Turf war: Women soccer players threaten to sue FIFA over artificial turf

Catherine Gleason-Mercier

Aug 6, 2014

Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca


Elite female soccer players are threatening to sue FIFA over a plan to use artificial turf – rather than natural grass – at next year’s Women’s World Cup tournament, saying such a move amounts to gender discrimination.

Women athletes, who will be travelling from Europe, North America and Asia to compete in several Canadian cities for the month-long summer tournament starting in June 2015, say they expect to play on natural grass fields, and that forcing them to play on artificial turf violates the law under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


In a July 28 letter by legal counsel to the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA, the group of athletes crying foul called for tournament organizers to correct the “mistake.”


Catherine Gleason-Mercier, one of the lawyers representing the women athletes, says her clients want to play on the “best surface possible” for their sport’s highest tournament.

“It’s good for women’s sport, it’s good for viewers of the game, it’s good for people sitting at home and watching,” Gleason-Mercier told CTV Montréal. “This is a win-win for everybody if the tournament is played on grass.”


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FIFA is discriminating against females by using ‘inferior’ artificial turf at Women’s World Cup: players

Katrina Clarke, National Post


Women’s soccer players from around the world say FIFA is forcing them to play on “inferior” artificial turf during the upcoming 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Players say there are being discriminated against based on gender. No elite-level World Cup soccer matches, neither men’s nor women’s, have ever been played on artificial turf, their lawyers say.

“It’s forcing women to compete under different conditions than comparable male players would compete under,” said Catherine Gleason-Mercier, an associate with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, the Canadian firm representing the athletes. “That in and of itself is an unfair discrimination based on gender.”

Lawyers from Ms. Gleason-Mercier’s firm as well as American firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP sent a letter to FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association on July 28, calling on organizations to “fix the field situation.” The letter, posted online by women’s soccer publication The Equalizer, said the artificial turf proposal is “discriminatory and violates Canadian law.”

Lawyers called artificial turf “second class” and said it puts players at a “heightened risk” for injury.


Ms. Gleason-Mercier said FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association did not respond to requests for a conversation with lawyers, but said players still want to talk.

“At this point we want to have an open negotiation and conversation with FIFA and the CSA,” she said. “In terms of next steps there’s nothing off the table, except for obviously a boycott. These players are committed to playing in this elite tournament and will play no matter what.”

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