Maddie Pfeifer is a senior this year at La Salle. She enjoys soccer and track and is also involved in many clubs at La Salle. She plans on majoring in...
Women’s World Cup Shouldn’t Be Played on Turf
January 14, 2015
No World Cup – men’s or women’s – has ever been played on artificial turf. Why start now? The Women’s World Cup set for this year in Canada has stirred up all kinds of controversies and drawn attention to gender inequality issues as a result of the decision to have the games played on artificial turf.
There has been outrage through all of the soccer community – except in FIFA (the International Federation of Association Football). Many professional female soccer players have spoken up and are filing a lawsuit against FIFA. They are claiming that playing the games on turf violates gender discrimination laws. I agree with this statement completely.
Last summer’s men’s World Cup was held on grass, so why can’t the women’s be too?
FIFA has come out to state that “the use of natural grass in Canadian stadia would not be possible given that these venues are multi-use venues.” FIFA also stated that “installation of natural grass surfaces would not be compatible with the needs of other users, such as the Canadian Football League, who plays on turf.” First of all, this argument is somewhat invalid seeing as during the World Cup, only World Cup games would be played at the venues. Also, it would be possible to use natural grass and it could be installed in time. FIFA could reinstall turf at the conclusion of the tournament and everyone would be happy.
Grass is the preferred surface for soccer all over the world. While I have grown up playing on a combination of both grass and turf, I can personally vouch for this statement.
One reason for this is turf burns. Turf burns, let me tell you, hurt. They cut up your legs and leave them bare. When a player is going into a tackle, whether or not the injury they are going to sustain is worth getting the ball or not should not be going through their head. Another negative surrounding turf is temperature. It is a fact that it always feels at least 10 degrees hotter on the turf than not. This is a fact that I, as well as most competitive soccer players, know all too well. Conditioning and running in 80 degree weather is bad enough, but then you add 10 degrees and it just gets worse. This could lead to a stronger chance of dehydration. Also, many professional soccer players state that they are more prone to injuries on turf than grass. In fact, one study found that ACL injuries were increased on artificial turf.
Besides the physical effects of turf, FIFA is also very capable of instituting grass fields for the upcoming games. It may come as a shock to you, but grass can in fact grow in Canada! Turf experts say that if Canada starts growing sod in April or May, there will still be time to install them before the games which begin in June. Therefore, time is not an excuse for FIFA. Another point is that the approximate cost for this process would be around $3-$6 million dollars which, according to ESPN, is only a fraction of the bonuses given out to FIFA execs and a significantly smaller amount than the revenue expected from the event. So neither time nor money is a valid excuse.
While it appears as though FIFA has nothing holding them back from putting in grass, the question of “if this was the men’s World Cup would they comply?” is on everyone’s minds. FIFA has refused to sit down with any professional players in any attempt to try and compromise. This has brought into question gender inequality throughout the sport.
FIFA is a male dominated association – not that I’m saying all males are automatically misogynists – but it should not come as a surprise that they do not care for the women like they do the men. They should care especially for the women seeing as the 2012 Women’s Olympic final on NBC Sports gave the network their most viewed broadcast of all time.
A huge issue surrounding the gender inequality is that, according to ESPN, “when Canada submits its official bid in a few years to host the 2026 [Men’s] World Cup, it will be for a tournament played on grass — unless Canada is bidding ironically and doesn’t actually want to host the event.” This highlights the gender inequality plaguing FIFA and women’s soccer as a whole. Canada is practically admitting to being able to provide grass fields. This quote is also saying that to be taken seriously for a Men’s World Cup, you have to have grass fields. I believe that to be taken seriously for a Women’s World Cup, you should have to have grass fields as well.
One of FIFA’s biggest arguments is that there is no real evidence that players are more prone to injuries on turf than grass. Dr. Jan Ekstrand, a professor in sports medicine, conducted an experiment to find the truth. However, since his interview of findings is on the FIFA website, I can’t help but think he is a little biased. Nevertheless, Dr. Ekstrand claims that his research found that there was no increase in injuries on turf. While science may support him, I can assure you I have received more injuries on turf than grass, and most professional soccer players will agree with me.
All I’m saying is why not just comply? FIFA, you have the money and resources, so stop enforcing sexism and give the professionals what they want. Grass is the preferred surface and is what soccer is meant to be played on. If FIFA stood for true soccer and equality, then they would host the Women’s World Cup on grass fields.
Photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/8168644501/