British Columbia is no longer alone in shutting out FIFA. Both Chicago and Minneapolis have now told the United Bid committee they are no longer interested in hosting games in the FIFA 2026 Men’s World Cup of Soccer.
This comes as new details have been revealed into the contract British Columbia was going to have to sign. FIFA’s guide for bidding includes a clause that “each government is requested to assume full responsibility – at its own cost – for the safety and security of the competition.”
But the British Columbia government was never provided with information, from FIFA or the United Bid Committee, of how much those costs could be.
“There were concerns that security costs were not addressed. They were not conversations that took place between the province, the feds and the stadium,” said B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare. “So it remains unclear.”
FIFA also requires a “step-in” clause, which would allow the governing body to require host cities to make adjustments to parking, stadiums or security even after a bid has been secured. The United Bid is in the running against Morocco, with a final decision on who will host the 2026 event coming this summer.
British Columbia was also concerned about a lack of indemnity for any potential cost overruns. Canada Soccer provided a guarantee for the province in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup that it would cover any surprise cost overruns.
The province was also worried about the cost of a grass field and the drainage system that would come with it, a clause in the contract that required B.C. Place to clear the stadium schedule for what could have been nearly two months before the first game at the stadium and any additional costs associated with parking or auxiliary facilities.
There is also frustration at Canada Soccer about the failed negotiations. Speaking on a condition of anonymity, a senior member of the Canada Soccer community said: “negotiating with the B.C. NDP is like negotiating with the Beverly Hillbillies.”
Peter Montopoli, Canada bid director and general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said FIFA is likely to announce the host cities in 2020.
Montopoli added while Vancouver seemed willing to talk about the costs of being a host city, it had neglected to discuss the revenue potential “which would be enormous from the provincial point of view because they own B.C. Place (Stadium) and they own the convention centre.”
“That’s the unfortunate part of any of the communications that’s gone out in the last 24 hours,” he said.
On Friday, Steven Reed the President of Canada Soccer and Co-Chair of the United 2026 Bid Committee is expected to be in Edmonton as part of a FIFA announcement.
A similar announcement was scheduled for Vancouver next week, which has now been cancelled. The Alberta Government has also backed off it’s support, leaving Edmonton to cover potential costs for hosting games at that city’s Commonwealth Stadium.
“The province has made the difficult decision to not commit to funding support for the City of Edmonton’s participation in a joint North American bid for the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup at this time,” reads a statement from the Alberta Government.
“If the City does proceed, it must be without an expectation that the province will contribute to host city costs.”
WATCH: Vancouver won’t host a 2026 FIFA World Cup game
Investigative journalist Andrew Jennings has spent a career looking into FIFA and the corruption within soccer’s governing body. He says British Columbians should be applauding the government for backing away from a deal.
“The contract is a laugh. You never sign it in a free world, FIFA doesn’t believe it’s a free world — they believe it’s a world run by FIFA,” said Jennings.
For now, Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton are still considering the bids. The British Columbia government still insists that if the contract language changes, they could still be added as a host city at a later date. It is something that Vancouver Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi would support.
“Could we still be in the game and then manage our way through the process without committing to what seems to be an uncertain number in terms of the cost of the event,” Lenarduzzi said.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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