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The Women's Sports Foundation Supports Providing Equal Playing Surfaces for the 2015 Women’s World Cup

FIFA is planning to hold the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf, instead of natural grass. In an international grassroots effort, the players have rallied to petition for their tournament to be played on grass – citing safety concerns, the different game dynamics, and that men’s and women’s matches should be played on equal surfaces.

The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) believes the best female soccer players in the world deserve the same premier playing fields that FIFA provides the men during their World Cup. No World Cup – men’s or women’s – has been played on anything other than grass.

The Women’s Sports Foundation is pleased to support over 50 of the world’s best soccer players in their quest to play the 2015 World Cup on grass, instead of turf.1 First-quality playing surfaces are a crucial issue for elite athletes. Grass is the acknowledged preference by male and female soccer players world wide.2In fact, top men’s players often refuse to play in stadiums with turf. For example, the English Premier League prohibits games from being played on fully artificial surfaces.

The players include some of the top names in soccer, such as Abby Wambach, Heather O’Reilly, Alex Morgan, Nadine Angerer, Christine Rampone, and Shannon Boxx, to name a few, and hail from Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, and Japan. The athletes are represented, pro bono, by the U.S. law firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP and the Canadian firms of Ryder Wright Blair & Holmes LLP and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. Their efforts to negotiate with Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA have proven unsuccessful thus far, and legal action is imminent.

“The Women’s Sports Foundation has long supported our climb for equality and respect in our sport, and I’m proud to stand with the players and the WSF in this effort,” Julie Foudy, WSF Past President, and co-captain of the U.S. National Team from 1991-2000; captain 2000-2004.

Even with advances in artificial turf, coaches and athletes remain concerned that turf does not have the same impact-reduction effect of natural grass. In addition to injuries, many players assert that turf changes how a competitor plays, and will change the results of the World Cup, the world’s most important football tournament. “[Turf] plays totally different,” explains playmaker Megan Rapinoe. “You have to scoop [the ball] instead of chip. Your touch is different; the way you dribble is different.” Artificial turf also prevents athletes from playing with abandon. “From the perspective of goalkeepers, we have to jump on this concrete,” Angerer said. “We are landing all the time, and it’s really bad. I played just a few weeks ago in Vancouver… and it’s really embarrassing. Seriously, it’s concrete.”3 “I like to defend and tackle and slide-tackle,” says midfielder Carli Lloyd. “You’re hesitant on turf. I play a bit different. You walk away with scrapes and burns. It’s just not fun.” “You have to reconsider doing something for fear of injuring yourself,” says Abby Wambach.4

The CSA and FIFA have stated their support for gender equality within their sport in the past. Yet these prior positions are at odds with intentionally providing unequal fields for women.

The solution is simple: replace the current turf with a surface equal to what was used in the 2014 men’s World Cup final. CSA and FIFA have time and affordable options to provide women-only World Cup matches with outstanding playing surfaces.5

Here’s how you can support the players:

  • Sign their petition for grass fields to CSA and FIFA here. Over 10,000 people have now signed on, including the players and former captain of England’s team, Faye White.
  • On Twitter, use the hashtag #protecttheathletes and #equalplayingfield. Other elite athletes have posted pictures depicting national team player Sydney Leroux’s legs torn to bits by artificial turf during an elite athlete’s naturally aggressive play.

Other athletes and celebrities are supportive of the athletes’ cause, including actor Tom Hanks, NBA players Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, NFL player Colin Kaepernick, and USA men’s goalkeeper Tim Howard.

About Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation — the leading authority on the participation of women and girls in sports — is dedicated to creating leaders by ensuring girls access to sports. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, our work shapes public attitude about women’s sports and athletes, builds capacities for organizations that get girls active, ensures equal opportunities for girls and women, and supports physically and emotionally healthy lifestyles. The Women’s Sports Foundation has relationships with more than 1,000 of the world’s elite female athletes and is recognized globally for its leadership, vision, expertise and influence. For more information, visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org. Follow us:www.Facebook.com/WomensSportsFoundation or on Twitter@WomensSportsFdn.

Media Contact:
Kevin Pchola
Women’s Sports Foundation
212.299.8950
Kevin.Pchola@zenogroup.com

1 Macur, Juliet, To End this War, Unroll Sod, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 2014, at B9, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/22/sports/soccer/world-cup-has-precedent-of-installing-grass.html?_r=0.
2 “Elite Player’s Perceptions of Football Playing Surfaces,” FIFA, available at: http://quality.fifa.com/PageFiles/347/Turf_Players%20Perception%20Study.pdf (the overwhelming majority of polled athletes believe that “all top level professional fixtures should be played on Natural Turf,” and “I have played in a game where the condition of pitch has influenced result.”)
3 http://www.si.com/soccer/planet-futbol/2014/08/18/2015-womens-world-cup-canada-artificial-turf-lawsuit
4 Schaerlaeckens, Leander, USWNT stars not backing down on artificial playing surface stance, FOX Sports (Sept. 10, 2014), available at http://www.foxsports.com/soccer/story/uswnt-stars-not-backing-down-on-stance-artificial-playing-surface-2015-womens-world-cup-091014.
5 Macur, Juliet, To End this War, Unroll Sod, N.Y. Times, Aug. 22, 2014, at B9, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/22/sports/soccer/world-cup-has-precedent-of-installing-grass.html?_r=0.
6 Id.