But it has much going for it. First, Football Australia estimates $400 million plus in total benefits, 60,000 people visiting Australia and thousands of jobs. Second, no new infrastructure was required, so costs have been kept down, faithful to the “new candidature model”, as mentioned by Matt Carroll. Third, sharing the hosting rights with New Zealand means sharing the revenue but also the overhead costs.


However, when the carnival is over, what will be the legacy beyond the boost in trade and tourism? Football Australia points to Legacy23, its plan to deliver immediate and long-term community and economic benefits. According to Sarah Walsh, FA’s head of women’s football, Women’s World Cup legacy and inclusion, there will be a surge in female participation in the game.

“We are looking at 407,000 new participants coming into the game who are women and girls,” Walsh says, “so the real problem – and an opportunity we have – is that they’re going to need more places to play. We have over 2500 pitches and community clubs in Australia, but only one in five community clubs are actually female-friendly. It’s a real concern and it’s a real opportunity that the legacy plan hopes to really correct and capitalise on.”

Legacy is one thing; there is also leverage. When I was Austrade chief economist, we developed Business Club Australia, a business-diplomatic networking body that generated $1.7 billion in trade and investment deals between the Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008 Olympics alone, demonstrating the power of “schmooze”. It worked at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 with key trading partners such as India, South Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and the UK member countries.

It could be that we haven’t leveraged the Commonwealth Games enough. Pacific nations, for example, matter. Sports – especially the rugby codes and soccer – can help, but so can the Comm Games. Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s re-engagement with the Pacific has been excellent so far. I hope the 2026 Games’ cancellation has little adverse impact on our friends in the Pacific.


When the Commonwealth Games were held in Brisbane in 1982, a giant Kangaroo float nicknamed Matilda charmed us, especially when she winked at the end. In 2023, in the coming weeks, it will be a whole team of Matildas hoping to win our hearts and minds.

Almost six years ago, I wrote a report about the crowd for the Matildas being 15,089 in Penrith when they won in a “friendly” against the well-fancied Brazil. With a strike by Lisa de Vanna and a glancing header by Sam Kerr, Australia beat Brazil 2-1. On Thursday night, the Matildas play before 80,000-plus at the Olympic Stadium in Homebush in the opening round of the World Cup.

With numbers like that, I doubt even Dan Andrews would think of cancelling them.

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