City council to debate risks of Edmonton hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup

City council to debate risks of Edmonton hosting 2026 FIFA World Cup

Edmonton City Council will decide next week if it will put forward a bid to host some of the games during the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"There are some commitments and we need to understand what the risks are," said Coun. Ben Henderson following a community and public services committee meeting Wednesday.

The committee voted to refer the item to city council on Tuesday.

"Given the scale and the scope of this, I think there's a level of diligence that we have to put in to make sure we don't make the wrong choices here, or expose ourselves in ways as a city that we'll regret later," said Henderson.

A host city has to meet several requirements which will cost between $35 million and $55 million, an estimate provided by Canada Soccer.

Those requirements include hosting a festival for soccer fans during the entire 35 days of the championship which includes showing all of the games.

The cost estimate also includes local policing, beautification, some staffing and marketing leading up to the event, Roger Jevne, branch manager of community and recreation facilities, told the committee.

Some costs could be controlled, but FIFA does have minimum requirements, said Jevne.

On top of that, FIFA will expect some upgrades to Commonwealth Stadium at the city's expense. 

FIFA will cover the cost of replacing the artificial turf at the stadium with grass.

The city will be able to charge FIFA rent for use of the stadium and other facilities during the championship, said Jevne, which will help offset expenditures.

Financial penalty 

Edmonton Tourism officials told councillors the economic impact of hosting the event is estimated at $208 million.

"I think for a lot of us, our gut feeling is that it probably is well worth moving forward," said Henderson. "It's the kind of exposure that I think the city would be crazy not to examine further."

However, Henderson admits there are "critical" decisions that have to be made now that might not be possible to walk back in the future.

There may be a financial penalty that has to be paid to FIFA should Edmonton decide to withdraw its bid in the future, he added. The amount that penalty is not known.

If Edmonton takes part in the tournament, city staff admit Edmonton would likely host a couple of preliminary round games, since the stadium is smaller than those in other Canadian bid cities.

But Coun. Tim Cartmell says it's more than just those few games. In the years leading up to the event, Edmonton could host some exhibition and "friendly" games, he said. 

"There's spin-off that comes with each one of those."

In order for Edmonton's bid to more forward, the federal and provincial governments would have to make financial commitments, said Henderson. 

They would have to be in place prior to the March 16 deadline for submitting the bid.