First Published: 2013-05-21


Saudi Arabia may grant stadium access for women ‘soon’


Ahmed Eid raises possibility that 15% of King Abdullah stadium in Jeddah could be made into family boxes, where women could watch matches.


Middle East Online

Women's sport in kingdom is virtually non-existent

RIYADH - Women could be allowed in to football stadiums in Saudi Arabia in the near future after the head of the country's football federation said he was in favour of the idea.

Ahmed Eid said such access could be granted "soon", raising the possibility that 15 percent of the under-construction King Abdullah stadium in Jeddah could be made into family boxes, where women could watch matches.

The stadium is due to be finished next year.

But the subject immediately triggered a wide-ranging debate in the Saudi media, with unfavourable opinion forcing the official to issue a clarification that he was merely expressing a personal opinion.

Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic or Sharia law, bans men and women mixing in public and access for women in public areas.

Women's sport in the kingdom is virtually non-existent, although some young girls do take part in private schools under certain conditions.

"The question is the responsibility of the relevant authorities," said Eid. "The decision to allow women into stadiums is not one for any of the sporting federations."

The head of Saudi sport, Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, said only that he had nothing to add to Eid's clarification.

Saudi Arabia recently saw the first woman in a sporting arena when she and one of her "legal guardians" were at a show-jumping competition in the eastern province of Al-Ahsa.

A "legal guardian" is a Saudi woman's close relative without whom she cannot travel overseas or to a public place where men may be present.

Some Saudi women supporters have also travelled to Kuwait to cheer on their football club, Al-Fath, in a regional competition.

But they were turned down when they asked to be able to watch the return leg at home.

In January, South Korean and Japanese expatriate women were allowed to watch matches in a Asian handball competition and female Saudi journalists covered the event.

Saudi Arabia is hoping to organise the finals of football's Asian Cup in 2019.

Should they be successful, they will be required to reserve spaces for women supporters, according to the rules of organisers, the Asian Football Confederation.

The debate comes after a young Dubai-based Saudi woman, Raha Muharraq, on Saturday became the first from the kingdom to scale the world's highest peak, Mount Everest.

Last year, Saudi Arabia came under international pressure to allow two female athletes to compete in the Olympic Games in London.

The International Olympic Committee allowed a judo player and a runner to take part with their heads and body covered, in compliance with Sharia law.


Iran wants closure of nuclear probe in order to implement deal

Bashir takes another step on path of rapprochement with Gulf countries

Iran General ‘seriously wounded’ in rocket attack in Syria

Saudi women begin first-ever campaigns for public office

Iran bars orchestra performance over women musicians

Kuwait names new acting Oil Minister in cabinet reshuffle

Number of ISIS executions hits more than 3,500 in Syria alone

‘Russia’ air strikes kill at least 18 civilians in Ariha town in Syria

EU offers Turkey cash, closer ties at migration summit

Turkey seeks to ease tensions with Moscow

Turkey protests against journalist arrests

Corbyn criticised over Syria air strike rejection

Saudi women begin first-ever election campaign

Russia prepares retaliation against Turkey

Tunisia to rethink anti-IS strategy

Cameron pushes for Britain to join Syria air strikes

Erdogan denies buying oil from IS

Lavrov says no war with Turkey after 'planned provocation'

Tunisia under state of emergency

Missing Iranian diplomat found dead in Saudi

Heavy Russia raids at site of Syria plane crash

Tunisia declares state of emergency after terrorist attack in heart of capital

Bahrain calls HRW torture report 'misleading'

Syria, Russia foreign ministers set Moscow talks

Rival Libya tribes sign peace deal to end months of fighting

Turkey reveals new cabinet of Erdogan allies

Turkey downs Russia Su-24 fighter jet on Syria border

Hopes fade away as Sudan peace talks break without deal

At least 6 dead in Libya bomb attack

Somali pirates seize Iran fishing boat with 15 crew

ISIS suicide bombers kill four in assault on Sinai hotel

Kerry visits Israel with scant hopes for major breakthrough

Hollande heads to Washington to seek support for war on ISIS

Brussels extends terror alert as US issues worldwide travel warning

UAE blames Islamists for delay in military operation in Taez

Egypt kills 5 Sudanese migrants near border with Israel

Anti-Muslim hate crimes rise 300 percent in Britain

Russia eases restrictions on nuclear cooperation with Iran

Gulf leaders to hold annual summit on December 10

Ex-Gathafi Minister arrested over murder of UK policewoman

UK boosts military spending as pressure grows to join anti-ISIS strikes

Israel bars Palestinians from West Bank settlement bloc

Iraq suspends northern flights due to danger posed by Russia missiles

Syria army advances against ISIS in central province of Homs

Pro-Kurdish leader escapes assassination attempt in Turkey