Explained: England's extensive Women's World Cup planning and timeline
Technical director Kay Cossington and England Women general manager Anja van Ginhoven discuss the detailed work which has gone into planning for this summer's FIFA Women's World Cup
When England arrive at this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, one thing which you can be sure of is the team will be prepared.
Head coach Sarina Wiegman and her coaching staff have been working tirelessly on making sure the players will be ready on the pitch.
It was the same ahead of last summer’s tournament but whilst the Lionesses were preparing for the UEFA Women’s EURO and subsequently lifting a first major trophy, the FA's women’s technical director Kay Cossington and England Women’s general manager Anja van Ginhoven had already spent several months looking ahead and planning for this year’s World Cup.
Over the past 14 months, the pair have visited Australia several times and carried out extensive work to ensure England secured the best pre-tournament training venues and World Cup base camp possible.
And Cossington believes the Lionesses’ comprehensive search to find the right locations in Australia is the latest example of how much the FA is invested in women’s football.
Cossington said: “It is credit to the FA for allowing us and being invested in us to go out to Australia and do our planning so early. We were one of the first teams out there, looking at all the venues, and it comes at our own cost.
“It is credit to the investment the FA is making into women’s football to say ‘let’s get as prepared as we possibly can be’.”
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January 2022 – It may have been 19 months out from the tournament, and therefore the group and location of the matches still unknown, but members of England’s staff met with FIFA representatives to plan for a first site visit a few months later.
The FIFA catalogue of World Cup hotels and training venues was not ready at this stage so the FA provided the organisation with the key criteria they were looking for, such as the training ground being within 25 minutes of the host city, the locations not being in a central business district (CBD area) and the locations not being too remote so the players were able to enjoy their downtime.
February 2022 – FIFA provided ‘a long short list’ of hotels and training venues which would be paired together for the tournament.
May 2022 – Site visit #1. Cossington and Van Ginhoven flew to Australia for ‘quite a road trip’, as over 11 days they looked for potential training camps across the East Coast, from Hervey Bey down to Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.
The pair visited 23 hotels, 18 training venues and boarded nine flights as they assessed the hotels and training grounds, analysing aspects such as the distance to the airport and matchday stadiums, and other specific requirements.
Cossington said: “It was brilliant because it was important for us to get a really good feel for the places. You can look at a catalogue and see the distances but it was important that we met the people running these facilities and also get a really good feel for the environment and what the area was like.
“We wanted to make the journeys and tread the footsteps the players would be treading to make sure we were happy with it.
“It meant we were able to see aspects such as where the traffic hotspots might be and all of those things which we know are important for us.
“We wanted to pull together a short list from the FIFA long list which might be of interest based on each World Cup group, because at that point we didn’t know where we would be.”
She praised FIFA’s ‘almost military-like schedule’, with Van Ginhoven adding: “It was amazing and a big compliment goes to the local FIFA team.”
June 2022 – A short list based on each potential World Cup group and location was devised. New Zealand’s strict COVID regulations meant focus was initially placed on Australia, with the plan to visit New Zealand and Perth if needed.
July 2022 – It was important the initial stages of planning was completed by July so all the focus was on the UEFA Women’s EURO, which the Lionesses would go on to win at Wembley Stadium.
Cossington said: “The purpose of us going out there so early was to give us as much preparation time as possible whilst the team were focussing on preparing for the EUROs. We were able to get our heads up and look further afield.
“So the trust between Sarina and ourselves was really important and we made sure we were all on the same page around what the requirements are and what the team needs.”
October 2022 – Site visit #2. Cossington and Van Ginhoven flew out to Australia once again to look at the short list of venues around the Brisbane area and finalise some of the remaining detail.
From there, they travelled to the World Cup draw, where it was revealed they would be in Group D and have matches in Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.
Site visit #3 swiftly followed as the preparation work meant they could visit their preferred venues straight away.
November 2022 – Each country had to provide FIFA with their preferred shortlist for training grounds and hotels for the tournament base camp.
After being provided with details such as personal experiences from site visits, photographs and other information, the final decision was taken by head coach Wiegman.
December 2022 – England discover they have been awarded their number one choice for base camp: the Central Coast Stadium in Gosford and the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific.
It was a clear process and FIFA decided based on five criteria, which included aspects such as whether you have two fixtures in the region.
Each team has specific needs and it meant that most countries received their preferred options during the process.
January 2023 – Site visit #4. A small performance-based team, including head coach Wiegman, travelled to Australia to visit the venues.
Van Ginhoven said: “When we went back in January, we were slightly nervous because we had been there a few times and were super enthusiastic about the venues, but it was the first time that the head coach and the staff members had been there, so you just hope they are as happy about the venues as we were. And they were.”
March 2023 – Site visit #5. An extended team of staff visit the venues to conduct more specific checks, such as measuring facilities and allocating rooms.
Late May – England are likely to announce their World Cup squad in late May, with more than 50 players and members of staff expected to travel to Australia. The players will then have at least two weeks off after their club season finishes, with the Barclays Women’s Super League concluding on May 27.
June 12-16 – Players will attend St. George’s Park separately to get ready for the forthcoming preparation camp, with the FA working closely with the clubs.
June 19-23 – There will then be an official preparation camp before the players have a two-day break.
June 26-July 1 – Another England-based preparation camp will take place before a further three days off.
July 5 – The players and staff will fly to Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
July 7-17 – England will have a third preparation camp in Queensland, staying at the Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort and training at the Sunshine Coast Stadium.
July 17-22 – They will then move to the FIFA transfer hotel in Brisbane ahead of the first World Cup match on July 22 against Haiti. This means the team can avoid having to make a flight to their main base camp in the build-up to the fixture.
July 23 onwards – England will then fly south to their main FIFA base camp one hour north of Sydney. They will be staying at the Crowne Plaza Terrigal Pacific hotel and training at Central Coast Stadium in Gosford.
The team will be based here not only for the matches against Denmark on July 28 and China on August 1 but also the knockout stages should they qualify, regardless of whether they win the group or finish as runners-up, with the potential routes through the competition leading to only one flight and the rest are within coach rides to the stadiums.
As was the case during the home EURO, England will transfer to a different hotel close to the ground the day before a match, before returning to base camp immediately after the game.
Cossington said: “The biggest differences with France 2019 are the time difference and the travel distances. So we tried to make a really big tournament geographically as small as we can."
You can read more about England’s pre-tournament training base on the Sunshine Coast here and their World Cup base camp here.
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