No goal? B.C. says World Cup bid committee has 'declined to negotiate' over cost concerns
B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts and culture is pouring more cold water on the possibility of the province playing partial host to the 2026 World Cup.
Canada is participating in a three-way North American bid with the United States and Mexico to host the tournament.
B.C.’s and, by extension, Vancouver’s role in the bid for the tournament was brought in to question on Tuesday when it emerged the province had balked at a “step in” clause, described by Premier John Horgan as a “blank check” that would allow FIFA to make changes to the bid.
On Wednesday, Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said the bid committee has rejected the province’s attempts to nail down a potential cost to B.C. taxpayers.
“We have made numerous attempts to clarify the risks and obligations faced by British Columbians,” Beare said in a statement. “They have declined to negotiate with the province regarding the concerns we raised.”
WATCH: BC out of North America World Cup 2026 bid?
Vancouver games would be played at BC Place Stadium, which is owned and operated by the province through the B.C. Pavilion Corporation (PavCo).
As such, the province would be responsible for the costs of replacing the artificial turf with grass, security measures, parking changes and the cost of operating the facility. Stadium costs are one of the province’s key areas of concern.
“Should the bid committee reconsider, our door remains open to bringing some of the 2026 World Cup games to Vancouver,” said Beare.
But Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city is still ready to play ball amid mounting questions as to whether B.C. will back out of Canada’s joint bid for the World Cup.
“The city is in for the World Cup bid,” Robertson told reporters on Wednesday. “We really would love to host the World Cup in 2026, and we’ve been working hard on that,” he said.
“I know they’ve been working through the details with FIFA and the bid, and I’m hopeful that they’re going to get to a good place and we’re going to be able to win that bid and host in Vancouver.”
However, there isn’t much time left for negotiations. Bid books are due to go to FIFA at the end of the week, and a decision on whether the tournament will go to North America or to Morocco will be made by the FIFA Congress on June 13.
On Tuesday, the federal government officially threw its support behind the unified bid, to the tune of $5 million.
Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are all expected to also put themselves forward as host cities for the tournament.
On Wednesday, Robertson said the city wants Victoria and bid proponents to come to an arrangement that will keep the city in play for 2026.
- With files from Richard Zussman and Jeremy Lye