Women’s World Cup players have dropped their lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA). Despite the generally held view that if the case actually did come to court the players had a massive chance of winning, delaying tactics by both FIFA and the CSA indicate that the case has no chance of being held in time and allowing pitch changes to be made.
Things have happened here which hopefully going forward will not happen again. Only two countries bid to host the 2015 WWC; Zimbabwe and Canada. Zimbabwe withdrew their bid leaving Canada as the only possibility. Winters in Canada make it difficult to maintain grass pitches (but not impossible) although the fact that the stadiums are shared with American football adds to the problem. How easy it would have been for FIFA to fund the installation of grass for this tournament. It is unthinkable that the men’s tournament would be held on artificial turf and therein lies the problem.
In the last couple of years women’s sport and football in particular has taken a massive stride forward and in the future one must hope that there would be more applicants to host the women’s tournament.
FIFA and everyone else will now understand that the women will not just sit back and accept whatever they are offered – they have a right to be at the party and should be treated as equals. The players clearly come out of this mess with the cleanest image, their unwillingness to damage the tournament and the fact that not taking part was never an option can only have improved their reputation, all they are asking for is the same playing field as the men.
One improvement that has been made is that the Final will be played on grass – a minor victory.
Abby Wambach has issued the following statement on the players’ decision to end the legal challenge to the use of artificial turf at the 2015 women’s world cup:
“On behalf of the players, I want to thank all who aided our fight for natural grass fields at the 2015 World Cup including our volunteer lawyers from Canada and the United States. Our legal action has ended. But I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields – and the tremendous public support we received during the effort – marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports.”
Her attorney was more forthright – this is the statement made by Hampton Dellinger:
“Central to sports is the idea of a fair fight, one where both sides obey the same rules of engagement. It is a widely accepted understanding just like the notion that gender should not dictate playing conditions. Yet FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) remain oblivious to basic concepts such as an equal playing field and a fair fight that are obvious to the rest of us.
Since a coalition of the world’s best female soccer players initiated legal action, the tactics of FIFA and CSA have included: threatening protesting players with suspension, doing everything possible to delay a final court ruling despite the players’ need to know what surface the tournament will be held on so they can train accordingly, suggesting they would either defy an adverse court ruling or cancel the tournament and, most recently, rejecting the players’ undeniably fair settlement offer. In the face of such irresponsible actions by FIFA and CSA, the players have elected to end their legal fight. The players are doing what FIFA and CSA have proven incapable of: putting the sport of soccer first.
The players’ united, international effort to protest discrimination has had a positive impact. The deplorable artificial surface at BC Place, the site of the final, will be replaced. Goal-line technology will be used for the first time in a women’s World Cup and we know that the 2019 World Cup will be held on grass. Moreover, the players and their supporters have highlighted continuing gender inequity in sports and lessened the chance that such wrongdoing will occur in the future.
FIFA and CSA, on the other hand, will fail to host a discrimination-free tournament. They have embarrassed themselves and provided further grounds for reformers to challenge their current leadership. Those that enabled FIFA and CSA to engage in discrimination and retaliation through their actions or silent acquiescence, particularly national soccer federations, should also be held to account. In the end, despite the challenges created by the sexism, greed, and stubbornness endemic to FIFA and CSA, the players will make the 2015 women’s World Cup a success. The on-field skill, courage, and determination the players will display will redeem the tournament from the ineptitude and ingratitude of its organizers. I hope fans around the world will join me in following and supporting these amazing athletes as they compete across Canada this June and July.
So, I look forward to the football spectacle in June with mixed feelings. The tournament will be slightly tainted for me because I will know that it should have been better. On the other hand the teams will go in with a pure passion for the game fuelled only by enjoyment and the desire to represent their countries at the highest level. Most importantly, I shall be hoping that the fear regarding injury caused by playing on the artificial surfaces is unfounded and these women will come through unscathed.