KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: Jeff Webb has defended the decision to use artificial turf for the stadium pitches at next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The proposal has run into legal opposition from a group of 50 past ade present players from 12 nations. They have registered proceedings in Toronto claiming sexual discrimination against world federation FIFA and the host Canadian Soccer Association.
Their case is based on the fact that men’s World Cup matches are played on grass.
Webb is a vice-president of world governing body FIFA and president of the Central and North American confederation, CONCACAF, of which Canada is a member.
He said: “I’m not convinced it’s a gender issue. It’s more about when you look at places like the Caribbean and Canada and the weather there are understandng that artificial pitches are much better than a poor natural field.
“So, for me, the game on artificial pitches is seen to be the future and I believe that, if you have the best in the world, then it is much better than on a bad grass field.”
FIFA has commissioned an independent company to inspect the pitch installations. It is due to report back at the end of January with FIFA concerned that any decision to outlaw the use of artifical turf for major international competitions would restrict the number of potential host nations.
The complainants 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.
Their lawyer, Hampton Dellinger, has claimed that “plastic pitches alter how the game is played, pose unique safety risks and are considered inferior for international competition.”
After registering the claim at the start of the month he explained: “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.”
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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