A coalition of women's soccer players led by U.S. star
The men's tournament has always been played on grass and in their suit, filed before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario last fall, the women alleged that a World Cup played on artificial turf would alter the game and heighten the chance of injury. And that, they said, was discriminatory.
But FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Assn. refused to consider the use of grass fields. So on Wednesday, with the start of the tournament less than five months away, the women said they were dropping their complaint to begin focusing on the games.
The World Cup kicks off June 6 in Edmonton and will conclude July 5 at Vancouver's BC Place.
"While the lawsuit did not end with the grass fields the players deserve, I think it was a success in many ways -- including highlighting how unacceptable it would be to play a World Cup final on the existing BC Place carpet," attorney Hampton Dellinger of the Washington, D.C., law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner said in an email.
"The legal protest showed FIFA and other sports organizations that female athletes will not passively and silently accept continuing gender discrimination in sports."
Dellinger said the legal action produced other positive results. The surface at BC Place will be replaced, for example, and goal-line technology will be used for the first time in a women's World Cup. FIFA also announced that the 2019
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who spearheaded his organization's battle to keep the tournament on artificial turf, said it's time for FIFA and the players to unite and promote the event.
"What was very clear from the meetings with the players was their desire and enthusiasm about making this the greatest
Wambach headed a group of several dozen top women's players who protested FIFA's insistence on artificial fields, contending balls behave differently on turf than on grass. Injuries and fatigue are also more common on artificial fields, they said.
Wambach was joined in the complaint by U.S. teammate
The campaign also drew support on social media, with actor Tom Hanks and Laker star Kobe Bryant rallying to the players' side.