Iranian government official hits out at Canadian Soccer Association for canceling World Cup tune-up game at BC Place

Bob Mackin

An Iranian government official has threatened to sue the Canadian Soccer Association for $10 million after a June 5 World Cup tune-up match at BC Place Stadium was canceled.

The CSA announced the cancellation early on May 26 for no reason, but had faced a storm of complaints from human rights advocates and senior politicians after scheduling the match featuring two qualified teams for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Tweet by Iranian Deputy Sports Minister Sina Kalhor (Twitter)

A translated version of a Tweet by Sina Kalhor, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Public Sports at the Ministry of Sports and Youth, said that the unilateral cancellation of the CSA “shows once again that the slogan of the apolitical sport is a cover for the interests of Western countries.

“According to the contract, the Iranian Football Federation will pursue a $10 million compensation claim for the unilateral cancellation of the match through legal channels,” Kalhor wrote.

The CSA did not immediately respond to find out whether there was such a clause in the contract that would entitle the Iranian national team to such compensation. An Iranian national team official told state media that the CSA had agreed to pay a $400,000 fee, which would have meant a profit of $200,000 after expenses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister John Horgan and Mayor Kennedy Stewart had all criticized the CSA’s choice of Iran, all sympathizing with the families of the victims of the deadly Revolutionary Guard Corps missile attack against Ukraine Airlines Flight 752 in Tehran more than two years ago. All 176 people on board, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents, were killed.

On May 24, Trudeau said it was ultimately up to the Canada Border Services Agency to decide whether the Iranian national team would be allowed to enter Canada.

“I expressed my concern that I think this game was a bad idea. I can assure you that Sport Canada did not provide any funding for this game,” Trudeau said during a photo opportunity in Vancouver.

The British Columbia Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport said it had not provided any own-source funding for the game scheduled for June 5. He did not say whether public stadium BC Place would lose money if canceled.

Iranian Deputy Sports Minister Sina Kalhor (Twitter)

“The attack on flight PS752 was a tragic event and our thoughts continue to be with the victims and their families,” the ministry statement said. “The Government of British Columbia condemns the use of violence in all its forms and is committed to upholding human rights and equality through the British Columbia Human Rights Code.

In an afternoon statement, the CSA acknowledged that “the untenable geopolitical situation of hosting Iran has become significantly divisive.”

He said he would carry out a thorough review of international match hosting processes to take into account off-pitch factors. “We are committed to creating respectful and inclusive environments for teams, players and fans.”

The CSA had previously justified its clash with Iran on “the power of sport and its ability to bring together people from different backgrounds and political beliefs for a common purpose”.

But it also needs hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to be approved by the same politicians who criticized the opponent’s choice.

Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto are in the running to host a combined total of 10 games of the 2026 World Cup, which is primarily hosted by the United States Soccer Federation. The 16 host cities will be announced on June 16.

In April, the BC government revealed it could cost $260 million to host up to five games at BC Place in 2026. In 2018, Horgan mocked FIFA for wanting a “blank check” from BC taxpayers, but it changed its tone last summer.

Staff at Toronto City Hall, however, have been more transparent about the risks. In a March report to the board, he said a decision on federal funding is still months away.

Inside BC Place Stadium (Mackin)

“Sport Canada has indicated that hosting the 2026 World Cup in Canada is eligible for this program, but has not yet declared the amount of funding it will provide beyond the parameters of the policy (up to 35% of total eligible event expenses by all parties up to a maximum federal contribution of 50% of all public sector funding),” the Toronto Civic Report said.

The federal government has indicated that a decision on how much it is willing to fund will come after it completes a national safety and security concept as part of the federal essential services portion of the host agreement. “Full security costs likely won’t be available until late 2022.”

Toronto predicts the cost of hosting five games could reach $290 million, with FIFA recouping just $12.7 million from the tab. City taxpayers would be responsible for $74 million in direct cash and in-kind costs.

The report further states that FIFA’s new operating model means no rights fees are paid by cities and they will not bear the financial risk.

“FIFA will bear significant delivery costs and will also retain key sources of revenue, such as media rights and ticket sales. Host cities will be limited to covering local hospitality costs, which includes the provision of a stadium and infrastructure for supporting activities; training facilities; a location, staff and infrastructure for a FanFest; and local safety and security coverage, all in accordance with FIFA requirements.”

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