The Alberta government says it will not throw its financial support behind the City of Edmonton in its participation in a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said there wasn’t enough information available at this time to be able to determine the full impact that hosting the soccer event would have on provincial taxpayers.
“If nothing significantly changes and the city does proceed, it will be without an expectation that the province will contribute to host city costs,” Miranda said.
The decision comes as Vancouver was dropped from the list of potential host cities, which still includes Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto. Chicago and Minneapolis also dropped out at the last minute over concerns about FIFA’s demands.
“There are very large concerns with the bid,” B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said. “One of them being with FIFA to unilaterally change the stadium agreement at any point—that adds unknown costs and unknown risks to the B.C. taxpayers.”
The Minneapolis group said it had concerns about “future liability and unforeseen changes in commitments.” A spokesman for Chicago’s mayor said FIFA “could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk.”
Miranda’s statement went on to say that Albertans expect their government to be responsible with their money.
“We will continue to work with our partners in both the municipal and federal governments, including the City of Edmonton, to bring major sport events to Alberta in a way that balances our fiscal responsibility to Albertans with the benefits that come with hosting world-class events.”
Watch below: The costs and public investment associated with applying and hosting the 2026 tournament remains unclear
Dan Mason, a professor of sport management with the University of Alberta, said he believes cities are becoming more wary of hosting major sporting events due to uncertainties related to costs, and whether there are actual benefits to being a host city.
“This is going to force organizations like FIFA and IOC (International Olympic Committee) to change they way they engage local governments. FIFA is so used to having cities and regions scrambling for the opportunity to host games that they have been accustomed to get whatever they want.”
On Tuesday, the federal government officially threw its support behind the North American bid for the 2026 event, with the promise of up to $5 million in immediate help should the unified bid win.
A joint news conference between the City of Edmonton, federal government and Canada Soccer has been scheduled in Edmonton on Friday morning. A media release states Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi will be on hand to make “a sports announcement.”
Should North America win the bid, Peter Montopoli, Canada bid director and general secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said FIFA is likely to announce the host cities in 2020.