A coalition of women’s soccer players demanding natural grass at the 2015 World Cup is finalizing a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association, the players’ lawyers said Friday.
In a letter dated Sept. 23, the law firms representing the group of 40-plus international players gave FIFA and Canada Soccer a ‘final notice’ date of Friday to respond to what they say is gender discrimination. They expect to officially file the lawsuit in the coming days.
A Canada Soccer lawyer made contact with the players’ lawyers, according to Hampton Dellinger of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, one of two law firms representing the players. However, Dellinger says Canada Soccer’s lawyer “did not provide any commitment that CSA was ready begin negotiations.”
[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Turf War]
“In coming days, the players’ attorneys in the United States and Canada will be focused on finalizing and filing the necessary legal papers,” Dellinger said in a statement.
“A lawsuit is a last resort but one that unfortunately appears necessary and will be initiated in coming days. As the already drafted legal papers demonstrate, the players and their attorneys are prepared to put before a judge what we believe is a clear — and very unfortunate — case of gender discrimination.”
The claim is to be filed in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Canada Soccer declined to comment when reached on Friday.
The timing of the final notice from the players’ lawyers — a 15-page document obtained by The Equalizer that can be read in full here — surrounds the FIFA Executive Committee’s meeting in Zurich. There, FIFA ratified a decision to have an independent company travel to Canada to test match fields and training fields in order to ensure that they meet FIFA standards.
Players first threatened FIFA and Canada Soccer with a lawsuit in late July, but wanted to give the organizations time to respond. The group says that playing a World Cup on artificial turf — what they say is an “inferior” surface” is discriminatory. Every senior men’s World Cup has been played on natural grass. Recent youth World Cups, including the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada last month, have been staged on artificial surfaces. All six venues for next year’s World Cup are slated to have artificial turf.
Among the players on the list are past and present FIFA World Players of the Year Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer (current title holder), U.S. forward Abby Wambach and Brazil’s five-time World Player of the Year Marta. Also named in the lawsuit are U.S. internationals Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly, Spain captain Veronica Boquete and France’s Camille Abily.
Players have said that they will not boycott the World Cup.
A FIFA distributed survey from 2013 showed that 77 percent of players prefer the World Cup to be on natural grass.
Every men’s World Cup since 1930 has been played on natural grass. The lawsuit points out that FIFA spent $2 million to install natural grass over artificial turf in Detroit and New Jersey for the 1994 men’s World Cup.
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