Saudi women allowed entry to stadium


Saudi women arriving at the King Abdullah Sports City to attend the Saudi Football League soccer match between Al Ahly and Al-Batin in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

In a historic decision late a year ago, King Salman gave Saudi women the right to drive, abolishing an nearly three-decade ban based on religious reasons.

The Kingdom's General Sports Authority announced in October that stadiums in Jeddah, Dammam, and Riyadh will be set up to accommodate families starting in 2018. This was the first time that women have been permitted to share a stadium with male spectators. On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game.

The move is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious project to modernise the Saudi society and boost its economy. "I am very proud to be a witness of this massive change", she said.

Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, has long barred them from sports arenas through strict rules that keep the sexes apart in public.

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Still in place, however, are guardianship laws that prevent women from travelling overseas, obtaining a passport or marrying without a male relative's consent.

His reforms, which include allowing cinemas to open in March after a more than 35-year ban, are also aimed at creating more jobs and increasing local spending on entertainment as the country faces several more years of budget deficit amid continued lower oil prices.

The government spent lavishly on them in an effort to appease young Saudis and provide spaces for fans eager to cheer on local clubs, as well as hold national parades and ceremonies. Women will now be allowed to attend the matches, but will have to sit in segregated areas away from men, and must wear loose-fitting, full-length robes known as 'abayas, ' as well as a headscarf, if they are Muslim.

Although the authorities made rare exceptions to let foreign women watch football games, no such exceptions had been made for Saudi citizens.