So, Vancouver's out of the running for hosting any 2026 World Cup matches. I'm deeply disappointed by the news. Maybe even a tad bitter.
But, unlike one notable Vancouver sports radio station, I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of FIFA, not on our provincial government, who refused to sign what essentially amounted to a blank cheque made out to the footballing body.
I have never cast a ballot for the NDP, as I'd classify myself as being a middle of the road conservative, so I find myself in very unfamiliar territory having to congratulate Premier Horgan and the New Democrats on their very rare show of fiscal responsibility.
Eleven billion dollars. That's FIFA's projected profit for the 2026 World Cup. Hmm... somebody's set to make money. But as the old adage goes, you've got to spend money to make money. And what could be better than getting someone else -- like BC taxpayers -- to foot the bill?
Here's just some of what FIFA was demanding we pay for in exchange for the right to host a match or two:
- A grass pitch for BC Place Stadium. This would certainly involve installation of a proper grass surface, complete with drainage -- not the low-cost sod atop AT solution that has been an abject failure both here in Vancouver and in Seattle in the past.
- Installation of a secondary power source to BC Place Stadium as a backup system.
- Exclusive use rights to BC Place for a two-month period, evicting the Whitecaps and Lions for that period.
- All security costs associated with the venue, training facilities, hotels, fan zones, airport and land transport security operations. It's not a perfect parallel, but security costs for the 2010 Winter Olympics came in at just shy of $1 billion.
- All costs associated with enforcing commercial rights - essentially requiring that, presumably police, conduct sweeps of all commercial enterprises in a wide radius around the stadium to ensure that nobody but FIFA and authorized partners are cashing in on the World Cup events.
- What FIFA terms "limited" tax exemption. See p. 29: FIFA Guide to the Bidding Process for the 2026 World Cup. Remember that 11-billion-dollar profit projection?
- Massive amounts of parking allotted to FIFA in the vicinity of the stadium, and unfettered rights to restrict traffic flow, as required, around the city.
- All costs associated with establishing and maintaining a large Fan Zone in the area surrounding or adjacent to the stadium. In other WC locations, these have been 1-2 km long festivity zones.
- Beautification of area surrounding the match venue, dealing with graffiti, cloaking construction sites, etc.
None of these costs were fixed by FIFA, and were open-ended. Essentially, the footballing federation wanted to province to sign on to host a party with no idea what the final bill would be. In a city where many residents -- renters, property owners, and would-be buyers are already being squeezed to crisis proportions, I don't believe that writing a blank cheque to FIFA was really in our best interests.
I would have loved to have had the opportunity to attend a World Cup match here in Vancouver. But not in exchange for the extortionist deal that the fat cats from FIFA concocted back in Zurich. I'll watch the matches on TV thanks. Coverage rights will only cost the taxpayer-funded CBC a couple hundred million -- a bargain compared to the alternative, at least here in B.C.