Beare defends decision to bail on World Cup bid

Tourism minister said there are too many financial unknowns

Canada will co-host World Cup soccer in 2026, but Vancouver won’t be getting any games.

As the B.C. government is being criticized for not joining the North American bid, Tourism Minister Lisa Beare, the MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, has been front and centre defending the decision.

There are 80 matches to be spread among Canadian, U.S. and Mexican cities, with the U.S. getting 60 and its partners in the bid 10 each. The 10 Canadian games will be played in Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

But not Vancouver.

“Talk about fumbling a ball!” Tweeted B.C. Liberal MLA Michelle Stilwell.

“It’s the money that comes from all the tourists who would come and spend their dollars in Vancouver and around B.C. and stay and visit and enjoy everything B.C. has to offer,” she added.

Beare is responsible for B.C. Place Stadium, with the PavCo Crown corporation part of her ministry’s responsibility.

“I congratulate the United bid on its success,” Beare said in a release.

“Our government has a responsibility to ensure that B.C. taxpayers are not on the hook for hidden costs,” Beare said.

The province carefully assesses all sport events for value to taxpayers, she added.

“The FIFA bid agreement contained clauses which government felt left taxpayers at unacceptable risk of additional costs. We tried very hard to get assurances that addressed our concerns. Unfortunately, those assurances were not forthcoming.”

One of the unknowns, Beare said later, was security requirements and costs.

“We don’t know what the state of the world will be in 2026,” noting that FIFA can unilaterally change the agreement at any time.

She said there was also no certainty concerning the number of games, except it would be a maximum of three in the early round.

Chicago and Minneapolis also withdrew, citing similar worries, and Beare said the former is one of the great soccer cities in the U.S. and home to a MLS team.

In March, B.C. announced it was pulling out of the bid process, and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson issued a statement saying he was disappointed.

“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.”

Back in her hometown of Maple Ridge, Susan Carr defended Beare.

Carr was Beare’s colleague on the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board when the latter was also a trustee, and is also the secretary of the West Coast Auto Group soccer association.

“Obviously, it’s a disappointment,” said Carr. “But I heard all of the conditions and all of the demands FIFA has for the cities that host, and who in their right minds would sign and host?”

“Fiscally, they probably made a smart decision,” she said.

The closest games for Lower Mainland soccer fans will be in Seattle.

“It was goose bumps, it was tears, cheering, it was unbelievable,” Karina LeBlanc, a two-time Olympian and bronze medalist as a goaltender for Canada’s national women’s soccer team, said of the World Cup announcement.

LeBlanc, who grew up in Maple Ridge, where a field is now named after her, was in Moscow for the decision.

“It’s a game changer for our three countries, especially for Canada.”

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