Women's soccer players threaten to sue FIFA

Aug. 27, 2014, 6:05 p.m. | By Eleanor Linafelt | 9 years ago

For World Cup, players push for switch from artificial turf to grass

Several professional women's soccer players, including the U.S. national team's Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O'Reilly, threatened to sue the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in response to its plan to have the 2015 Women's World Cup played on artificial turf.

Wambach argued that it's unfair for the women's cup to be played on artificial turf when the men's was played on grass. "It's a gender issue through and through," she said in an interview with the New York Times. Alex Morgan explained in a "Sports Illustrated" article that turf is so disliked because it changes the movement of the ball, making it bounce higher and roll faster than on grass, and it creates more friction, posing a threat to skin and making players much less eager to slide. "The bounce on the surface is different, and a lot of players don't play the same way on turf as on grass, because they don't want to go down for a slide tackle or do a diving header," said Morgan.

Last year, over 4,000 people, both soccer players and not, including Wambach, signed a petition for grass fields at the Women's World Cup. After neither FIFA nor Canada's soccer association made any changes, the group of players decided that legal action should be the next step for them to take. Junior Alexandra Melinchok, a Blair soccer player, believes that this was the correct move for the players to take. "Since playing soccer is their job, and the type of field they play on is their working environment, they have every right to try and push for the best and safest working environment for themselves," she said.

For the group of players who want to take this case to court, there remains the question of gender discrimination regardless of whether artificial turf is the most practical choice. Melinchok thinks that there is gender discrimination at play. "This is definitely a gender issue since huge men's tournaments have never been played on turf and it's unfair to hold back women soccer players by putting them on turf," she said.

The switch to artificial turf would have to be paid for by FIFA. This would be costly as it has already been approved and set in place by FIFA, argued opponents to the change, but proponents pointed out that FIFA gained $2 billion dollars from the recent Men's World Cup.

Neither FIFA nor the Canadian soccer association has responded to the players, who are going to play in the World Cup regardless of the situation with the fields. However, Morgan explained in the "Sports Illustrated" article that they won't stop pushing to get the artificial turf switched out. "We're hoping not to go to court, but if [FIFA doesn't] respond and if nothing is done to change the situation with the host nation and the venues, then we'll have to move forward eventually," she said.

Tags: Women's Soccer World Cup Abby Wambach Alex Morgan Heather O'Reilly Alexandra Melinchok FIFA

Eleanor Linafelt. Hi there! I'm Eleanor, one of the Editors-in-Chief for SCO this year. I love reading books, playing cello and electric bass, and surfing and swimming at the beach. I am also an Emily Dickinson fanatic. More »

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