Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid for the 2023 Women’s World Cup has the potential to net the local economy more than $4 billion, according to a leading economist.
Bleary-eyed football fans continued rapturous celebrations after the FIFA Council, which convened in Zurich early Friday morning AEST, announced the trans-Tasman countries would co-host the major tournament’s next instalment.
And AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver believes the event will kick some goals for the local economy.
As the global pandemic clouds the future of international travel and local tourism – with Australia’s borders likely to remain closed until year’s end – staging a large-scale tournament could provide the shot in the arm the sector needs, Dr Oliver said.
Assuming tourist arrivals return to regular levels in three years’ time, he said increased retail sales, consumer confidence and infrastructure spending could generate 0.2 per cent of GDP.
For a $2 trillion economy, that’s the equivalent of $4 billion.
“Economic activity will be higher than what would have otherwise been the case as a result of government and private spending to get venues ready and run the event,” Dr Oliver told The New Daily.
But Dr Oliver did warn of overestimating the economic impact of major events, citing the 2000 Sydney Olympics as an example where forecasts far exceeded the real-world economic impact.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not going to get us out of the hit to economic activity that’s occurred because of the coronavirus, but the benefits will certainly be diffused across the cities that are part of the hosting effort,” he said.
FFA CEO James Johnson anticipates Australia will receive a net $460 million economic and social benefit from hosting the tournament.
That follows Canada’s assertion that its 2015 hosting effort provided a C$493.6 million ($AU493.6 million) cash injection predominantly lead by tourist spending.
More than economic benefits
Although the focus will be on government investment given today’s economic uncertainty, Griffith University Sport And Gender Equity (SAGE) research hub chair Professor Simone Fullagar said there are trickle-down effects that cannot be easily monetised.
Therefore, Professor Fullagar believes the hallmark of the World Cup’s success will be increased levels of interest in women’s football among grassroots competitions and spectators.
“Investing in football programs, getting locals onboard and engaging sponsors and coverage is where we’ll see the World Cup’s tangible legacy,” Professor Fullagar told The New Daily.
The federal government expects women’s football participation will surge by more than 150,000 players over the next seven years, according to FFA modelling.
Stadiums are usually the largest expense for world-class sporting events.
However, she noted most of the World Cup’s proposed venues were already purpose-built to house large crowds for men’s domestic competitions.
“This is a great opportunity to maximise the opportunity for women’s football teams to play in bigger stadiums, to have bigger crowds and better media coverage – and there’s also the important social dimension of bringing people together and advancing gender equality,” she said.
Women’s professional sport received a major boost earlier this year when more than 86,000 fans packed into the MCG to watch the host nation win the T20 Women’s World Cup.
And roughly 1 billion viewers tuned in to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in France, with more expected in three years’ time.
Professor Fullagar said capitalising on the hosting rights will require a “coordinated effort” across various sectors.
“There’s a responsibility across a number of government portfolios, local and state football federations and even state tourism and major sports authorities to drive initiatives that enhance connections with communities to maximise its multiplier effect,” she said.
Western Sydney University lecturer in sport development Dr Ryan Storr told The New Daily that although tournament officials may need to factor in new considerations into stadium infrastructure, it should not have a substantial impact on the event’s bottom line.
“From a financial perspective you want to sell out these stadiums, but if social distancing still exists that’s going to be difficult, so organisers will have a Plan A, B and C to cope with it,” Dr Storr said.
“But beyond the benefits to improving women’s sport attendance, holding any championship like this will be supported by hundreds of integral volunteers who can also provide a boost to the economy.”