The latest salvo in the battle between FIFA and some of the top women’s players in the world comes from the world’s governing body, and it lands with a thud.
Abby Wambach claimed last week that FIFA rejected offers for “free grass” to be laid at World Cup venues this summer. Wambach is the leader of a group of players who claim FIFA’s refusal to replace the artificial turf at World Cup venues amounts to discrimination. The group dropped its lawsuit in January.
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This week, FIFA admitted that the grass offers came in, but were turned away because they only covered the game pitches, not the 18 training pitches.
Because, you know, there aren’t any other suitable grass practice fields in all of Canada, and FIFA doesn’t have the money to meet the free offer with help.
The governing body, based in Zurich, maintained that Canada’s bid for the event included the artificial turf, which FIFA accepted on the condition it met competition standards.
“The contact (with the natural grass companies) was informal and didn’t include any range of price for any service,” FIFA said in the statement Monday. “The proposals were for the official stadia only and not for the various training sites (18 in total) to allow the players to train on a consistent surface throughout the tournament.”
FIFA changed its rules in 2004 to allow sanctioned matches on certain artificial surfaces. A few games at the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa were played on grass that had been reinforced by artificial fibers.
FIFA rules also state that all matches and practices for the World Cup must be held on the same surface. Canada’s bid for the event stipulated that the final be played on an artificial field at BC Place in Vancouver.
Oh, so they were informal. No need to explore it further then. Seems like if someone informally offered FIFA $400 billion, they might explore it further.
While the science behind turf being more dangerous than natural grass is within question, there’s no question FIFA’s answer to Wambach’s claim is weak. While there’s a decent case to be made that the science behind the claims is far from exact — and some studies have even backed FieldTurf as equal — “Yeah but the practice fields” isn’t a shining excuse for FIFA.
And we’re talking about an issue that has reportedly led to FAs threatening the suing players with their World Cup rosterslots, though, so we won’t be acting surprised at FIFA’s lazy reasoning.