Saudi Arabia to allow women into sports stadiums in reform push
SAUDI Arabia will allow women into sports stadiums for the first time from next year, authorities said Sunday, in a landmark move opening up three previously maleonly venues to families. The kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, has long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public. The announcement is in line with powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious reforms shaking up the kingdom, including the historic decision to allow women to drive from next June.
“Starting the preparation of three stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to be ready to accommodate families from early 2018,” the General Sports Authority said on Twitter. Restaurants, cafes and video screens would be set up inside the venues, the authority added.
Last month hundreds of women were allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, in a one-off event to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s national day. Sunday’s announcement implies that women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed for the first time to attend sporting events inside stadiums alongside men.
Under the country’s guardianship system, a male family member, normally the father, husband or brother, must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities. But the kingdom appears to be relaxing some norms as part of its sweeping “Vision 2030” plan for economic and social reforms as it prepares for a post-oil era.
Last month a royal decree said women would be allowed to drive. The kingdom is also expected to lift a public ban on cinemas and has encouraged mixed-gender celebrations.