TORONTO: World football federation FIFA faces a lawsuit launched by a group of 50 leading past and present players from 12 nations objecting to the use of synthetic pitches at next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Proceedings claiming sexual discrimination have been registered against the world football federation and the organising Canadian Soccer Association at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal.

The players include two FIFA Women’s Player of the Year winners in German Nadine Angerer and American Abby Wambach.

Players from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea and Spain are also involved in the action.”Men’s World Cup tournament matches are played on natural grass while CSA and FIFA are relegating female players to artificial turf,” said lawyer Hampton Dellinger.

“The difference matters – plastic pitches alter how the game is played, pose unique safety risks and are considered inferior for international competition.”

“The gifted athletes we represent are determined not to have the sport they love 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.”A statement from the CSA said its “lawyers will be reviewing any and all applications or information related to this.”

England have qualified for the tournament but no English player has signed the petition.

Manager Mark Sampson has indicated the pitches could suit his side as several members of his squad are used to playing on synthetic turf.

The climatic challenges of staging the tournament in Canada led to the decision to use artificial turf. Any decision to outlaw its use for major international competitions would restrict the number of potential host nations.

If the players were to win their case FIFA would have to decide whether to roll out temporary turf pitches or take the tournament away from Canada altogether.

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