Waikato and Chiefs rugby’s fortress is flirting with the round-ball game.
The playing pitch at Hamilton City Council-owned Waikato Stadium is set up for football this week, for a visit by a high-powered contingent from Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in New Zealand to carry out inspections ahead of the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
It’s the first time the rugby stadium has been set up for football since July 2010, when the Wellington Phoenix played a pre-season fixture against the Brisbane Roar. Prior to that, Waikato Stadium hosted matches as part of the 2008 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup.
Sean Murray, Hamilton City Council’s Events and Economic Development General Manager, said the visit by the FIFA contingent was part of the city’s bid for matches as part of the 2015 U20 tournament.
“We wanted to present our stadium to our guests as it would look for a football fixture. It was important the FIFA contingent got a feel for how Waikato Stadium can be transformed into a world-class football venue,” Mr Murray says.
The FIFA U20 World Cup and Hamilton logos have been painted on to the hallowed turf to enhance the football mood.
“It’s another great demonstration of how multi-purpose Waikato Stadium is: although for most people it’s synonymous with rugby – the Chiefs, the All Blacks, and Waikato – we can quickly convert it for other uses. In February it will be used for the Nitro Circus motorcycle stunt show, then a few days later it will be transformed again for a Warriors pre-season rugby league fixture.”
Mr Murray says Hamilton’s bid for matches as part of the FIFA U20 World Cup is the result of a collaborative approach between Council and the business and football communities. The city has lodged a ‘Category 3’ bid, which if successful will see Waikato Stadium host up to eight matches, potentially including a quarterfinal.
While in Hamilton, the FIFA party also visited hotels and potential training grounds, including Council-owned Beetham Park, Willoughby Park and Porritt Stadium.