Soccer is not always the most popular sport with the American public. However, when World Cup time rolls around many people are busting out their red, white, and blue jerseys to root for the American team. This year’s Portugal v America game broke records with 18.2 million views and was on in 9.2% of American houses. Men’s soccer is more prominent than women’s soccer in many places around the world. The most watched soccer game in American was watched in 11.4% of American homes with televisions. That soccer game was indeed not a men’s soccer game. The 1999 Women’s World Cup final remains the highest-rated soccer game ever on U.S. English-language TV. Women’s soccer has started to gain much attention all around the world and with the World Cup coming up this summer and the American team is going in as the favorites. However, the teams are still not treated equally.
Real grass is the best type of field to play soccer on. FIFA men’s soccer games have never been played on anything other than real grass but for the next women’s World Cup the fields are made entirely of turf. Some of the top players have formed a group and filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association saying that artificial surfaces cause worse injuries than grass and change the game. The law suit is not only bout the conditions of the fields but is primarily focused on gender discrimination.
“People in the soccer world know that artificial turf is considered a secondary surface. So to have the women’s premier tournament on a surface that everybody considers to be second class, it’s demeaning. And it’s a step back for the women’s game at a time when women’s sports should be taking steps forward.” Rocky Collis told the press after his law firm, Boies, Schiller, & Flexner, joined two Canadian groups in challenging FIFA’s plans before the Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario, Canada.
It has been shown that abrasions, lower-leg injuries and infections are more common on the artificial turf and that it is also a harder surface leading to greater fatigue in the players. Not only is this playing field a health and safety hazard, it also makes the ball bounce higher and make it harder to control. So the artificial turf changes the entire game and puts the players in danger. Even with all these problems that arise from playing on artificial turf, FIFA has refused to try and resolve the issue.
Since Canadian officials have delayed the decision of replacing the turf with real grass it is already too late for all the fields to be redone before the games begin next summer. However, it is possible to put temporary grass over the artificial grass. According to some sources this fix would only take about $3 to $6 million dollars which is a lot less then what the World Cup brings in. This fix has also already been done for The 1994 Men’s World Cup and for the 2013 World Cup qualifier in Seattle.
FIFA executives have responded that Canada has too harsh of weather for real grass fields to be useful in their country. The winters may be harsh but so are the winter in both Germany and Sweden who have both hosted World Cup tournaments on real grass. Canada also already has multiple world class fields that are equipped with real grass that were overlooked in the booking of the World Cup. The Canadian Soccer Association even shows their own bias when they scheduled all the qualifying games for the Canadian men’s soccer team were help on real grass fields.
For a long time soccer has been a male dominated sport. However, the women’s soccer teams have been gaining lots of recognition in recent years. This reminds me of what Suzy, the army officer that came to talk to our Political Science class, told us about how the male dominated Army treated the soldier that were women as second rate citizens compared to those who were male. FIFA is doing the same thing to these women soccer players by making them play on second rate fields for their World Cup.
If the lawsuit does not go in favor of the female soccer players then society is just giving into the mindset that Professor Mike Lavaque-Marty talked about in Being a Woman and Other Disabilities. It shows that women are second class citizens and not worth as much as their male counterparts and that they do not have to be taken as seriously. The ruling and actions of FIFA will ultimately show what society really believes about the quality of women sports and just how far advanced gender discrimination is.