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Robertson encourages NZers to get tickets ahead of FIFA World Cup opening

Deputy leader of Labour Party Grant Robertson
Grant Robertson said some patrons could be caught out by the fact that FIFA do not usually allow "walk up" sales. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The Sport Minister believes New Zealanders need to "pick up their game" around ticket sales ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup opening next week.

Billed as the biggest women's sport event in the world, there are calls for locals on this side of the Tasman to get behind the event.

FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 chief executive Dave Beeche last week said ticket sales were "absolutely on track", despite less than half of the 900,000 available tickets to New Zealand matches sold.

About 1.2 million tickets had been sold across the tournament, the vast majority of these numbers achieved across the ditch.

A total of 29 matches will be held in New Zealand, including a semi-final on 15 August at Auckland's Eden Park.

Australia will host 35 matches, with Sydney's Accor Stadium (formerly Stadium Australia) to host the final on 20 August.

The previous edition in France broke broadcast records with the tournament reaching more than 1 billion views, according to the governing body.

The United States' 2-0 triumph over the Netherlands in the final in Lyon also set viewership records, with a total reach of more than 260m.

Despite this, there were suggestions New Zealanders had not grasped the significance of the event.

Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said New Zealanders needed to do better.

"It's fair to say there are some games where we want to see more people there," he said.

"I think the publicity around the tournament is growing every day, I run into more people talking about it and we certainly want to get New Zealanders along.

"Some games [are] going incredibly well, others we definitely have to pick up our game."

FIFA officials have indicated both games involving the Football Ferns and the top ranked US team had sold well, but games involving some of the minnows were now the focus.

"I think New Zealanders are well known as last minute buyers of tickets, whatever the sport," Robertson said.

"I think rugby can tell you that as much as football, so I think that's one of the things that's at play here."

FIFA do not normally allow "walk up sales" which could catch some patrons out, he said.

"Exclusive" free ticket bundles were being offered last month to Wellington Phoenix 2022/23 season members.

Members could secure up to eight tickets for two of the pool games at Sky Stadium (Spain v Costa Rica and Sweden v South Africa).

Women in Sport Aotearoa chief executive Nicky van den Bos said the game remained a tough sell here.

The success of last year's Women's Rugby World Cup highlighted a shift in the perception of women's sport, she said.

"I think the Rugby World Cup has shown us that we perceive female sport to be on a playing field with the male equivalent.

"I think the difference here is that football is not a sport that New Zealand, unlike parts of Europe and other parts of the world, is really attracted to, and it's not our number one sport."

Former Football Fern Maia Jackman, who went to the World Cup finals in China in 2007, believes anticipation will start to build here.

It was hard to compare ticket sales here with Australia's much larger population base, she said.

"Australia have really big communities of the country that will be playing in Australia.

"Adelaide has a huge Chinese community, so they're definitely getting on board.

"You will see that here as well... typical New Zealanders, we're a bit 'bandwagony'.

"We get on the bandwagon when we see what's happening around us."

Jackman said Kiwis could get a taste of the electric footballing atmosphere seen in other parts of the globe for some matches.

A blockbuster showdown in Wellington, between the defending World champions and the Dutch - a replay of the 2019 final on 27 July - was one such example.

"They will get a real understanding of what that means.

"That USA contingent bring a lot of loudness."

RNZ understands FIFA will be making further announcements around tickets in the coming days.

The Football Ferns face 12th ranked Norway in the Cup opener at Eden Park on 20 July.