10/28/2014 04:42 EDT | Updated 12/28/2014 05:59 EST

Canadian Soccer Association denies targeting players involved in turf lawsuit

TORONTO - The Canadian Soccer Association has dismissed allegations that it has targeted players involved in a legal challenge to the use of artificial turf at next summer's Women's World Cup.

"The Canadian Soccer Association categorically denies that it engaged in any retaliation against players who filed complaints under the Human Rights Code against the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA regarding the use of turf at the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015," the association said in a statement Tuesday.

"No such threats were made and any suggestion that Canadian Soccer Association officials engaged in any wrongdoing is completely baseless."

Lawyers for a group of elite female players involved in the human rights challenge allege that the women are being pressured to drop their lawsuit.

In a letter Monday to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the lawyers said "the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA — aided by national federations — have threatened reprisals against a coalition of the world’s best female soccer players for bringing this sex discrimination action."

The women asked the tribunal for a cease-and-desist order.

The players allege that Mexican international Teresa Noyola and French internationals Camille Abily and Elise Bussaglia had been threatened with reprisals.

Noyola, according to the filing, was told she would not be invited to play for the Mexican national team unless she withdrew her name from the legal challenge. Abily and Bussaglia "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."

France is seeking to host the 2019 World Cup.

All three have since pulled out of the complaint, although lawyers for the group saying 20 players have stepped forward to replace them. The total number now numbers 62.

The players also allege that Costa Rican internationals Diana Saenz and Katherine Alvarado, along with a third unidentified player, were told by Costa Rican Federation officials "that their participation put their positions on the team in jeopardy as a result of pressure from CSA and FIFA."

The women have filed a human rights complaint that FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association are discriminating against women by making them play on artificial turf while the men's World Cup is held on natural grass.

The women includes Germany's Nadine Angerer, Japan's Yuki Ogimi and Americans Shannon Boxx, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambaugh. There are no Canadian players named to avoid conflicts with the CSA, which doubles as the tournament's national organizing committee.

FIFA and the CSA have no plans to change the playing surface, saying playing on approved turf is sanctioned under the rules of the game. The CSA has engaged an independent consultant to test the surfaces at venues in Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver. The results are expected in early 2015.

The tournament runs June 6 to July 5.


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