OTTAWA (AFP) – FIFA secretary-general Jerome Valcke Friday said it was “crazy” to say the planned use of plastic pitches at next year’s Women’s World Cup was discriminatory.
On the eve of the draw for the 24-nation tournament to be played at six venues across Canada from June 6-July 5, Valcke indicated that FIFA had no plans to back down in the face of complaints from top women players, who say artificial turf poses more injury dangers.
A group of elite players have taken their case to the Human Rights Tribunal in Ontario charging the Canadian Soccer Association of discrimination, since men’s World Cup matches must be played on natural turf.
“If anyone is saying the use of artificial pitches is a question of discrimination, it’s a nonsense,” Valcke said Friday at a pre-draw press conference.
“It’s completely crazy to say that. It has nothing to do with discrimination.”
Valcke said FIFA’s statues allow for the use of artificial turf to allow the game to be played where it might otherwise fail to flourish.
He noted that FIFA has used artificial turf in top-flight under-17 and under-20 competitions, and said that Russia hosted at least one qualifying match for the men’s 2010 World Cup on an artificial pitch.
FIFA, who approved the plastic pitch plans when it accepted Canada’s bid for the seventh edition of the tournament, have insisted the dangers of artificial turf are minimal.
But if the governing body hoped Saturday’s draw would pull attention away from the dispute they were in for disappointment.
Hampton Dellinger, a lawyer representing the players, this week suggested Valcke hold a conference call to discuss the issue with players who were unable to attend the draw ceremony.
Valcke said he preferred to speak to those concerned “face to face” adding that he was “amazed by the size and the scale of the discussion.”
Valcke did address other issues that elite women footballers have raised, saying the goal-line technology used at the World Cup in Brazil this year would be used in Canada, and that prize money for the Women’s World Cup would increase from $10 million in 2011 to $15 million.
Valcke said he wouldn’t entertain questions about the disparity in prize money between the Women’s World Cup and the men’s.
“That’s not even a question I will answer because it’s a nonsense,” Valcke said.
The total amount of prize money distributed at the most recent men’s World Cup topped $400 million, with Valcke pointing out that the event brought $4.5 billion into FIFA coffers.