Wellington struggles to fill early World Cup fixtures

WELLINGTON, July 24 (Reuters) – Host city Wellington will be hoping the return of their footballing Ferns to the Women’s World Cup this week will help spark more excitement after opening matches at the 33,132-capacity Sky Stadium.

A record crowd of 42,137 witnessed New Zealand’s first ever World Cup win at Eden Park on Thursday with a 1-0 win over Norway.

Friday’s match between Spain and Costa Rica barely reached 70% stadium capacity, with 22,966 in attendance, while Sunday’s affair between Sweden and South Africa was 55% capacity.

„I thought it was going to be a little bit more,” said Swedish supporter Larna Tigerholm, 43.

Co-host Australia ramped up the pace for early ticket sales as FIFA secured more than a million sales more than a month before the tournament began.

But New Zealanders have been slow to pounce, prompting world football’s governing body to offer 20,000 free days ahead of kick-off.

„What (organisers) really need to do is tell people what’s special about watching two teams play that are not national and not particularly highly ranked,” said Kevin Argus, a senior lecturer at RMIT University. „There’s a lot of storytelling that needs to happen.”

However, when the Ferns come into Tuesday’s clash with the Philippines, there’s no need for a back story as a win against the World Cup debutants will keep their dream of getting out of the group stage alive.

That game is sold out, along with Thursday’s matchup between four-time champions USA and their 2019 final opponents, the Netherlands.

„We’re looking forward to the next Games and how we can build on that momentum and encourage New Zealanders and different communities (to watch),” said Warrick Dent, WellingtonNZ’s general manager of events and experiences.

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„This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’re sure the New Zealanders will get behind it as the tournament continues.”

Reporting by Irene Wang in Wellington, Amy Dennery in Auckland; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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