV audiences as interest in the senior team, and women’s football, has grown. “When we won the right to host with New Zealand, which was a really exciting time for our countries, we started to think about leaving real economic and social change for football,” said Sarah Walsh, Head of Women’s Football, Legacy & Inclusion at Football Australia. “We’ve been tracking particularly well around investment, but also the impact we’ve been able to have through our five-pillar plan. It has high performance elements, it has community facility infrastructure elements, but it is also really underpinned by this principle around creating, and actually achieving, fifty-fifty gender parity in female participation.”

For Football Australia and New Zealand Football, engagement with their Confederations is, and has been, an important element. Their respective plans complement women’s football initiatives and strategies currently being rolled out across Asia and Oceania, where women’s football is on the rise. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Legacy Working Group convened again online this week, with the Māori proverb and wise words shared by Chair Johanna Wood from their very first meeting undoubtedly still fresh in the participants’ minds.

Johanna Wood speaking during the FIFA Women's World Cup Legacy Meeting

“He waka eke noa: ‘We’re all in this together, we’re not alone’,” said Wood. “We can support each other, we can work together, we can challenge ourselves, and we can go that extra mile. “When you are collaborating you can support each other, you can share your ideas, you can challenge each other’s thinking [and] you can fine-tune.” Following the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, a Legacy Impact Report will be compiled, with updates to be made up to five years following the completion of the tournament.