FIFA does not deserve anybody’s tax dollars, directly or otherwise. The non-profit organization, worth $3.5 billion and flawed with corruption scandals, is set to host its 2026 World Cup tournament in various cities across Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Vancouver is amongst the cities where national teams will play matches in pursuit for the desired world cup. Hosting the event, however, may not be the crown jewel that some view it to be.
The British Columbian government approved a 2.5 per cent Major Events Municipal and Regional District Tax. This means municipal governments may apply for and, subsequently, implement a temporary tax on hotel rooms, should the city host “an internationally recognized event that draws major out-of-province tourism.”
Such a tax is not new and was previously applied in 2007 to help Whistler cover its share of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. For FIFA, the tax went into effect in Vancouver on Feb. 1 and will stay in place until Jan. 31, 2030.
While it may be that the tax will primarily affect tourists and other out of town visitors, that does not mean Vancouverites should simply shrug this issue off as “not my problem.” Rather, we have to be asking this vital question: Why are regular folks on the hook for FIFA’s party?
Yes, the organization is a non-profit, but I stand by my opening thesis. All its revenue goes back into further developing the sport of soccer, barring the executives’ multi-million dollar salaries and the infamous 2015 corruption scandal, so FIFA can make the legal case of not having to foot its own bill.
Let us put aside the legality and consider the morality of asking governments to use tax money and nationally-generated revenues to fund a tournament organized by a group whose annual net income crushes the gross domestic product of most developing countries. In short, it stinks. Not just for Vancouver, but for Toronto, participating U.S. states, and Mexican cities too.
Whatever plans the rest of them use to financially back their World Cup matches, it is very obvious that citizens are going to be the biggest losers long before the first kick-off takes place. If not a direct special event tax, then via a miniscule degree of separation from average citizens via subsidies.
FIFA could easily cover the tab on its own event, unless the operation suddenly goes deep into the red. But perspective is everything and FIFA’s preference is to present itself as a privilege to play host to. This is how quite a few big sports events are viewed when one thinks about it. The bidding cities partake in to host the next World Cup or Olympic Games is a spectacle. Top prospects are highlighted and there is rampant speculation as to who gets it until the big reveal is broadcast to the world.
Cities must scramble for the World Cup rather than FIFA shopping around for a place to make camp. FIFA has built themselves up into a juggernaut with such a powerful grasp over cities and countries that they come begging for the prestige using offers of this or that incentives.
2026 will arrive sooner than we will realize, and once it does, there will be that same song and dance routine that was played when the Winter Olympics came to Vancouver’s doorstep. “The economic boost from tourism will be such a wonder for local businesses” and so on with no regard for Vancouver’s many other local issues.