Friday, December 3, 2010

Why not Canada as host of the 2026 World Cup?

About a decade back when the CSA were talking about a 2014 World Cup bid using CFL stadia I saw it as being very much a "Pipe dream" that had zero chance of happening. Looking into the medium term future, however, 2026 could be the prime window of opportunity for Canada to actually have a legitimate shot of entering a winning bid. Europe will have had 2002 and 2018 in Germany and Russia so 2026 would probably be too soon for it to go back there, Africa will have had 2010 in the relative recent past and Asia will have had 2022 (also effectively eliminating Australia from consideration). Given South America will have hosted in 2014, it will probably be seen as being very much CONCACAF's turn to get it. Mexico has hosted twice in the past so a third World Cup final in Mexico City may be seen as one too many for any country in a span of under 60 years, while many people around the world have a less than favourable view of the United States at the moment based not just on global politics but also its stringent approach to visas and airport security. A strong case could probably be made then that 2026 is not only CONCACAF's but also very much Canada's turn given the United States hosted the finals in 1994 and the rest of the countries in CONCACAF would probably be seen as being too small to be credible candidates given they lack Qatar's oil wealth.

Having been in Port Elizabeth, one of the smaller cities in South Africa that hosted the 2010 World Cup, earlier this year I was surprised to basically walk from the edge of the runway after getting off a domestic flight into a very basic terminal building that appeared to have little in the way of public transportation links into the city itself given the airport would soon be expected to cope with the arrival of thousands of visiting supporters from around the world. From what I understand everything went reasonably smoothly during the World Cup with the provision of extra long distance bus travel more than compensating for a limited long distance passenger rail service very much comparable to Via Rail and the use of some relatively small and primarily short haul domestic flight oriented airports. Canada easily has the transportation links in place to cope with a World Cup bid in other words despite the large number of foreign visitors. The South African experience suggests that the extra infrastructure that is often built to support international sports event bids is often complete overkill in logistical terms.

Beyond the transport infrastructure angle South Africa also provides a precedent for using a relatively small number of cities. South Africa used 10 stadia with two in Johannesburg and one each in Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Polokwane and Rustenburg. Of these, six had capacities of around 40,000 similar to what the CFL always seem to be able to conjure up for Grey Cup games even in the smaller cities like Regina, while three were in the 60,000 range and the other had a capacity of 85,000. With BC Place, Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, the Rogers Centre, and the Olympic stadium in Montreal already in place there would be no difficulty handling the latter stages, while BMO Field, Stade Saputo and hopefully Greg Kerfoot's waterfront SSS in Vancouver could be used during the group stages and round of sixteen along with CFL stadia in Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Ottawa (two of which will probably have D2 level NASL soccer clubs as tenants by the middle of this decade). New stadia for Quebec City and the Maritimes could always be added as well for political reasons with CFL expansion being the legacy used to entice interest from federal level politicians in that regard but that sort of thing wouldn't actually be in any way necessary to put together a viable bid.

Something that is also worth bearing in mind is that the similar field dimensions used by soccer and the CFL gives Canada a key advantage over the United States, because the large NFL and college football stadia that would tend to have to be used south of the border are often too narrow and short to comfortably accommodate an international sized soccer field. Given the precedent that has just been set by South Africa there is absolutely no doubt that the existing transportation and hotel accommodation infrastructure could cope so why not go for it? The stars are almost perfectly aligned in 2026 in terms of it being seen not just as CONCACAF's but also Canada's turn to host. The multicultural nature of Canadian society can be used to full advantage to portray our country as a natural venue for the world's greatest sporting event given visitors from all over the world will be able to interact with ex-patriots from their own country and feel fully welcome and accepted by the cultural mainstream. Now all we need is a competent and credible national association to steer a professionally organized hosting bid of that magnitude to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately that may be the one missing ingredient.


  1. I must say this is the most thought out blog i have read. I was thinking the same thing. I would put my foot forward to host 2026. Just have to get CSA to take there foot out of their ass

  2. I totally support the bid!

  3. Halifax are considering building a stadium for the women's 2015 world cup, also the bmo field could be expanded....