Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2011 Women's WC Fallout Part One: Canada needs more stadiums

The decision by FIFA to hand the 2011 Women's World Cup to Germany should not have caused great surprise among soccer fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The German football association mounted an excellent bid that featured 12 state-of-the-art modern stadiums, the world's best womens team, and a rich football culture. The success of the 2011 Women's WC is virtually assured, and Germany has every reason to celebrate their well-deserved win.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had some kind words for Canada in our loss. He said that Canada had showed "what football can be in a country where so far football was not the sport number one. We appreciate what you've done and we have good hopes for you and what you can do in the future."

But it's obvious that one of the things we have to work on if there's to be a bright future for soccer in Canada is stadium infrastructure. John Rocha was the Chairman of Canada's 2011 bid, and the first thing he spoke of after the loss was the lack of proper stadiums in two of Canada's soccer hotbeds, Vancouver and Victoria:

"I don't think Burnaby and Victoria were what FIFA was looking for as venues for 2011," Rocha told the Vancouver Sun. "We need bigger stadiums in those areas, like the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium, which will have a seating capacity of 15,000."

That qualifies for the understatement of the year. Germany could offer up twelve World Cup calibre stadiums. While we all coped the best we could with scaffolding and portapotties at Swangard and Royal Athletic Park during the FIFA U-20, we're still at the mercy of FIFA when it comes to allowing the continued use of temporary facilities. We need permanent infrastructure. Our guests from around the world deserve better, and soccer fans throughout B.C. deserve better.

Stadium Now's John Kostiuk wrote an excellent piece on his website about Vancouver's lack of infrastructure, and the never-ending struggle to build the Whitecaps Stadium. He sums it up nicely here.

"The Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been trying to build a new soccer specific stadium in Vancouver officially since October of 2005, and unofficially well before then at the behest of the then mayor of Vancouver Larry Campbell. Suffice it to say that the City of Vancouver has laid down a number of roadblocks that were not there for BC Place and GM Place. Dealing with multiple layers of bureaucracy and inertia at various levels of government has been a long slog for the team and without an owner like Greg Kerfoot, most people would have given up a long time ago...Toronto has their new soccer stadium, Montreal is almost done with theirs, all we need now is for people in Vancouver to continue to push for our own improved infrastructure. What seems like pushing a rock up a never ending hill is unfortunately the level of effort needed to counteract the gravitational forces of lack of vision, bureaucracy, and misinformation."

Kostiuk also touched on the Canadian Soccer Association's mystifying refusal to host the Women's CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Canada. This is despite the obvious advantages for our national team, as well as offers from the Whitecaps and a reported group in Quebec to cover the costs. Refusing to host an international event of this calibre does absolutely nothing to advance our game, and is completely unjustifiable. In Part Two, we'll talk about how soccer supporters can help save this opportunity, and how we can advance our game beyond petty politics.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

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