According to a report from Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, some of the best female soccer players in the world are joining up in a possible lawsuit against FIFA for gender discrimination due to Canada having artificial turf fields in five of six stadiums in the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
The players, which consist of Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly among others are alleging that FIFA can still put real grass on top of the artificial turf before the World Cup starts and that they feel that male soccer players wouldn’t be playing the World Cup on artificial grass. The debate on artificial turf is complex but let’s delve into the reasoning for both for and against the female soccer players and getting natural grass for next year.
The Argument For
- Natural grass is better than artificial turf. In an ideal situation, natural grass is better and any imitation isn’t going to improve that. Players claim that they get hurt easier on artificial turf and coming from personal experience, you get scraped up a ton on the fake stuff.
- When the situation allows, there have been games (at least in the United States), where natural grass has been placed on top of artificial turf so it has been done.
- The lawsuit is citing Canadian gender discrimination laws alleging that FIFA wouldn’t have the Men’s World Cup on artificial turf and FIFA didn’t because they placed natural grass on top of artificial turf during the 1994 World Cup.
The Argument Against
- The 2018 Men’s World Cup is currently in Russia and most stadiums in Russia have artificial turf as a necessity due to being so far north (just like Canada). It’s currently unknown whether FIFA will put natural grass on top of the artificial turf but that decision will or will not prove FIFA is discriminating against women soccer players. Too bad they probably won’t decide on that until after the Women’s World Cup. FIFA can put all of this to bed by announcing now that 2018 will have artificial turf.
- Male soccer players may not have played on artificial turf during the World Cup but they have played on it in league play. A growing number of European teams are getting artificial turf and MLS stadiums have it among other countries. Even some of the best soccer players in history like Pele and Franz Beckenbauer played on what was literally carpet on top of cement when they played in Giants Stadium for the New York Cosmos in the 70′s. Whatever it is that’s being played now is miles better than back then.
- Only two countries applied to host the tournament, Canada and Zimbabwae and Zimbabwae pulled out of the running before there was even a vote leaving Canada to host by default. If there’s only one country who is willing to host the tournament, don’t expect it to be an ideal situation.
- Most of the players involved in this lawsuit are on club teams who play on artificial turf. At most, a team will play seven games in the Women’s World Cup. Those involved will play many more games with their club team on artificial turf even though they aren’t suing because of the basis of the lawsuit. A reminder that they are suing based on gender discrimination and not solely on artificial turf.
I’m not a lawyer or a judge or anything like that but if I had to make a prediction, I would say that while the female soccer players have a reasonable case against FIFA about discrimination because they can put natural grass on top of artificial turf and FIFA has done it in 1994, the case could be meaningless because those same players are playing on artificial turf. It reminds me of the USFL’s case against the NFL alleging the NFL for having a monopoly. The lawsuit ruled in favor of the USFL that the NFL had a monopoly, because the USFL suspended operation, they were non operational due to reasons that had nothing to do with the NFL and were awarded a total of $3.76 in damages. A court could realistically rule that if those in the lawsuit were so concerned about playing on artificial turf, they would do all they can to go to a team that plays on natural grass and rendering their case meaningless. In an ideal world, both sides should give a little and put natural grass on top of the turf and then we can all forget about it and have a great tournament. All in all, this is a situation that seems to have a long and complicated ending for all parties involved.