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Women players group issues “final notice” of lawsuit to FIFA, CSA on artificial turf

Marie-√?ve Nault Abby Wambach

By CAITLIN MURRAY

They have been threatening to sue for weeks, but now they say a lawsuit is around the corner.

The Abby Wambach-led group of players that is accusing FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association of gender discrimination has called for the 2015 Women’s World Cup organizers to negotiate by Friday or face litigation.

“As you know, discussion of the 2015 women’s World Cup is an early item on the agenda for FIFA’s Executive Committee meeting this week,” said the letter issued by attorneys Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, which requested a response by noon Friday.

“Thus, it seems timely to provide final notice that an international coalition of leading players will initiate legal action against your organizations unless you agree immediately to discussions with us on ways to fix the unacceptable playing conditions proposed for FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015.”

Attorney Hampton Dellinger said a lawyer from CSA had responded on Thursday, but had not indicated CSA was open to installing grass at the tournament venues. A lawsuit “will be initiated in coming days,” Dellinger added. (A draft of the lawsuit the group plans to file can be viewed here.)

The renewed threat of litigation comes as FIFA will be conducting site visits starting next week to inspect each of the six Women’s World Cup venues.

The possibility of a lawsuit has been on the table since early August, when the legal counsel for the players group sent an initial letter to CSA and FIFA demanding the tournament be played on natural grass, as all senior men’s World Cups have. Players in the group also includes Alex Morgan, Heather O’Reilly, Nadine Angerer and others.

Players have said that FIFA or CSA had not responded to their initial letter, even as both organizations have defended the use of turf to the press. FIFA President Sepp Blatter has called FIFA-approved turf the future of the sport while CSA President Victor Montagliani called the charge of gender discrimination “misinformation.”

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What do you think of this latest threat? Should the group of players pull the trigger and sue? Will continued threats have any impact?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. They have a point. The men’s World Cup would never be played on artificial turf. FIFA undoubtedly has enough money to pay for a natural grass field.

    Reply
    • You may think that after all the massive amount of money that FIFA made in Brazil this year that they could afford a few dollars to overlay grass turf for the women’s world cup.

      You would be wrong.

      Almost all of that money went into the pockets of FIFA executives, and they have little left.*

      *(just my opinion, Mr. Blatter et al)

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    • Correction. Blatter and Platini have enough bribe money not only to pay for natural grass fields but also to have 6 brand new stadiums built with natural grass.

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    • But you’re wrong. Luzhniki Stadium for Russia 2018 is field turf. And they have used turf stadia for individual games in tournaments before.

      I hate turf FWIW.

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      • Are they confirmed on keeping the turf for the games in 2018? I would’ve though they would lay grass down for an event of that caliber, as they did for the 2008 CL final.

  2. If FIFA got sued I think they would just cancel the tournament completely. Not really a big deal to them in the grand scheme of things.

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  3. Should be some interesting legal questions: Is FIFA subject to Canadian law? Does Canadian law even consider this discrimination against women? For example, it’s not like the Canadians hosted a men’s world cup on grass recently – the men would have played on the same surfaces, no? If it came down to the issue of whether FIFA should have not awarded the tournament to Canada then the players lose. It seems more a battle being fought in “the court of public opinion” and not really a court of law. FWIW, I support the players on this one, but the legal case seems tough. Oh, and I know the Boise law firm is the same one that was in Bush v. Gore and on the Prop 8 case in California. So the players certainly have some legal firepower…still, the law claims seem like a reach.

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    • Does FIFA even have a written rule that REQUIRES that the men’s world cup be played on grass, or has it been the case that all of the winning men’s WC bids just happened to involve grass? Absent that requirement I can’t see how discrimination can be proved.

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    • The legal case is indeed very tough, as is any case against FIFA, who largely operate above any sovreign law. That’s why the women keep issuing these “warnings”…. unfortunately they stand a better chance of getting what they want in the court of public opinion, or by causing nevousness amongst the sponsors, than they do in a yet undetirmined court venue.

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    • are the women even protected “employees” or are they independent contractors?

      nevermind the completely different economic context of men and women’s world cups justifying different playing environments.

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      • It’s frivolous, there was no other bid at the voting stage. Every single game on turf is nuts but they had no choice and there is some history of this with both sexes in age group tourneys.

      • Strange to see how the righteous indignation of peope outraged at FIFA’s conduct with regard to the Qatar WC turns quickly to dust when the topic of the women’s game comes up… now many of these same people are leaping to poor Sepp’s defense, and somehow labeling this a “frivolous” lawsuit, as though these women are trying to make a quick buck or get famous.

        Take for example this breathtakingly short-memoried and borderline ignorant “there was only one bid” argument that keeps popping up. Must mean nobody wanted to host this worthless tournament? And Canada is just doing these plucky ladies a favor, and they should be grateful for what they can get? Right?

        Come on. As you seem to know, women’s soccer is a much less well-funded endeavor for most countries…. as everbody [should have learned] preparing bids for a significant and capital-intensive int’l tournament is a very expensive and resource-intensive project in itself. There is a significant and expensive risk associated failure in this opaque and historically corrupt process.. If a country has learned or suspects that another country has already been informally promised the tournament (FIFA would never do this, right?), why would they devote the man-hours and financial resources to perparing a bid package for the “voting” phase? Even if there is no corruption, the cost of a failed bid can be prohibitively high. Just ask Zimbabwe.

        The number of bidders should be a factor in the decision here. Even if the women lose their tournament, I applaud them for demanding a high-standard for their marquee event.

      • If you know the history, FIFA asked for 6 different competitions to be bid at roughly the same time. This explains the spreading thin of bids for the 2015 WWC, not corruption. Unlike Qatar, there have been no stories saying the process was corrupt. There just were only two bids submitted and one at the time of the decision. So there was no decision to be made and thus no “discrimination” to make between choices.

        In theory FIFA could have rebid, but that could be viewed as unfair to Canada, who did submit a bid.

        There is no story of actual corruption here and even if there was, that would be the issue, not discrimination, which is a non sequitur. The process was corrupt ergo they discriminated? That’s two levels of assumptions and logical leaps. At least with Qatar it’s corruption stories and two sites that make no sense. In contrast Canada is a sensible host except for the turf, and in context it looks like there was no choice. And there’s no evidence otherwise…….frivolous, QED.

        There have been age group FIFA tournament games of both sexes on turf. Thus the mere fact that this is on turf and women are involved proves squat. It begs the question.

      • You’ve missed the point.

        I am very aware of the history bid soliciation. And as you mention it’s another way in which FIFA devalued the tournament. But that is another point.

        FIFA discriminated the moment they recognized Canada’s submission as a conforming bid, in spite of not meeting the standard for a top international men’s tournament. They actually had many options, such as (1) re-opening the bid solicitation (for example, Zimbabwe dropped out because they reportedly became convinced they did not have a chance against Canada — others may have felt the same, or simply not wanted to participate in a FIFA-organized bid process as has since become the USSF stated position),(2) awarding the tournament to Canada contingent upon bringing the bid up to standard (3) Approaching countries (such as the US) individually who might be willing to stage the tournament on grass outside of the more costly and resource-intensive bid process, which they could deem unsuccessful (4) unilaterally arranging financing required to ensure grass at all games, or even (5) simply not awarding the tournament to anyone if no acceptable bid was proposed in an extreme and less likely case. Extreme and theoretical… but an option. So there are 5 alternatives– I’m sure there are others.

        Instead, FIFA chose to simply reduce the standard. There is your discrimination. QED. ABC BBD.

      • The women’ world cup is played in a completely different economic context than the men’s justifying different treatment.

    • That’s why the 1999 Women’s World Cup held the record for the highest soccer ratings ever, up until Brazil this past summer… because no one cares about women’s soccer… /sarcasm

      Reply
      • You are talking about a tv rating for the final, not the entire WC. You also arent considering financials. That World Cup and any Womens World Cup has not made the same amount as any mens World Cups. Its not even close. As for the suit. I think they have a valid argument.

      • No, the record viewing for a World Cup was the 2010 Mens World Cup Final (24 million US viewers). Up until the US men played Portugal (in a group game!).

    • And since I have little to no interest in traveling to Qatar and giving them my money, or to Russia and bolstering Putin or his successor, this may be the best non-political World Cup viewing option we have. And traveling to Canada is do-able. So hopefully, all will end well here and we can all go support the ladies in Canada.

      Reply
    • I am interested and may travel to Canada to see it. Since at least one person caring is not the same as no one caring, your argument defies logic.

      Reply

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