Megumi Kamionobe Canada JapanLONDON — The men’s FIFA World Cup could be played “sooner rather than later” on artificial-turf fields, FIFA said Wednesday in the latest defense of its decision not to stage the 2015 women’s tournament in Canada on grass.

World soccer’s governing body is on the defensive after a discrimination case was launched by some female players, who claim that men would never be asked to play matches at the sport’s biggest event on anything but real grass.

But FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke maintains that the Canadian climate — and not gender — was behind the decision on the playing surface.

“It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues,” Valcke said in an interview with FIFA’s website. “This is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: we want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event.”

Valcke pointed to the FIFA rules permitting any tournament to be played on artificial grass if it is of the “highest quality” and used at every venue.

“It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches,” Valcke said.

FIFA turf consultant Prof. Eric Harrison said the severe Canadian winter made artificial pitches more suitable to that climate.

“During the long winter months, the natural turf is dormant and only can begin the recovery process after winter is over,” Harrison said on FIFA’s website.

“The effects of frost … can leave many natural turf surfaces uneven, requiring extensive re-leveling,” he added. “Often, it is not until July/August that the natural turf has recovered sufficiently to be deemed to be in optimum condition.”

Canada’s bid for the event stipulated that the final be played at Vancouver’s BC Place, which seats 55,000 and has an artificial turf. Every game at the June 6-July 5 tournament has to be played on the same surface.

Photo by Jonathan Hayward/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press