Riyadh: Saudi Arabia will allow women into sports stadiums for the first time from next year, authorities have said, in a landmark move opening up three previously male-only venues to families.
The kingdom has long barred women from sports arenas.
The yesterday’s 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.
Yesterday’s announcement implies that women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed for the first time to attend sporting events inside stadiums alongside men.
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 — something unseen before.
“First women driving, now stadiums. What’s next? Night clubs?” said one Saudi Twitter user, echoing a deluge of social media comments expressing surprise over the accelerating pace of reforms. (AFP)