The women’s lawsut against FIFA: What it actually says

I’ve read the “application” to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario filed by “players on national teams participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015” against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association.

I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know beans about Canadian law. So I don’t know if, legally, the women have a prayer of prevailing.

But I do know this: One cannot read their lawsuit and conclude that the women are being treated in this matter as the equals of men.

They’re just not.

Some excerpts:

“With the decision to hold the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 soccer tournament on artificial turf as opposed to natural grass, CSA [the Canadian Soccer Association] and FIFA are failing to abide by their own rules and principles by engaging in discrimination against female players.”

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“CSA and FIFA’s decision to hold the tournament on artificial turf is inherently discriminatory and injures an elite group of female athletes in three significant ways: (1) by forcing them to compete on a surface that fundamentally alters the way the game is played, (2) by subjecting them to unique and serious risks of injury, and (3) by devaluing their dignity, state of mind and self-respect as a result of requiring them to play on a second-class surface before tens of thousands of stadium spectators and a global broadcast audience.”

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“The callous treatment of the world’s best female players on Canadian soil stands in stark contrast to CSA’s solicitude toward the Canadian men’s National Team. When asked why the Canadian men would not be playing even qualifying matches for their most recent World Cup on any surface other than grass, CSA’s General Secretary reportedly stated that for men “it has to be grass …our [men’s] coaching staff and players prefer grass. There’s a preference for that.”

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“Several coaches, including reigning FIFA Coach of the Year Silvia Neid of Germany, have denounced the proposed use of artificial turf in the World Cup.”

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“FIFA’s annual revenues topped $1.3 billion in 2013, and it reportedly enjoys cash reserves of more than $1.4 billion.”

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“The role of the field in soccer is … analogous to the ice in hockey, and the artificial turf proposal for the women’s World Cup is akin to forcing elite female hockey players to compete and skate on soft, slushy ice, while the men play on a pristine rink — except that the soccer discrimination is arguably even more dangerous. In hockey, unlike soccer, the players wear extensive protective gear.”

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“FIFA’s own magazine noted that ‘non-grass pitches are widely regarded as deeply problematic.'”

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“Elite players have refused to play on plastic pitches, including the specific ones currently proposed for next year’s World Cup. As FIFA Weekly reported: ‘International sides and prestigious visiting club teams like Manchester United routinely refuse to play on artificial surfaces, insisting on grass overlays.’ FIFA admits that Vancouver’s BC Place — selected for the World Cup final — is ‘particularly controversial’ and has detailed the refusal of multiple elite male players to participate in club matches at the site.”

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“As CSA’s first official Ambassador to the World Cup, Kara Lang, has stated: “No soccer player prefers FieldTurf. It pales in comparison to a well-manicured grass pitch…'”

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“The most reliable scientific research indicates that there is a higher risk of serious injury to lower extremity joints on artificial turf than on natural grass.”

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“Research by the National Football League has corroborated these studies, finding that elite players were more susceptible to injuries on artificial turf — even on the newest artificial surfaces — than on grass. After evaluating over 3,000 knee and ankle sprains, the study found that these types of injuries were 22% more likely to occur on FieldTurf than on grass, a difference the authors called ‘statistically significant.'”

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“In light of artificial turf’s actual and perceived safety risks, it is no surprise that CSA and FIFA have ensured that men’s World Cup tournament games are consistently played on grass.”

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“As for FIFA, it ensured that the just-completed 2014 World Cup in Brazil was staged on grass fields, as was every men’s World Cup since the first World Cup in 1930. FIFA has similarly ensured that the men will play on grass fields for years to come, regardless of any logistical challenges. The 2018 men’s World Cup, in Russia, will be played on grass, despite Russia’s cold and challenging climate. Likewise, the 2022 men’s World Cup, in Qatar, will feature grass surfaces, even though Qatar is a desert country with extreme drought conditions, where temperatures routinely exceed 110 degrees in the summer.”

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“FIFA is an organization dominated by men and has a self-described ‘macho’ culture. FIFA’s governing Executive Committee is run by President Sepp Blatter; all seven FIFA Vice Presidents are men; and fifteen of the sixteen elected members of the Executive Committee are men. Until last year, FIFA had never had a woman serve on its executive board. Furthermore, one year ago, when Blatter announced Moya Dodd’s candidacy to serve as the first woman in FIFA’s history on its executive board, he boasted that she was ‘a good looking candidate.'”

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“Blatter has a long history of denigrating female participation in world soccer. In 2004, Blatter urged women players to play in ‘tighter shorts,’ explaining that ‘female players are pretty’ and could ‘play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball.'”

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“There is no reasonable justification for forcing women to play on turf. Practical solutions are readily available.”

(Emphasis added)

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