A coalition of elite female players from around the world filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging FIFA’s decision to play the 2015 women’s World Cup on artificial turf.

The legal action was filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal based in Toronto, and the proceedings are against the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA.

“Two months ago, attorneys for a coalition of leading players informed officials from the Canadian Soccer Association [CSA] and FIFA that forcing the 2015 women’s World Cup to take place on artificial turf rather than grass was not only wrong but also constituted illegal sex discrimination,” Hampton Dellinger, attorney for the players’ coalition, said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Men’s World Cup tournament matches are played on natural grass while CSA and FIFA are relegating female players to artificial turf. The difference matters: plastic pitches alter how the game is played, pose unique safety risks and are considered inferior for international competition.

“Through public statements and private communications the players and their lawyers have clearly signalled to CSA and FIFA that we want to resolve the ‘turf war’ through good faith negotiations rather than litigation. CSA and FIFA have ignored these overtures. As a result, the players have no choice but to initiate the legal action filed today. Whatever happens in court, CSA and FIFA have lost any claim to being good stewards of the women’s game — until they correct their mistake.”


American lead a players’ coalition that filed a lawsuit against the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA Wednesday challenging the decision to play the 2015 women’s World Cup on artificial. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

The players’ coalition is led by American Abby Wambach, and also includes U.S. teammate Alex Morgan, Germany's Nadine Angerer, Brazil's Fabiana Da Silva Simoes and Spain's Veronica Boquete.

"The gifted athletes we represent are determined not to have the sport they love be belittled on their watch. Getting an equal playing field at the World Cup is a fight female players should not have to wage but one from which they do not shrink. In the end, we trust that fairness and equality will prevail over sexism and stubbornness," Dellinger said in a statement.

The Canadian Soccer Association issued a brief statement in response.

"Our lawyers will be reviewing any and all applications or information related to this. We will refrain from any comment until there has been a thorough review."

Wednesday's legal action, known as an application, suggests that tournament venues in Vancouver (B.C. Place Stadium), Edmonton (Commonwealth Stadium), Ottawa (TD Place Stadium) and Winnipeg (Investors Group Field) replace their turf with permanent or temporary grass pitches.

Games at Olympic Stadium in Montreal should be moved to Saputo Stadium, which has real grass, or a temporary grass surface could be installed. The brief also calls for a temporary grass surface at Moncton Stadium.

Canada's bid for the event specified that the final match be played at Vancouver's BC Place, which seats 55,000 and has an artificial turf.

It also suggests that games could be moved to Toronto's BMO Field, which has a natural grass surface.

On Tuesday, FIFA said there was no Plan B beyond playing the 2015 Women's World Cup of soccer on artificial turf despite the threat of a lawsuit.

In response, FIFA has retained an independent consultant to examine the playing surface at venues in Ottawa, Moncton, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Asked why a consultant had been retained, if there were no plans to change the surface, Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's deputy director of the competitions division and head of women's competitions, said: "The quality of the turf is of concern to many people.

As you know there's different type of turf. There's older ones, newer ones, and you can categorize them based on some testing. And I think for all of us, including the NOC (National Organization Committee) the Canadian Soccer Association, it will be helpful if we can say — proven let's say by an independent company — what kind of turf and quality it is."

Canada's bid for the event specified that the final match be played at Vancouver's BC Place, which seats 55,000 and has an artificial turf.

With files from The Canadian Press and Associated Press