Edmonton’s airport receives low marks in FIFA World Cup evaluation

The Edmonton International Airport on July 27, 2015. Vinesh Pratap, Global News

A spokesperson for the Edmonton International Airport says it was fair for FIFA to question the airport as an “international gateway”.

Edmonton could be one of the host venues for the world’s premiere soccer tournament if a joint North American bid for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is selected.

READ MORE: How Edmonton stacks up against the other United 2026 World Cup bid cities

In the evaluation report for the joint bid, the international soccer organization notes Edmonton’s airport volume is much smaller than Toronto and Montreal, with 8 million passengers flying through Edmonton each year, compared to 17 million in Montreal and 44 million in Toronto.

The report states, “In the case of Edmonton, with less than 10 million users per year, this could call into question its positioning as an international gateway.”

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EIA spokesperson Traci Bednard tells Global News she thinks it is fair for FIFA to ask that question, but they will be providing more information to show their airport can handle an increase in international flights

Bednard notes the number of people flying in and out of Edmonton has doubled over 13 years, and inbound international traffic grew by over 20% in 2017, and by 25% the year before.

Bednard says, “by about 2020, 2021, we’ll be at 10 million [passengers], so we’ll be well ahead of the threshold well before we host that event.”

One other concern could be soccer fans finding direct flights to other venues to follow their international teams, once they’re done playing their game in Edmonton. According to the airport’s website, there are non-stop flights to only 8 of the 22 other proposed North American locations, with no direct flights to the three Mexican locations.

That could force soccer fans from Edmonton and around the world to connect via other cities.

However, Bednard says they’ve worked with organizers and the city in previous international events, like the ITU Triathlon, and they will work with airlines to ensure eager fans can get where they need to go.

The report – which includes the ability to travel between venues and within each host city – ranked Edmonton’s transportation in a tie with Kansas City for the second-worst of the North American host cities. Only Guadalajara, Mexico, was lower.

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READ MORE: Hosting part of 2026 FIFA World Cup to cost $35-$55 million: City report

Next Wednesday, FIFA’s 211-member legislative body will vote whether the joint North American bid or a bid by Morocco will be chosen to host the World Cup. It’s also possible that they could vote for neither of the two options, in which case a second round of bidding would start, and both current bids would be rejected.

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