It was a contentious battle pitting a group of elite women’s football (soccer) against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) over field conditions for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Canada will host the event this summer, but on pitches with artificial turf.
The women argued in a human rights complaint that they by making them play on artificial turf, they were being treated discriminated against. They say the men’s event has never and would never be played on anything other than natural grass.
The long-standing complaint to replace the various field’s surfaces has now been withdrawn, but not amicably.
In announcing the withdrawal of the legal action, one of the women’s “pro-bono” lawyers, Hampton Dellinger accused the soccer authorities of threatening players with suspension, delaying legal tactics and rejecting the players’ “undeniably fair settlement offer.”
In an earlier letter to FIFA and CSA officials, the group’s lawyers wrote. “Moreover, artificial turf is wholly unjustified as a financial imperative. The installation of natural grass would cost but a fraction of your organizations’ budgets thus defeating any defence of undue hardship”.
The Canadian federal government contributed $15 million in public funds for the World Cup and U-20 World Cup.
U.S. star forward Abby Wambach, whose name was front and centre on the human rights challenge. “Our legal action has ended. But I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields — and the tremendous public support we received during the effort — marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports.”
As a result of the complaint, at least one of the surfaces will be replaced, that of BC Place stadium in Vancouver, where the turf condition was described as deplorable by the lawyer.
The Polytan surface now used at BC Place, was installed nearly three years ago for an estimated $1.2 million.
The Women’s lawyer Hampton Dellinger added in a final salvo, ” In the end, despite the challenges created by the sexism, greed, and stubbornness endemic to FIFA and CSA, the players will make the 2015 Women’s World Cup a success,”