Sunday 23 July 2023, 14:00

World Cup delivers long-term legacy benefits for local clubs

Long after the world champions are crowned, the legacy of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ will continue to be felt across the football communities of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Significant infrastructure improvement works to stadiums and training sites will leave a clear and tangible benefit. Upgraded venues include dedicated Team Base Camps - used for the first time at a Women’s World Cup - comprise a hotel and a nearby training site. In addition, there are 20 venue specific training sites (two per host venue) and nine back-up training sites (one per host city). Of these, FIFA oversaw renovation and upgrade works to more than 50 per cent of the training sites. “It's been a great opportunity [with] Australia and New Zealand hosting the biggest and most prestigious sporting event for women,” said Ernie Hasselsjo, Training Sites Manager. “[We have had] government funding from federal, state and local councils on making infrastructure improvement works to the training sites that we're using. And, for the first time ever, a legacy group was established, FIFA working alongside Football Australia, New Zealand Football and working on what it is that we can do to make improvements to women's football and the opportunities that can be created.”

The volume and diversity of clubs receiving benefits across both nations range from grassroots organisations, to former national league clubs and even professional venues. The latter includes Central Coast Stadium, England’s bayside base during the tournament, with the venue to host the newest A-League Women’s club when Central Coast Mariners join the competition later this year. Further north, Lions FC - a mainstay of the city’s football fraternity and one-time home of numerous future male and female internationals - has been rewarded as the world’s premier women’s football tournament comes to town. Emblematic of European post-war migration the club was founded by Dutch migrants in 1957, subsequently competed with distinction in the former National Soccer League, and ultimately laid the footprint for Brisbane Roar (formerly Queensland Roar). Among the various renovations, the club’s dressing rooms have been significantly upgraded to become gender neutral. “The legacies are massive for community sports,” said Rob Scanlon, Lions FC general manager. “So with any major event there needs to be some sort of flow on effect to local sports. And for FIFA and even the Queensland government to be able to jump on board and start to set up a stronger infrastructure within the clubs is vitally important for any of us in local sport. To have those sorts of lasting impacts in the community is vitally important.”

Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum said: “When we arrived at this venue for the first time to train, I was so impressed with the facility. The locker rooms, the way they have them laid out for the players, and each locker has a photograph of the player in there and it makes it feel very special to them. “The weight room facility, the pitch, is in great condition. I'm amazed, quite honestly. Coming from the US myself and seeing a lot of different facilities around our country, this is as good as any facility we've been to. So, FIFA and the Lions here have done a great job in putting this together for us.”

Nigeria Open Training Session-  FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

The footprint for the tournament – and therefore the associated legacy benefits – extend beyond Host Cities. In Aotearoa New Zealand three additional cities are serving as Team Base Camps, many providing wider value to the community. The upgraded facilities at Newtown Park in Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara immediately proved its value to the wider community by serving as temporary accommodation following the city’s recent tragic hostel fire. Meanwhile, Mangere Centre Park in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau received a much-needed boost after fire had previously destroyed the former clubrooms. The venue is now enjoying new gender-neutral changing-room facilities, upgraded lighting, new sand-based pitches and rooms. “An international-class facility coming to the deep south of Auckland for football, I think for our organisation, is amazing,” said Imran Mohammed, Chair of Mangere Centre Park Sports Association. “In this region here in Mangere, we’ve got a large Pacific community, and they’re involved in a lot of sports but not as much in football. We had our first women’s team last year, and we’ve got two teams now. We’ve partnered with local clubs like Manukau City, Manukau United, Otahuhu, South Auckland Rangers. So all these clubs, we are hoping, are going to use this, and our intention is to turn it into a women’s football hub going forward.”

Portugal Open Training Session - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023

FIFA Women’s World Cup debutants Portugal are using the Mangere site as their training venue. “I think [legacy benefits are] very important,” said Portugal captain Dolores Silva. “It’s another step forward for women’s soccer. I think this World Cup can change a lot. “It can continue to open minds, to encourage people to watch our game, and to show all over the world that women can play soccer and be whatever they want to be. As a woman, I’m very proud that I can be a part of this tournament and also open people’s minds to keep enjoying the football and our story.”