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Beware of FIFA blank cheque for 2026 World Cup, says BC taxpayer group

Toronto has provided taxpayers with an updated cost for the World Cup and released its FIFA contract, while Vancouver has not

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Toronto’s contract for the 2026 World Cup shows that city has essentially written a “blank cheque” to FIFA, says the B.C. taxpayer group that obtained the 242-page document.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation released the contract Thursday, obtained through a freedom of information request, to pressure the City of Vancouver to release its contract with FIFA and for the province to release the price tag, both of which remain shrouded in secrecy.

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Carson Binda, the federation’s B.C. director, said Toronto’s contract offers a glimpse at the terms B.C. and Vancouver likely agreed to.

“I think the big takeaway from that Toronto contract is that the City of Toronto has essentially given FIFA a blank cheque to these games,” he said.

The contract includes clauses that allow FIFA — the international governing body of soccer — to change the terms at the last minute, which means “the City of Toronto essentially shifted the responsibility for hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds away from the elected politicians and the city staff towards this big, nebulous, unelected international soccer organization,” Binda said.

Toronto and Vancouver are the two Canadian host cities for the World Cup games. While Toronto has provided taxpayers with an updated estimate and released the contract, Vancouver’s updated price tag and contract have not been made public. B.C. journalists, including former Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham, requested the host city agreement through freedom of information laws and were either denied or supplied mostly blank pages.

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One clause in the Toronto contract states, in part: “By unilaterally executing this host city agreement, the host city authority … expressly and irrevocably waives any right to challenge in any manner such decision by FIFA and/or not to claim any compensation, costs expenses or other damages from FIFA.”

Binda said looking at the cities that have released their FIFA contracts, including Seattle and Santa Clara, California, much of the language is similar, if not verbatim.

“So with that in mind, I don’t see any reason why Vancouver’s contract would be substantively different — which is worrying.”

The City of Toronto revealed last month the cost of hosting the international soccer tournament is now $380 million, well above the $300 million estimate when the city was named a host two years ago.

B.C. Sports Minister Lana Popham has not released the updated costs for B.C. but said Thursday the cost will be higher than the $240 million to $260 million projected when Vancouver won the bid in 2022. Popham promised taxpayers will get details in the coming weeks.

“We have a significant increase in opportunity. And with that comes an increase in costs,” she said.

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FIFA released the game schedule last month, giving Vancouver seven games, up from the originally planned five, which Popham said will mean more security costs.

Postmedia News asked the City of Vancouver why it was not releasing its FIFA contract despite the release of Toronto’s.

In an emailed statement, the City of Vancouver said: “Since the inception of the bid process, the city has always and continues to respect the confidentiality of all hosting agreements as is the industry standard for major sporting events. Hosting agreements contain operational and commercially sensitive information and data, which are kept confidential for legal, safety and security reasons. Additional information will become available as the city works with FIFA to determine what can be shared while adhering to requirements.”

B.C. United Leader Kevin Falcon said the refusal to release Vancouver’s contract is “another example of the shocking lack of transparency out of this (NDP) government.”

Falcon worries the costs could balloon to more than double the $240 to 260 million estimate.

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“The problem is they’re not telling us and they owe British Columbians an explanation,” he said.

With files from Dan Fumano

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