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(Reuters) - The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) says it will not participate in mediation to resolve a dispute over the proposed use of artificial turf at next year's Women's World Cup.
Jo-Ann Pickel, vice chair of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, had declined on Friday the players' request for an expedited hearing but said the parties should go to mediation.
"I find it appropriate in the circumstances of this case for the Tribunal to schedule an early mediation to provide the opportunity for the parties to resolve the matter in a timely way," Pickel wrote in her decision.
Lawyers for the players responded by stating they were ready to enter mediation but the Canadian Soccer Association said they were not.
"The Canadian Soccer Association has advised the Tribunal that it is not willing to participate in an early mediation in this matter," the CSA statement said.
Canada will host the June 5-July 6 event in six cities - Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Moncton.
One of the main reasons given by Pickel for refusing to fast-track the case was the fact that the players did not take legal steps until 18 months after venues, and surfaces, had been announced.
"The Canadian Soccer Association is pleased with the Tribunal’s decision. We continue to move forward with our preparations for what will be a world-class competition played on consistent, top quality FIFA 2-Star certified football turf surfaces,” said Victor Montagliani, President of the Canadian Soccer Association, in the statement.
FIFA, which is also named in the case, has so far refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the Ontario court, according to Pickel.
Over 40 top players have argued that women are being discriminated against given that World Cup finals for men, contested every four years, have always been played on natural grass.
Attorney Hampton Dellinger, who is representing the players, said he intends to challenge the decision not to expedite the case.
A group of 13 U.S. senators have urged FIFA to switch the tournament to natural grass.
Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue/Gene Cherry