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Saudi women prepare to attend football matches as ban on entry to stadiums lifted next week

Image for illustrative purposes only. Saudi Arabia's contingent takes part in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium July 27, 2012. (REUTERS)
JEDDAH: Saudi women expressed excitement as the lifting of a ban which previously prevented them from entering football stadiums takes effect next week. 
Saudi government announced the lifting of the ban late last year and as a result, women will be treated to three upcoming Saudi Professional League matches in which six major sports clubs will play.
Three stadiums will host the first matches in 2018, beginning with a match between Al-Ahli and Al-Batin at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Stadium in the same round on Friday January 12, while women will also be able to attend Al-Hilal’s match against Al-Ittihad in the 17th round on Saturday January 13, and finally, the 18th round on Thursday January 18 between Al-Ittifaq and Al-Faisali.
The Saudi General Sports Authority (GSA) has approved three stadiums to host women in the coming matches in early 2018, including King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, King Abdullah Stadium in Jeddah and Prince Mohammad bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam, Riyadh Daily quoted Abdul Rahman Al-Qadheeb, undersecretary of technical affairs and investment at the GSA, as saying.
Special arrangements have been allocated for women, where a work plan has been prepared, especially at Riyadh’s King Fahd International Stadium, which witnessed a number of family events in 2017, thus making preparations easier for its staff.
The decision allowing women in stadiums was first announced on October 29, a month after a historical royal decree lifting the ban on women driving.
According to Al-Qadheeb, there will be an assessment in the first phase of the three stadiums and then the remaining stadiums will be added gradually as it is difficult for the rest of the stadiums which lack the necessary expertise unlike said three stadiums.
He added that companies sponsoring local competitions, as well as marketing and investment companies need to participate collectively in this step.
“After the evaluation process, all the negatives and positives will be studied and then will be circulated to all stadiums,” Al-Qadheeb said. “There are arrangements for all three stadiums to determine the final settings.”
Regarding entrances, he explained that “there will be a number of ways in which women will be granted access to the matches, including the ticketing system which will be invested in, and the electronic gates which will be controlled and transferred between the three stadiums as well as other places on the field in case the stadium is crowded. So, we have solutions in the authority’s stadiums or even football clubs, but the beginning (games) will be in stadiums and then clubs according to available possibilities.”

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