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Bidding countries confirm they will play 2019 Women's World Cup on grass

11/06/2014 05:48 EST | Updated 01/06/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Whatever happens at the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada, the 2019 tournament will be played on natural grass.

Spokesman for the French Football Federation and the Korea Football Association confirmed to The Canadian Press their choice of a natural surface. The two associations have already handed over their bid documents to FIFA for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2018 and FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019.

A FIFA spokesman declined two requests for information on the 2019 bid surfaces, referring the question to the bidding federations.

A group of elite female players is challenging Canada's decision to use artificial turf via a human rights complaint in Ontario, alleging that it discriminates against women because the men play their showcase tournament on natural grass.

"The decision of France and South Korea to make grass only bids for the 2019 World Cup is further evidence of how out-of-step Canada's 2015 plastic pitch plan is," Hampton Dellinger, lawyer for the players' coalition, said in a statement Thursday.

"Why the Canada Soccer Association and FIFA are so obsessed with artificial turf is still unclear but we know why they thought they could get away with disrespecting the world's best female players — because it is the women's World Cup and not the men's. That's sex discrimination and it's illegal under Canadian law. We know the men's Cup will be on grass at least until 2026 as will the 2019 women's. Thankfully, there is still plenty of time for the 2015 mistake to be fixed."

The players have asked that games be shifted to venues with natural surfaces where possible, with temporary grass surfaces installed in cities where that is not an option.

FIFA allows artificial turf to be used providing it meets certain standards and the world governing body of soccer has said there is no Plan B for Canada.

FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke maintains that the Canadian climate — and not gender — was behind the decision on the Canadian playing surface. He also said a men's World Cup could be held on artificial surfaces "sooner rather than later.''

The Canadian Soccer Association has commissioned a survey of the Canadian playing surfaces in Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver, with the results expected in early 2015.

FIFA, meanwhile, will announce the winning bidder of the 2019 tournament in March 2015.

Both bidding countries have already hosted a men's World Cup: France in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 with co-host Japan.

NOTES: The first leg of the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL playoff kicks off Saturday in Quito with Ecuador hosting Trinidad and Tobago. The return leg is set for Dec. 2. The winner will become the 23rd country to qualify for the 2015 Women's World Cup. The final qualifier will be determined in a UEFA playoff between Italy and the Netherlands. That series opens Nov. 22 in Den Haag, Netherlands, and concludes Nov., 27 in Verona, Italy.

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