The players’ lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) will continue following the CSA’s refusal to enter into negotiations.
The gender discrimination case has been brought before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on the grounds that the FIFA would never hold the men’s tournament on artificial pitches, in fact since 1930 the men’s tournament has always been held on grass and both 2018 and 2022 are also due to be played on grass.
The Tribunal ruled out dealing with the matter swiftly but is prepared to offer early mediation (under the impression that both parties had agreed to mediation). However, shortly after the Tribunal announcement the CSA announced there would be no negotiation. They have also stated that they continue to move forward with their preparations for what (they say) will be a world class competition played on consistent, top quality FIFA two-star certified football [artificial] turf surfaces. FIFA have also announced that there is no plan B – the World Cup will proceed on artificial turf.
The objection to playing on artificial turf (apart from it being an alien surface for football, and one FIFA would not use for a men’s tournament) is because the ball behaves differently, so changes the game and as importantly, many believe that there is more chance of injury than on grass, the surface being less forgiving than the softer grass, something on which FIFA of course disagrees.
The Players have no alternative but to proceed to court and experts believe they will win, which will mean that FIFA will once again be showered with bad publicity in what has already been a very bad year for them.
The suit is being brought by over 60 women players including FIFA 2012 player of the year Abby Wambach (pictured above), fellow American team members Alex Morgan and Heather Riley; German goalkeeper, FIFA 2013 player of the year, Nadine Angerer; captain of Spain Veronica Boquete and Brazil’s Fabiana da Silva. They are asking FIFA and CSA to install grass pitches (at an estimated cost of $2 to $3 million) and avoid the “literally unequal playing fields” that are in currently place. They have even provided a document called Pitch Perfect that would allow FIFA and the CSA to remedy the artificial turf problem as late as next spring, pending a court decision. The tournament is scheduled to begin in June.
Support has been shown from a wide variety of sources: Tom Hanks and Kobe Bryant, the US men’s soccer team; and 13 US senators have backed the players’ campaign in a letter to FIFA.
The players have stated that they will not boycott the tournament, all they need is for the case to be heard in time.
FIFA.com has an article about their consultant Professor Eric Harrison, (who studied polymer science at Liverpool University and has a PhD from Loughborough University), who was hired to inspect the artificial pitches and training facilities in Canada. The premise is that the Canadian weather prohibits the use of natural grass pitches and artificial turf is a viable alternative that is equally good. Players are biased against artificial surfaces because they have only played on poor quality ones, the article goes on to say that with some leagues playing on artificial turf, and World Cup qualifiers and Champions League matches then if it is good enough for these elite matches then its good enough for the women’s World Cup and in due course also the men’s. This may be more convincing if it wasn’t from someone whose specialty is plastics.
Surely the weather is equally bad in Moscow and yet the men’s world cup finals will be played on grass there in 2018.