EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: New Zealand will host three World Cups over the next three years, kicking off with rugby in 2021, followed on by cricket in 2022 and topped off with football in 2023. All three major events are at different stages of planning and delivery, but all are progressing on track – despite the unforeseen interruptions by Covid-19.
LockerRoom speaks with the women from each code tasked with bringing the events to life to see how they’re going so far.
Project status report: RUGBY WORLD CUP 2021
Date of tournament: September-October 2021
Project manager/tournament director: Michelle Hooper
Project sponsor: World Rugby
Status: ON TRACK
Strangely, the Rugby World Cup 2021 could be in a better position because of Covid-19, says Michelle Hooper, the tournament’s director.
“The opportunity to bring the world to us in 2021 and showcase women’s sport, at the highest level, really excites me,” she says. “And the opportunities we have, the challenges and the hurdles to get there are still present, but the opportunity is probably greater than it ever has been before.”
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics means the pinnacle events in both the sevens and 15s format will only be scheduled six weeks apart. The head of the women’s game at World Rugby, Katie Sadleir, has coined it “the golden year of women’s rugby.”
The opportunities go beyond the event, according to Sadleir, and so World Rugby are making sure they do all they can to invest in the women’s game to reap the rewards.
“There’s quite a significant leverage and legacy programme being driven by the organising committee in New Zealand. They’re using the event to leverage and drive rugby in New Zealand and around the globe,” says Dublin-based Kiwi Sadleir.
One of the initiatives Sadleir is most passionate about is the coaching internship programme put in place for this World Cup.
All 12 teams will have an additional coaching resource 12 months leading up to the event. Being selected as a member of a high-performance coaching team will benefit the female recipients and add much needed coaching experience to their resume.
It’s just one area of focus from the global strategy for women’s rugby launched in 2017, just after Sadleir was appointed at WR. And it will be a point raised when stakeholders meet to discuss the halfway point of the eight-year strategy at the World Cup next year.
Leadership and development programmes including Ako Wāhine – an educator programme empowering more female coaches, managers, referees and administrators – global marketing campaigns profiling players, and unbundling commercial partnerships for the women’s game are a few of the other deliverables.
Status update: “It’s a 10,” says Hooper. “We’re tracking for a Rugby World Cup in September and October next year. We’re tracking on with our unstoppable energy.”
The tournament will be hosted in three stadiums across two cities, Auckland and Whangarei. And Sadleir is staying in New Zealand until the end of November for the announcement of the official draw.
Project status report: ICC WOMEN’S CRICKET WORLD CUP 2022
Date of tournament: February-March 2022
Project manager/CEO: Andrea Nelson
Project sponsor: ICC
Status: ON TRACK
The Women’s Cricket World Cup was scheduled to start in February 2021, but with Covid-19 causing havoc with qualification tournaments, the International Cricket Council made a call in August to postpone the event by one year.
After New Zealand launched the nationwide event in mid-March, New Zealand went into Level 4 lockdown the week after.
“We had come back from Australia after watching the women’s [T20] World Cup final with 86,000 people at the MCG – which was an amazing experience,” says Andrea Nelson, CEO of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup. “We pretty much got straight off the plane, did our launch, and then that happened.
“Like everyone, you took a while to understand how big Covid-19 was and seeing the impact on sports bodies around the world so we got quickly into contingency planning.
“We worked with the ICC and the government and had a really solid biosecurity plan. So we had a plan to do it, and a plan if we didn’t.”
Had it gone ahead as first planned, the eight teams would not have experienced a substantial lead-up to the event, which has a $3.5m purse up for grabs. And Nelson says the push back in dates has allowed more time to action a quality event.
“The exciting thing about this event is it’s not just a 31-day festival. It’s actually about what does it mean for women’s sport globally?” she says.
“So in 2022, we’re right in the middle with the women’s rugby World Cup next year, then you have the cricket World Cup, which is kind of larger in terms of national stretch and global profile, and then you have Fifa [World Cup in 2023]. So you’ve got a really great trajectory. It’s going to be amazing to have three women’s World Cups in three years.”
The cricket matches are being held at six venues across the country, and similar to the rugby World Cup, it’s about what the tournament can provide for all New Zealand and its people.
“We have a similar programme called the ‘leverage and legacy’ programme,” says Nelson, who’s also worked on the 2012 London Olympics and 2017 league World Cup.
“What it basically means is, how do we use the event to leave a lasting legacy for participation, for growing people and women in sport, and what can we do with [investing in] facilities?
“And from New Zealand Cricket’s point of view, it’s building the pipeline to ensure the White Ferns are successful.”
Like rugby, they’re also looking to the neighbouring Pacific countries to see what can be done to support cricket in the region.
“The ICC have a massive development programme in the Pacific Islands and we’re working on how New Zealand, as the host, can really help with that. It gives us a chance to do more which I’m excited about,” says Nelson.
The imminent focus is on rescheduling the entire tournament.
“It’s pretty extensive to get a World Cup rescheduled. You have to check with the broadcasters, all the teams, and all the cities, so we’re looking to have a new schedule by the end of the year,” says Nelson.
This summer is looking hot for NZ Cricket after recently announcing the White Ferns will take on England in February and March, and plans to host Australia are in the works too.
Status update: “It’s on a new track, but it’s on track,” says Nelson. “In the next few months, we’re doing a bit of a reset. We’ll look at the schedule, look at our plan, and make sure we’re doing the right thing for the new time period. But we’re not slowing down.”
Project status report: 2023 FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
Date of tournament: July-August 2023
Project director (NZ): Jane Patterson
Project sponsor: Fifa
Status: ON TRACK
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will most likely be the biggest sporting event ever hosted in New Zealand.
The magnitude of the occasion is not lost on experienced sport administrator Jane Patterson, responsible for delivering the co-hosted tournament here.
When we spoke, Patterson had only been working in her role as project director for five weeks.
“I’m absolutely privileged to be able to work on an event of this size,” says Patterson. “To be honest, you don’t necessarily see this scale of event in a country the size of New Zealand, so from a purely sector standpoint, it’s just an amazing opportunity. And then obviously as someone who is passionate about women’s sport, then that combined is a well-rounded piece for me.”
After winning the bid to co-host the world-class event with Australia, the trans-Tasman buddies go into an early planning stage before starting the process of delivery.
Patterson has been diligently working on organising what’s needed to determine which stadiums and cities will host games. There are 32 teams in the tournament, and 13 stadiums in up to 12 cities between the two countries.
As part of the initial steps, Fifa delegates will visit New Zealand by the end of January for site inspections. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the visits were postponed, but with a longer lead-in time in comparison to rugby and cricket, Patterson says there have been minor impacts so far.
The hosting details should be confirmed by the end of the first quarter next year alongside the organisational structure, and team, to help Patterson with delivery.
“I think one of the things I’m excited about is the collective opportunity the Fifa World Cup, the ICC women’s World Cup, the women’s rugby World Cup and the 2022 IWG on Women and Sport conference [hosted in Auckland] offers New Zealand,” says Patterson.
“To champion equality for women and girls, to see more women and girls playing football and inspiring the nation to be physically active and delivering long-term enduring social impact – that’s what excites me. This collaboration and collective opportunity.”
The similarities across the visions for each World Cup is clear but the compounded impact is limitless.
So success in 2023?
“I have this vision that there shouldn’t be a person in New Zealand that isn’t engaged and knowing that this is going on. From airports to retail stores to taxi drivers, bars, and bus shelters. I just imagine it’s everywhere,” Patterson says.
“The athletes, the teams, the administration staff, the fans, they have just an unforgettable experience and slice of New Zealand. That’s the part where New Zealand has an opportunity to come into its own.
“I also think of the other elements that come from the opportunity of putting the spotlight on a Fifa women’s World Cup. Sports coverage is hugely powerful in shaping norms and stereotypes about gender, so the media has the ability to challenge some of the norms. Suddenly the spotlight can go on those sorts of things as a result of hosting something that’s here over a length of time.”
Status update: “I would say we are right on track. I meet with Fifa, probably three evenings a week with the time difference because they’re in Zurich,” says Patterson. “We have deadlines and deliverables and at the moment we are meeting all of them. So I would say, right now from a project point of view, we are right on track and right where we need to be.”