Southland well placed for 2023 Women’s Football World Cup

The Southland United Girls' team, which has been unbeaten in two years. Photo: Gary Pilsworth

A QUIET revolution is happening in Southland sport. Our girls are becoming very good at football.

Close to half the playing shirts handed out for the 2021 under-15 Southern United Academy (8 out of 23 players), based in Dunedin, have been captured by Southland girls.

Southland girls who also represented their province as unbeaten champions in all South Island competitions during the past two years are excelling.

It is an achievement which has not gone unnoticed by New Zealand Football, which has included this group of players in its Player ID programme in preparation for wearing the national jersey.

The players are from various Southland clubs (Gore Wanderers), Tessa Hayes (Queens Park), Abby Johnstone and Bella Jubb (Thistle), and Grace Pilsworth, Maisy McDonald, Lucy Dermody and Isla Smith playing their football with Old Boys’.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup is set to be ground-breaking and New Zealand is tipped to impress.

For the first time, the tournament will include 32 teams, up from 24 teams at previous tournaments. That means more matches, bigger crowds and more viewers more revenue for host cities, including Dunedin.

The tournament, scheduled for July 10 to August 20, 2023, is expected to make a massive profit estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars from ticket sales, and hundreds of millions of dollars from tourism and other benefits to New Zealand’s economy.

The biggest impact is expected to be in the growth of women’s football in New Zealand. It is likely close to 50% of all registered players in New Zealand will soon be women.

Such an outcome is not without precedent. France enjoyed a stunning net economic gain of 284 million euros (NZ$482 million) from hosting the 2019 Women’s World Cup, much of it coming from spending by tourists.

That tournament had a record 1.12 billion viewers on television and digitally.

The New Zealand tournament will likely outpace that by a significant margin, and surpass the 3.9 billion cumulative audience who watched the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The New Zealand women’s national football team, nicknamed the Football Ferns, is ranked 22nd in the world, with the Matildas, Australia’s national team, seventh.