An adjudicator on Friday rejected players’ request for an expedited hearing in the fight against artificial turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
HRTO vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel wrote in her decision that “the Tribunal is prepared to offer the parties an early mediation in this matter,” but the Canadian Soccer Association says it will not participate in mediation.
“The Tribunal indicated in its decision that it was prepared to offer the parties an opportunity for an early mediation,” the CSA said in a statement. “The Canadian Soccer Association has advised the Tribunal that it is not willing to participate in an early mediation in this matter.”
FIFA is yet to respond to the claims, stating that legal paperwork has not been properly delivered via international treaties. On Friday a group of 13 U.S. senators wrote to FIFA president Sepp Blatter and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati stating their opposition to artificial turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Players claim the use of artificial turf for their sport’s pinnacle event is gender discrimination, noting that no men’s World Cup has ever been played on artificial turf. The group of players is now at 60, according to lawyers, although only 15 are listed in the interim decision document.
The Canadian Soccer Association denies any discrimination, saying the players’ claims are “without merit.” The CSA says that turf is a “first-class surface.” The CSA also argued against an expedited hearing – which players’ lawyers requested be Nov. 26 – because venues for the 2015 Women’s World Cup have been publicly known for over 18 months.
The CSA said in a response Thursday that “it is not feasible to move the Competition to grass fields or to install grass fields over the turf surfaces. It would be “impractical and likely impossible to reconstruct the various venues,” the CSA said. FIFA bylaws require all surfaces at a World Cup be uniform.
In her analysis, Pickel noted the players’ delay in bringing forth the case as a reason the request to have an expedited hearing should be denied. Pickel notes that “the applicants have not themselves acted expeditiously.”
Pickel says in the ruling, which can be read in full here, that she is “far from certain” that there is enough time to render a decision within a few months that would “provide the applicants with the main remedy they are seeking if they are successful in this case.”
All parties have seven days to respond to the tribunal and indicate whether or not they are willing to participate. FIFA will be forwarded a copy of the legal notice, according to Pickel.
Players’ lawyers immediately accepted the invitation to participate in mediation. The CSA said it would not participate.
“Either the Tribunal was misled by CSA or it was mistaken in a fundamental way that clearly requires revisiting the players’ request to expedite,” Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP’s Hampton Dellinger said in a statement Friday in response to the CSA’s rejection of mediation. “Whichever is the case, we will ask the Tribunal to reconsider its decision not to hear the application on a fast-track basis. The Tribunal’s decision was based on a false assumption that CSA was willing to join the players at the negotiating table.”
Players’ lawyers had also alleged reprisal threats were made by the CSA and FIFA, something that the CSA vehemently denied as part of a 115-page filing with the tribunal, stating that “there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim.” The response includes a statement from CSA president Victor Montagliani.
CSA lawyers also argued that the players should have taken up any issues with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has no jurisdiction over the matter.
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