Saudi allows women to watch soccer match in stadium for first time

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2018

Saudi women watch the football match between Al-Ahli against Al-Batin at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

The new measure comes after Riyadh, long known for imposing harsh restrictions on women, announced it was lifting a ban prohibiting them from driving, as well as reopening cinemas.

File from September 2016 of Saudi men and women at national day ceremonies at the King Fahd stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


Attendance for Saudi Arabian football has recently been in decline, and the decision to permit women in stadium is expected to help remedy that problem.

Some pictures showed women with children entering the stadium, where signs were posted to indicate an entrance for families.

Female Fans of Jeddah's al-Ahli Football Club wore green scarves over their black abayas during the match against the eastern province team of al-Batin.

The female spectators, segregated in the "family section" of the stands, stood and cheered when local players scored goals. Stadiums will also have separate cafes and prayer rooms for women. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she said.

Ms Swick, who grew up in Maryland and has been living in Saudi Arabia for the past nine years, has attended football games in the USA and soccer matches in France, but said she was impressed with how organised Friday night's match was.

The easing of social controls comes as Prince Mohammed looks to repackage the oil-rich nation as more moderate and welcoming.

Under Saudi Arabia's existing guardianship system, a male family member - normally the father, husband or brother - must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and a host of other activities. He is set to inherit a country where more than half the population is under 25 years-old and hungry for change.

The country's large new stadiums were built with hundreds of millions of dollars when oil prices were almost double what they are now. One female was arrested for attending a game in Saudi Arabia back in December 2014.

Over the years, though, there have been some exceptions for foreign women.

Yesterday's match was the first in a series that will be open to women: a second is due to take place on today and a third on January 18.

Other reports by iNewsToday