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CSA sticks to its guns on use of artificial turf for 2015 Women's World Cup

10/15/2014 05:13 EDT | Updated 12/15/2014 05:59 EST
The Canadian Soccer Association is sticking to its guns on the issue of artificial turf at the 2015 Women's World Cup.

In a media conference call Wednesday, the CSA reiterated that it plans to play the tournament on a "fantastic" FIFA-approved surface.

But it refused to say what surface it might attach to a possible men's World Cup hosting bid, saying the process of applying to host a future men's tournament is several years away.

"We have put up our hand seeking that we would intend to look at the process of putting a bid forward. It's very early days in that process," said Victor Montagliani, president of the Canadian Soccer Association.

"We don't even know what the parameters or the scope of that bid would need to look like from FIFA because they haven't even sent out anything along those lines to any of the member associations."

Montagliani estimated that was three years away.

The CSA has said it plans to enter a formal bid for the 2026 Men's World Cup.

The argument that there is a double standard for men and women when it comes to the World Cup playing surfaces is central to a complaint currently before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

A group of elite women's players contends that having the men play their showcase tournament on real grass and the women on artificial turf is discriminatory.

The CSA, which serves as the national organizing committee for the 2015 Women's World Cup, argues that FIFA allows matches to be played on so-called 2-Star artificial turf, which the world governing body of soccer gives the green light for top clubs, stadiums and international match play.

"The core issue in terms of the claim that's being advanced is that FIFA 2-Star is somehow second-class," said lawyer Sean Hern, representing the CSA. "And it's not second-class. It's a first-class playing field.

"And it is part of the Canadian game. It's been recognized as appropriate and this is going to be a fantastic playing surface and a fantastic tournament. There is no merit, in our view, in the suggestion that it is any way discriminatory."

The visiting Czech Republic defeated Kazakhstan 4-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifying game this week on FIFA-approved artificial turf at the Astana Arena. And Montagliani noted Canada played Mexico in 2013 men's Gold Cup match on artificial turf in Seattle's CenturyLink Field.

But the men's World Cup has not been held on turf.

"Not yet," said Montagliani.

He said it was clear from the beginning of the Canadian Women's World Cup bid that FIFA-approved artificial turf would be used.

Montagliani said the budget for the tournament is $90 million. Lawyers for the women say their plan for temporary grass surfaces at stadiums in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton would cost $2 million to $3 million at most.

Lawyers for the both sides also have different ideas of the Ontario tribunal's jurisdiction.

Lawyers for the women, who filed the complaint in Ontario because the CSA is headquartered in Ottawa, believe a ruling would be followed in other provinces. The CSA's legal team is not so sure.

"That's a very good question and it's one we've raised directly in our response to date," said Hern. "It's unclear as to whether the Ontario tribunal has any jurisdiction over stadium use and playing surfaces in another province and we would say that it likely doesn't."

The tribunal has yet to rule on the women's request for an expedited hearing. The CSA has argued against the request, saying they have not met the standard for fast-tracking the hearing.

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