Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FIFA Allegedly Threatens Retaliation Against Players

In the latest installment of "I Can't Believe What FIFA Has Just Done" several players participating in a Canadian lawsuit to play the 2015 Women's World Cup on grass, not artificial turf, have alleged reprisals against them for their role in the legal action.

The reprisals were noted on Inside World Football based on information provided by The Sport Spectacle blog.  The latter provides a direct link (here in PDF) to the explosive allegations, made in a legal filing.

Among the claims:
  • Teresa Noyola ... was slated to play in World Cup qualifying matches in October of 2014. Soon before the matches began Mexican Federation officials communicated to Ms. Noyola that FIFA was preparing to suspend or unaffiliate her because of her participation in this action
  • Camille Abily and √Člise Bussaglia, both of France ... were led to believe that their continued participation in this action would lead to retaliation by FIFA in the awarding of the 2019 women’s World Cup. 
  • Sunil Gulati, President of the United States Soccer Federation, indicated that he believed players risked suspension by FIFA – carried out by national federations -- as a result of their application.
As a result of these threats, the three players have withdrawn from the turf lawsuit.

This is a story deserving broader media coverage. Whatever you might think about the merits of artificial turf, there should be no question that such reprisals and intimidation - if accurate - have no place in sports governance disputes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Ridiculous Turf War

FIFA is being sued by some top women soccer players because it has planned the 2015 Women's World Cup to be played on 6 artificial turf fields across Canada.  The NY Times reports:
According to the players’ filing with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Toronto, World Cup organizers are violating Section 1 of Canada’s human rights code, which states that “every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination.”

The filing seeks an order requiring that the tournament, scheduled to begin June 6, be played on natural grass fields. It also proposes possible resolutions that include installing grass fields on top of artificial ones and even relocating games to stadiums with grass surfaces.
I tweeted the local experts here at CU a question about costs of replacing turf with grass. Here is how they responded:
FIFA has $1,432 million dollars in reserve.  Even at the upper end of costs, say $1 million per field to replace or build temporary grass field, the cost is but a rounding error in FIFA's full coffers.

As far as whether temporary grass is better than turf, I'll defer to Clint Dempsey, speaking ahead of a 2013 hexagonal match with Panama (emphasis added):
I'd rather play on real grass over turf than to play on turf. The ball rolls good. We felt fine yesterday playing on it; we'll get another chance to play on it today. They'll water the field and the ball will be moving quickly – which is important – and rolling true. The only thing you might notice is that when it bounces it doesn't bounce as much on this surface. But both teams will be able to play good soccer.” 
For its part FIFA says:
 “We play on artificial turf, and there’s no Plan B,”
FIFA is known for taking indefensible positions. Add this to the list.