North Amer­i­can bot­tom line trans­lates into win­ning 2026 World Cup bid

The Welland Tribune - - Sports - NEIL DAVID­SON

In the end, money talked.

FIFA’s mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions had 11 bil­lion rea­sons to say yes to the joint bid from Canada, the U.S. and Mex­ico to host soc­cer’s 2026 World Cup. Morocco could only of­fer the world gov­ern­ing body of soc­cer $5 bil­lion US in profit from the ex­panded 48-team men’s soc­cer show­case.

Given FIFA es­sen­tially uses its cash cow to fund ev­ery­thing else, the North Amer­i­can bid’s prom­ise of a record $11 bil­lion in profit res­onated.

Peter Mon­topoli, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion and Canada’s bid di­rec­tor, ac­knowl­edged the bot­tom line was a key fac­tor in the bid win on Wed­nes­day in Moscow.

“Ob­vi­ously the num­bers, the prof­its, which were as­tound­ing,” he said in an in­ter­view.

But he also pointed to the cer­tainty of the bid’s 23 sta­di­ums — al­ready built and ready for ac­tion — in­clud­ing Toronto’s BMO Field, Ed­mon­ton’s Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium and Mon­treal’s Olympic Sta­dium.

The third plank was the prospect of a knock ’em dead kick­off to the tour­na­ment — three games back-to-back-to-back in Toronto, Mex­ico City’s Azteca Sta­dium and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Fac­tor­ing in an ex­pan­sion to BMO Field — the bid doc­u­ment lists its tour­na­ment ca­pac­ity at 45,500 — open­ing day could draw more than 220,000 spec­ta­tors through the turn­stiles.

The joint North Amer­i­can bid won 67 per cent of Wed­nes­day’s vote at the FIFA Congress, de­feat­ing Morocco 134-65 with one coun­try, Iran, vot­ing for none of the above.

The joint bid pitched a near shutout in the Amer­i­cas, win­ning 38 of 39 votes cast. Only Brazil opted for Morocco, which may have been a bless­ing given its re­cent his­tory of World Cup stew­ard­ship.

Eu­rope and Asia came through with the North Amer­i­can bid, tak­ing 11 African votes away from Morocco.

FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino tried un­suc­cess­fully to play down the profit an­gle.

“Ob­vi­ously the money is not the only el­e­ment, ob­vi­ously,” he told a news con­fer­ence later in the day. “We have to fo­cus on the foot­ball, I’ve said it many times. But the money we gen­er­ate can be rein­vested in foot­ball.”

In­fantino, who used the day to an­nounce he is run­ning for re­elec­tion, then pro­ceeded to talk about how FIFA’s rev­enues had risen on his watch.

For Canada, co­host­ing the 2026 tour­na­ment will come 40 years af­ter its lone appearance at the men’s World Cup. The Cana­dian men went 0-3-0 with­out man­ag­ing to score a goal in Mex­ico in 1986.

Per­haps the hap­pi­est man in Canada was men’s na­tional team coach John Herd­man.

“It’s of­fi­cially foot­ball Christ­mas for Canada. It’s here.” said the English na­tive. “It’s one of those morn­ings where you won­der if Santa’s gonna come, and he ab­so­lutely did this morn­ing.”

Herd­man, whose team is cur­rently tied with Le­banon at No. 79 in the world rank­ings, has yet to hear whether the three co-hosts will se­cure au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion, as is the norm. But given the in­crease in the size of the field and FIFA’s de­sire to squeeze ev­ery buck out of the tour­na­ment, it would be shocking if the host coun­tries were not front and cen­tre.

Herd­man isn’t ask­ing for hand­outs, say­ing he has his eye firmly on qual­i­fy­ing for 2022.

While In­fantino said no de­ci­sion had been made on au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion, he said CONCACAF would have seven slots in 2026 — com­pared to 3 1/2 at present in the smaller 32-team field. “It’s up to CONCACAF to look into that and to see how they want to or­ga­nize their qual­i­fi­ca­tion for this. We’ll cer­tainly have a dis­cus­sion about that in the weeks to come.”

But U.S. Soc­cer Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Car­los Cordeiro said the is­sue of au­to­matic qual­i­fi­ca­tion was a FIFA de­ci­sion “that would be made in the pas­sage of time.’

Van­cou­ver White­caps star Alphonso Davies, who will likely lead the Cana­dian line for years to come, elo­quently opened the North Amer­i­can bid’s pre­sen­ta­tion to the FIFA Congress.

Davies’ par­ents fled their home in Mon­rovia, Liberia, to es­cape a civil war. They ended up at a refugee camp in Ghana, where Davies was born.

“It was a hard life. But when I was five years-old, a coun­try called Canada wel­comed us in ... To­day, I’m 17 years-old and I play for the (Cana­dian) men’s na­tional team. And I’m a proud Cana­dian cit­i­zen. And my dream is to some day com­pete in the World Cup, maybe even in my home town of Ed­mon­ton.”

In its film pre­sen­ta­tion, Morocco billed it­self “a coun­try with a heart beat­ing for foot­ball, a coun­try where foot­ball is more than a sport.”

A late en­try to the 2026 host­ing sweep­stakes, Morocco was classy in de­feat. It has now lost five bid cam­paigns.

On pa­per, the two bids were worlds apart, with FIFA’s own bid eval­u­a­tion re­port rat­ing the North Amer­i­can en­try sev­eral storeys above Morocco. The African coun­try planned to use 14 sta­di­ums, nine of which had yet to be built with the other five due for ren­o­va­tion.

The North Amer­i­can bid was a well-oiled ma­chine, spit­ting out in­for­ma­tion and en­dorse­ments like a base­ball player work­ing through a bag of sun­flower seeds.

Mex­ico has hosted the World Cup twice, in 1970 and ’86. The U.S. hosted in ’94.

Canada failed in its lone pre­vi­ous bid — to host the ’86 tour­na­ment af­ter Colom­bia pulled out as host.

The cur­rent blue­print calls for Canada and Mex­ico to stage 10 games each with the U.S. host­ing 60. The North Amer­i­can bid of­fers up 23 can­di­date cities with Ed­mon­ton, Toronto and Mon­treal rep­re­sent­ing Canada.

RICHARD LAUTENS TORONTO STAR

Alexan­dra Karges kicks a soc­cer ball Wed­nes­day on a public pitch in Toronto. Toronto has a love affair with soc­cer that shows in be­ing a part of the North Amer­i­can win­ning FIFA World Cup 2026 bid.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.