TORONTO - Players opposing the use of artificial turf at next year's Women's World Cup won a partial victory Tuesday when the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario allowed them to amend their legal complaint to include allegations of reprisals against the women behind the claim.
But while noting such allegations of reprisals "strike at the integrity of the Tribunal's process for enforcing human rights in Ontario," vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel rejected the players' request for a cease and desist order.
"The application has been amended to include the applicants' reprisal allegations," Pickel wrote in her interim decision. "The Tribunal will hear evidence in support of these allegations in due course. Given that no evidence has yet been heard in this case, the Tribunal is not in a position to determine whether the respondents have engaged in any reprisals contrary to the (Human Rights) Code."
The players allege that Mexican international Teresa Noyola and French internationals Camille Abily and Elise Bussaglia had been threatened with reprisals. Noyola, according to an earlier players' filing, was told she would not be invited to play for the Mexican national team unless she withdrew her name from the legal challenge.
Abily and Bussaglia "were led to believe that their continued participation in this action would lead to retaliation by FIFA in the awarding of the 2019 women's World Cup.'' France is seeking to host the 2019 World Cup.
All three have withdrawn from the complaint. But Pickel, in ruling against the crease and desist order, noted that more women had taken their place.
Abily, in a subsequent interview on her Olympique Lyonnais club website, denied she had been pressured to withdraw her name from the legal challenge. She said it was a "personal decision."
The players also allege that Costa Rican internationals Diana Saenz and Katherine Alvarado, along with a third unidentified player, were told by Costa Rican Federation officials "that their participation put their positions on the team in jeopardy as a result of pressure from CSA and FIFA.''
The Canadian Soccer Association rejected the allegations. FIFA took no position, arguing that it had not been properly served with the legal complaint.
Pickel dismissed that claim by FIFA in another interim decision Monday.
The CSA and FIFA now have 21 days to respond to the amended complaint. The players can file a reply to any such response within 35 days of Tuesday's interim decision.
The case, known as Wambach et. al. v. Canadian Soccer Association after American star player Abby Wambach, continues.
In related news, FIFA has shown little interest in an offer to meet with the rebel faction of players.
The players offered Monday to meet FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke at a tournament in Brazil where Wambach and Brazil's Marta — who is also involved in the legal challenge — are playing.
But it appears the meeting will not happen.
"FIFA's secretary general Jerome Valcke met with the team representatives within the scope of the final draw staged in Ottawa," a FIFA media spokesman said in an email Tuesday to The Canadian Press. "For the time being we have no further comments to make."
The lawyer for the players made the offer to meet in person after Valcke turned down a request to talk via conference call.
When asked why, given his earlier comment about wanting an "open dialogue," Valcke said at Friday's tournament draw in Ottawa that he would talk to players — but not lawyers — in person rather than on the phone.
"I am ready to discuss with all the players, with all the technical teams, with all the coaches. But face to face," said Valcke. "And that's what I'm ready to do ... I'm ready to travel to wherever I have to travel to do that.''
Canadian captain Christine Sinclair was the only player that attended Saturday's draw.
The 2015 Women's World Cup is scheduled for June 6 to July 5 in Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.
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By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press