Vancouver will not be part of the North American 2026 World Cup bid. (File photo by Black Press)

B.C. at odds with World Cup bid committee, raising concerns over costs

VICTORIA — It appears Vancouver, which hosted the Women’s World Cup final in 2015, will not be part of the North American 2026 World Cup bid.

The B.C. government has balked at the terms put forward by the so-called unified bid committee, representing Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to host the men’s world soccer showcase in 2026.

Vancouver, Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal had been identified as potential candidate cities for the 10 games that Canada would host under the unified bid plan.

But B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare says the province doesn’t agree with the terms put forward and that the tournament bid committee has rejected requests to clarify how much the province would be expected to contribute to the cost of hosting games.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said his city had been willing.

“I’m disappointed to hear that the bid to bring the 2026 World Cup to Vancouver will not be proceeding.,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Major sporting events often have challenges around costs and managing financial risk. However, the city was all-in and hopeful that the federal and provincial governments would be able to arrive at a fair deal.

“While I’m disappointed by this outcome, I look forward to pursuing further opportunities to bring world-class soccer and other sporting events to Vancouver in the future.”

The Canadian Soccer Association declined a request for comment. The unified bid, which is up against Morocco to host the 2026 tournament, is due to deliver its bid book to FIFA by the end of the week.

A decision on the winning bid will be made June 13 at the FIFA congress.

The squabble over hosting terms is hardly the kind of headlines the Canadian end of the unified bid had hoped for on the eve of the bid book delivery. Especially for a bid committee that has made the word unity part of its marketing push.

It is up to FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, to make the final choice on candidate cities. Barring a change in heart, it looks like Vancouver will not be on the list should the unified bid prevail.

Beare says the bid committee has also declined to negotiate with the province over concerns raised about the risk and obligations for taxpayers.

The federal government threw its support behind the committee Tuesday with a promise of $5 million in immediate help if the bid wins, and Beare says B.C. remains open to hosting some of the games if its requests to clarify financial obligations are met.

“The prospect of hosting the FIFA World Cup is exciting for soccer fans, and has the potential to bring significant economic and cultural benefits to British Columbia,” Beare said in a statement Wednesday.

“While we support the prospect of hosting the World Cup, we cannot agree to terms that would put British Columbians at risk of shouldering potentially huge and unpredictable costs.”

The new competition format will feature 16 groups of three with the top two from each pool advancing to a 32-team knockout. The tournament time period will remain at 32 days.

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