City puts on best suit for Fifa venue inspection

New Zealand Football's Peter O'Hara and Fifa's Rhiannon Martin check out Yarrow Stadium as part of their inspection of venues.
New Zealand Football's Peter O'Hara and Fifa's Rhiannon Martin check out Yarrow Stadium as part of their inspection of venues.

Groundsman Bill Read had the pitch looking splendid, the sun was shining and the visiting delegates looked reasonably impressed.

Now we have to wait a couple of months to see if Yarrow Stadium stacks up as a suitable venue for the 2015 Fifa under-20 World Cup.

Seven Fifa delegates spent several hours in the province yesterday, not only looking over Yarrow Stadium's suitability, but whether the province can provide training facilities, infrastructure and accommodation up to the football governing body's standard.

With as few as six venues likely to get the nod, the New Plymouth bid appears to be in a battle with rivals Nelson, Napier and Whangarei for pool games if Fifa, as expected, opt to play the majority of the tournament's 52 games in the major cities.

Still, representatives from the New Plymouth District Council and Venture Taranaki were doing their best to convince Fifa the province had everything they were looking for, citing the success of the province's part in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Just how much the Taranaki bid has cost so far and how much more could be needed to be paid to Fifa to cover tournament costs - if games were allocated here - remain mysteries.

Fifa senior competitions manager Rhiannon Martin was not going into specifics yesterday, other than to explain what the Zurich delegation was here to see.

"Our main aim while we are here is really to look at space allocation at the stadium, what's good for the teams, the medical teams, our administrators and we also look at the media working spaces while we have TV people here looking at possible camera positions," she said.

With an estimated television audience of 400 million, the tournament is big business for Fifa - second only to its senior World Cup.

Martin said the delegation's immediate impression of the stadia on offer in New Zealand was positive.

"Fifa is bringing a tournament here for the third time in 16 years, so it's obviously a testament to how good the stadiums are here in New Zealand. We also want to continue to promote the game here."

Peter O'Hara, New Zealand Football's interim project manager, quoted an independent organisation report, which declared host cities could share in $25 million worth of economic benefits from the tournament.

He stressed that no venues had been given the green light, even though it appeared common sense that Auckland's Eden Park or North Harbour Stadium would be the preferred options for the business end of the tournament.

"Nothing has been decided," he said. "At this moment there are nine cities in the bidding and that remains open until Fifa makes the final decision."

However, a seven-strong New Zealand Football delegation would make its recommendation to Fifa next month, he said.

Taranaki Daily News