FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke went on the offensive on Friday at a press conference prior to Saturday’s Women’s World Cup Draw, referring to women’s players’ fight against artificial turf at the 2015 World Cup as “nonsense.” He used the same word for those trying to compare the prize money awarded to women’s players to the prize money awarded at the men’s World Cup.
Valcke opened the press conference at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa by saying that he would not address questions about the turf, but he was peppered with questions surrounding the issue.
“If anyone is saying that the use of the artificial pitch is a question of discrimination, it’s nonsense. It has nothing to do with discrimination,” he said.
The press conference was held to announce the seeded teams — Brazil, host Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United States — for Saturday’s World Cup Draw.
A group of international players in October filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario stating that the use of artificial turf — which they call an “inferior” surface — at the Women’s World Cup is gender discrimination. No men’s World Cup has ever been played on anything other than natural grass.
[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Turf War]
Visibly frustrated throughout the half-hour press conference, Valcke said he was “amazed by the size of the discussion” surrounding artificial turf, all while maintaining that FIFA has not properly been served paperwork regarding the legal action in Ontario. The Canadian Soccer Association dismissed the claims, saying they are “without merit.” The CSA refused to enter into early mediation when given the opportunity to do so by an adjudicator.
Either France or South Korea will host the 2019 Women’s World Cup on grass, Valcke said.
Valcke also announced that the prize money for the Women’s World Cup would increase from $10 in 2011 to $15 million for the 2015 tournament, although the number of teams has increased from 16 to 24. The men’s World Cup prize money for the 2014 men’s World Cup was $576 million, with champion Germany alone earning $35 million.
The men’s World Cup makes FIFA $4.5 billion, Valcke said Friday, and that money pays for the rest of the FIFA events, including the Women’s World Cup. “The men’s World Cup is the one that pays for all the 20 World Cups that we organize,” he said.
Valcke also confirmed that goal line technology will be used at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, just as it was at the 2014 men’s World Cup.
Hampton Dellinger, one of the lawyers representing players in their fight against turf, had publicly called for Valcke to speak with players about the topic this week after Valcke promised an “open dialogue.” But despite being offered by Dellinger phone calls with Abby Wambach, Nadine Angerer and Veronica Boquete — who could not be in Canada due to playing commitments — Valcke said Friday that he would not have the conversations over the phone and that he would not speak with a lawyer. Valcke said he flew to France recently to speak with “two French players” and he welcome the idea of speaking with players at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala on Jan. 12.
“The players are fully prepared to work hand-in-hand with FIFA and CSA if the organizers are indeed willing to partner in good faith. Time will tell,” Dellinger said in a statement on Friday.
Watch a replay of the press conference here.
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