Local business could score off the field with FIFA Women's World Cup: CSA executive

Businesses could have as much to cheer about as spectators when the city hosts part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year, a Canadian Soccer Association executive told a group of local entrepreneurs on Friday.

Nine games will be played in Ottawa during the month-long event, which is expected to generate more than $16 million in economic spinoffs for the city, the CSA’s Peter Montopoli said during a presentation to business leaders at City Hall.

“It’s very significant,” he said of the tournament’s economic impact, which is forecast to top $267 million across Canada. “It’s something that’s very tangible.”

The CSA and FIFA are aiming to exceed the total attendance of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics by setting a target of at least 1.5 million for the Women’s World Cup, the first senior FIFA tournament ever held in Canada. That would also make it the highest attended soccer event outside of a men’s World Cup.

“It’s a defining moment for us, for our sport in our country,” Mr. Montopoli said. “Not to take away from the power of the Olympics, but at the end of the day it can only be held in one city, one community. FIFA competitions are literally held in a country, not just one community. That’s the special piece that we’re bringing to Canada.”

Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal and Moncton are the other World Cup host cities. In Ottawa, TD Place will host six games in the group stage, two matches in the Round of 16 and one quarter-final game.

The 52-match event will run from June 6 to July 5, 2015, with the final game being played at Vancouver’s BC Place. The tournament’s official draw will take place at the Canadian Museum of History on Dec. 6.

Mr. Montopoli said the eyes of the world will be on Ottawa and the other host cities during the tournament, which is expected to attract more than 500 million television viewers from 200 countries.

“This tournament is five Super Bowls,” he said, referring to the potential TV audience. “It’s very, very significant.”

Mr. Montopoli made the remarks Friday while addressing a crowd of local business community members at the Mayor's Breakfast, an event hosted by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.

World Cup organizers had a fairly successful dry run with this year’s FIFA women’s under-20 event, though the tournament was far from record-breaking. Back in February, the CSA announced the event would draw 320,000 fans across all venues – 16 per cent higher than it actually did. Of the seven U-20 Women's World Cups, which have occurred biennially since 2002, only two have attracted fewer spectators than this year's.

The attendance figures would certainly have been bolstered had the host nation progressed further in the tournament – Canada was eliminated in the quarter-finals. Canada drew an average of 16,000 supporters to its games, including more than 22,000 in the quarter-final against Germany at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.

Still, CSA officials said they’re not worried they may have set expectations too high for next year. While women's tournaments can't replicate attendance figures from the men's events, CSA president Victor Montagliani said last month he is convinced the Canadian market is primed for a world-class competition – featuring men or women.

“The game here transcends the gender,” he said. “This is how we see the tournament next year. It’s football. It's a great opportunity to grow the game in all aspects. I’ve seen little boys wearing Christine Sinclair jerseys. I’m not sure that happens anywhere else.”

– With files from the Canadian Press