BERNE (Reuters) - FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke has dismissed allegations of gender discrimination over the decision to play the women’s World Cup on artificial turf, saying the surface could also be used for the men’s tournament in the future.
“It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches,” he said in an interview on FIFA’s own website (www.fifa.com).
Forty international women players, including FIFA Player of the Year Nadine Angerer, have filed a lawsuit in Canada, host nation of next year’s tournament against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA).
They claim that FIFA and the CSA are discriminating against women by staging the event on artificial grass which they say poses safety risks and alters how the game is played.
The World Cup finals for men and women, each contested every four years, have always been played on natural grass.
“I can personally guarantee (the pitches) will be of the highest international standard for the official stadiums and three training sites per host city,” said Valcke.
“This is the reason why we have hired... an independent pitch expert and will also have a technical testing institute to monitor and verify the quality.
“Everybody can be assured that we take the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 very seriously and are committed to working together with the national organising committee to organise the best possible tournament.”
He added: “For many years now, any organiser of a FIFA event – irrespective of whether it be a men’s or women’s competition, including the men’s World Cup -– has had the right to propose for the tournament to be played on artificial turf, provided that it is of the highest quality and the same playing surface is used for all venues and training sites.”
Valcke said that climate was behind the decision to use artificial turf.
“Most sporting infrastructure in Canada is on artificial turf, primarily due to the extreme climate. It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues,” he said.
“This is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: we want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event.
“This has been the sole reason behind the decision to play on artificial turf from day one.”
Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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