January 27, 2006
What were they thinking?Edmonton not buying CSA's reasons
By DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun
Allan Bolstad isn't buying it.
The head of the Edmonton site organizing committee for the 2007 men's FIFA Under-20 World Cup has trouble with the Canadian Soccer Association's rationale for staging the final in Toronto.
Yesterday, the CSA awarded the championship game to Toronto citing potential for a bigger profit at a yet-to-be constructed 20,000-seat stadium.
This despite the fact the final in Edmonton would be played at Commonwealth Stadium -- which is three times larger.
"We are very disappointed with the decision," Bolstad said. "We think they are missing a golden opportunity to showcase the final in front of 50,000 people."
The 24-team tournament, which was awarded to Canada, will showcase some of the best young soccer talent in the world.
Edmonton will still play host to nine games, including two of Canada's preliminary matches. They will also host a quarter-final and a semifinal. But the jewel of the event is the final.
"We believe the yield to the association for the final will be in excess of $1 million," CSA COO Kevan Pipe told The Canadian Press yesterday in Toronto. "We don't know if the same analysis could have held at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. We haven't had a history of being able to achieve that ever in the city with so many tickets in a smaller population region.
"And certainly in Toronto there's been multiple, multiple events in the last year and a half, two years, that have had multimillion gates."
In 2002, more than 47,000 attended the final of the Women's Under-19 championship in Commonwealth Stadium. Prior to the 1994 World Cup in the United States, more than 50,000 showed up to watch Canada tie Brazil 1-1 in an exhibition contest.
"We find that hard to believe," Bolstad said of the CSA's financial projections.
"We showed them we could make $1.2 million in revenue by selling 55,000 tickets at a $20 average ticket price."
Bolstad and his committee made the pitch last week in Vancouver. They also had the support of the city, which pledged $550,000 in cash and services.
In order for Toronto to meet a $1-million projected gate, they would have to sell tickets at an average of $50.
Regardless, Pipe said it made better financial sense to stage the final in Toronto.
Not so, according to the Edmonton site committee.
"We had a very strong bid and considering Toronto did not have financial backing from the city we were quite miffed," Alston said. "We were left scratching our heads. We were told this decision would be made on a financial standpoint and from what we can see, those numbers don't add up at all."
Alston also pointed out complimentary tickets for the final need to be offered to FIFA directors, tournament organizers, sponsors and volunteers.
The Edmonton proposal was offering 3,700 complimentary tickets.
"You can do that in a 60,000-seat stadium," Alston said. "But not in a 20,000-seat stadium."
Toronto is also playing host to the opening game of the tournament on July 1. Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Victoria are the other host cities.
Pipe said the decision was not political. However, Alston believes more than just monetary issues played a hand.
"We'd understand if the CSA said it was Toronto's turn," he said. "We've had a number of games out West and maybe they're trying to shift the focus out East."