Second Sex, Artificial Turf


If we needed proof that the people who govern the beautiful game do not see women as real athletes, we need look no further than FIFA’s decision to play the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf. Players have been angry since was this announced; a complaint of gender discrimination has been filed with Canadian courts. Artificial turf forces a different game: tackling is different, injuries are different, the speed/pace of the game is different. You can play harder when the ground is softer. Football’s Sith Lords probably figured that women would prefer the artificial turf because it’s prettier and doesn’t stain.

The women’s game is treated by FIFA as charity work that serves to justify its monopoly over the “real” sport. Note the opening page of “The Laws of the Game,” which categorizes women as disabled players for whom the rules might be adjusted. If FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association wanted to move the goal posts, make the field smaller, the match shorter, if they wanted to make women play with smaller balls, they could. They could do none of these things for men, unless those men were not men but children. Or over 35. Or disabled.

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If I were going after FIFA as a player, I’d call for a BOYCOTT. I’d demand that this “exception” for the women’s game be wiped from the books, and that FIFA change its leadership—dramatically. A few professional players might have a lot of success organizing amateur and semi-pro players—the bulk of the Women’s World Cup roster—especially players from countries where the administration of the women’s game is fucked up. Which is most places.

Sepp Blatter is as much a sexist bastard as Avery Brundage was an abominable racist. Why stop with a demand for real grass? How about a demand for real change!



  1. If I were a women’s WC player I’d wait for the result of their court complaint first. I’m not au fait with Canadian law but they must have an anti sex discrimination law surely and if making them play on turf is not sex discrimination i don’t know what is. Not that us Brits can gloat as Liverpool and Everton’s women’s teams play their home games on turf – is there not a grass pitch in the WHOLE of Liverpool they can play on? If they lose in court – or if they win but FIFA ignores it – yes boycot it. I would also suggest they contact women from outside football – Billie Jean King comes to mind – to get publicity. I’m sure BJK wouldn’t stand for this nonsense and she could be a useful ally for them with her fame and her past record on gender equality.

  2. Jean Williams says:

    A big part of this problem is that so many women players are complicit with the damaging assumptions in the laws of the game. So I unfollowed the professional Johanna Lohman on Twitter when she advocated shorter halves in matches for women considering that it was ‘about running smart.’ As founder of JoLi academy she is currently promoting women’s soccer without knowing much about its history or the battles fought to play the standard game of football. Canada 2015 is merely the latest chapter. The biggest disaster in women’s World Cup history was Sweden 1995 when FIFA a) assumed spectators would not come to watch women play unless the World Cup was combined with an athletics contest b) used a notorious ‘timeout’ system to allow multiple substitutions and c) trialled quarters. It was the most bad tempered Women’s World Cup with several red cards. The English Liverpool players are equally unchallenging and play on artificial grass on a Rugby League ground as part of the community section of the Premiership Club. There have been a lot of injuries during WSL games there. None of the England players will have the awareness to boycott. None of them will be able to make the link that strength, agility and speed are specific to individuals and are not gendered. Football’s labour markets are gendered and this is the latest manifestation of that. It’s 21st century sport based on Victorian values. But then, FIFA have done more to harm women in football than to promote their participation. As such, their contempt of women’s football is not credible for a world governing body. Only a boycott will draw attention to that.

    • I do have sympathy for the Englaish women players as it is very difficult for an historically oppressed group to stand up for themselves – especialy in a country that doesn’t have a history of player disputes (unlike the US where all the big four pro leagues have been hit by strikes – baseball had 8 in 22 years). They depend on the patronage of the FA and the PL clubs so if say they were to say stage a strike and boycott a round of WSL games or England’s last (meaningless) WC qualifier(which IMO they should) they are in a very vulnerable posistion.If the FA and the PL clubs punished them as the cricket authorities punished the players that joined Packer in 1977. And if they did as you suggest and challenged gendered rules the press would ridicule them. This is a country where a newspaper offers women as prizes in a fantasy football competitiion (I am NOT making that up!)

  3. Jean – thank you for raising the voltage on my rage.

  4. bainalan05 mentions Billie Jean King and she is an interesting parallel. She got several players to join a union that issued some basic requirements for them to play. This group organized separate tournaments with separate sponsors etc.

    BJK (who was clearly an organizational genius) had some advantages in that tennis is an individual sport. She also had a very strong rap when it came to sports as entertainment.

    Given how tenuous the leagues have been in the states and the UK– it seems like a women players’ union would provide a more secure foundation than the entrepreneurs who launch teams, find out they aren’t moneymakers, and then drop them.

    I do think that there needs to be a Progressive Charter that can serve to inform progressives involved in soccer. One item should be removing the language that lists women alongside disabled and youth. Another should be the promotion of independent women’s footballing organizations. (Or Mandatory independence.) There is a chance that women footballers could see such a charter. They are really put on the spot when they hit the public sphere without a lot of notes.

  5. Reblogged this on digestjen and commented:
    This hurts my feelings. Screw you FIFA.


  1. […] players against Canada’s FA and FIFA. Seems like a pretty clear case to me—but then again, the Laws of the Game define women as a debilitated group for whom all aspects of the game might be adjusted to address their limits. It’s actually […]

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