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Turf war over surfaces at 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Turf war over surfaces at 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup
June 14, 2013

With the next FIFA Women's World Cup set to kick off in Canada two years from this week, controversy is surrounding the event organiser's decision to stage all 52 matches at its six venues on artificial turf.

Leading the opposition are the players from the USA football team, who say women are being compelled to play on a second-class surface.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, American forward Abby Wambach explained that the American women were unhappy at playing on artificial surfaces.

Wambach told Sports Illustrated "we believe this is a shame not only for the players but for the fans. The game plays differently on artificial surface, not only because of fear of injury but because it's a different surface.

"There are standards of the game that FIFA governs and promises to uphold. I think (a World Cup with artificial turf) would be a travesty and a nightmare for all of us."

In a later interview with ESPN, Wambach also raised the issue of gender discrimination, adding, "this is an issue with FIFA, and, I think, money, and a gender discrimination issue, hands-down. The men's World Cup will never be played on an artificial surface.

"We as the highest-level international players have a responsibility to see that we don't take steps backwards, and I think this would be giant leaps backwards in terms of the way the game is played and in terms of the way the fans watch it. It's my opinion that grass is the way the game is meant to be played for many different reasons ... safety, the beauty of the game, the longevity of players' careers. We have to put up a fight."

Wambach and other USA players have been making their concerns about the surfaces at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 known for some months, with a number of USA players voicing their displeasure with artificial turf fields via Twitter.

Wambach intends to continue lobbying FIFA to fund surfaces being overlaid with natural grass.

However, Peter Montopoli, Chief Executive of the World Cup organising committee and General Secretary of the Canadian Soccer Association, said Canada's bid application was included artificial turf when it was submitted back in early 2011 and that no changes are planned

Previously world football governing body FIFA has permitted junior tournaments being played on artificial turf along with men's World Cup qualifiers to be played on artificial turf. When Canada hosted the under-20 men's World Cup in 2007, three of the six venues had artificial turf and the tournament final was played on artificial turf at BMO Field in Toronto.

Speaking of the 2007 tournament, Montopoli explained "there were no complaints(and) that led to us bidding for the Women's World Cup. We bid according to the regulations, and the specifications were laid out.

"All the teams will be playing on the same surface. All we can do is guarantee fair conditions for all the teams involved. At the end of the day, we have big plans for this event and we're hoping to break previous attendance records."

Australia's first National Synthetic Surfaces Conference & Expo concluded yesterday, having attracted more than 200 delegates and filled 40 exhibition booths. The successful event is expected to return next year. 





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