Today, an elite group of top women’s soccer players, including Abby Wambach and Nadine Angerer, filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination under Canadian Law. The players say that FIFA and CSA are discriminating against women by holding the 2015 Women’s World Cup games on artificial turf. Turf poses significant safety issues, which the players say decreases the level of competition. Major men’s tournaments, including the World Cup, are held on grass fields.
The lawsuit alleges a history of gender discrimination by both FIFA and CSA, culminating in the discriminatory action of insisting the 2015 Women’s World Cup be played on turf rather than grass, even after a 2013 survey on field preferences demonstrated the players prefer to play on grass.
The suit alleges that “CSA has violated the Human Rights Code by forcing women to compete in matches that are entirely different from and inferior to those played on grass.Due to the negative effects that turf has on the ball and lay, a game played on turf is necessarily one where players can neither achieve nor demonstrate their full potential as athletes. Women soccer players are legally entitled to the same quality of playing surface as men at the same level of play.”
FIFA has insisted that the games be played on turf, and has also tried to demonstrate that CSA is responsible for the decision to hold the games on artificial turf. “As evidenced by FIFA’s efforts to ensure grass is used in men’s World Cups, it is clear that FIFA does not permit men to play World Cup matches on artificial surfaces. Requiring women to play in a degraded competition, a contest fundamentally different from how the World Cup has always been staged, violated the Human Rights Code,” the suit explains.
The lawsuit asks for an order requiring the tournament to be played on grass, and proposes several alternatives, including placing grass on top of the artificial turf or moving the games to stadiums with grass.