Wollongong football fanatics could be cheering on female soccer players from around the world at WIN Stadium if the Illawarra Greens get their way.
Greens councillor Mithra Cox will ask Wollongong City Council to lobby to become a host city for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Football Federation Australia with the federal government announced a bid last year for Australia to host the international tournament.
Cr Cox along with the Greens candidate for Keira Kaye Osborn and candidate for Heathcote Mitchell Shakespeare launched their campaign for Wollongong council to lobby the state and federal governments and FFA to become a host city if Australia wins the bid.
“Our stadium is the perfect size,” Cr Cox said. “For most of the group games in the Women’s World Cup a stadium needs to seat 25,000 to 30,000 people.
“For example, the stadium at Homebush, is too big for those early games. WIN Stadium is perfect.
“I attended the recent W-league game between Sydney FC and Brisbane Roar at WIN Stadium. The western concourse was packed, despite it being a rainy school night, and Wollongong did not even have a team in the competition.
“If there is a world-class women’s football tournament here then Wollongong residents will get behind it.”
There are currently no other official bidders to host the competition, however it is likely Japan and South Africa will place bids. Australia has a reasonable chance to outbid these nations.
The successful host country will be decided by FIFA in June at the Women’s World Cup in France.
To date no host cities have been named in the official Australian bid.
Cr Cox said WIN Stadium, which seats 23,000 would need to have temporary or permanent seating installed along the hill to be compliant with FIFA requirements and would increase the capacity to more than 25,000. The government would fund the upgrade.
“We are not talking about knocking down a perfectly good stadium,” the former amateur player said. “We are talking about using the resources we have.
“It is a beautiful stadium, in a beautiful location with good proximity to Sydney. Wollongong is the perfect host city for international teams.”
Instead South West Sydney and Western Melbourne will make the A-League a 12-team competition.
Cr Cox said residents would support the world cup by attending games even though the Illawarra did not have a team in the A-League or W-League.
“Wollongong deserves an (elite) soccer team,” she said. “I see this push as part of supporting the considerable football community in Wollongong.
“There are lots of fans who turn out to see the Wolves play every week even though they are not in the A-League.
“Many elite women’s players are from Wollongong. Sydney FC player Caitlin Foord is one of the most exciting W-League players and she is from Wollongong.
“Eleven Socceroos attended Keira High School.
“Having something like a Women’s World Cup would be so exciting for the city.”
Wollongong is becoming a go-to destination for major sporting events. It will host the 2022 UCI Road World Championships and Cr Cox remembers when athletes stayed in the city during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“It was such an exciting time for us as a city,” she said. “You would see athletes from all over the world on the train and get their autograph.
“The Women’s World Cup would have that kind of excitement and buzz for the city and would bring people to it.”
Cr Cox will raise the request at Wollongong City Council’s next council meeting on Monday.