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As FIFA walks back the requirement for free public transportation for the World Cup, calls are growing for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration to share details about the agreements and investments New Jersey agreed to in order to host World Cup soccer matches in 2026.

Among the outstanding questions is what Garden State taxpayers are projected to pay to host eight matches, including the final.

State Sen. Michael Testa, a Republican on the state Senate budget committee, said it “never hurt to be more transparent.”

Sen. Paul Sarlo, a Democrat who chairs the budget committee and represents the Meadowlands region, echoed Testa and said these issues will be among the topics discussed during budget hearings with the state Treasury Department in May.

Although the tournament is still more than two years away, New Jersey and New York City began the bidding process with FIFA in 2017. The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority partnered with city officials to sign a contract to pursue the bid with FIFA in 2018. An addendum was signed in 2022, but the particulars of those documents were only recently made public.

Free public transportation to World Cup matches?

The NJSEA and New York City both signed on the dotted line to require free public transportation to matches and fan events in that 2018 contract, a provision that came as a shock when it was publicly disclosed last week given a recent budget decision that will increase NJ Transit fares 21% before the World Cup final.

FIFA, the multibillion-dollar international soccer organization that oversees the tournament, appears to be walking back the free public transport requirement, officials said.

“FIFA can confirm that the hosting requirements across all host cities for the FIFA World Cup 26 have been updated as follows: All Match Ticket holders and accredited individuals shall be able to access transport (public or additionally planned transport) at cost on matchdays to allow travel to Stadiums on match days. This change has been communicated to all host cities,” a spokesperson for the organization said in an emailed statement Thursday.

Statements from the host committee, Murphy spokesperson Natalie Hamilton and NJSEA spokesperson Brian Aberback were identical, and they said, “Since the original contract was drafted in 2017, FIFA has advised the host committee that providing free public transit is no longer a requirement of the host cities” and that there are “no plans to provide free public transportation.”

Beyond the emailed statement from FIFA, nothing has been produced in writing to show if there is a change to the language in the legally binding agreements.

Alex Ambrose of New Jersey Policy Perspective noted the provision shows the state and FIFA recognize that “one of the best ways to get people out of cars and onto safer, cleaner modes of transportation like transit is to get more affordable and more accessible.”

“We do need as many people as possible using transit, but we need that 100% of the time, not just for big events like this,” Ambrose said.

Earlier: Free transit? No tax collection? We got NJ contract to host World Cup. Here’s what it says

Testa hasn’t looked at the contract yet, but the idea of free public transportation was something that concerned him.

“Public transportation is so severely lacking in South Jersey. I have a real problem with public transportation being free for a sporting event when we should be focusing on … utilizing public transportation to move people in more rural counties,” he said.

He noted NJ Transit is “operating at about a billion-dollar deficit” and thinks the focus should be expanding its operations into South Jersey where transportation is needed to “move bodies to where the jobs are.”

Questions remain on state’s agreements with NYC, FIFA


Murphy on why NJ was chosen to host FIFA World Cup

Some reasons why New Jersey will be hosting the FIFA World Cup championship and seven other matches, Gov. Murphy said at the 2025 state budget address

Murphy has been a staunch advocate for hosting the global spectacle in East Rutherford. The eight matches set to take place at MetLife Stadium will span a weekslong period in June and July of 2026, after he leaves office.

June 2026 will be the end of Murphy’s final budget, and July 2026 will mark the start of his successor’s first. Ambrose pointed out the change in leadership is among the reasons transparency is so important.

“We keep hearing about all these huge economic benefits, that this will be great for New Jersey, but if that’s true, then it shouldn’t hurt the state at all to be more transparent about these costs,” she said.

Ambrose also noted FIFA and the administration are touting the job creation the tournament will bring but the “reality is that those jobs are also short-term jobs.” And while the state is dedicating time, resources and money to the improvements necessary for FIFA, she said, “we still don’t know if we, as New Jersey residents, are going to see any of those benefits.”

The Murphy administration has said there are currently no tax breaks for the international organization, but ultimately the decision to provide such relief would be in the hands of the Legislature anyway.

Testa expressed concerns about the economic boon that the tournament is supposed to bring.

“I’ve looked into how cities that host the Olympics have turned out and fared after they hosted the Olympics, and it seems to me that it’s not the economic boom that it’s supposed to be for those municipalities,” he said. Testa did say other cities have had to build whole stadiums to support hosting bids, which is not the case here.

Ambrose said FIFA and other big corporations stand to benefit from this event as opposed to “New Jersey residents, most of whom won’t even be able to afford a ticket to the game,” and that if the state is going to invest more in public safety, transportation and infrastructure, “we should be able to make those improvements 100% of the time, not just because we have one big event that’s coming.”

There is still no projected or estimated cost for the tournament, either. The host committee, Hamilton and Aberback all said the “vast majority of costs associated with the FIFA World Cup will be paid for through private and corporate sources through fundraising managed by the host committee” and the state “will pay for specific public services during the FIFA World Cup.” Examples of what could be funded by public dollars, according to the host committee, Hamilton and Aberback, include security, waste management, city beautification and stadium renovations.

The state will also be on the hook for the work done by NJ Transit to improve accessibility via public transportation to the stadium. The design stage alone for those projects is projected to cost more than $35 million. And while New Jersey is sharing hosting duties with New York City for the matches to be played at MetLife, there is still no contract with the city to split the costs — though New Jersey officials have said such an agreement is a work in progress.

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