Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 29

Events and Attractions

Some see the World Cup as a chance for Putin to showcase Russia's economic progress in recent years
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The FIFA World Cup kicked off today in Russia, the start of a five-week "celebration filled with elite competition on the field and concern for intolerance in the stands and streets," according to a front-page piece by Martin Rogers of USA TODAY. Russia in the lead-up to the tournament has "turned on the charm," all the way from President Vladimir Putin down. Putin in a video that was released last week said, "We've done everything to ensure our guests, sportsmen, experts, and, of course, fans feel at home in Russia." Rogers notes Putin has "no great love for soccer, but he understands the value of international sporting events as exercises in propaganda." Even Putin's "fiercest critics expect the tournament to go off with barely a hitch, not because Russia has fixed its problems but because its leader is hard-line enough to quell resistance by whatever means necessary." Putin "drafted his ferocious Cossack militia enforcers to patrol Moscow in a bid to avoid unrest." But whether the show of force is "designed to scare or reassure fans is unsure" (USA TODAY, 6/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Anatoly Kurmanaev wrote the World Cup is a chance for Putin to "showcase Russia's economic progress and recovered international confidence during his 19-year-rule, despite growing isolation from the West." It is also an "opportunity to present an image of the country as a rising geopolitical power broker amid a haphazard U.S. foreign policy" under President Trump (WSJ.com, 6/13). In N.Y., Rory Smith writes the "long wait" for this year's World Cup was "never really about the sport." For Russia, it has been about "flexing the nation's muscles, proving to its people as much as to its rivals that it can deliver the world's most-watched sporting spectacle just as well as any of its detractors and foes could." For everyone else, much of the focus has "been on anything but the sport" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/14).

HOPING FOR SMOOTH SAILING: The GUARDIAN's Andrew Roth writes the "main intrigue of Russia's World Cup will likely be how Russia's regional cities cope with the influx of tens of thousands of fans, many of them seeing foreign tourists on this scale for the first time in their history." Security "will be extreme." The Kremlin deep down "may still hope that a successful tournament will earn recognition." But the "real concern is not screwing up" (GUARDIAN, 6/14). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly wrote, "Welcome to the World Cup nobody wants. At this point, not even Russia." Putin has "made that pretty plain." He has been a "peripheral figure in the lead-up, making little secret of the fact that the tournament features two things he doesn't like -- soccer and strangers." It is "hard to blame Putin for his growing lack of enthusiasm." There are "several ways this thing can go wrong, some more likely than others." The first is "organizational chaos." Russia has "managed to get the stadiums completed in good time." It has the infrastructure, although it is "unlikely to be strained" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/9). The GLOBE & MAIL's John Doyle wrote this is a "rogue World Cup." It was from the "moment Russia won the bid to hold it and it has continued to be just that -- outlandish." The "chicanery and the cast of characters in the story almost preclude the possibility of rational thinking." Doyle: "You already know many of the characters from daily television news" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/9).

ISSUES OF RACISM: In DC, Amie Ferris-Rotman wrote "widespread and open racism in Russia prompted FIFA ... to adopt new measures at this tournament." For the "first time in its 88-year history, it has given referees the right to interrupt or call off a game if there are racist chants or slurs." Some "worry that is not enough." England D Danny Rose last week said that he has "urged his family not to come and see him play in Russia, fearful they would suffer racist abuse." FIFA earlier this year fined Russia's soccer federation after an exhibition match against France in St. Petersburg "turned nasty when Russian fans yelled racist chants at some of France's top players." Russia's national team was also "fined for racist fan behavior at the last two European Championships" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/13). In L.A., Baxter & Ayres cited research by London-based Fare Network and Moscow's Sova Center showing the "prevalence of neo-Nazi songs and monkey chants aimed at visiting black players more than doubled over the last two seasons in Russia, where homophobia has been codified into law" (L.A. TIMES, 6/13).

Should Gillette Stadium be used, a grass pitch will be installed in place of the FieldTurf
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

With the North American '26 FIFA World Cup bid secured, 23 venues will "begin campaigns to obtain games for their sites," a list that will be narrowed over the next two years as FIFA and the United Bid Committee "analyze the economic and logistical viability of each candidate," according to Owen Pence of the BOSTON GLOBE. Revolution President Brian Bilello, who is also President of the Boston Soccer 2026 bid group, said, "There will be an effort over the next couple of years for those of us here in Boston to win the right to actually host games here in Boston. I think we have a great chance to do so." Foxboro Stadium hosted "several World Cup contests" during the '94 World Cup (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14). Bilello said, "When you look at our bid here in Boston the venue exists, the transportation infrastructure exists, the airport exists and the hotels exist. There is nothing that needs to be built to bring the World Cup to Boston, and that is really important. From the big picture standpoint, this is going to be a relatively easy, low-cost event to bring to North America and bring to Boston." In Boston, Rich Thompson in a front-page piece notes Revolution Owner Robert Kraft is the honorary Chair of the board of the United Bid Committee, a position that Bilello "insisted does not give Gillette Stadium an inside track to one of the coveted spots" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/14). Also in Boston, Sean Sweeney notes Kraft has been "behind soccer" in the U.S., and based on his "involved in the bid process," Gillette Stadium will likely not be "taken off the table." Should Gillette be used, a grass pitch will be "installed in place of the FieldTurf both football clubs utilize, per the United '26 bid book" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 6/13).

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY: PRO SOCCER USA's Alicia DelGallo noted the U.S. will host 60 of the 80 matches, and the 87,000-capacity MetLife Stadium is the "proposed site of the World Cup final" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 6/13). In Newark, Rob Jennings notes social media "exploded" after several reports said MetLife is "hosting the final." However, stadium execs indicated that "no final decision as to where the final will be held has been made." A statement read, "FIFA will make those decisions in 2020-2021. MetLife Stadium was included in the bid book as a recommended site for the final and we look forward to working with FIFA to finalize plans in the coming years" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/14). Meanwhile, FC Dallas President Dan Hunt said that the area is "setting its sights on the highest possible goal: hosting semifinal matches or the championship." Hunt said, "There is some speculation that New York might be the favorite for the final, but we'd love to throw our hat into the ring. And if we can't host the final, we'd love to get the semifinals" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/14).

BIENVENIDO A MIAMI: In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib reports South Florida's soccer community is "brimming with confidence it won't be jilted again," as it was in '94. Former NASL Ft. Lauderdale Strikers President Tim Robbie said, "It's a slam dunk. The only impediment the last time, in '94, was the Marlins. That prevented us from getting games because of baseball. Now that there's no conflict, I think it's a lock that we'll have games in South Florida." Habib notes the highest-level match Hard Rock Stadium is seeking is a "quarterfinal or third-place match." It "can't hurt Hard Rock's odds" that new USSF President Carlos Cordeiro is from Miami (PALM BEACH POST, 6/14). In Miami, Greg Cote noted Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "poured millions into major stadium improvements designed to lure events like Super Bowls and the World Cup." Cote: "I'd be shocked if one of America's most diverse, international cities and a stadium so carefully designed with fútbol in mind didn't get major matches" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 6/13). Also in Miami, Michelle Kaufman in a front-page piece notes the fact that Miami is a "gateway to Latin America and easy to get to from Europe will also make it a favorable site for team training camps" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/14).

EMERALD CITY: In Seattle, Geoff Baker notes one "potential deterrent in the selection process ahead of the list of host city candidates being narrowed from 23 to 16" is that the turf at CenturyLink Field "must be replaced by natural grass for the tournament." Laying sod "temporarily over artificial turf can have its challenges," but several other U.S. bid cities "have artificial turf venues, including Gillette Stadium." Whether that "helps or hinders Seattle's bid is up for debate." CenturyLink does "offer an edge over some other venues in that it's city-based and not suburban." Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer said that with fellow northwest markets Portland and Vancouver "not among the final candidates," Seattle is the "only one with the opportunity to showcase that aspect of North American soccer" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14). Also in Seattle, Matt Calkins writes Seattle "deserves to be one of the 10 FIFA selects." It has the resources, it "has the scenery, and it has one of the more rabid soccer fan bases in the country" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/14).

OTHER CITIES VIE FOR ATTENTION: In Atlanta, Tim Tucker in a front-page piece reports the North American bid "proposed a prominent role for Atlanta," suggesting Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be the site of a semifinal match. The bid also "suggested that either Atlanta or Dallas could host the tournament's international broadcast center" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/14). In Houston, David Barron in a front-page piece reports Houston "could be in the running as a hub for referees and game officials." Harris County Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke: "We were contacted by U.S. Soccer so that they could pitch us as a possible site for officials and referees. That's a really good sign." She added, "We feel strongly that Houston will be a site to host five to six matches over a 30-day period due to our great success in hosting other marquee soccer events" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/14). In Baltimore, Shaffer & Lumpkin in a front-page piece note Baltimore is "considered the favorite to host the World Cup Team Workshop, which brings together delegations from all 48 competing nations before the tournament for an orientation." National team base camps "could be set up at sites" such as Loyola Univ. and the Naval Academy (BALTIMORE SUN, 6/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Henry Bushnell noted the eventual selection of U.S. host cities "will depend on some factors that are impossible to predict." It will "depend on decisions by mayors and city councils, not merely a city's size, location, soccer culture, etc." A lot "can change in eight years," including the possibility that cities like Chicago that "pulled themselves out of the running jump back in" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/13).

THE VIEW FROM CANADA: Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton will all host games played in Canada, but in Toronto, Laura Armstrong notes the city "doesn’t yet know how many matches it will get." Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the "limited number of games allows the city to contain costs." He said that the city’s share of the cost "will cover things like fan expos and transportation issues." He expects the "adjustments to the infrastructure to be modest, but it is something that was assumed when the city got on board with the bid." Tory: “It isn’t a problem. It’s a huge opportunity to put this city and country on the map. We’re on the map all the time, but we’ve got to keep putting this city and country on the map and to do it in the sporting world -- in the soccer, football world -- is a huge opportunity to expose this city and this country to literally billions of people, to attract thousands of tourists to come here." There will also be "significant costs associated with security for the event," but Tory said that the city is "counting on the partnerships with other governments to make that happen" (TORONTO STAR, 6/14).

Golovkin and Alvarez were set to fight May 5, but Alvarez was suspended for banned substances
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Boxers Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin have "agreed to a rematch bout Sept. 15 in Las Vegas," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. The agreement was "struck hours after a noon deadline that Alvarez’s handlers had given Golovkin to accept their offer of 42.5% of the fight’s purse." Golovkin originally "asked for half, then demanded 45%, but in the end settled for a little less than he wanted -- and a little more than Alvarez wanted to give." The terms were "not immediately revealed, but it’s safe to say the fight will be lucrative for both sides." Their first bout, which was "judged a draw in September," generated a $27M "live gate at T-Mobile Arena" and 1.3 million PPV buys. Golovkin and Alvarez were "set to fight May 5 in Las Vegas until Alvarez was suspended for six months by the Nevada Athletic Commission after submitting two positive samples for the banned substance clenbuterol." The suspension "runs through Aug. 17" (L.A. TIMES, 6/14). Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez, who represents Alvarez, said, "We threw a Hail Mary and it was caught. The fight's done." ESPN.com's Dan Rafael wrote this rematch is "perhaps the biggest fight in boxing." Most project that a rematch would "beat both" the live gate and PPV buys of the first fight and that Golovkin would earn more than $40M. Neither side would "disclose what the 'Hail Mary' was, but executives from the MGM Grand, the host casino for the fight whose parent company owns T-Mobile Arena, got involved and came up with a tweak that helped get the deal done" (ESPN.com, 6/13).

MONEY MATTERS: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes, "Ultimately, it was about the money. In boxing, it always is." Golovkin’s side "wanted a 50-50 split of the purse." Golovkin's promoter Tom Loeffler said that the "demand was made by Golovkin himself and characterized it as part of a principled stand being taken by the fighter." Alvarez was "widely viewed as the loser of the first fight," and he "failed the drug tests that scrapped the second." Hernandez: "But was Golovkin really willing to walk away from such a huge payday? He was nearing the end of his career" (L.A. TIMES, 6/14). ESPN's Mike Golic Jr. said it is an "exciting time" for boxing, which has "a lot of momentum" as a sport. The first Golovkin-Alvarez fight was an "entertaining product." It had "all the controversy too that you wanted to lead to this point" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 6/14).