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#SBS24 Q&A: FIFA’s Rhiannon Martin and Karin Osterberger

Ahead of TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2024 in Manchester next month, we caught up with FIFA’s Rhiannon Martin and Karin Osterberger to reflect on last year’s record-breaking Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and look ahead to the next edition in 2027.

Last year’s tournament – the first edition to feature 32 teams – delivered huge economic benefits for Australia and New Zealand, breaking attendance records in both countries.

The opening match at Auckland’s Eden Park set a new record for a football fixture in New Zealand as 42,317 watched the country’s 1-0 win over Norway. The 35 matches in Australia drew 1,269,531 spectators.

FIFA is seeking to build on the success of the Women’s World Cup at the next edition in 2027. Brazil is bidding to host the tournament for the first time and faces competition from a joint proposal by Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The winning bid will be announced tomorrow (Friday).

Martin (main picture) serves as head of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, while Osterberger (pictured below) is a venue management lead for the tournament. Here, they discuss how the fan experience was prioritised in Australia and New Zealand, and set the scene ahead of tomorrow’s announcement…

TheStadiumBusiness: What’s exciting you in the stadium and events sector at present?

Rhiannon Martin: “One of the most exciting trends in the stadium and events sector at the moment is the innovative approach being taken to fan engagement. Since starting in this industry, the evolution of stadiums to be designed in a way that is ‘fan first’ has been really interesting to see. Fan engagement was a major focus for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023. Thinking outside the box and coming up with initiatives to improve the fan experience was a big priority.

“For example, in Eden Park, Auckland, there was a huge choice of food and beverage opportunities with food trucks being brought in with a wide selection ranging from French crêpes to TexMex to sushi on offer for the fans. We have also worked on improving the use of the giant screens in the stadiums and ensuring that the content we show is lively and entertaining for the fans (alongside showing the live coverage and replays of the matches).

“We are also fully engaged with making the stadiums accessible for all. In Australia and New Zealand, there was a focus on accessible seating at all stadiums (wheelchair-user places, easy-access amenity and easy-access standard); audio descriptive commentary for people without a visual view of activities; changing places toilets that can be used by people with complex and multiple disabilities; quiet rooms for those with sensory requirements. We will look to take it to the next level for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027!”

TSB: What’s in the pipeline for FIFA in the next six to 12 months?

Karin Osterberger: “When it comes to women’s football, our big milestone is May 17. This is the date that the host(s) will be decided for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2027. We have a joint bid from Belgium, Netherlands and Germany, along with a standalone bid from Brazil. The first inspection visits took place earlier this year and work is well underway but from May 17, the work with our next host(s) will ramp up. We can’t wait!

“In addition to building momentum towards the 10th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we also have two youth tournaments at the end of the year – the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in Colombia and the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in the Dominican Republic. And then in just over a year’s time, there will be the first Mundial de Clubes hosted in North America with 32 teams. So indeed, a lot to look forward to!”

TSB: What are you most looking forward to about the Summit?

RM: “Connecting with others within the industry. Regardless of the sport, region or size of the sporting event there’s always something you can learn from the experiences of others. This event offers an unmatched opportunity to spend time with global leaders from the sports and entertainment world, so we are really looking forward to that element of the event.”

Join Rhiannon Martin and Karin Osterberger – and hundreds of colleagues from the sector – at TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2024 in Manchester from June 17-19. Sign up here.