Women’s World Cup players have given up on having their tournament next summer on grass after battling FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association in court for the past three months.
In a statement obtained by SI.com confirming the players' withdrawal of their lawsuit, players’ attorney Hampton Dellinger explained his side’s position.
“Since a coalition of the world’s best female soccer players initiated legal action, the tactics of FIFA and CSA have included: threatening protesting players with suspension, doing everything possible to delay a final court ruling despite the players’ need to know what surface the tournament will be held on so they can train accordingly, suggesting they would either defy an adverse court ruling or cancel the tournament and, most recently, rejecting the players’ undeniably fair settlement offer,” Dellinger said. “In the face of such irresponsible actions by FIFA and CSA, the players have elected to end their legal fight. The players are doing what FIFA and CSA have proven incapable of: putting the sport of soccer first.”
One of the most outspoken advocates of the lawsuit, American forward and FIFA World Player of the Year finalist Abby Wambach, said in a jointly prepared statement that she hopes the end of this lawsuit doesn’t mark the end of the battle for equality.
“I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields — and the tremendous public support we received during the effort — marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women’s sports,” she said.
Even in giving up the fight, Dellinger leaned heavily on the notion that FIFA’s unwillingness to install grass for the World Cup was based in gender discrimination. He also pointed out the players’ victories in the brief but contentious battle.
“The players’ united, international effort to protest discrimination has had a positive impact. The deplorable artificial surface at BC Place, the site of the final, will be replaced,” he said. “Goal-line technology will be used for the first time in a Women’s World Cup, and we know that the 2019 World Cup will be held on grass. Moreover, the players and their supporters have highlighted continuing gender inequity in sports and lessened the chance that such wrongdoing will occur in the future.
“FIFA and CSA, on the other hand, will fail to host a discrimination-free tournament. They have embarrassed themselves and provided further grounds for reformers to challenge their current leadership. Those that enabled FIFA and CSA to engage in discrimination and retaliation through their actions or silent acquiescence, particularly national soccer federations, should also be held to account.”
Finally, Dellinger said, the actions of the players on the field should take precedence over the off-field issues in the build-up to the tournament. Despite FIFA’s organization of the World Cup, he said, the tournament deserves fans’ support because of the players’ involvement.
“In the end, despite the challenges created by the sexism, greed and stubbornness endemic to FIFA and CSA, the players will make the 2015 Women’s World Cup a success,” he said. “The on-field skill, courage and determination the players will display will redeem the tournament from the ineptitude and ingratitude of its organizers. I hope fans around the world will join me in following and supporting these amazing athletes as they compete across Canada this June and July.”