Women players drop legal battle over World Cup turf

Reuters –– Players who had begun legal action over the use of artificial surfaces at this year’s Women’s World Cup have dropped their case, their lawyers said on Wednesday.

A group of elite women’s players had sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), arguing that artificial turf surfaces for the tournament, which takes place across Canada in from June 6 to July 5, were unsafe and that it was discriminatory for women to play on surfaces. [Related story]

The men’s World Cup is played on natural grass pitches.

FIFA and the CSA had argued that the surfaces had passed their sanctioning standards and that the bidding process for hosting the tournament had made clear that artificial surfaces would be used. They denied the charge of discrimination.

Lawyer Hampton Dellinger accused FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association of delaying tactics and making threats of suspension against the players.

“In the face of such irresponsible actions by FIFA and CSA, the players have elected to end their legal fight,” Dellinger said in a statement. “The players are doing what FIFA and CSA have proven incapable of: putting the sport of soccer first.”

U.S. national team striker Abby Wambach, one of those who had led the legal fight, said she hoped the case would bring about change in the future.

“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,” said the 2012 FIFA Women’s Player of the Year.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup for men in Brazil was played on grass and there are no plans to shift future men’s tournaments to artificial turf. Some professional soccer leagues and some FIFA World Cup age-group matches are played on artificial turf.

The World Cup fields in Brazil were primarily bermuda grass, overseeded with perennial ryegrass for a uniform playing surface. Canadian seed firm DLF Pickseed provided the ryegrass seed mixture for all World Cup stadiums in Brazil, and for the fields in the previous tournament in South Africa in 2010.

The Women’s World Cup matches this summer will be played in six cities — Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton — where stadiums with artificial turf predominate.

Reporting for Reuters by Simon Evans. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.


Stories from our other publications