The WILC 2019 host nation will likely be decided by the end of the 2015 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. The announcement should come at the WILC 2015 Closing Ceremonies. All of the FIL member nations are present for the games, so big meetings often run side by side. We have learned that two nations have presented extremely compelling bids to host the WILC 2019, and those nations are Canada and Israel! There are rumors that a third nation has also submitted a bid, but at this time we haven’t determined who that third country may be, or what city is being proposed.
The WILC 2019 could be a pivotal event for box lacrosse around the world. Recent growth has been promising, and with 13 nations playing in 2015, previous participation records are being smashed.
By 2019, it is fair to think that 20+ countries could be fielding box lacrosse teams (there are efforts in Mexico, Russia, and across Asia to make this happen), and that potentially turns the WILC into a truly major world sporting event. Finding the right place to highlight this growth and improvement is likely paramount for the FIL. Well that, and making sure the event is funded and feasible!
So for now, we’re going to take a look at Canada and Israel’s bids. If we learn more about the reported third bid, we will update this post, and make it a side-by-side BY SIDE comparison.
WILC 2019 – Where, EXACLTY?
Canada’s bid centers on Langley out in British Columbia. The facility is top-notch, exists, and has housed high level box lacrosse for years. There are plenty of other rinks to use as well, many located nearby. The weather is generally between 50 and 70 degrees, and you get rain 1 day out of 3 during the Fall. Thankfully, games are played indoors!
Israel’s bid is focused on Netanya, 20 miles north of Tel Aviv and on the Mediterranean Sea. There are two large ~9,000 person arenas that could be converted for box lacrosse in Netanya. Israel would also propose to set up a practice facility 20 minutes away from the game facility at another location. The weather in Netanya is typically hot and dry during the day, cool at night, and there is little rain.
WILC 2019 – Bid Strengths
Canada’s bid is the obvious favorite on face value. They have great existing facilities, a strong history and connection to the game, and have proven that they can put on a good WILC, as they hosted a previous edition in Nova Scotia and another in Ontario. They have a large and well-funded national governing body, and there are plenty of club teams out West to give competing nations scrimmage opportunities before the games kick off.
The WILC 2019 in Canada would also provide some other, less tangible benefits. One of those is that teams from all over the world would be in Canada, where lacrosse gear is much less expensive. Each national program could likely stock up on gear in Canada, and then bring it back home. National programs would also be exposed directly to a huge lacrosse community, and seeing that firsthand could be influential for future growth.
Finally, we know there are fans, and people who will go to the games, if they are hosted out in Langley, BC. The NLL might not draw that strongly out there, but the crowds for the Mann Cup were pretty intense in Victoria, so I have no doubt about the intensity of BC Lacrosse’s love for the game. On that aspect I’m 100% sold.
Israel’s bid is very different, but it brings its own set of positives to the table, and deserves serious consideration (and maybe even selection!). The first positive is the immediate overall cost reduction for many WILC teams, especially the newer ones, specifically located in and around Europe. A flight to Israel from the US would cost some money, but to get to Tel Aviv from Berlin or Prague would only run around $200 in US currency. That is about one-fifth the cost of flying to Vancouver. If 40 people travel with a national team, that means every European country would save around $32,000. Not combined, but EACH. That is a very positive mark for Israel off the bat.
This positive only glows brighter when you learn that a European Box Lacrosse Championship is planned for 2017, and that the goal is to have 15 or more countries playing. If that happens, and all 15 go to the next WILC, that means having the tournament in Israel could save European lacrosse groups around $450,000 in sum total on airfare alone.
A second big positive for Israel would be the exposure point. If box lacrosse is going to continue to grow, people need to see it at the highest levels, and it helps to have the event close by, so people can see it in person. How many people will travel from Europe (where growth is all of a sudden booming) to North America? How many would travel to Israel? My guess is many more for the latter. If that helps lead to a European pro box league, it would be worth the bid.
Finally, you have a group of people at Israel Lacrosse who REALLY want this. Let’s face it, Canada has hosted a WILC before, they host the U19 Men’s games in 2016, and will continue to get bids. This doesn’t mean they won’t pour their heart into the WILC 2019, and I believe they would do an amazing job, but your first FIL event is always going to be special, so that’s one last positive for Israel. It is not, however, a knock on Canada’s bid in any way. I bet they would put on a fantastic show out West, so really I guess that’s a positive for both locations.
WILC 2019 – Bid Weaknesses
Canada’s biggest weakness has to the relative isolation of the site from European teams. The money thing matters, and in a serious way. Most European teams are self-funding. Players pay for their own national team trips, and national membership simply doesn’t cover all the national governing body costs. There are only a couple of countries where that is not true in the entire FIL, and the US and Canada (two of the four North American teams) are well-funded, and can cover national team costs more easily. The Iroquois are also funded more than many European teams, so currently only Mexico would really struggle to get there financially.
When the games were in Nova Scotia or Ontario, there were less European teams playing, and flights were cheaper (and shorter). In this week’s bid decision, cost should likely play a larger part than they have before, and that would seem to hurt Canada’s chances.
Israel’s bid weaknesses are, like their strengths, very different from Canada’s. Israel has no permanent box facility. That’s a big one although the bid assures that one can be created for the WILC. They also don’t have a long history with the game, or a professional league in the country. The location would also prove problematic for many fans from North America simply by virtue of the travel expenses to get there.
There is also a good deal up in the air for this bid, and while a lot of research has gone into it, until something happens, it’s hard to say how it would work in the future. The good news there is that Israel’s Scott Neiss is heavily involved with running the WILC 2015 in conjunction with the Iroquois, so there will be direct and recent experience for Israel to lean on heavily should they win the WILC 2019 bid.
There is also the specter of danger when many North Americans think of Israel, and Netanya has been the victim of two notable attacks, but then again so has New York City, London, and a host of other cities. I asked Scott Neiss of Israel Lacrosse about this obligatory issue. Here is his response:
It’s hard to explain, because what you see on TV builds a perception that is not reality, but, it’s just not like that. As soon as you land and take a walk around Tel Aviv or any other Israeli city, you’ll feel safer than you do on the streets of New York or Chicago.
Having never been to Langley or Israel, I’ll withhold personal judgement on what safe means, but both sites do seem very confident in their ability to offer a safe and secure event.
Finally, the last weakness for Israel would be a lack of local club teams to scrimmage before the games start up. Of course most high level sporting events don’t feature national vs club scrimmages, and instead rely on international teams just scrimmaging each other. If 15 or more European teams make the trip, there should be plenty of competition. Foreign club teams may also fly in for some pre-WILC action. It’s happened before.
WILC Bids – Who Wins?
As was said in the intro, Canada looks like the heavy favorite at first glance. They have the history and experience, a large national governing body, facilities, and lots of interest. On the other side, a WILC in Langley could be very expensive for a lot of the FIL teams, especially the legions coming over from Europe.
Israel offers far less experience as a event manager, but they also offer opportunity, and would fit well with the recent WILC model of playing in non-traditional areas (Nova Scotia, Czech Republic, Onondaga). The Israeli bid could be a major cost cutter, and break new ground for box lacrosse, but it has some question marks in certain areas.
Both of these bids are really quite amazing in that they are so different. This is simply NOT comparing apples to apples. I don’t think it’s even apples to oranges. It’s more like apples to wombats. And how do you compare apples and wombats fairly? You really don’t!
The safe bet is on Canada, but if the European countries come together and make a strong push for Israel, the outcome could be surprising. And if there is a third bid (I don’t want to dismiss that bid if it exists!), who knows what could happen!
Who is the biggest loser in all of this? As usual, it’s Australia. It doesn’t matter where the games are, the Aussies will be traveling far. Unless it’s in Australia. Perhaps they were the third bid on the grassy knoll? But none of that seems to matter because the Aussies are traveling legends, and they’ll go anywhere to support their lacrosse programs. We love them for that!
At the end of the day, this 2019 WILC location decision WILL impact box lacrosse on an international level. How that plays out depends on the FIL vote, and how the eventual winner rises to the challenge. I have faith in both groups, and can’t wait to hear what the final decision will be.