Minister of Culture, Ronald Orr, has written to the mayor, committing World Cup funding. It will include $110 million and government services, Orr said Tuesday.
“I think it’ll be a great event. I think it’ll be great for Alberta,” Orr said. “My objective and goal all along has been to try and make sure we get a deal that’s great for all of Alberta and I think we got there.”
The province said its support was subject to the following conditions:
- Confirmation of federal and municipal funding for the bid
- Acknowledgement and acceptance of the province’s letters of assurance as presented to the City of Edmonton and in response to the FIFA Government Guarantees
- Confirmation that the City of Edmonton is assured to host at least five games by FIFA, if accepted as a host city, and that at least two of these five games are at the round of 32 or round of 16 knockout stages
- Confirmation that unforeseen security costs will be the responsibility of the city and the federal government
- Allocation of one-third of the seating allocated to the City of Edmonton
“Soccer is the biggest sport in Alberta for under 18,” Orr said. “I think this will be hugely inspiring to a lot of youth.
“There’s also a huge business benefit to this. Clearly, the hospitality industry — hotels, restaurants, the tourism industry, even the airlines — have looked forward and hoped that we’d be able to do this. I think it will be a great economic return to the province of Alberta.”
Mayor Amarjeet Sohi provided a statement to Global News:
“Edmonton has an incredible soccer community that has supported this bid from day one. As the World Cup host, our festival city would be in full celebration mode giving a much needed boost to our hospitality and tourism sectors.
“The support of Edmonton’s FIFA bid was one of our top four asks from the provincial budget. I am so glad to work together to make sure our city has the best chance of hosting in 2026.
“I know there are so many young soccer fans who are watching players that grew up in the same neighbourhoods in Edmonton represent Canada on the world stage. It would be really special to have that excitement come to our backyard.”
Explore Edmonton CEO Traci Bednard said Tuesday brought an exciting development.
“Although there is a lot of work to do to get it across the goal line, we are thrilled the province has chosen to support. All the work ahead will be worth it considering what it will do for the city and the province.
“The economics make sense, with a projected economic impact of $750 million coming to Alberta. Our city will be seen by billions on TV from around the world in an updated and packed Commonwealth Stadium. Edmontonians will be treated to a month-long festival that will bring people together from around the world and celebrate our community.”
In 2018, soccer’s international governing body voted in favour of a joint bid for the event by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in June and July 2026.
The governing body said it is working closely with host associations “in this highly competitive selection process involving a variety of very strong and diverse candidates across the three countries.”
FIFA said in January 2021 that it planned to visit potential venues and unveil its final choice of host cities in 2022.
Toronto (BMO Field), Montreal (Olympic Stadium) and Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium) were the original Canadian candidate host cities for the men’s soccer event. But Montreal withdrew its candidacy to host the soccer championship in July 2021, citing a lack of funding.
“We wish the cities of Toronto and Edmonton good luck in their respective candidacies,” the city said on July 6.
Just after Montreal withdrew, Vancouver said it was prepared to entertain discussions with FIFA, three years after turning down the opportunity to bid on hosting the event in 2026.
In 2018, the province said it would not financially support Edmonton’s bid, at least until it received a more detailed business plan that addressed the financial needs for a bid.
The federal government had already confirmed its support.
At the time, then-Mayor Don Iveson estimated the economic impact of hosting a few matches in Edmonton would be in the area of $170 million. He said the international exposure for the city would also be incredible.
On Tuesday, Orr said the federal government has offered its support but only in principle.
“All we’re asking for is ultimately more details — specifically what that means — we don’t have that. But as the date gets closer and closer and closer, we may get that.”
FIFA will select up to 16 host cities from the 23 candidates proposed in the North American bid.
The plan is for Canada and Mexico to host 10 games each with the U.S. hosting 60, including all games from the quarterfinals on.
Most of the venues in the United States will be NFL stadiums, with the home of the New York Giants and New York Jets expected to host the final on July 12, 2026.
Edmonton would have to tear out the turf at Commonwealth Stadium with enough time to seed and grow a permanent grass pitch, local soccer writer Steven Sandor said.
“Even thought this Canada-Mexico-United States bid was done with the intent of being in turn-key facilities — NFL football stadiums, stadiums that exist in Canada — it seems in Mexico, there’s already renovation work being done… And there’s been a lot of asks, from what I understand, from the FIFA side, despite the fact that these are built stadiums. A lot of asks about when the grass goes in, how long does the grass need to seed, who has to move out?”
There will be trickle-down effects, Sandor said, both positive and negative.
“This ($110 million) is a sign of exactly how much money is going to have to get spent and how much preparation is going to have to get done to get both Commonwealth Stadium and the city ready to host games if the city is indeed successful.
“It’s also going to create some hopefully fantastic pitches and fantastic facilities for people to use, players to use for years and years to come.”
The timing of Alberta’s support for the bid, for soccer fans, was perfect, Sandor said.
“For the soccer supporters, for the people who’ve been really wanting this to happen, and for Canada Soccer, two days after Canada qualifies for the 2022 World Cup for this to happen, it’s just icing on the cake.”
In November 2021, Edmonton hosted World Cup qualifying matches that saw Canada take on Costa Rica and Mexico.
On Nov. 12, there were about 48,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium for the Costa Rica game. The match between Canada and Mexico saw about 44,000 fans in attendance.
Explore Edmonton estimated the World Cup qualifying games generated somewhere between $30 million and $40 million in economic benefits for the region.
— With files from Caley Gibson, Global News and the Associated Press