Women’s Soccer Forced to Play 2015 World Cup on Artificial Turf

By Kayla P.

Dating back to the Ancient times, women have taken tremendous steps in fighting for an equal status in sports. However, there are still signs that the battle for equality is far from over. A prime example of this is the Women’s World Cup this summer. The event will be held all across Canada, but despite this being such a fantastic opportunity to promote women’s soccer, the focus point has been whether the games should be played on natural grass or artificial turf.

Not even top international women soccer players could change the mind of one of the most powerful organizations in the world (FIFA). After months of fighting, these female soccer players ran out of arguments and realized they were quickly running out of time. 84 players on 13 different national teams- called turf “substandard and dangerous, and said it was something that FIFA and the CSA would never dream of asking top men’s players to play a World Cup on”(Franson, 2014). If these organizations are going to make women play on turf, why shouldn’t men have to perform at elite levels on this same surface? Men’s soccer is played at a much faster pace than women’s, could this be why they want women’s World Cup to be played on turf, to give the women’s game more pace? Or it is because men would put up too much of a fight if they were forced to play big tournaments on turf as well? There are so many questions as to why women are being forced to play on artificial turf.

Artificial turf has been blamed for increasing injuries such as sprained ankles, concussions, turf burns, heat stroke, etc. The World Cup is a huge tournament; much like the Olympics where everyone around the world enjoys watching, and cheering on their country. In 2012, the women’s gold medal soccer match for the London Olympics was the most watched event with 4.35 million viewers, and yet still, professional women soccer players struggle to be given the respect they deserve (Vick, 2015). With that many people tuning in to watch women’s soccer, why would anyone want to see the World Cup being played on something that increases injuries and puts the participants at risk? It’s a sign that the battle for equality is far from over, despite decades of progress.

USA striker Alex Morgan believes that the recent protest against Women’s World Cup being played on artificial turf underlines why days like International Women’s Day are so important (Trehan, 2015). Women have fought for gender equality for many years, and we continue to fight for it. It has certainly come a long way and seeing that women’s sports are beginning to sell out stadiums and more and more people are starting to watch women’s sports is great to see. Women’s sports in general need to be highlighted more, and not just soccer, but for every sport. Due to the amount of support that came with the protest of the Women’s World Cup marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports (Shoalts, 2015).

References

Franson (2015). Women drop artificial turf complaint over 2015 World Cup in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/2015/01/21/women-drop-artificial-turf-complaint-over-2015-world-cup-in-canada.html

Trehan (2015). USA striker Alex Morgan praises women fighting for gender equality. Retrieved from http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/12040/9749192/usa-striker-alex-morgan-praises-women-fighting-for-gender-equality

Vick (2015). FIFA: the world cup should be played on natural grass. Retrieved from https://www.coworker.org/petitions/fifa-the-world-cup-should-be-played-on-natural-grass

Shoalts (2015). Players drop legal fight over artificial turf in 2015 Women’s World Cup. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/soccer/women-withdraw-artificial-turf-complaint-over-2015-world-cup-in-canada/article22549311/

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7 responses

  1. Awesome post Kayla!

    I think you made some very valid points, and also looked at different aspects as to why this argument came about. It really does show that women are not yet done fighting for their equality, and there is still quite some way to go.

    You questioned many viewpoints as to why the women are being forced to play on the artificial turf. Personally, I believe that it is because the women’s game is played at a much slower pace and by using turf as the surface this could help eliminate this part of the game. I also think that FIFA are focused around generating profit and enhancing endorsements, perhaps by making the women’s game more exciting they think audience ratings will increase? However, with what you mentioned about the 2012 women’s gold medal game, it is astounding that women in soccer are still having to prove their worth and battle off the field to gain respect, not only by fans and franchises, but the biggest soccer organization in the world.

    It is extremely disappointing that even the professional athletes involved with this event had to give up their battle, because of a lack of resources and time. Women’s soccer is a growing phenomenon around the world, but what message is this case sending? That women are not good enough in comparison to males? The professionals such as Alex Morgan, are huge role models for younger athletes, so it is important that they continue to promote International Women’s Day. Hopefully, over the next decade we will continue to see significant strides for women’s sports equality, to narrow the margins for such large scale events like the World Cup.

  2. Great post, Kayla!

    So much has changed since the early 19th century, within the home and in sport. Women’s involvement has grown greatly as the benefits of physical activity have become known. The media portrayal of women as well as sport organizations have yet to see this and thus are suppressing the growth of gender equality and sport. There are role models who try to speak out and have a positive influence on future generations. I feel that saying women should play on artificial turf to make the game more exciting is just as confusing as saying sex sells in the media. Both the media and sport organizations need to change their views of what sells in society. Leadership in these organizations is still largely men so women need to be encouraged to seek out opportunities to gain or improve skills that will make them competitive with these male leaders. It is disappointing to know that even with the 2012 gold medal game; women still have to fight for the same opportunities as men.

    -Andrea J

  3. Glad you covered this controversial topic Kayla!
    I really enjoyed how you provided the backstory as to why this argument came about. It really does show that there is still a battle for women at elite level sports, but encouraging that women are not giving up on fighting for their equality.
    Like you I find it discouraging that with all the promotion opportunities and potential new fans they could reach with the event will be held all across Canada. Rather the focus is on a materialistic aspect of the game that only negatively impacts the female players.

    When I read the fact that – 84 players on 13 different national teams- called turf “substandard and dangerous, and said it was something that FIFA and the CSA would never dream of asking top men’s players to play a World Cup on”(Franson, 2014)… and still FIFA over rode the players opinions and they are being forced to play on turf seems absolutely ridiculous to me.

    It was said that women’s soccer is played at a slower pace so the turf may help increase the speed of the game – however I question with the 2012, the women’s gold medal soccer match for the London Olympics being the most watched event with 4.35 million viewers – why does it matter the pace of the game? It seems like they will still draw the viewership?

    Where as Women’s soccer is still in its building stages in North America but gaining popularity around the world – what message is this case sending? That women are not good enough in comparison to males because of the speed they play at – so its worth risking injury for entertainment?

    I hope that after this year FIFA will never “dream” again of asking their female athletes of making this exception they wouldn’t ask of their male players.

  4. Great post Kayla!

    The line that stuck out the most to myself was “something that FIFA and the CSA would never dream of asking top men’s players to play a World Cup on”(Franson, 2014)”

    I found it very shocking that still in 2014-2015 organizations like FIFA are even being questioned for allegations like these. Organizations have such a power in society to promote messages of equality and the fact that they didn’t take advantage of that opportunity is a shame. 84 players took a stand against the organization and still they were belittled and not considered in the final equation.

    The message they are sending by allowing “their” female athletes to play on grounds that may potentially increase risk of injuries – is showing that they don’t take value in their condition. Which, after the battle that women have faced to gain respect in sport deserve that much, if not more from the organizational leader of their sport profession.

    I hope that as the viewership of female sport grows and with the change of media promoting women as an athlete rather a body, FIFA will join the cause and begin to make headlines of positive support instead of the media headlines like these.

    -Cassie S

  5. Nice post KP,

    I have already read a few articles that have brought this topic up, and i thought that you mentioned some interesting points. Like somebody mentioned before, it shows that the women’s game is still not equal and that they continue to fight for equality in soccer.

    It is quite interesting that you mentioned “why shouldn’t men have to perform at elite levels on this same surface?” Actually, there are a few teams that play in the Russian premier league who play on artificial turf and one that plays in the champions league. For the teams that had to play against them, they complained to FIFA and after a year or so the team had to relocate for champions league games or build a grass playing field. This just goes to show how even though the same issue had been raised about playing issues, the women didn’t get what they wanted or deserved unlike the male elite teams.

    Although I think it would be best for women’s soccer to be played on a natural grass field i do feel that the women’s game is played at a slower pace and the artificial turf will help speed up the game. This would benefit both the players and spectators.I also agree with you that playing on turf field is a risk for injuries. With the world cup being played on such a big stage, it would be a shame to see some of the worlds most elite female athletes suffering injuries because of a bad playing surface. We have seen first hand this season for UNB how an artificial turf can injure a player, with the UNB women’s goalkeeper injuring her knee at the Moncton field where some of the world cup games will be held.

  6. Kayla,

    Great post! I myself am not much of a soccer player at all and so my knowledge and experience of the sport is limited. I do though, as a result of taking this course, feel I have some knowledge and experience around gender and sport. Based on the information I have learned from this course, I can really see why this is story is upsetting for both soccer players in general, and for women.

    I feel that by not respecting the wishes of the female soccer players enough to make this change that they so desperately desire, it shows a pure lack of respect for women’s soccer. This further perpetuates the whole idea that women’s sports are not as good as men’s and that female athletes do not require the same level of respect their male counterparts do. I also think there will be a number of young male and female soccer enthusiasts who will be tuning in to the women’s games and wondering why they are playing on turf. The message these young people might receive is one that says male sports are better than female sports.

    It also surprised me that no real explanation was given as to why their requests were not met. I wonder what would have happened if male soccer players had teamed up with the females and urged FIFA to make the necessary changes. I think that in order for female athletes to gain the respect and support they need in the sporting world, they need the support of men who participate in the same sports they do. I think if this had have happened, FIFA would have had a harder time ignoring the requests.

    Finally, if artificial turf is proven to be so dangerous, why is this not the main concern of FIFA? Is the safety of their athletes not the top priority here?

    Molly M.

  7. Awesome post Kayla!

    The struggle by women to achieve gender equity in felt across all institutions–I feel like the most visible disparities occur in the realm of sport and you have done a fantastic job articulating just that. I feel like the case presented by elite female athletes has a lot of ‘meat and potatoes’ to it– turf is dangerous, and it really conveys less prestige. That elite athletes have to make a case for this seems crazy to me; rather, it’s crazy that we still have such obvious examples of overt sexism in our society. When considering gendered inequalities I think that we should keep examples like this in mind, examples where women are made to feel ‘less worthy’ for completely arbitrary reasons. Shame on the FIFA. I feel that proper representation of women in FIFA would make this a non-issue; but we learned in class about how proper representation can be a very difficult goal to achieve!

    Thank you for sharing,
    Jamie

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