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Women’s World Cup Football fever hits Hamilton

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New Zealand is getting ready to co-host to the largest women’s sporting event in the world.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand 2023 will be an historic event on multiple levels; a first time for the Southern Hemisphere, the first to be co-hosted by two confederations (Asia and Oceania) and the first to feature 32 teams.

And Hamilton will be in on the football action, hosting five matches at the Waikato Stadium, plus the Zambian team will make Kirikiriroa its home base.

Responsible for unlocking the untapped football potential in the Waikato is the H3 team led by Rebecca Aston.

The event has been a long time coming with the bidding process taking place five years ago and Rebecca was part of a New Zealand team gunning for it to be held in Aotearoa.

“We started trying to bid for it on our own and realised we couldn’t so that’s when it became a joint effort with Australia. And once New Zealand won the right to hold it, I then bid for Hamilton to be a host city.”

The event promises to deliver record-breaking crowds and long-term participation growth in the sport, as well as economic spin-off for the host nations.

“An independent assessment predicted about 13,000 visitors to the city, almost 72,000 visitor paid nights and an $18 million direct visitor expenditure. That’s not just the city, we made sure it included the Waikato region because we know many of those visitors would be staying in the rest of the region,” Rebecca says.

H3 is responsible for all the activities and events taking place outside of the stadium.

“The FIFA fan festival is a new concept and it’s something we’re contractually obliged to deliver. When Hamilton has a major event, we have a stadium or a venue contract and then we have a host city contract. My team looks after the obligations of the host city contract.”

From July 20-23 Hamilton will come alive for four days of football related fun, starting with the opening ceremony and continuing with educational activities, inspirational speakers, live streaming of matches, music, dance, culture, food, mini futsal court and tonnes of fun for the kids – all for free.

Football Fern Michaela Foster and FIFA referee Sarah Jones will both take to the stage to talk about the changing dynamics of women in sport.

H3 is also in charge of the Trophy Tour, which kicked off in Hamilton on June 17 and travelled to Cambridge, Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupō before heading to Dunedin for the next leg of the journey.

The Trophy Tour, dubbed ‘Going Beyond’, is designed to inspire people of all ages, build excitement and support ahead of the five FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 matches in Hamilton Kirikiriroa – which start when Zambia take on Japan on 22 July.

“We’re the only city in New Zealand that’s chosen to take it outside of our city. We think it’s really important to get the trophy out to our neighbours because that’s how we’re going to convince people to come to games, as well sharing the love,” she says.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to bring a large-scale sporting event to life, and Rebecca and the H3 team work with a number of stakeholders to ensure things run smoothly, including transporting people to and from matches around the region and closing streets where necessary.

“We have really close stakeholder relationships with Waikato-Bay of Plenty Football, Sport Waikato, Hamilton Central Business Association, Tourism New Zealand and the Hamilton Airport, as we’re having quite a few teams flying in and out of the airport on private jets. So that takes a lot of arrangement as well. Basically, we’re working with all the stakeholders needed to pull together the information to make this event a success.”

Hamilton will also benefit from a number of legacy projects that Rebecca reckons are long overdue.

“We were given some funding by government to upgrade a couple of our training sites’ changing rooms to be more gender equal. So, making sure that we removed urinals for more toilets, shower partitions and things that are more conducive to a female-friendly environment. That’s a fantastic physical legacy. We’ve also got a few projects in the pipeline around empowering women and showcasing some local women in our community.”

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 reached 1.12 billion viewers across 205 countries meaning H3 will be responsible for showcasing the Waikato, not only to the teams, visitors and the international media, but also to the rest of the world.

Rebecca says it’s the sort of background detail that makes a long-lasting impact for the region.

“We work really closely with Hamilton Waikato Tourism to provide tourism activities for the teams and the media.”

Tickets are now on sale for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia-New Zealand and Rebecca says the range of prices makes it affordable for the whole family.

“Single ticket sales are really super cheap. We’re trying to promote that and get people purchasing tickets because they don’t want to miss out. I think even if you’re not a football fan, you’re going to want to come to a game just to be a part of the atmosphere.”

For more information on the events in Hamilton surrounding the tournament visit hamiltonhostcity.co.nz.

Tickets for FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ matches in Hamilton Kirikiriroa are on sale now at
FIFA.com/hamiltontickets  

Emma Alsemgeest, Claudia McNeil, Rebecca Aston, Harriet Beattie and Lucy Morris

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