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Top FIFA official says men's World Cup could be on artificial turf sooner than later

10/29/2014 03:12 EDT | Updated 12/29/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - FIFA has attacked another plank in the legal challenge to artificial turf at the Women's World Cup, saying a men's World Cup could be held on artificial surfaces "sooner rather than later."

Secretary-general Jerome Valcke, in an interview on fifa.com, offered his personal guarantee that the playing surfaces at the 2015 tournament in Canada will be of the highest international standard — for artificial turf.

Valcke said that FIFA tournament organizers have had the right for some time to use turf "provided that it is of the highest quality and the same playing surface is used for all venues and training sites."

"It could well be that sooner rather than later the men's World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches," he added. "The Canadian Soccer Association proposed for the tournament to be played on artificial turf based on the fact that most sporting infrastructure in Canada is on artificial turf, primarily due to the extreme climate in the host country.

"It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues."

A group of elite female players has launched a human rights complaint in Ontario, arguing that tournament organizers are discriminating against women by making them play on artificial turf while the men's showcase is played on natural grass surfaces.

A lawyer for the women said Valcke was being disingenuous in his comments about the men's event possibly being played on grass.

"The 2018 and 2022 men's World Cups are already slated for grass so, by soon, FIFA means 2026," Hampton Dellinger said. "Obviously, FIFA's definition of 'soon' is different from mine or any dictionary's.

"Even in 2026, I'll believe the men's World Cup will be played on turf when I'm hopefully still around to see it. And Mr. Valcke's excuse of Canada's 'extreme climate' is astounding given that Russia and Qatar boast their own equally (or even more) difficult weather conditions. The natural grass pitch at BMO Field in Toronto certainly appears to do just fine during the summer months when the World Cup is staged."

The FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 is slated to be played on artificial turf at venues in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.

Valcke says playing the Canadian tournament on artificial turf is due to conditions here.

"As has already been explained, this is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada," he said. "We want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event, both in the official stadiums and at the training sites. This has been the sole reason behind the decision to play on artificial turf from Day 1."

He cited ongoing studies of the turf to ensure that it is of the necessary quality.

"We fully understand that the players who have qualified for the Women’s World Cup want to ensure that they have the best conditions to perform well. This is a goal they share with FIFA."

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