Alleging gender discrimination, dozens of top female soccer players have threatened to sue FIFA, world soccer's governing body, and the Canadian Soccer Association over artificial playing surfaces planned to be used for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada.
Artificial surfaces are widely considered inferior to actual grass for top-level soccer, and the group of female players says they're set to be subjected to sub-standard playing conditions for the 2015 cup.
"Consigning women to a second-class surface is gender discrimination that violates European charters and numerous provisions of Canadian law, including human rights codes and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," reads part of a letter that the group of more than 40 athletes sent to FIFA on July 28, but was just obtained by Fox Sports this week.
“We just saw the World Cup in Brazil," Carrie Serwetnyk, a former member of the Canadian national team, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). "We just know there’s absolutely no way the men would play on fake grass. It would be a scandal. So to think it’s O.K. for the Women’s World Cup to be played on artificial turf, what kind of a message does that send?”
FIFA officials confirmed receiving the threatening letter to Fox Sports and the CBC, but did not immediately respond to Mashable's request for additional comment.
Artificial turf has come a long way since the bright-green, carpet-like AstroTurf surfaces that were common on many American football fields two decades ago; in many cases it now resembles actual grass to the naked eye. But it's seen by most soccer players as a second-rate playing surface because the ball travels faster than it does on normal grass, falls are not as well-cushioned and some say it can contribute to other injuries.
The 2015 Women's World Cup will be held at six venues across Canada, all of them featuring artificial playing surfaces. While artificial turf is not often used in high-level pro soccer, it's not completely unheard of. The Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer, for example, play their home games on artificial turf at one of the venues set to host matches in 2015.
Among the players threatening to sue FIFA for actual grass surfaces in 2015 are United States Women's National Team players Amy Wambach, Alex Morgan and Heather O'Reilly, as well as Germany goalkeeper and reigning women's world player of the year Nadine Angerer, according to Fox Sports.
"If your organizations will not engage in a meaningful dialogue on how to correct the discriminatory treatment of women players, we are prepared to pursue legal action which we are confident should succeed," the players' letter to FIFA reads.