It’s official: there won’t be any World Cup games played in Vancouver in 2026.
Tourism Minister Lisa Beare confirmed on Wednesday that the North American unified bid committee for the tournament has told Vancouver that it has been dropped from the bid package.
Canada is participating in a three-way North American bid with the United States and Mexico to host the tournament.
However, B.C. balked at a “step in” clause as a part of that bid package, described by Premier John Horgan as a “blank cheque,” that would allow FIFA to unilaterally make changes to the bid at any time.
LISTEN: Vancouver out of FIFA World Cup bid
Beare said that raised concerns that the province would have to sign on without knowing how much taxpayers would actually be paying, and that the bid committee had rejected requests to try to arrive at a dollar figure.
“There are very large concerns. One of them is FIFA’s ability to change the stadium agreement at any point which adds unknown risk and unknown cost to the taxpayer,” said Beare. “We are willing to put B.C. taxpayers on the hook for unknown costs.”
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. Beare said in contrast to the previous Vancouver-hosted Women’s World Cup, this time B.C. was being offered no support with those costs.
But critics are already calling the NDP’s handling of the bid an own-goal.
“This bid, which shares costs across the continent, was a fabulous opportunity to promote British Columbia as part of the most-watched sporting event in the world,” BC Liberal MLA Jas Johal said in a statement. “Other provinces have come to arrangements but the BC NDP is the lone jurisdiction who has failed to come to the table.”
Johal said the bid had been in the works for months, involving close communication with the City of Vancouver and other stakeholders, and called for the NDP to “provide all the facts” about how it failed to reach an agreement with the bid committee.
The man seen as the architect of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics also said B.C. missed a huge opportunity by not joining the bid.
“Every game is broadcast live to the entire world so the 202 members of FIFA get every game live,” said John Furlong, chair of the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation.
WATCH: BC out of North America World Cup 2026 bid?
He said that with playing host to World Cup games comes advertising and promotion potential that can’t be bought in other ways.
“The marketing power of having that access to the world market — you couldn’t afford to buy it.”
Furlong added that he’s frustrated he was never asked for advice or input as part of the B.C. government’s decision making process.
The City of Vancouver released a statement Wednesday saying it was “extremely disappointed” in the outcome of the bid process.
“We believe hosting the biggest sporting event on earth would have offered significant economic benefits,” said the statement.
The statement came just hours after Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters the city was still ready to play ball, and expressed hope the province and bid proponents could come to an arrangement.
“The city is in for the World Cup bid,” Robertson said. “We really would love to host the World Cup in 2026, and we’ve been working hard on that.”
Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are still expected to put themselves forward as host cities for the tournament. On Tuesday, the federal government officially threw its support behind the unified bid, to the tune of $5 million.
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.
- With files from Richard Zussman, Liza Yuzda and Jeremy Lye