No harm staying in hunt for Fifa event

Last updated 13:00 23/11/2012

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Around February-March in two years' time, New Zealand will host the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Nelson hopes to have a slice of the action, with its splendid oval at Saxton Field meeting many of the criteria.

Three months later, another international sporting event, the Fifa under-20 Football World Cup, will kick off - provisionally on June 19. There is also a prospect of Nelson being among a handful of host cities.

The million-dollar questions include, what is in it for this region, what will it cost, and will taxpayers wear another significant spendup of this nature?

The Nelson City Council has already committed to spending up to $500,000 in making a bid for a share of the Fifa tournament. This includes staff time.

However, councillors were told this week that this falls well short of New Zealand Football expectations of what it will take to get the nod as a host city. A winning bid is more likely to require a commitment of up to twice that amount.

Even then, NZ Football believes too much of the $500,000 set aside is soaked up in staff time. It would rather see the money allocated to actual tournament costs, such as temporary seating. That is an area in which the Tasman District Council contributed last year for the rugby cup, and surely it would play its part again in the event of a successful bid.

Councillors discussed pulling the plug now and finding some other use for what's left of the $500,000 or keeping the option alive in the meantime, even if the chances of a successful bid look slim.

They voted eight to three to keep their bid on the table. Though this decision will not thrill those in the no-frills, essential-spending-only camp, it was the right one for now, until more information is available.

Presumably, all that will be lost between now and a firm decision either way is a little more on staff time as they continue to seek more detailed information from NZ Football. Arguably, they could spend that time doing something more productive, but their wages will be being paid regardless.

To pull out now would represent a total loss of whatever has been spent to date. More information is needed before the council makes a final decision: Whether to go for broke and seek more funding via the annual plan process, or kick the idea into touch and cut their losses.

It does no harm to keep the ball on the field of play until February, when tournament organising officials are scheduled to visit the city. That is the time to seek specific advice on what is needed, draw up detailed costings and make a decision.

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Yes, last year's Rugby World Cup participation gave the city a welcome boost during a sustained flat patch, even if visitor spending might have been patchier than some businesses hoped for and the full expected benefits of any international exposure have yet to be realised.

However, an under-20 football tournament is in a different league, and we need to know more about costs and benefits. Councillors have kept the hosting idea as a goal in the meantime - but they must be ready to withdraw quickly if it looks like turning into an own-goal.

- The Nelson Mail

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