Today marks an incredibly exciting milestone for women’s football in Australia and New Zealand, with it being exactly two years until the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ kicks off!
To recognise the occasion, we spoke to Chief Operating Officer (Australia) for the FIFAWWC 2023, Jane Fernandez, about the tournament which promises to change football for women and girls across the Tasman.
All Australian and New Zealand women’s football fans remember where they were when it was announced that our countries would be jointly hosting the world’s greatest football tournament.
No one understands the significance more than Fernandez, her excitement captured in an image of her leaping into the air upon the announcement that Australia and New Zealand had won the bid, #AsOne.
“The first thing I felt, was relief,” Fernandez said of June 26, 2020, a date forever etched into her mind.
“That jump was definitely fuelled by relief, adrenaline and joy.
“So many people did so much work and so much effort was put into this bid, so the relief we all felt once we got the win was just phenomenal,” she explained.
“We were bidding for so long by ourselves, it was only in the final stretch that we came together with New Zealand to build a really strong team and a really strong #AsOne brand, and we had to do that in a matter of months, so we were working full pelt for a while.
“Being able to get that reward after so much work and so much effort was amazing.”
The wheels have still been turning in the background, with FIFA recently inspecting all venues and training sites across Australia and New Zealand.
“We just got the FIFA Inspection Tour off the ground, where FIFA flew into New Zealand and quarantined for 14 days before inspecting all of the venues and training sites there,” Fernandez said.
“They then flew into Perth, but at the same time, the borders started to close so unfortunately we weren’t able to travel with them, but with the support of government we were able to manage their travel around the country and they were able to get to every single stadium which was our goal.
“FIFA had the opportunity to get into the venues, walk through the spaces and really visualise how they’ll bring the tournament to life and to be able to achieve that was phenomenal,” she said.
Fernandez said from an operational perspective, the next two years will involve building the #AsOne brand and telling the stories of those it encompasses.
“We now have a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 CEO, Dave Beeche, who was appointed last month, so we’re starting to build those foundations and fill those head of department roles.
“It’s really about making sure you’ve got the right players in the right positions,” she said.
“Going forward there is a lot of conceptual and operational planning and a lot of work around building the brand of the tournament, so that people can really attach to it, but the other important part is building a story,” Fernandez continued.
“There are the stories of the players, from grassroots and of female leadership at all levels of the game and all of that will start to come to life.”
Fernandez said the next exciting milestone will occur in the coming months, when the match schedule is finalised.
“The next major milestone will be finalising the match schedule,” Fernandez said.
“FIFA announced the opening match in Auckland, the final at Stadium Australia and then one semi-final in each country, but the next part is building the match schedule.
“We’re fortunate because we’ve got a great mix of boutique venues right through to mega venues, so it allows us to build on that schedule to ensure that the biggest games are being played in the biggest venues.”
Fernandez says that in the year since Australia and New Zealand were announced joint-hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, she has already seen the impact the bid has had, before the tournament has even begun.
One of the goals of the #AsOne bid was to leave a lasting legacy, regardless of whether or not Australia and New Zealand won the rights to host.
“Football Australia launched the really exciting Legacy ‘23 plan which has five important pillars and right from the start, when we began bidding, we always talked about wanting to leave a legacy from bidding,” she explained.
“Now we’ve got the right to host, we want to make sure we leave a lasting, positive legacy - that’s social and economic.
“We have the goal at Football Australia to get to 50/50 gender participation by 2027 and we know that by hosting a major sporting event, participation rates spike.
“We’re really focused on that investment in football infrastructure to support the increased participation and the development of female leaders on and of the pitch, right throughout the game,” Fernandez continued.
“In high performance, Football Australia are ensuring that the Matildas have every chance and every possibility to succeed and then there’s also international tourism and trade and those are the tangible outcomes from hosting these events.”
Personally, Fernandez says her greatest hope for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 is that it brings in the tournament’s biggest audience, leading to greater investment and opportunity for women’s football.
“We saw in France at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, there were one million attendees, and the broadcast numbers were over a billion. We want to break those numbers and create a new benchmark,” she said.
“For me it’s about visibility and having female role models that young girls and boys can watch when they turn on their TV or devices, it’s all about creating heroes.
“We’ve been given an amazing platform for gender equality so we want to promote female leaders and keep the conversation going, that’s the thing about major events, they bring people together to have a conversation.
“Visibility also leads to more investment in the game and one of FIFA’s goals is to ensure the commerciality of women’s football grows, and greater visibility equals greater investment.
“This world cup is going to turbocharge the growth of women’s football across all areas, from participation to commercial and infrastructure investments, which will continue to have a flow on effect.”
Latest newsSee more
Football Australia receives approval for concussion substitutes
The FFA Cup Round of 32 begins on Tuesday, 14 September, and the tournament will have a new feature in 2021 with the introduction of a trial for permanent concussion substitutions. As seen in the Premier League, MLS, J.League, Ligue 1 and many more top-level competitions arou
How to watch the AFC Champions League in Australia
The AFC Champions League Round of 16 begins on Tuesday 14 September (AEST) and there's a new place to watch Asia's premier continental club tournament. In a massive boost for Australian football fans, the knockout stages will be broadcast live & free on 10 play. 10 play is
Wellington Phoenix to join W-League from this season
The W-League will grow its number of matches by more than a quarter next season, with the introduction of Wellington Phoenix as the competition's 10th team. As the strategy for the growth of women's football announced by the Australian Professional Leagues last week immediatel