A bipartisan group of 13 U.S. senators is urging FIFA and the U.S. Soccer Federation urging that the 2015 Women’s World Cup be played on grass.
A group of now over 60 players is taking legal action against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over what they say is gender discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Players argue that every men’s World Cup has been played on turf, and that the men would never have to play on what women’s players and their lawyers call “inferior” surfaces.
The group of senators, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), on Friday wrote separate letters to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who they urged to “use his position as a member of FIFA’s Executive Committee to support fair playing conditions and to ensure that players who have expressed concern about playing on turf fields do not face retaliation.”
Plaintiffs filed a separate claim in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in October stating that some players had been subject to reprisal threats from FIFA and various federations.
“Artificial turf both increases the risk of serious injury and fundamentally changes the way the game is played,” the senators wrote on Friday. “FIFA has never used turf fields for the men’s World Cup… As members of the United States Senate, we are deeply concerned with FIFA’s treatment of these players. We urge you to begin good faith negotiations with these athletes, free of retaliation and with the equal treatment that they deserve.”
FIFA is yet to respond to the legal claims in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, claiming it has not properly been served the paperwork. The Canadian Soccer Association recently responded to the original legal claim, saying it came “without merit,” and that artificial turf is a “first-class” surface.
FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke recently said that a men’s World Cup could be on artificial turf “sooner rather than later,” and FIFA released an interview on Friday with sports medicine professor Jan Ekstrand, who says “the total risk of injury is the same on football turf as it is on natural grass.”
Friday’s letters were signed by Brown, U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Robert P. Casey (D-PA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). It calls on FIFA to reconsider the playing surface for the upcoming World Cup series in Canada.
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