This week, Edmonton city councillors will discuss the next steps that must be taken if the city wishes to pursue a bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Alberta’s capital has been shortlisted with three other Canadian cities to help host the event if a North American bid is successful; the other cities under consideration are Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
Canada, the US and Mexico are working together on a bid to bring the World Cup to North America. A report headed to the Community and Public Services Committee said that Canada is anticipated to have up to three host cities.
According to the report, the costs for each host city are estimated at between $35 million and $55 million, and the Canadian host cities would split 10 games.
Councillor Tim Cartmell, who is on the Community and Public Services Committee, said the expenses would be worth it.
Edmonton has played host to the World Championships in Athletics at Commonwealth Stadium and helped host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Cartmell said that shows the city is well-suited to host an event of such caliber as the World Cup.
“Using that venue as a world-class stage for a world-class event, I think, proves the point we can certainly carry off this event no trouble at all,” he said.
“Certainly FIFA is a much bigger thing. It’s perhaps arguably second only to the Summer Olympics – so there would be a bit more rigour around that, a bit more intensive of an event than the world championships.”
As part of the submissions, the city would be required to sign three legally binding agreements, including a host city agreement outlining the commitments to host the event to the standards set by FIFA, a stadium agreement that outlines the obligations of the stadium and sets a preliminary rental fee as well as a training site agreement.
Cartmell said he believes the city has the infrastructure, transit system and other amenities in place to welcome the attendance that comes with the event.
“Between now and 2025, we’re only going to enhance that infrastructure. There’s a lot of city building that’s going to happen in the next eight years. I certainly think we would only be in a better position to handle this event,” he said.
Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are all Major League Soccer sites, but Cartmell said Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium gives the city an advantage.
“Anybody who was at that opening game for the Canadian team in the Women’s World Cup – 50,000 people in an open-air stadium, 25 C on a July day, I don’t think there’s any argument at all – that’s the best soccer stadium in Canada bar none and that’s certainly why we are part of this discussion,” he said.
Mario Charpentier, the president of the Edmonton Minor Soccer Association (ESMA), said landing the World Cup would be a “great thing.”
“I believe the stadium would be packed, sold out. This is the biggest sporting event in the world. Of course we would love to be part of it,” he said.
Charpentier said there would be ripple effects for the sport in the city.
“Getting the World Cup is something incredible – the best players in the world playing here will attract, I’m sure, more.”
Charpentier said the EMSA would assist in any way it can if Edmonton were to win the bid, adding the association would help recruit volunteers.
The report heads to committee on Wednesday. City council approval is still needed and would be required by January 24. The joint bid between the three countries would be submitted on March 16. FIFA announces the successful bid in June 2018 with the final host cities announced in 2021.