Italian soccer legend Andrea Pirlo soccer poses for the Associated Press at the start of the Wold Cup 2018 trophy tour at Stansted Airport, England, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. The trophy will visit some 50 countries as it make its journey round the world to Moscow for the start of the World Cup 2018 in Russia. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Vancouver appears to be out as World Cup city after B.C. raises cost concerns

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

The British Columbia government couldn’t come to an agreement with the so-called unified bid committee, representing Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, to host the men’s world soccer showcase.

B.C. Tourism Minister Lisa Beare said Wednesday the provincial government’s submission was rejected.

“We submitted our second bid last night and this morning we received notification that they’ve not accepted the bid,” Beare said.

She said the government had concerns about the potential costs to taxpayers of hosting World Cup games at B.C. Place in Vancouver.

“There’s very large concerns with the bid,” 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.”

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.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said his city had been willing.

“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,” he said in a statement.

“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.

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

The federal government threw its support behind the committee Tuesday with a promise of $5 million in immediate help if the bid wins.

Earlier Wednesday, Beare said 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,” she said in a statement.

“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.”

Liberal legislator Jas Johal said he doesn’t understand why B.C. is out of the World Cup bid.

“What is it that B.C. is unsure of,” he asked. “Why is Toronto moving forward? Montreal is moving forward. Edmonton is moving forward.”

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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