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2015 Women's World Cup

Canada Soccer says artificial turf ‘first-class’

Canada Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani says artificial turf complaints are without merit. (Photo Courtesy Canada Soccer)

Canada Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani says artificial turf complaints are without merit. (Photo Courtesy Canada Soccer)

The Canadian Soccer Association spoke at length about its 2015 Women’s World Cup artificial turf battle for the first time on Wednesday, maintaining that the surface will be used at next year’s tournament.

A group of international women’s soccer players filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario earlier this month, stating that the use of artificial fields is gender discrimination. Every senior men’s World Cup has been played on natural grass.

The Canadian Soccer Association says the players’ claims are without merit. On Friday the CSA formally submitted to the tribunal its opposition to an expedited hearing. The players’ lawyers requested an expedited hearing of Nov. 26.

“The core issue in terms of the claim that’s been advanced is that FIFA 2-star turf is somehow second-class,” said Sean Hern, a lawyer from Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP who represents the CSA. “It is a first-class playing field. It is part of the Canadian game. It has been recognized as appropriate,” Hern said Wednesday. “This is going to be a fantastic playing surface and a fantastic tournament. There’s no merit, in our view, at the suggestion that it is in any way discriminatory.”

[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Turf War]

FIFA has not responded to the complaint. Hern says that FIFA wasn’t served papers through proper international process.

Last week the players’ lawyers sent FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association a proposal of how to install grass at the six World Cup venues for $3 million. That was an “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.

CSA president Victor Montagliani said Wednesday that the budget for the tournament is approximately $80 million USD.

Hern reiterated on Wednesday the players’ complaint misrepresents the applicants by listing “Players on National Teams Participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015,” which suggests that all players are part of the action.

Players have long contended that their group consists of over 40 people, but Hern says only seven players filled out a consent form that he says is mandatory (the players’ lawyers disagree). Hern also notes that only 18 players are listed in the application to the tribunal.

All that distracts from the issue that the Canadian Soccer Association is within their rights to host the tournament on approved turf, Montagliani said

“When our bid went in originally we had the cities outlined way back in 2011,” he said. “The bid was presented with the stadiums as well as a few other stadiums. It was clear from the beginning that the stadiums that we have which currently all have FIFA 2-start turf in them. The laws of the game and the FIFA standards allow it. Obviously they have to meet the standards that FIFA lay out. Our bid was well within the standards that FIFA laid out.”


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