World Cup too pricey for city

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 15/10/2012

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The world's second-largest football tournament will not be coming to Palmerston North after the city balked at the cost of hosting matches.

New Zealand is hosting the men's Fifa Under-20 World Cup in 2015, but the city has opted not to put in a bid to host games.

New Zealand Football announced at the weekend that nine cities had put their hands up, though would not reveal which. The cities that hosted Rugby World Cup games were approached last year.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor confirmed Palmerston North was asked, but the city council, after consulting with Sport Manawatu and Destination Manawatu, decided against putting in a bid.

"We looked at it and based on the kind of requirements that we would have had to meet, we didn't see that there would be enough benefit for Palmerston North. We looked at it carefully and didn't take it lightly. Obviously it's a big event that the country's involved in."

Sport Manawatu chief executive Mike Daisley said a desktop analysis was carried out and returns from hosting the games would not have covered costs of bidding for games and improving infrastructure.

"There were hosting fees as part of the bid. To host a game we would have had to pay fees. That needed to be able to translate into an economic return; it was a big investment."

Mr Daisley said Arena Manawatu would have required work to bring it up to standard, and this could have included covering the speedway track and resowing the field.

The 24 teams involved in the competition will play 52 games; it is understood Palmerston North would have been in the running to host pool games, not the knockout matches later in the tournament.

At last year's Rugby World Cup, the city hosted two matches involving Georgia, Romania and Argentina. Mr Daisley said the city was exploring the opportunity of hosting teams in the weeks before the tournament.

NZ Football chairman Frank van Hattum said the tournament would be the largest football event ever hosted in New Zealand and would be viewed by about 400 million people.

"Fifa Under-20 World Cup will bring a festival of international football to New Zealand at a skill level never seen here before. Some of the teams will be all-professional, with many players experienced in the world's top clubs and as senior national representatives."

A local organising committee, chaired by Bill Moran, has been set up and will select the six to eight cities that, subject to Fifa approval, will host matches. Mr Moran said the country could expect fewer visitors than for the Rugby World Cup, but the benefits would be wide-reaching. "The longer-term return is people seeing New Zealand on television and wanting to come here."

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- Manawatu Standard

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