Cup bid falls well short of NZF wish

Nelson City Council is caught between a rock and a hard place if it wants to make a serious bid to become a host city for the Under-20 Football World Cup.

Councillors agreed yesterday to go ahead with a bid of $500,000, including staff time, to be a host city for the Federation Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) Under-20 World Cup 2015, despite feedback that will be around $500,000 short of the desired mark.

However, any additional money would have to be approved via the public consultation process of the draft annual plan, which is after the tender process closes.

The council will instead use the capped amount of the bid combined with promoting Nelson's charms as a tourism destination and proven track record as a Rugby World Cup host city to try to convince organisers it stacks up as a host city.

The city council is one of several councils around the country bidding for the right. Council executive manager of community services Roger Ball told councillors yesterday that after meeting with representatives of New Zealand Football for an update on the tender process, he learned the Nelson bid would fall "well short" of being competitive.

Council staff presented councillors with options that included maintaining the current bid, increasing it or withdrawing from the process. Staff considered that the bid should not be withdrawn because of the amount of work spent on preparing it so far, and because a slim chance of success remained.

"New Zealand soccer has been in complex negotiations with us and have given us one last opportunity to make any changes," Mr Ball said.

The deadline for a decision on whether to increase the level of funding is November 30.

Councillor Mike Ward said the council should not put any extra money forward, but the council should instead make a case that Nelson would be an attractive destination for Fifa. "We performed well during the Rugby World Cup and could be expected to do that again," Mr Ward said.

Mr Ball said if Nelson was awarded host city status on the basis it would commit more money, and then the extra money was not approved as a result of public feedback, then there were legal and financial risks.

Councillor Paul Matheson said after travelling the country and talking to other councils, there was "strong negativity" over bidding for the football event because many had been burnt by the RWC. He said many cities now had expensive stadiums that were "elephants sitting out there grazing".

Mr Matheson suggested the council withdrew from the tender process and return the $500,000 set aside for the bid to the council's budget for something like an athletics meeting or rock concert. "It's been made clear to us that we have to ‘up the dough' or we're not in the running," he said.

Councillor Rachel Reese said early discussion, which until yesterday had been behind closed doors, indicated the council could not see it would be a good investment. Councillor Ian Barker said it was the equivalent of $42 per Nelson ratepayer.

However, Ms Reese did not think withdrawing now was sensible. She supported Mr Ward's view that Nelson needed to be promoted as a good place to hold part of the tournament, partly because of its excellent volunteer sector.

Councillor Pete Rainey said Fifa was a "huge body" - bigger than Nelson city, and needed to come clean on what it wanted from Nelson. "We are making a decision on an anecdotal bit of advice our bid is not high enough. We need to know what it will take for us to get across the line," Mr Rainey said.

Mr Barker said despite comments by councillor Ruth Copeland about the merits of staging international events, which included international exposure as witnessed by her while in Rome, he "hadn't seen too many Romans coming here to enjoy Nelson" post Rugby World Cup. "If we put that money into attracting cruise ships instead, that's where we'd get some real benefit," he said.