The Ford government has confirmed it will send Toronto almost $100 million in “conditional” funding to host matches as part of the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
Toronto is currently set to hold at least five World Cup games at BMO Field when Canada, Mexico and the United States host the next world soccer tournament together.
In a letter to Toronto’s city manager, the province said it would pay up to $97 million toward the 2026 World Cup plan.
The letter, obtained by Global News, said the money can only be used for investments that will “build lasting public infrastructure” and benefit the local community after the matches are hosted.
The money would be limited to examples like community infrastructure, tourism and sports legacy while excluding any projects where the private sector was the main benefactor.
The letter also urged the city to “limit public investment” in the World Cup “to the greatest extent possible” and said the Ford government would not guarantee deficit funding.
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“(Support) is also conditional on the federal government matching the commitment and being responsible for any costs resulting from a federal determination of safety and security needs,” according to the letter.
Long after Toronto decided to host World Cup games, political staff at Queen’s Park continued to debate the merits of hosting the competition.
Internal communications previously obtained by Global News showed officials were worried about the rising costs of the event, and drawing comparisons to the cost of putting on the Pan American games in 2015.
That indecision locked the province out of “increasingly detailed discussions and negotiations” around the event through 2022 and 2023, one document said.
“Without a mandate to negotiate, Ontario has sat only as observers to these discussions,” the document said.
A senior government source told Global News the delays came because the government wanted to take its time over due diligence and ensure the public would benefit from the money, rather than private interests.
Now, with a green light from Queen’s Park, discussions around the competition can begin in earnest.
Toronto’s hopes of hosting five World Cup matches have long hinged on support from the provincial and federal governments, with city staff previously saying they were confident the costs could roughly be split three ways.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has been tapped by the city to lead the project with a controversial contract that indemnified the sports giant against any cost overruns.
A letter of intent from the city to MLSE made it the project manager for stadium upgrades, licensing and selling host city commercial rights and marketing the event.
The city also promised that MLSE will be made “whole” financially by the city to deliver the project, and also agrees to “fully indemnify and hold MLSE harmless” for various performance aspects, including failure to complete construction or delays.
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