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World Cup women gain ground in turf war

A Canada court ruled to protect women from reprisals in lawsuit against the use of turf for 2015 Women's World Cup. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

The players suing against the use of artificial turf at the 2015 Women's World Cup won a partial victory Tuesday after the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario cleared the way for them to amend their legal complaint to include allegations of reprisals against the players behind the claim, The Canadian Press reported.

The court noted that allegations of reprisals "strike at the integrity of the Tribunal's process for enforcing human rights in Ontario." However, tribunal vice chairwoman 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 Canada Soccer Association and FIFA now have 21 days to respond to the amended suit. The players can file a reply to any such response within 35 days of Tuesday's interim decision.

The players allege that Mexican international Teresa Noyola and French internationals Camille Abily and Elise Bussaglia had been threatened with reprisals if they proceeded with the turf lawsuit. Noyola, according to an earlier players' filing, was told she would not be invited to play for the Mexican 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," according to the filing. France is seeking to host the 2019 event.

All three have withdrawn from the complaint. But Pickel, in ruling against the cease and desist order, noted that more women had taken their place.

Abily denied she had been pressured to withdraw her name from the legal challenge, telling her Olympique Lyonnais club website it was a "personal decision."

The players also allege that Costa Rican internationals Diana Saenz and Katherine Alvarado, along with a third unnamed 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 CSA 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.

FIFA showed little interest this week in an offer to meet with the players in the case, which is known as Wambach et al v. Canadian Soccer Association after American star player Abby Wambach.

"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 players had sought Monday to meet Valcke at a tournament in Brazil where Wambach and Brazil's Marta, who is also involved in the legal challenge, are playing.