On the day that the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup kicks off in Canada there is a battle brewing off the field that could steal some of the spotlight away from the games being played on. It is a battle over the playing surfaces that will be used for the 2015 Women's World Cup when the event takes place next summer in Canada.
The Canadian Soccer Association, with the backing of FIFA, intend to use artificial playing surfaces in all of the venues for that World Cup which is a plan that has certainly ruffled the feathers of many of the top female players. Since the plan was made public several players have spoken out against it on multiple occasions and those complaints will likely only pick up steam as the event draws closer.
Now though, some of the top players have reportedly gone beyond just complaining on twitter on interviews and have actually retained legal council in their fight against having to play a World Cup on turf. According to a report on The Equalizer, a group of roughly 40 international players have come together to try and do something about the plan to have them play on turf. The group includes several big names such as the last two Women's Player of the Year Winners, Abby Wambach and Nadine Angerer.
The Equalizer's report states that the group and their legal counsel sent a letter to the CSA and to FIFA on the 28th of July indicating that the use of an inferior playing surface for the women's event is discriminatory and a violation of Canadian law.
The full report on The Equalizer goes in to more details about the legal implications and the contents of the letter but what it seems to boil down to is the fact that in a society that places such a high value on gender equality it is wrong that a Women's World Cup should be played on turf when the men have never had to do so.
Their case may fall on deaf ears though as all of the playing surfaces that will be used for the 2015 World Cup are rated 2-stars by FIFA and have been deemed usable for international competition. FIFA can also point to the fact that youth World Cups have been played using turf in the past for both genders and as artificial playing surfaces continue to improve they are becoming more and more common and will likely play a part in more major international events in the future.
Sepp Blatter's comments (also in the Equalizer article) at Monday's opening press conference for the U-20 World Cup made it clear that he feels turf will be a part of the future and that it is here to stay. His comments gave the sense that FIFA is more than happy to let Canada be the first to host a World Cup on turf since they seemingly will not be the last. With FIFA putting events in more countries with difficult climates the use of turf becomes a necessity and it might not be long before we see the men playing a full World Cup on artificial surfaces.
The letter from the players to FIFA and the CSA may not be the final action that they take in their fight against fake grass which means this story will be one to keep an eye on over the coming months as we move closer to the World Cup next summer.
Hopefully, this report does not overshadow any of the festivities that should surround the Under-20 Women's World Cup which kicks off Tuesday in Edmonton and Toronto with Germany-USA and Canada-Ghana highlighting the opening day schedule.