Rejoice, the world’s most beloved sporting competition is coming to Canada (and the United States and Mexico) in exactly eight years’ time.
For this privilege, we will now hand over eye-watering amounts of public money.
In fairness, it could have been worse. The best news contained in the successful tricornered bid for soccer’s World Cup is that Canada is very much a junior partner. The U.S. will host 60 of the 80 games at North America 2026, meaning we may host 10, probably in the early rounds.
Three Canadian venues are under consideration. Vancouver has taken itself out of the running, to its immense credit, but Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal are all eager to take part.
Those cities must not use the competition as a pretext for foolish, wasteful public spending to the benefit of soccer’s world governing body. Make no mistake: The only people who always win at the World Cup are those who carry FIFA business cards.
It is not incidental, for instance, that the winning North American bidders promised to deliver a US$11-billion profit to FIFA. That is how you go about earning the right to host the World Cup.
For Canadians, the final bill will be steep, even without cost overruns. Montreal alone expects to spend $69-million, not including improvements to the Olympic Stadium.
Let’s assume for argument’s sake the Big O can, for the first time in its checkered history, be renovated cheaply, and that Montreal’s outlay is shared with Ottawa and Quebec City. Now add stadium upgrades for Edmonton and Toronto, and security costs.
This is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
No one is saying governments shouldn’t pay to update infrastructure. But in an ideal world, it wouldn’t be done to placate a historically corrupt sports organization.
Canada has 835,000 registered soccer players, roughly three-quarters of them at the youth level. In some ways, the choice was between spending lavishly on grassroots development for them, or on a handful of World Cup games.
Sadly, the wrong decision has been made.