NZ Football chance at lucrative Fifa double

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2011

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FIFA has asked New Zealand Football to stand by as a potential host of next year's under-20 women's World Cup.

And with an already strong bid for the 2015 under-20 men's tournament, New Zealand could host two Fifa events over the next five years.

The Sunday Star-Times understands Vietnam's winning bid for the 2012 women's tournament imploded late last year.

And although Fifa are yet to declare the collapse, NZF chief executive Michael Glading confirmed football's world body contacted him six weeks ago, flagging the tournament's availability with a "can you help?" inquiry.

"Having expressed our interest in the 2015 event, Fifa rang and said `would New Zealand be interested in the 2012 event' to which we said, 'Yes, without a doubt'," Glading told the Sunday Star-Times.

"A winning bid for the 2015 under-20 men's World Cup remains our absolute priority. We're looking at 2012 as a big potential bonus and the New Zealand Government has already given full backing."

Fifa updated Glading on Friday morning, advising of other nations registering interest for 2012, though the spokesperson stopped short of identifying the bidders.

The Sunday Star-Times understands a list of three candidates includes at least one nation from within the Asian Football Confederation.

Glading says he is currently working solely on the 2015 bid, but he has assured Fifa that NZF is ready, willing and able to host next year if required.

Securing both Fifa events would not only be a massive coup for New Zealand football, but Kiwi sport in general.

It would also dump around half-a-billion dollars into the economy, as well as having a tremendous impact on the long-term security of the domestic game.

The under-20 event is the third-biggest tournament on Fifa's books.

"Others have put their hands up for 2012 since Fifa first approached us, but it is still a possibility," Glading said.

"When Fifa first came to us, it was on the basis of helping out. They may feel the fairest thing to do now is to keep it within the confederation originally awarded the competition, which would be perfectly reasonable. It's just impossible to tell at this stage.

"My understanding is we're on standby, and if Fifa require it, we can spring into action. We're definitely an alternative they are considering.

"Both events would be of massive benefit to New Zealand, no doubt about it. But I've made it absolutely clear, New Zealand Football is very, very keen to host the 2015 men's event.

"If Fifa want us to run the 2012 women's tournament too, we could certainly do that."

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Regardless of where the 2012 cup goes, Glading agreed Fifa's decision to turn to New Zealand as an emergency host was an excellent sign for the nation's global reputation – and yet another boost for New Zealand's chances of landing the prime 2015 tournament.

Last week the Star-Times revealed that 2010 Fifa World Cup co-ordinator Peter Montopoli considers the Kiwi bid "a step ahead" of rivals Wales, Peru and Tunisia.

Meanwhile, Glading said the 2015 bid was forging ahead.

The official Bid Book, required by Fifa by February 12, is set to be printed on Thursday.

- Sunday Star Times

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