Vancouver Knows That When Shaking With FIFA Count Your Fingers Afterwards
The first question anyone should ask is why in the name of Maradona’s Hand Of God would anyone want to do business with FIFA, the body governing world soccer?
I’m not sure if that was the only sentiment that tilted Vancouver against participating in the 2026 Men’s World Cup of soccer. But it could have been.
While it has cleaned itself up somewhat lately, FIFA has been the very definition of corruption for decades. In 2015, the U.S. government charged FIFA with racketeering. No less a figure than British spy Christopher Steele— yes that Christopher Steele of Russian-collusion-dossier fame— was one of the key investigators behind the charges levelled at FIFA.
What were among the charges? Oh, that FIFA had allowed itself to be bribed by Vladimir Putin and pals to win the 2018 World Cup for Russia and probably bribed by the successful bidders fo the 2022 Qatar bid. You know, small stuff. The British, who’d unsureessfully bid, sicced Steele on FIFA and pretty soon FBI agents were rustling soccer suits out of their five-star hotel room beds.
That FIFA. So if that was a reason for Vancouver taking a pass on hosting Ivory Coast/ Switzerland, good on them. As I said on CBC TV Vancouver last week, there were plenty of other good reasons for telling FIFA to get lost when it asked the city to buy a pig-in-a-poke event eight years out.
The cost of security for any major event these days has skyrocketed. Barring some unforeseen world peace movement keeping the event secure will continue to reach astronomical amounts by the middle of the next decade. Neither a federal government struggling to look frugal nor the provincial NDP government was willing to write a “blank cheque” for this cost.
There were also concerns about what game or games Vancouver would get for mortgaging itself to FIFA. No one was promising France/ Germany. With FIFA agreeing to bloat the field to 48 countries by 2026, your odds were better for an Iceland/ Ghana heartstopper.
There are other concerns about putting yourself in the hands of a multinational sport body— and Vancouver knows them all too well from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. Agreeing to host a World Cup or an Olympics is like arriving at a plush remote resort only to find out that there’s a recreation fee, a service charge, a hotel tax and the internet costs $20 an hour.
If it needed validation for its suspicions, Vancouver got it from Chicago and Minneapolis/ St. Paul who also found the FIFA pitch for a North American World Cup a little rich for their tastes. Still, there are Canadian cities willing to get in the mix for the Word Cup. Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton are placing enthusiasm ahead of experience by volunteering to host games.
If these cities are not getting guarantees from Justin Trudeau and are still willing to move forward, their taxpayers should be asking “Why?”
FIFA so far appears unconcerned. Such is the fanatical appeal of soccer that the appetite amongst corrupt dictators and kleptocrat regimes guarantees a sucker host bellying up to legitimize themselves by bringing the Word Cup to some Potemkin city constructed for the purpose of keeping their 99 percent approval ratings going.
Which brings us to news this week in Calgary’s bid for the Winter Olympics in the same 2026 year FIFA has chosen for its World Cup. Like Vancouver, Calgary has been through the international sport rodeo before and is trying to nail down every guarantee it can get.
That’s why there was a flutter of excitement when the city's website reported the Canadian government would contribute $10.5 million and the Alberta government $10 million towards a bid estimated to cost $30 million. With those guarantees in its pocket Calgary organizers would be free to do some tough negotiating with the IOC over reprising its successful 1988 Games.
As the joke goes, “Not so fast, Calgary”. Embarrassed city leaders had to admit that some eejit in the office had pressed Send a little too early. “The version of the report that was posted online was a version that had been prepared in the hope of receiving formal funding approval ahead of next week's strategic meeting of council. It was mistakenly posted.”
Hey, could happen to anyone, right? Okay, maybe not. Still, should Calgary get some guarantees of funding it could take the politicians in city hall off the hook as they do the dance with the IOC. As we mentioned in an earlier column, the enthusiasm for the 2026 Games is… underwhelming. Sion, Switzerland, is definitely in. Turkey may launch an effort. Innsbruck, Austria, could be in for a third Games in their city. Calgary is the only North American hope.
But some have a feeling that, after two Asian Winter Games, the IOC needs a North American host to entice TV networks burned by lousy event times and weak advertising.
Sports economist Moshe Lander, who teaches at Concordia University, told the Calgary Herald that, “I think it’s been very clear since the beginning that the IOC wants Calgary, so the U.S. has quite rightly backed out of bidding… The IOC just has so much attraction to Calgary, to Canada, that they’re almost stacking the odds in its favour.”
Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi says that competing for bucks with the 2026 FIFA WC is not an issue. Getting city council to take the plunge is another matter. The bids must be in by the end of this month.
Look on the bright side, Calgary. You’re not dealing with FIFA. Which means your odds of testifying before the FBI go way, way down.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)