Canadian Soccer Association files response to players' lawsuit over 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup

October 10, 2014

With all the claims of corruption and difficult playing conditions associated with the 2022 FIFA Men's World Cup in Qatar, few would have thought that there would be another comparable controversy surrounding next year's 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.

That all changed when players from various national teams participating in the event sought relief from the Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario as to the use of artificial football turf for the competition.

Essentially, the players noted that the Men's World Cup has not been played on such surfaces, and thus, it would be discriminatory to force the women to play on the potentially more dangerous artificial surface.  The players further demanded an expedited hearing in order to quickly resolve the dispute.

The Canadian Soccer Association has reacted by gearing up for battle, retaining Joseph Arvay Q.C., a prominent constitutional law attorney experienced in civil liberties and human rights claims, as counsel on this matter.

Moreover, in a press release issued today, the Canadian Soccer Association announced that it had filed a response to the players' application.

The response noted that the complainants amounted to only 7 out of 550 players, none of whom are residents of Ontario or under contract with a Canadian team – a point, which if true, perhaps might relate to issues of standing or jurisdiction, but still does not address the merits of whether the playing surfaces are dangerous.

The CSA more effectively pointed out that the hearing should not occur in an expedited format because the players have been aware of the surfaces for three years, yet have chosen to wait to the last minute to exercise their rights and bring a complaint forward, without providing justification for the delay.

However, the caveat to that argument would be that because of the lengthy qualifying process for the World Cup, not all of the players would have been able to take any legal action until recently since they would not have been World Cup participants.

The CSA also disagreed with the players' underlying claim that the artificial surfaces created a greater risk, stating that the "use of high quality turf is integral to soccer in Canada, and the suggestion that having matches played on first class football turf rather than grass would be discrimination based on gender trivializes that important human right."

All certification steps and inspections for stadium pitches are expected to be completed by early 2015, a relatively rapid timeline which perhaps justifies the need for an expedited hearing.

This controversy was the last thing FIFA wanted to deal with in 2015.  It was nerve-racking enough for FIFA to get Brazil organized in time for the Men's World Cup, and surprisingly, that event was a resounding success.

Who would have that only a short while later, FIFA would again have to worry about whether one of their showcase events would even get off the ground?

By Staff of and news services

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