Soccer Turf (Brian Shamblen via Flickr)
By Trevon Marsh
A group of world class international women soccer players are threatening legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for gender discrimination.
The female stars are upset that the 2015 Women’s World Cup tournament, hosted by Canada, will be played on artificial turf instead of real grass.
Playing on artificial turf during a World Cup is unprecedented. Never has a World Cup event taken place on artificial turf and some of the players feel male soccer players would never be subjected to a turf field.
Players from Brazil, Germany and Spain are among those claiming the use of artificial grass instead of real grass is discriminatory.
The group of women, including star Olympian of the United States Abby Wambach, signed a letter to Canadian soccer officials and FIFA president Sepp Blatter saying artificial turf is a “second-class surface.”
(via WBEZ Worldview SoundCloud)
“We know there’s no doubt that the men would not be asked to play on a second-class surface for their world class tournament,” said attorney Hampton Dellinger, the Washington based law firm representing the players, in a statement to ESPN.
“They weren’t this year in Brazil, it’s already been established that the men’s World Cup tournaments in 2018 and 2022 will be on grass,” he said.
“There’s no reason the women should be treated as second-class. It’s a signal saying women’s soccer doesn’t matter so much…Canada has a responsibility to send a message of equality for such an event.”
Dellinger says the legal claim regarding gender discrimination will be filed at a human rights tribunal in Ontario this week.
Artificial turf is a surface of synthetic fibers made to look like real grass. The surface is rough and can cause severe injury if slid on aggressively.
“I definitely agree that with respect to the female global game, it should be treated with the same respect as any male international event,” said Kevin Souter, retired MLS player and head coach for the Ryerson University men’s soccer team.
“Artificial Grass, although far superior with technological advances, does not and cannot replicate a natural surface,” he said.
U.S. players and their supporters have been vocal about not wanting to play on turf because it can cut up players legs due to small rubber pellets that anchor the surface.
Kobe Bryant sheds light on the repercussions of playing on artificial turf as he posts a picture of friend Sydney Leroux (via Kobe Bryant Instagram)
“I have had the opportunity to play on both turfs throughout my soccer career and I can honestly say playing on artificial turf is hell,” said Ashley Rita, a member of the Mississauga Dixie Soccer Club.
“It’s dangerous to slide tackle while on a turf surface so I can understand the frustration of the players,” Rita said. “You have more freedom to move on real grass and you’re not afraid to slide tackle your opponent.”
Regulations state that all matches in a World Cup tournament must be played on the same type of surface once agreed upon. If one stadium is altered to real grass, the rest will have to do the same.
Coaches say regardless of what happens in the lawsuit, the turf, which will be decided on come 2015, will not effect the outcome of each match.
“Before suing the Canadian Soccer Association the group should know that the CSA is the only federation that spends more money in the female program then the male program and I think that speaks loads,” said Carmine Isacco, a retired player and coach of the York University Lions women’s soccer team.
“If you asked some of the players in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil if they would rather play on good quality turf or some of the crappy grass surfaces they played on I think the answer would be turf,” he said.
“Regardless of the outcome, Canada is going to put on a fantastic show and the surface quality won’t make a difference in who wins or loses,” said Isacco.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to take place between June 6-July 5 and will be played in six different cities: Montreal, Ottawa, Moncton, N.B., Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Canada’s Women’s World Cup Host Cities (via FIFATV YouTube)