B.C. stands firm in decision not to host World Cup 2026 soccer games
British Columbia’s New Democrat government is holding firm on its decision not to host games during the FIFA 2026 World Cup, citing the risk to taxpayers.
Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, issued a statement Wednesday reiterating her government’s concern that “taxpayers are not on the hook for hidden costs.”
“The FIFA bid agreement contained clauses, which (B.C.'s) government felt left taxpayers at unacceptable risk of additional costs,” Beare said.
“We tried very hard to get assurances that addressed our concerns,” she added.
FIFA announced Wednesday that the joint bid between Canada, the United States and Mexico for the 2026 had triumphed over Morocco’s.
There will be 10 games over 32 days in Canada.
Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal are all planning to be host cities.
Vancouver, one of only three Canadian cities with a Major League Soccer team, was on board with the bid, but it hinged on the provincially owned stadium, BC Place.
Beare said earlier this year that FIFA’s demand that it be able to “unilaterally change the stadium agreement at any point” was too much of a risk for B.C.
Shortly after North America was announced as the hosts Tuesday, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson asked Alberta, which has a debt expected to reach $71 billion by 2020, to provide funding for infrastructure, security and transportation costs.
Alberta has previously said it won’t pay to host the games.
The federal government has said it will put at least $5 million toward the event but far more is needed.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is not running for re-election, has said that he was “disappointed” by the decision.
"Major sporting events often have challenges around costs and managing financial risk,” he said. “However, the city was all-in and hopeful that the federal and provincial governments would be able to arrive at a fair deal.”
British Columbians have long debated whether international sporting events are worth the cost. One major study looking at the impacts of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics found that it cost $7.78 billion, mostly from taxpayers. However, it also created jobs and left behind infrastructure like the Canada Line train.
Montreal, whose 1976 Olympic Stadium took 20 years to pay off, is expected to spend about $69 million on the games.
Quebec has set aside up to $300 million to replace the stadium’s roof.
‘We don’t want to lose ... to FIFA’
Declan Hill, a professor of investigations in the college of criminology justice and forensic sciences at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, told CTV News Channel Wednesday that taxpayers ought to be cautious when dealing with FIFA, noting convictions on corruption charges in the past.
“As a taxpayer and as a person that’s seen the operations of FIFA close at hand, I’m saying, everybody, let’s take a break and be very careful how we sign contracts with this institution,” said Hill, who wrote The Fix: Soccer and Organized Crime.
Hill said the local organizing committees need to have “top cops ... top forensic accountants (and) top democratic accountability people.”
“We don’t want to lose, as the taxpayers, to FIFA,” he added.
No beer during early morning games
Some soccer fans in British Columbia are also disappointed that their government hasn’t followed Alberta’s lead on alcohol during this year’s World Cup, which kicks off on Thursday in Russia.
Alberta announced Tuesday that liquor can be served during early morning World Cup games when bars would normally be required to stop serving.
Vancouver restaurant owner Janine Spartano, who has brought in extra TVs and a special breakfast pizza option for 6 a.m. games, told CTV Vancouver was disappointed to learn she can’t serve alcohol outside regular hours.
With files from CTV Vancouver, CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press