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B.C.’s dispute over costs forces Vancouver out of joint bid for 2026 World Cup

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BC Place
BC Place won't have scenes like this in 2026 if the North American unified bid succeeds over Morocco. (Jay Shaw/Soccer Canada)

VICTORIA — It appears Vancouver, which was host of 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 united 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 being hosts of World Cup games at BC 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 united bid plan.

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 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.

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,” 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.”

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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