Thu | Jul 18, 2019

No artificial fields at 2023 Women’s W Cup - FIFA

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:25 AM
Gianni Infantino
Gianni Infantino

FIFA will only allow natural grass fields at the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The stipulation is contained in requirements sent to bidding nations and follows controversy over the use of artificial turf at the 2015 tournament in Canada.

Some players launched a gender discrimination case – which was later withdrawn – over FIFA’s use of turf four years ago because men’s World Cup games have always been on grass. They claimed the artificial surface is less forgiving than grass and impacts the game because of concerns over injury. They also claimed that balls travel and bounce differently on artificial turf. FIFA said that it wanted the same surface in every stadium.

No turf

This year’s 24-team tournament in France will not have any artificial pitches at the nine venues. FIFA has made it clear that such surfaces won’t be acceptable in 2023, either. What is permitted is the hybrid system used at many leading stadiums where millions of synthetic grass fibres are woven in between and beneath the natural grass.

“The pitch shall feature a natural grass playing surface,” FIFA’s bidding requirements state. “Hybrid-grass systems are considered natural grass according to FIFA’s requirements and hybrid reinforcement should be considered for stadium pitches.”

FIFA also is asking bidders to ensure that each training ground has at least one grass field.

There is record interest in hosting the 2023 tournament, with nine countries having expressed their intent to bid. The most intriguing bid is by South Korea, which wants to combine with North Korea. But FIFA now includes an evaluation on human rights and worker conditions when assessing Women’s World Cup bidders, just like the new requirements for prospective hosts of the men’s tournament. That could prove problematic for North Korea, which would also have to provide visas in a “non-discriminatory manner” while currently being one of the most closed countries in the world.

From Asia, there also is interest in hosting from Australia and Japan. There are four potential bidders from South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia.

New Zealand and South Africa are also pursuing becoming candidates ahead of the April 16 deadline to register a bid. FIFA set an October 4 deadline to submit bid books.