Lawyers for a group of players seeking to have the 2015 Women’s World Cup played on grass issued a $3 million proposal on Thursday in another attempt to avoid a potential legal battle.
Last week, the group of lawyers filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, claiming FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association are guilty of gender discrimination. The players say that a men’s World Cup would never be played on artificial turf – all have been on grass to date – and that making the women play on turf violates the Ontario Human Rights Code.
FIFA continues to move forward with plans to play on turf following a tour and inspection of all six venues.
The players’ 10-page proposal, obtained by The Equalizer, outlines a modular system that would place a base layer of sand over the current artificial turf, followed by “rooted-in grass” that “can be produced in a few months.” A similar system was used at the 1994 and 1999 World Cups, both in the United States. It is also a similar system to the one used in the EURO 2013 tournament.
Thursday is the day the Tribunal set for FIFA and the CSA to respond to the players’ request to expedite proceedings, on the basis of the short amount of time until the World Cup, which starts on June 6. The CSA said on Thursday that “Our lawyers have communicated with the Tribunal to ask for direction and are awaiting a decision.”
Several purported grass experts were consulted to build out the plan, the proposal states. Options proposed include using Canadian-grown grass to avoid customs issues, and a system called XtraGrass. Lawyers and those they consulted estimate the cost at $300,000-$500,000 for each of the six venues to be used next year. The entire proposal can be read here.
The proposal marks another attempt by the group of over 40 international players – including Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Nadine Angerer – to settle the highly-publicized turf war through negotiations.
“While we trust the court will quickly reject the delay tactics, the best way for CSA and FIFA to avoid having to justify their actions is not to try to prolong the lawsuit but to make it unnecessary by accepting the players’ invitation to work together to find a feasible, affordable field solution,” said Hampton Dellinger of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, one of the law firms representing the players.
Players first threatened legal action against FIFA and Canada Soccer in late July, in hopes to settle the matter then. FIFA maintains that the World Cup is on course to be played on artificial turf and “there is no Plan B,” according to FIFA deputy director of the competition division and head of women’s competitions Tatjana Haenni.
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