Football Australia to pitch for nearly $300m in funding for 2023 World Cup ‘legacy’

A permanent “home of football” is at the centre of Football Australia’s pitch for almost $300 million in government funding to ensure the 2023 Women’s World Cup leaves a lasting legacy for the sport and the nation.

FA chief executive James Johnson is set to present the case for the funding package to senior government leaders in Canberra on Tuesday, designed to ensure that the benefits of co-hosting the world’s biggest women’s sport tournament are fully harnessed.

Football Australia wants the nation’s hosting of the Women’s World Cup to have a significant legacy.Credit:Getty

All up, the federation is seeking about $275 million over an eight-year period from all levels of government to address the five pillars of its “Legacy ’23” plan: community facilities, high performance, participation, tourism and international engagement, and leadership and development.

“It is a lot of money, but it’s rooted in logic, in preparation, but it’s also rooted in return on investment for the government as well,” Johnson told the Sun-Herald.

“Do we get it all? I can’t say we will, but I can say it’s not pie-in-the-sky thinking. There’s logic behind everything … there’s business cases, there’s business plans, the work’s been done.

“We think that it makes sense from a social and football perspective to invest through legacy at these sorts of numbers. Particularly as we’re coming out of COVID, we think all of these programs are actually going to help the community get back on its feet.”

What Football Australia wants from government for its ‘Legacy ’23’ plan

  • $180 million for community facilities
  • $60 million to boost female participation
  • $16.3 million for high performance programs
  • $12.5 million for female leadership and development initiatives
  • $7 million to support trade, tourism and Asia-Pacific relations

Over an eight-year period from 2021 2028, except for high performance and trade and tourism, which is for 2021-2024.

About $180 million of the total package would go towards football infrastructure and, in particular, a “female community football facility legacy fund” to address a chronic shortage throughout the country. Only one in five grounds in Australia has female change rooms, while thousands of players are turned away annually from the game because of a lack of suitable pitches, drainage or lighting.

But FA is also determined to secure a home of football inspired by famous set-ups such as Coverciano in Italy, St George Park in England or Clairefontaine in France, where national teams such as the Matildas and Socceroos could train, where the sport’s various administrative bodies could be based and where a long-envisaged national museum of football could be set up.

FA’s preference is to redevelop the old St George Stadium site near Sydney airport, which has historical resonance for football, but Johnson said there were other options, including the Homebush precinct. FA’s lease on its offices in the Sydney CBD is due to expire later this year.

“If we can’t get [a home of football] out of a legacy ask for the Women’s World Cup I don’t think we’re ever going to,” Johnson said.

FA chief executive James Johnson with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on the morning after the 2023 Women’s World Cup hosting rights were awarded to Australia and New Zealand.Credit:Getty

“If we could move into a home of football at the kick-off time of the Women’s World Cup, or just afterwards, that’s my thinking. This isn’t something you can do overnight. What I would like to see is a real home of football that reflects who we are as a code … certainly for me that connection to football’s history needs to be a real decisive point in that decision-making.”

FA is also seeking $16.3 million in high-performance funding over the next four years to ensure the Matildas get the preparation they need to actually win the Women’s World Cup in 2023, which would be used for 92 domestic camps, 38 international tours for youth national teams, and other friendlies and tournaments.

“What we need is to play more often, against world-class opposition, so we can have the same sort of preparation as teams like the United States and Japan have done in the lead-up to their World Cup victories,” Johnson said.

Also included in the funding request is $60 million to boost female participation with a range of grassroots and community initiatives, $12.5 million for leadership and development programs designed to boost the number of women in key roles in football, and $7 million to boost tourism, trade and relations through football within the Asia Pacific region.

FIFA is due to decide within the coming weeks which of the 12 candidate cities will be granted hosting rights for matches in 2023. Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Launceston are all in contention – along with Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton in New Zealand – but the final list is expected to be brought down to 10.

On Wednesday, FIFA announced that Jane Fernandez, one of the key figures behind Australia and New Zealand’s successful joint bid, would serve as chief operating officer in Australia for the tournament, with the world governing body also in the market for a chief executive officer.

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