The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution Tuesday that keeps the city pursuing host duties for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
The city's participation in the event was thrown into doubt earlier this month when potential logistical problems and financial liability risks were noted in a report to the City Council. But those issues appeared to be resolved when local sports companies, including the Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Los Angeles Football Club and the Los Angeles Rams, formed a limited liability company with the intent on taking the lead on executing the host city contract.
Among the concerns that had arisen before the LLC was created was that while Los Angeles would be the official host city, the games would likely be played at a venue outside the city -- the new NFL stadium under construction in Inglewood or the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The contract would have called for the city to provide police officers and other services at the venues, along with other guarantees, including that the airspace be free of commercial signage and advertising.
The formation of the LLC allows the city "to ease some of the risks that we'll take on if a game or match is not held in the city of L.A.," Councilman Joe Buscaino said before the vote.
Approval of the resolution, and a second agreement between Los Angeles World Airports and the United States Soccer Federation over airport obligations for any FIFA events, was far from routine, with several council members voicing concerns during a debate that went on for nearly two hours.
The two biggest concerns expressed were that the LLC only officially formed Tuesday and the council had not seen the actual LLC documents, and that the LAWA agreement gives FIFA the power to make unilateral changes.
The resolution was approved on a 14-1 vote, while the LAWA agreement was passed with an 11-4 vote. Councilman Mitch O'Farrell cast the lone vote against the resolution. The council also voted 11-4 against an amendment to the LAWA agreement introduced by O'Farrell that would have asked the Board of Airport Commissioners to renegotiate with U.S. Soccer and remove the clause that gave FIFA, as a third party in the contract, unilateral power to change it down the road. Council members Mike Bonin, David Ryu and Bob Blumenfield voted with O'Farrell on the LAWA votes.
The United Bid Committee, which is leading the North American bid for the World Cup, had already granted two extensions to Los Angeles to work out its issues with the host agreements, and the second deadline expires Wednesday, which put the council under the gun to approve the documents.
"There's just not enough information and security in knowing that we're prepared to make the best decision at this moment with tomorrow's looming deadline for these votes we're about to take, so I just wanted to raise that concern," O'Farrell said. "I wish we had a better process legislatively quite frankly. I'm just not comfortable with this."
The council ultimately sided with the arguments of Councilman Paul Krekorian, chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, who laid out a detailed analysis of why he believed the risks in the agreements were minimal compared to the potential rewards. He cited statistics from the Los Angeles Trade and Convention Bureau, which estimated the event could have a $400 million to $600 million total economic impact in the area if Los Angeles serves as a World Cup host.
Krekorian also pointed out that the LLC would relieve the city from any serious liability related to the bid.
"As we've talked it through I've gone from thinking, 'Oh we really don't have enough before us, I'm really a little apprehensive' -- and you guys know I'm not one that's really afraid to ask questions about things, you know I'm usually the fly in the ointment on these things, but as we talked it through I'm just not seeing that it's that big of a risk," he said.
FIFA, soccer's international governing body, rejected amendments to the host city contract proposed by the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Board, according to the city staff report from the offices of the chief legislative officer, city administrator and city attorney. The board was originally to be the signee of the host city contract with FIFA, while the city would sign a memorandum of understanding with the LACTB, officials said.
"Not only could the city be liable for partial performance, or nonperformance, the city could also incur liability for damages resulting from the performance of other governmental entities or private parties," according to the city staff report.
As a result of the contract problems that arose earlier this month, Council President Herb Wesson never scheduled a vote for the host city agreement, but Mayor Eric Garcetti intervened and asked the United Bid Committee, which is leading the North American bid, to extend a deadline so the contract issues could be worked out.
In the last two weeks since the extension was granted, the LLC has been formed, and the cities of Inglewood and Pasadena have also provided letters of support to serve as potential venue hosts. The resolution approved by the City Council says the city will work "in good faith" with the host committee to negotiate a contract specifying the types and level of city services to be provided by the city for 2026 World Cup events.
If the North American bid is successful, the United States would stage 60 matches, and Mexico and Canada 10 apiece, and at least 12 cities will be selected as venues for games.