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Soccer fans rejoice: Burnaby may host international teams during 2026 FIFA World Cup

The city’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee discussed the pros and cons of hosting international teams’ practice and special events

During the Parks, Recreation, and Culture Committee’s (PRCC) meeting on June 11, Emmaline Hill, director of cultural services, and Judy Hamanishi, director of recreation, presented a proposal for Burnaby to participate in the FIFA World Cup celebrations when the event comes to Vancouver in the summer of 2026. 

FIFA World Cup 2026 will take place in Canada, the US, and Mexico. Vancouver will host seven games from June 11 to July 19, 2026. The City of Burnaby wants to participate in the action, with staff suggesting ideas for special events in Burnaby, including the possibility of hosting international soccer teams’ training and practice drills at Swangard Stadium in Central Park and other venues in the city. 

Hill and Hamanishi’s presentation outlined the potential benefits of Burnaby’s participation in events such as increased publicity for the city, interactions that may benefit young Burnaby soccer players through participation in events and exposure to elite players and coaches, and encouraging volunteerism and grassroots sports organizations.

“We would anticipate potentially a new staff position would be required to coordinate planning and partnerships. This would be a temporary position that, depending on the scale of activation, could begin in early 2025. There would also be a planning team that would include all the relevant departments’ representatives to plan, deliver, and follow up on FIFA events,” Hill said. 

Swangard Stadium, Central Park, Burnaby. One of the locations where FIFA practice and events may take place in 2026. Photo: City of Burnaby

Members of the PRCC welcomed the idea enthusiastically, with most of them saying it would be an excellent opportunity for the city. 

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we may be able to get ourselves involved in this type of event,” said resident representative Gary Cheng. 

He added that, speaking from experience as a youth hockey coach, there are many ways to work around the disruptions, such as changing practice times for youth games. 

“If they were somehow able to be exposed or be part of the training camp or be able to watch and witness at some points, it might actually be beneficial to the kids that they get to watch professionals train and play and be engaged in that rather than play themselves,” Cheng said.   

Hill and Hamanishi also spoke about the potential issues that may arise, such as the possible cancellation and disruption of sports and cultural events that take place regularly in Burnaby. They said hosting World Cup team practice sessions and events would disrupt 24 annual event days and 11 setup days. The events that will be impacted include the Harry Jerome Track Classic, Bubble Tea Festival, Fiji Festival, eight semi-professional soccer games, and three other cultural festivals and concerts. 

Resident representative Robin Dhir agreed it would be a unique opportunity for Burnaby, and the city has two years to communicate with the public and organize itself. 

“It is, as member Cheng said, once in a lifetime and something we don’t want to miss out on,” Dhir said. “Let’s face it, most people aren’t going to get a chance to get to the games with the world coming here. So we need to have other opportunities for them to participate and be a part of it.” 

Coun. James Wang also expressed his approval of the ideas saying, “As a big soccer fan, I’m very excited. So for this upcoming event, I think it will definitely be a benefit for our community.”

However, Coun. Sav Dhaliwal spoke about the fact that this would require much planning and consideration on the city’s part. Dhaliwal said city staff would need to study the possibilities and do what they can to avoid losing long-term opportunities for the sake of a temporary, short-term event. He added that the city council will decide on and approve any costs associated with planned events and that staff should start looking into partnership opportunities with entities such as Tourism Burnaby

“I think the members are supportive of this to proceed, but you’re going to have to do a lot of work on this one,” Dhaliwal said.  

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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