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HomeBusinessAnalysis: Beleaguered by hundreds of heat wave deaths, John Horgan tries changing the channel to soccer

Analysis: Beleaguered by hundreds of heat wave deaths, John Horgan tries changing the channel to soccer

Bob Mackin

In the wake of Euro euphoria, after Italy upset host England, Premier John Horgan opened the door July 13 to FIFA’s World Cup coming to B.C. Place Stadium in 2026.

A clever deke for Langford’s lacrosse-loving leader, who is under fire for hundreds of preventable deaths in the devastating heat wave just two weeks ago.

Premier John Horgan, April 19 (BC Gov)

In March 2018, the eventually successful U.S.-led bid rejected Vancouver as a potential host city after the NDP government unsuccessfully pleaded for further clarification and negotiation on key legal, financial and logistical terms.

At the time, Horgan said he was not willing to give FIFA a “blank cheque.” A rare cat: a political leader, standing up to the opaque world sport establishment. 

In March 2018, theBreaker reported that FIFA demands the 2026 World Cup host agree to pay all security costs, give FIFA a 10-year tax holiday, relax labour laws, and allow the import and export of unlimited sums of foreign cash. That was almost three years after the FBI’s crackdown on FIFA corruption, which led to the downfall of longtime president Sepp Blatter.

Last week, Montreal blamed cost overruns and withdrew, leaving Toronto and Edmonton as the Canadian cities vying to host a combined 10 matches in the 48-team tournament.

Mexico gets the other 10 matches, with 60 in the U.S., including the quarter and semi-finals and final. Seattle’s Lumen Field is a frontrunner for multiple, late-tournament matches.

“With Montreal stepping away, it does create a real opportunity for Vancouver,” Horgan said.

He said he has had preliminary discussions with FIFA representatives in Canada, but wouldn’t be interested if the terms are the same as 2018.

“FIFA is in a different place, Vancouver, British Columbia is in a different place, we’re prepared to entertain those discussions and see where we go,” Horgan said.

During his Richmond Hospital expansion photo op, Horgan made reference to the B.C. tourism industry, which is struggling to emerge from the pandemic, the delayed reopening of the border with the U.S. and the downturn in Vancouver and Victoria’s cruise ship industries.

An archaic law that required American vessels on the Alaska run to stop in a foreign port is gone this year and could be gone forever next year, which means June and July tourist visits will never reach pre-pandemic levels. 

FIFA VP Montagliani and president Infantino (Twitter)

Zurich-based FIFA is unlikely to have much sympathy for B.C., which hosted the final in 2015’s Women’s World Cup. FIFA requirements tend to be non-negotiable, as B.C. learned the hard way three years ago.

In March 2018, Deputy Tourism Minister Sandra Carroll reiterated the desire of B.C. and Crown stadium manager B.C. Pavilion Corporation to host 2026 World Cup matches, but not on terms dictated by FIFA.

“We are well-equipped to continue hosting and supporting international competitions and expect our partnerships with the Government of Canada, the United States and Mexico would mean a successful FIFA World Cup in 2026,” Carroll wrote, in a document obtained by theBreaker.news via freedom of information. “We agree, in principle, with many of the terms contained in the Stadium Agreement, we do have some concerns about the costs to British Columbia taxpayers. Certain key terms of the SA are so broad in scope that, based on our legal counsel advice, we believe that they may pose unacceptable risks to PavCo and its shareholder, the Province.” 

Also in 2018, theBreaker.news revealed Canadian FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani celebrated his elevation to the soccer world’s elite with the purchase of a $6.6 million West Vancouver mansion mortgaged through sponsor Scotiabank.

The New York Times reported that the insurance salesman boss of soccer’s North and Central America and Caribbean zone grossed $2.6 million in 2017, higher than even FIFA president Gianni Infantino. 

Sepp Blatter’s video greeting to Canada 2015 (Mackin)

Horgan jumped on the world soccer bandwagon just a day after a monumental ruling in favour of theBreaker.news by an adjudicator with B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commission.

After six years, the contract for the Canada 2015 matches at B.C. Place is scheduled to be released by Aug. 24. That means the public will learn about match day stadium fee rental payments, detailed financial summary of the estimated cost, and the guaranteed and maximum costs related to the hosting of matches. It will give British Columbians a better sense of how FIFA conducts business. 

Adjudicator Elizabeth Barker showed the Canadian Soccer Association the red card for failing to provide evidence or a cogent explanation to demonstrate how it could be harmed by public disclosure of the contract.

FIFA will choose the 16 host cities for 2026 in the fourth quarter of 2021, so the public will have at least a few months to learn details of B.C.’s previous FIFA hosting.

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