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Artificial turf company’s endorsement deal heats up Women’s World Cup debate

Kaylyn Kyle by Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TodayPhoto by Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports


The battle over artificial turf at the 2015 Women’s World Cup doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

FieldTurf, the company providing artificial turf for the tournament in Canada next year, has signed Canadian national team midfielder Kaylyn Kyle to a three-year, $15,000 endorsement deal, according to a report from TSN.

The response was swift from the law firm representing key players from the U.S. Women’s National Team in opposing artificial turf at the World Cup. Hampton Dellinger, an attorney for Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, issued a statement criticizing the deal and calling on both FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association to disclose if they also made deals with FieldTurf for payment.

“No endorsement deal for Kaylyn Kyle can alter Canadian laws prohibiting the kind of sexism that drove FIFA and Canada to stage the women’s World Cup under conditions male players haven’t been and won’t be subjected to,” Dellinger said in a statement Friday. “And no payout can change the fact that artificial turf can injure elite players in unique and painful ways.”

The law firm has threatened both FIFA and the CSA with legal action if the six venues for the World Cup in Canada next year are not grass, as has been the case in every senior men’s World Cup. The group signing onto the letter demanding the change includes high-profile stars like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O’Reilly from the USWNT, as well as Germany’s Nadine Angerer and Spain’s Vero Boquete.

Under the deal, Kyle, who seems to be a lock to represent Canada at the 2015 World Cup, will help market FieldTurf, which is made from recycled athletic shoes and tires. She declined to comment on the deal.

“She wanted to believe in the product she backs,” Darren Gill, vice president of marketing with FieldTurf, told TSN. “A lot of the discussions were about whether she likes it. It’s not a cash grab for her.”

Dellinger’s press statement included a screenshot of a tweet by Kyle dated June 9, 2013 that showed her bloody, scraped shins after a game with the caption, “I love turf.” Kyle had been playing for the Seattle Reign FC, which played their games on FieldTurf last year. The tweet has since been removed, with Dellinger alleging it was deleted on Thursday after the report of her FieldTurf endorsement was published.

“Before her recent money deal, Ms. Kyle bore witness to the dangers posed by a plastic pitch,” Dellinger said. “The tweet of her turf-burned legs is a ‘smoking shin’ that provides further evidence for why the world’s best female players deserve natural grass.”

CSA and FIFA have both brushed off the complaints since the initial letter was released a month ago. CSA President Victor Montagliani called charges of gender discrimination “the biggest form of misinformation I have ever heard in my life.” FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called artificial turf the future of soccer.

Canada’s bid to host the 2015 Women’s World Cup, which was approved by FIFA, specifically included artificial turf. It was also the only viable bid to host the tournament.

Morgan told Julie Foudy during the National Women’s Soccer League final on Aug. 31 that FIFA and CSA have ignored their letter and the next step, legal action, was imminent.

What do you make of Kyle’s endorsement? How do you see the turn controversy playing out from this point forward?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Every time this case comes up on SBI, it becomes a turf argument. When you get down the bare bones of this case, it’s not – it’s a gender equality case. FIFA is knowingly placing these games on turf after Brazil 2014 had all grass. If the men’s tournament is all grass, then Canada 2015 (the competition ONE YEAR AFTER) should be on grass. That’s what the case is all about.

    If there was a separate independent world soccer organization for women, like a WFIFA or something, and this organization purposely did it on turf for expense reasons, that’s fine. They wouldn’t have a case. But FIFA did it.

    I don’t care if your Sunday team plays on turf. I don’t care if your crappy division III college soccer team plays on turf. I don’t even care if Euro 2016 qualifiers are on turf. This is the highest most prestigious women’s soccer tournament in the world. If FIFA has Brazil 2014 to be played on grass, then so should Canada 2015. It’s nothing to do with turf being the future of soccer. It’s about treating the men’s and the women’s game THE SAME.

    • Well I pretty much agree with you here, and it’s obvious that you’re passionate about it which is good. Having said that, you may not have any luck getting the discussion off of artificial turf here. It is amazing how polarizing that topic is on that site. We all have our hot buttons, I suppose.

  2. Agreed with comments above. The moment I see game being played on fake, I turn off the tv. Saunders and timbers, please get your act together.

  3. Here is what the women are trying to say…the men’s World Cup would never be played on turf because the players would never go for it, so why should the women have to play on turf?
    Could FIFA pay for grass to be laid down for the women’s WC, yes…they have billions in their bank but the women’s WC doesn’t bring in the same billions the men’s WC brings in so..yeah

  4. @Aaron

    You understand what “peer reviewed, independent” means, right?

    Hint: not sponsored by the companies.

    I know no one wants to believe the studies, but I’ll take the word of academics with no stake in the game every time.

    Also, regarding Kyle —

    That’s from 2012 so let’s at least agree her opinion has remained consistent on turf.

    • So much for that narrative. Hopefully the anti-turfers are as quick to apologize to Kaylyn Kyle as they were to call her a corporate sellout.

      They won’t, though.

  5. And FIFA gave the 2022 world cup to qatar where the temperatures will be 140F for both the players and the fans. Its not discrimination, it’s soccer politics.

  6. Judge: are you being forced to participate in this tournament?

    Women in unison: no, but, but

    Judge: court is adjourned! I rule for the defense! Order in the court! Order in the court!

    • Is anyone forced to eat at a certain restaurant? No. But it’s still illegal for restaurants to only serve certain people, or only serve certain people certain items on the menu. People who know nothing about the law, or lack basic reasoning skills, should refrain from commenting on it.

      • Judge: How is it discrimination if the governing body of your sport determines that the sole bid, the only way to host your event, presents no difference in injury rates based on recognized studies as compared to venues for men, which have included patched grass surfaces on top of the freaking Pontiac (Detroit Lions) Silverdome floor?

        Plaintiffs: But one time my friend tore an ACL on turf and it had to be the turf!!!! It had to be the turf!!! My friend has NEVER been injured on real grass…that she can remember.

        Judge: Ummm, you guys will be paying defendant’s attorney’s fees for this nonsense

      • I don’t defend the point but you should remember that the “law” here does not necessarily mean U.S. law. Actually, it’s never really clear which law it is, if any, because FIFA generally operates above any of them… presumably because they have the best qualtiy people imaginable, and are known throughout the galaxy for their compasssionativity and integritude

      • The comment was actually directed at the “restaurants” portion of the law used in the analogy, which I would expect is true in Canada but hardly all over the FIFA map. But no big dieal…. was a minor point.

        More importantly, your comment is insightful anyway so thanks for this– sounds like you may have some knowledge specific to canada here (or you don’t, in which case you can ignore) If so I’m curious to see how you’d rate the potential merit and receptiveness of. It appears from what little I’ve read on the proposed case that your theorized strategy is about what would be happening I would speculate intiuitively that coming after FIFA this way seems pretty challenging, but I’d think in this case they’d focus on going after the specific event(WWC 2015) using the Canadian party , holding the event hostage (or creating squeamishness in organizers) and nducing a settlement that beocmes a precedent. My guess as a total outsider .. got any additional thought I’d love to hear them– interested to see how Blatter fights if the case has merit and gets traction.

    • “Are you forced to play in this tournament” would be a relevant question if the tournament would consist of wrestling a shark while wearing concrete weights in the middle of the Burmida triangle. “Are you forced to play in this tournament on artificial turf even though the men’s tournament of the same prestigious level did not the previous year?” is the more accurate question the plaintiffs would ask the judge rhetorically.

      The men’s game and the women’s game should be considered the same. We’re in 2014; gender equality should be the norm. Which is why I think the men’s tournament and the women’s tournament should be in the same country in the same year.

  7. I dont see the big deal, though I do see the irony. Athletes and celebrities dont have to be proponents of the items they endorse. It’s a job. I for one am happy to see any female soccer player get an endorsement deal.

  8. @milla

    I don’t like turf either, but the claims you just made are not backed up by independent, peer reviewed research. Several papers have been published that clearly show that there is NO increased risk to playing regularly on FieldTurf.

    What we are seeing here, more than anything, is confirmation bias in action. Players *think* the surface is worse so they see evidence of that even when none is actually there.

    Again, I don’t like turf. But what I like (or you, or Abby Wambach) is irrelevant when someone makes a claim of discrimination. In that case all that is relevant is demonstrating (though independent research) that the women are being forced to play on a demonstratively inferior surface.

    If the players could demonstrate that now their lawyers wouldn’t be billing them as many hours threatening to take something to court — they’d be in court.

    The “deadline” the women gave the CSA/FIFA to respond was Aug 4.

    So why haven’t they moved forward?

    • I want to see those studies because there’s no way in hell that’s true. I’ve played for 30 years now on every field imaginable and artificial turf fields are CLEARLY tougher on the body. I’ve been practically injury-free on grass, but in the last 3 years alone have picked up turf toe, plantar fasciitis and a meniscus tear all on artificial turf. And these are good fields…the turf toe and meniscus happened at the same artificial turf field that the Houston Dynamo practice on (the plantar fasciitis was an indoor artificial turf field). It is absolutely a tougher surface on the body…you notice it immediately.

      • There are studies that say both. There were “studies” that said smoking was good for you. But everytime a study is sponsored by manufacturers of artificial turf, they somehow found it is no different than grass. Funny that.

      • How is it that marathoners and track athletes can run 100-mile weeks on concrete? Or basketball players can play 82 games in 7 months on wood? Or football players can play and practice on FieldTurf for 7-9 months? These are every bit as stressful on the body.

        Maybe you suffered 3 injuries in the last few years because you are getting old, unlucky, or just out of the shape you were in in the years prior. Maybe that’s ridiculous, but I bet there’s as much evidence to support it as the evidence to support that it was the turf.

      • That is a disingenuous statement. I ran track as well as played soccer competitively into my twenties. Running on concrete IS ROUGHER on your body than running on a track. Marathon running is very tough on the body. I studied and researched bio-mechanics, so I am sure I can find some studies to back it up. I don’t know if you know a lot who played a significant amount of BBall, but I know a few who played in college and one who played professional for 1 year. Knee problems are rife among former BBall players.

        Listen, you have to look a the players and the activity being done. Professional marathon runners are very thin and very small who run on their forefoot. The natural elastic nature of running in the forefoot (springlike nature of ankle and bent knee when landing on forefoot – I wish I could attach a diagram to this message to explain this), plus the smaller size of marathon runners plus the use of less force as compared to sprinting and jumping in soccer means less force on the knees.

        I have played on some really nice artificial surfaces. I think they are better than some poor grass fields, but high quality grass fields are better than any turf field I have ever played on.

  9. What most people and casual soccer fans don’t understand is that playing a whole championship on turf takes a bigger toll on the body than playing regular league games on turf every week. It takes longer time for the body to recover than when playing on grass, the tempratures on the artificial pitch can rise up to 170 degrees F which causes dehydration faster. During a World Cup there will be many games for the teams during a short period of time with maybe only 2-3 days rest. Not being able to recover well both impact the players’ game and increse the risk of injury.

    The men don’t want to play on turf so why should women? Recently after a qualifer game for the Euros a male player stated it was the worst surface he had played on. And that was the 3G turf that is supposed to be the latest. It’s the same 3G-surface in Canada. After the U-20 WWC Lindsey Horan told a teammate in PSG that the pitch was horrible to play on, not good at all. It was no difference at all from the old turf surfaces.

    Women’s Euros last summer has the blueprint for laying grass over turf: sand over turf, then let the grass take root. Vero Boquete played on that pitch. She said it was the best one she had ever played on and felt no difference from playing on grass pitches. The venue actually had a better pitch than the stadium where the final was held.

    • No. What people don’t understand is that no other country stepped up to host the WWC. They may not want to play on turf, but nobody with non-turf venues stepped up, not even the USSF. And there is no time to let grass laid over turf take root at the venues in Canada; the venues will be hosting CFL games right up to the start of the WWC.

      • So if the only company who bids to build a bridge included their plan to use substandard materials in that bid, u r in favor of letting them build the bridge? This was FIFA’s mistake. They never should not have accepted any bid that did not include grass playing fields.

      • And then we’d have a lawsuit that says there is discrimination by FIFA because FIFA hosted a Men’s World Cup but cancelled the Women’s World Cup. And as much as you want to believe that turf is substandard, it isn’t something FIFA thinks is and wasn’t precluded from the bid. In your bridge scenario it is like saying you want a concrete street surface instead of asphalt, but you only get a bid involving asphalt.

      • Lawsuit? In what court? We are all in Sepp’s world my man. It’s like that terrible movie Judge Dredd but somehow much less credible

  10. I think Field Turf is getting a bum wrap. While grass is definitely better than turf if it can be properly maintained and if employed in good weather, turf is better in inclement weather and after a long season. I would love to see the WC played on grass on a nice Summer day and I think that teams that can afford $100M for the latest 1-named Brazilian can pony up the cash to maintain a natural grass surface, but for the rest of the world Field Turf is a good alternative that will make soccer more economical and accessible.

    • I agree with you principle but when I turn the TV on and see a game being played on this turf I turn it off. It changes the way the game is played and no one can deny that. To have any world cup played on it is absurd. I play in an O-40 league on this turf and it changes a lot of things. I’m ok with it for rec leagues but not competitive situations.

      • “I agree with you principle but when I turn the TV on and see a game being played on a cricket field I turn it off. It changes the way the game is played and no one can deny that. To have any world cup played on it is absurd. I play in an O-40 league on the hard surface they try to call grass in the middle changes a lot of things. I’m ok with it for rec leagues but not competitive situations.”

        Confirmation bias. There was a study that showed in professional soccer there is no difference between successful completion of passes on grass versus turf. If it plays so differently, shouldn’t there be some statistical proof? The study also covered crosses and time spent in the air.

      • If this is the Orebro University study, it also found more shorter passes and fewer slide tackles. The male players reported a negative overall impression of turf, poorer ball control and greater physical effort on artificial turf vs natural grass.

        The study clearly shows an impact to the game. Anyone that’s actually played on turf knows it _has_ an impact. Just the increase in surface temperature alone is obvious. There are several studies showing turf temperatures can reach 160-180 degrees when 122 degrees is considered the maximum for trained athletes. You can water turf every 30 minutes to bring the temperature down and technology is being developed to improve this, but it’s still an issue. Watering it also has the side effect of increasing humidity.

  11. Living in Seattle and playing in a men’s league, I have no problem playing on FieldTurf because it’s better than mud.

    Having written that, a World Cup should be played on grass, regardless of gender.

  12. She’s Canadian, what do I care? Women’s players are hurting for money (relatively) so I don’t fault her for making a cash grab. Much, much wealthier people sell out too. The lawyers are right – this is irrelevant. I hope they can continue to fight through the smokescreen.


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