Australia presented an odd twist to this 2015 Turf War. On Sunday, Football Federation Australia’s head of women’s football Emma Highwood said the federation was fine with artificial turf being used at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“Certainly we don’t have an issue with it being played on artificial turf.”
What’s so curious about this is that FIFA had earlier this year stated that Australia was the only federation to formally express a written concern over the use of artificial turf at the 2015 World Cup.
But it seems that Highwood’s comments, made two days after FIFA published this article about the FFA’s $500,000 grant from the FIFA Goal Project Funding to develop women’s youth soccer, don’t speak for the players.
The Equalizer obtained a document written on July 10 by Australia women’s national team captain Kate Gill and CEO of Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) Adam Vivian, which is addressed to FIFPro, the World Players’ Union, and states that Australian players are concerned about the physical impact of turf on their bodies, as well gender equity.
And the letter directly references the much-alluded to questionnaire passed out by FIFA to players around the time of the 2013 Algarve Cup about playing on turf. According to the letter from Gill and Vivian, “the results of a FIFA Questionnaire (Nov 2013) ‘Elite Female Players Perceptions of Football Playing Surfaces’…concludes that: ‘there was a strong agreement that all matches at a major tournament should be played on natural grass.'”
Australian national team regular Sam Kerr also took to Twitter following the news of Highwood’s comments to seemingly disagree:
@TheWomensGame half the team will yes because of ACL injuries .
— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) August 25, 2014
Kerr, Caitlin Foord and former Australia captain Melissa Barbieri are among players on a petition from 2013. While it’s plausible that things have changed in the last two weeks, lawyers representing a coalition of about 40 international players — including Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Marta and Nadine Angerer — who are threatening legal action to have 2015 World Cup playing surfaces changed from artificial turf to grass say Australia is on board, too.
FIFA and Canada Soccer are yet to respond. At a press conference Saturday in Montreal for the close of the U-20 Women’s World Cup, Canada Soccer president Victor Montagliani said it is up to FIFA to comment on the matter. FIFA is yet to comment, but acknowledged receiving the letter.
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