Chile And New Zealand Lead The Way
A cooperation agreement between 2008 World Cup hosts New Zealand (U-17) and Chile (U-20) has set a new benchmark on how associations can work together not only for the good of their events, but for the game in general.
The idea to formalise the relationship between the two countries was essentially a natural progression of the two member associations working closely together on their respective events under the guidance of FIFA. After the rather disappointing attendance figures at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Russia, FIFA’s Development Division joined hands with the Competitions Division and the two LOCs in a different approach to women’s competitions. The new legacy philosophy: unlike with the FIFA World Cup™, which sells itself, world football’s governing body agreed that it needed first to organise, sell and promote women’s football in addition to running a first-class tournament – and it was clear that FIFA needed to be innovative and look at new methods such as cooperation agreements, mayoral visits, special media initiatives, ambassador programmes and a series of development activities in order to get media, fans, the commercial sector and other partners on board. Then and only then could FIFA have in women’s football what it already has in the men’s game.
The idea was therefore for the two host countries, Chile and New Zealand, to test the new concept and at the same time engage in a mutual learning process. It was clear that both associations would benefit significantly by working in tandem to share their experiences, knowledge and expertise. New Zealand has a strong women’s football base but is a country dominated by rugby. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Chile is a football country, yet the participation of women in football and sport in general is very low. FIFA hopes that as a result of this sharing of information and the new legacy-focused approach in general, the tournaments will benefit and that a positive long-term impact for women’s football will be felt well after the events themselves have been and gone.
A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY
Harold Mayne-Nicholls, President of the Chilean football association and of the LOC of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008, agrees with FIFA’s sentiments. “In terms of a legacy, our great goal is to involve the girls of our country in football to give them a chance to be part of our wonderful game. In Chile, 9 out of 10 girls are sedentary. We need to change that and football can provide the impetus. We also hope that the other countries in South America will follow our example. FIFA is ready to provide support in this regard, as they have with our association. I am sure, therefore, that if each country has good plans and programmes, they will receive this assistance in order to copy what we have done. And that will be great for the whole continent. In the context of providing a legacy for Chile, certainly the highlight for me so far has been the way our population has gotten behind our initiatives for women’s football. We organised the [South American] qualifiers for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand and we were expecting around 1,000 people to turn up. Instead we had crowds of 5,000 to 8,000. Plus the TV ratings were very good. We gave everyone a fantastic opportunity to be part of this new game for girls.”
Mayne-Nicholls was one of the signatories of the cooperation agreement between New Zealand and Chile that was signed in the presence of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter in October 2007. With the document describing key initiatives such as regular sharing of information and expertise, not only around the World Cup events but around football in general, as well as fixtures at all levels, cultural exchanges and scholarship programmes, Blatter described the document as “groundbreaking” and one that captured the true essence of the football family.
“There is so much goodwill between the two parties,” highlights New Zealand LOC President John Morris. “So while many documents such as this one are signed and then just put in the drawer and forgotten, I do not think that will be the case here. Already our U-20 women’s team will be travelling to Chile in September to play as part of the preparation programme for their World Cup at the end of the year.”
There are another eight reasons why there is little chance that the cooperation agreement will sit in a drawer and gather dust. At a meeting held directly prior to the U-17 World Cup draw in Wellington on 4 June, die mayors of four New Zealand host cities (Andrew Williams, North Shore City, Auckland; Bob Simcock, Hamilton (represented by Councillor Daphne Bell); Kerry Prendergast, Wellington; and Bob Parker, Christchurch) and their four counterparts from the Chilean host cities (Pablo Zalaquett, La Florida; Oscar Pereira, Coquimbo; Francisco Huenchumilla, Temuco; and Aldo Bernucci, Chilian) signed a communique to pledge their support to the initial cooperation agreement.
In relation to being a signatory to the document, Andrew Williams said, “Sport is a great way to open doors and bring people and countries together. Football is huge in Chile and therefore a great way for us to increase our links to South America. The agreement itself had a lot of excellent principles. It is good for sport and will benefit people in both countries. Also the involvement of FIFA in helping bring the document together underlines its strength and the opportunity to build on the agreement in the future. In terms of meeting our colleagues from Chile, the mayors were really a great bunch of guys. It was really interesting to hear how they conducted their municipal business and to learn how they undertake their projects. I was particularly impressed that they have been able to build four new stadiums for 120 million US dollars as a result of the tournament. They were very interesting and innovative leaders.”
Attending the U-17 World Cup draw in New Zealand and working with the local mayors was also an engaging experience for the Chileans, as Pablo Zalaquett pointed out. “It was much more than I expected in every way – from how we were taken care of, to the beauty of the cities we visited (Auckland and Wellington), to the standard of the stadiums and facilities,” he said. “I also learned about die importance of the mayors and their role in the tournament and the development of women’s football in general. It is crucial to involve the city and its citizens, and for host cities to work together with central government and the association. The World Cup is a combined effort – not just by one of us.”
In the case of Chile and New Zealand, the combined efforts will be doubled as the two World Cup events draw nearer. With the support generated by the mayoral exchange and other legacy programme initiatives such as the attendance of a New Zealand delegation at the regional FIFA Corn-Unity courses in Chile, FIFA has most definitely increased the likelihood of two fantastic events and long-lasting positive effects for women’s football in both countries.