The city of Wellington is hoping that the presence of their national women’s football team, the Football Ferns, will generate more enthusiasm for the Women’s World Cup.
The early matches of the tournament have not been able to fill the 33,132-seat Sky Stadium, so the city is looking to the Football Ferns to bring in more excitement.
Although a record crowd of 42,137 attended the New Zealand team’s victory over Norway at Eden Park, the overall start of the tournament in Wellington has been lackluster.
The match between Spain and Costa Rica on Friday did not fill up to 70% of the stadium capacity, with only 22,966 people in attendance. Similarly, the match between Sweden and South Africa on Sunday had a turnout of 55% capacity.
“I thought it’d be a bit more, like a bit more people dressed up,” said 43-year-old Sweden supporter Larna Tigerholm.
Australia, as the co-host of the tournament, played a significant role in driving early ticket sales. FIFA announced that over a million tickets had been sold well in advance of the tournament. However, residents of New Zealand were slower to purchase tickets, leading FIFA to offer 20,000 tickets for free before the tournament started.
“What (organisers) really need to do is to inform people of what is the uniqueness about being able to go along and see two teams play that are not the national team and may not even be particularly highly ranked,” said Kevin Argus, a senior lecturer from RMIT University.
“A lot of storytelling needs to occur.”
No background information is necessary for the upcoming match between the Ferns and the Philippines on Tuesday. A victory against the World Cup newcomers would allow the Ferns to continue their hopes of advancing from the group stage.
Both this game and Thursday’s match between the United States and the Netherlands, who faced each other in the 2019 final, are completely sold out.
“We’re looking ahead to the games after that and how we can build on that momentum and really encourage New Zealanders and different communities (to watch),” said Warrick Dent, the general manager of WellingtonNZ for events and experiences.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’re pretty confident that New Zealanders will get in behind it as the tournament goes on.”