Women owed apol­ogy over grass fi­asco, lawyer says

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVIDSON

News that the 2026 men’s World Cup will be played en­tirely on grass means an apol­ogy is in or­der to top fe­male soc­cer play­ers.

That’s ac­cord­ing to the U.S. lawyer who rep­re­sented a coali­tion of elite fe­male play­ers in an un­suc­cess­ful bat­tle to play on nat­u­ral grass at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“Host­ing a World Cup, women’s or men’s, is ex­cit­ing and I’m happy for North Amer­ica,” Hamp­ton Dellinger said in a state­ment given to The Cana­dian Press.

“But we are much closer in time to the plas­tic pitch de­ba­cle of 2015 than the grass tour­na­ment of 2026. And given the ar­ti­fi­cial turf the women were forced to play on and the threats made against those who protested, I be­lieve Cana­dian, U.S., and Mex­ico soc­cer of­fi­cials still owe fe­male play­ers an apol­ogy.

“The na­tional fed­er­a­tions should also make sure that the hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars they will spend on soc­cer in the decade to come in­cludes a dra­matic in­crease in fund­ing, in­clud­ing salaries, for the women’s game.”

Eleven of the 23 sta­di­ums un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for the North Amer­i­can bid have ar­ti­fi­cial turf, in­clud­ing Mon­treal’s Olympic Sta­dium and Ed­mon­ton’s Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium, both of which were used in the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

The women ar­gued that mak­ing them play on ar­ti­fi­cial turf was dis­crim­i­na­tory when the men play their show­case tour­na­ment on grass. FIFA rules al­low for tour­na­ments to be played on ar­ti­fi­cial turf if it meets cer­tain stan­dards. But the men al­ways play on the real thing at the World Cup.

Turf will not be an is­sue at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, which is sched­uled to be played on grass.

The women even­tu­ally with­drew their hu­man rights com­plaint in Jan­uary 2015, ahead of the June start of the Women’s World Cup.

“The play­ers are do­ing what FIFA and CSA have proven in­ca­pable of: putting the sport of soc­cer first,” Dellinger said at the time.

FIFA even­tu­ally re­placed the ar­ti­fi­cial turf at B.C. Place. A new pad­ding was in­stalled in Mon­treal.

U.S. star for­ward Abby Wam­bach, now re­tired, was front and cen­tre in the hu­man rights chal­lenge. Cana­dian play­ers were not part of the com­plaint. They were left out since the Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion dou­bled as the tour­na­ment’s na­tional or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee. Dellinger rep­re­sented the women for free.

The pres­i­dent of the Swedish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, mean­while, took to the FIFA Congress podium Wed­nes­day to urge more fi­nan­cial sup­port for the women’s game. Karl-Erik Nils­son noted that FIFA com­pen­sates clubs for us­ing their play­ers at the men’s World Cup but not at the women’s tour­na­ment.

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