FIFA visit to Moncton stadium overshadowed by turf lawsuit

Officials from FIFA were in Moncton Thursday to examine the stadium in preparation for next years’ Women’s World Cup Soccer event, but the visit was met with controversy.

Coalition of elite female players filed lawsuit challenging decision to play on artificial turf

L to R : Don Hardman, Moncton Mayor George Leblanc and Tatyana Haenni, head of women's competition with FIFA in Moncton Thursday. (CBC)

Officials from FIFA were in Moncton Thursday to examine the stadium in preparation for next year's Women’s World Cup Soccer event, but the visit was met with controversy.

On Wednesday, a coalition of elite female players from around the world filed a lawsuit 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. They say the artificial turf is inferior.

Tatjana Haenni is head of women's competition with FIFA.

 “I really think that at one point we should really move on, put the positive stories in the spotlight, because there are so many good benefits,” said Haenni.

She said both men and women play on artificial grass, in this case, artificial turf was just easier.

“Five out of the six stadiums proposed by the soccer, Canadian Soccer Association were turf, had turf,” she explained. “So Moncton was the one with natural turf and I think to give all the teams the same conditions and to have equal playing fields for everybody that's the same it was also clear that the turf had to be the same."

Suit says turf is dangerous

The women who filed the action say it’s not only about a double standard, the artificial turf is dangerous.

They say it’s harder on legs and joints, and falling on this, is more likely to cause an injury than falling on grass.

“Everybody knows, we all know that grass is profoundly better,” said Canadian player Carrie Serwetnyk.

Serwetnyk thinks rather than converting Moncton to artificial turf, the other five should have been converted to real grass. She says, it's a matter of priorities.

“I noticed our government spent over $20 million promoting the War of 1812 last year and you'd think that with the Women's World Cup being the most, the world's largest event in history for women that we'd be spending a few million dollars to put some grass down,” she said.

FIFA won't comment directly on the case but says it does not intend to change the turf.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote to Tatjana Haenni of FIFA. It was Canadian player Carrie Serwetnyk who said: "Everybody knows, we all know that grass is profoundly better."
    Oct 03, 2014 11:30 AM AT