2 Oct 2014

Own goal of the month for Fifa – you decide

As if corruption allegations weren’t enough, Fifa is now accused of sexism – and on two fronts: ruling out women from leading an investigation and forcing Women’s World Cup games onto artificial turf.

Photo: Abby Wambach (R) of the US with Sweden’s Caroline Seger in 2010

The world’s football governing body Fifa is no stranger to controversy, including when it comes to women’s football.

Back in 2004, as secretary general of the world footballing association, Sepp Blatter suggested that women footballers wear low-cut tops and tighter shorts in an attempt to attract more fans.

Fast forward to 2014, and Fifa, of which Mr Blatter is now president, has been criticised once again in its dealing with women, both on and off the pitch.

The organisation is being taken to court by a group of female footballers over its refusal to budge on the decision not to stage next year’s women’s world cup in Canada on grass.

American football star Abby Wambach (pictured above) is among a group of players are accusing Fifa of discrimination for insisting that the women’s games are staged on artificial turf, and have filed a lawsuit at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, naming Fifa and the Canadian Soccer Association as defendants.

The players say there is a great risk of injury on artificial turf, that the ball bounces differently and that the recovery period is longer.

“It totally changes the game,” said Germany’s Nadine Angerer, Fifa’s reigning world player of the year. “It’s not fair why our game should be changed.”

Attorney Hampton Dellinger said the cost of installing real grass at the six World Cup stadiums would sit at around $2m to $3m, and is seeking an expedited hearing next month so that a ruling can be issued in time for the turf to be changed.

Read more: Sepp Blatter expected to seek another term as Fifa president

Away from the pitch, Fifa is also facing allegations of sexism in the boardroom.

Three former members of the Independence Governance Committee (IGC) have confirmed that Fifa insisted that a woman should not lead an investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The report into how the bids were awarded to Qatar and Russia was eventually led by American lawyer Michael Garcia and submitted to Fifa this month. A report Fifa is refusing to make public.

An ex-IGC member Alexandra Wrage told CNN that before the investigation began in 2012, two Fifa officials approached her to tell her to stop putting women forward as potential candidates to lead the planned investigation into the bids.

Ms Wrage said one of the officials “told me they would not be acceptable and that I was fighting the wrong battle.” She added “I didn’t really take in what he was saying and then it hit me. I said, ‘Did you really just say that?’ I was startled. They started to elaborate on their views and gave me more and more details.

“I was the only woman at the table and they were directing their views just at me.”

Mark Pieth, who chaired the IGC until April this year, also confirmed: “It is true that Fifa was not keen to elect women into these positions”.

So what will it be? Both allegations reek of blatant sexism – but Channel 4 News will leave it up to readers to decide which wins Fifa the dubious accolade of own goal of the month.