City of Toronto to foot bill for 2026 FIFA World Cup while MLSE profits
Published Wednesday, April 12, 2023 10:32AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 12, 2023 12:40PM EDT
The City of Toronto is going to foot the bill for the FIFA World Cup while its partner Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment stands to make millions without taking on any risk in hosting global competition.
In a letter of intent published on Feb. 10 and obtained by CTV News Toronto, the city said MLSE will be kept “whole” in the lead up to, and execution of, the 2026 tournament, including reimbursing the sports and real estate company for improvements to BMO Field and any lost revenues.
Net revenue generated by the games, of which at least five are expected to be hosted in Toronto, will be split between MLSE and the city to a maximum of $10 million, according to the document. Any money made on top of that will be split 60/40 to the city’s benefit.
While MLSE will manage the estimated taxpayer-funded $25-million project of upgrading BMO Field, where some 17,750 temporary seats need to be added to meet FIFA’s 45,000-seat requirement, the company largely won’t be on the hook for any costs incurred with issues that arise during the construction.
Bell and Rogers have a majority stake in MLSE, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto FC, while Larry Tanenbaum holds 25 per cent of the company through Kilmer Sports Inc.
The letter of intent, which works as a framework for the hosting duties, seems to have caught at least one city official off guard. CTV News is a division of Bell Media, a subsidiary of Bell.
For MLSE’s part, it said it expects only to recooup the operational costs that come with getting the stadium up to FIFA standards, but will share the revenue generated from sponsoring the event with the city.
“MLSE looks forward to continuing its work with the city to welcome the world to Toronto in 2026 and produce what promises to be one of the most defining events in Toronto’s history,” a spokesperson told CTV News Toronto.
Coun. Paula Fletcher told NEWSTALK 1010’s Moore in the Morning Wednesday the agreement in principle “must have been in the fine print.”
“We are a city that is very much in debt,” she said. “I don’t know how we’re going to take on another FIFA debt.”
The city is already facing a $933 million shortfall in its 2023 budget and hopes that the feds would contribute $235 million in funding to offset 2022 COVID-19 shortfalls have gone all but unanswered.
Previously, the estimated cost to taxpayers for Toronto to host the games has been pegged at $300 million.
Toronto was picked as one of the 16 cities across Canada, the United States, and Mexico in June of 2022 to host the tournament.
The games are expected to produce $307 million in gross domestic product, create 3,300 jobs and bring with it 174,000 overnight visitors.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, the city said it is working to “balance costs and benefits” to ensure the World Cup hosting duties yield “significant legacies for Torontonians.”
Asked why the city won’t get a bigger cut of the net revenue brought on by the World Cup, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie said, “It’s important that we work with our sports and entertainment industries.”
“They are the experts. We are relying on them to have success and I’m sure that we’ll find ways to work together.”