LONDON (AP) The men’s World Cup could be played ”sooner rather than later” on artificial turf, FIFA said Wednesday in the latest defense of its decision not to stage the 2015 women’s tournament in Canada on grass.
World football’s governing body is on the defensive after a discrimination case was launched by some female players, who claim that men would never be asked to play matches at the sport’s biggest event on anything but real grass.
But FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke maintains that the Canadian climate – and not gender – was behind the decision on the playing surface.
”It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues,” Valcke said in an interview with FIFA’s website. ”This is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: we want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event.”
Valcke pointed to the FIFA rules permitting any tournament to be played on artificial grass if it is of the ”highest quality” and used at every venue.
”It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches,” Valcke said.
FIFA turf consultant Eric Harrison said the severe Canadian winter made artificial turf more suitable to that climate.
”During the long winter months, the natural turf is dormant and only can begin the recovery process after winter is over,” Harrison said on FIFA’s website.
”The effects of frost … can leave many natural turf surfaces uneven, requiring extensive re-leveling,” he added. ”Often, it is not until July/August that the natural turf has recovered sufficiently to be deemed to be in optimum condition.”
Hampton Dellinger, the attorney for the female players who filed the gender-equity case in Canadian court, pointed out that the next two World Cups – Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 – will be played on natural grass.
He said that Valcke’s climate argument ”is astounding given that Russia and Qatar boast their own equally, or even more, difficult weather conditions. The natural grass pitch at BMO Field in Toronto certainly appears to do just fine during the summer months when the World Cup is staged.”
Canada’s bid for the event stipulated that the final be played at Vancouver’s BC Place, which seats 55,000 and has an artificial turf. Every match at the June 6-July 5 tournament has to be played on the same surface.
The Canadian Soccer Association on Tuesday denied allegations that it pressured players to drop their lawsuit. Dellinger has accused the CSA of relegating the world’s best female players to ”game-changing, dangerous and demeaning conditions.”
The group of players who filed a human rights complaint against FIFA and the CSA includes Germany’s Nadine Angerer, Japan’s Yuki Ogimi and Americans Shannon Boxx, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach.