In yet another historic day in Saudi Arabia, on Friday families began to enter the sports stadiums for the first time with the start of round 17 of the Saudi league.
The King Abdullah Sport City stadium in Jeddah opened its doors for Saudi women to attend the Saudi professional League game scheduled between Al Ahli club of Jeddah and al-Batin.
In the run-up to the event, social media had been abuzz with images showing preparations ahead of the game. Signage have been placed showing the women’s entrance and even including a women’s smoking section. A special section has been assigned for women who smoke according to the images released.
The General Authority for Sports had announced the readiness of three stadiums in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam to welcome the families for the Saudi Professional League.
In the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah, entry from external gates number 3 and 6 will be to the internal corridors 1 and 6, And the allocation of the fifth (upper) floor for families, with a total capacity of 14, 000 seats.
The families entered the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh from the “Al-Maamah” side, through the external gates 7 and 8, while the seats allocated to them on the “North” side gates 2, 3 and 4, and “South” through gates 40, 41 and 42.
The main cabin tickets for King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah (Al Jawhara) and King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for families and individuals were valued at 10,000 Saudi riyals.
Turki Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the General Authority for Sport, announced earlier that new tickets for the main cabin category in the stadiums will be available to the public wishing to attend local matches and to benefit from the services offered.
The King Abdullah Sports City Stadium (Jawhara) witnessed the match between Al Ahly and Al-Batin in the 17th round of the Saudi Professional League.
Tomorrow, King Fahad International Stadium in Riyadh will witness the presence of families tomorrow for the match between Al Hilal and Al Ittihad.
According to reports, women will be allowed for the first time with designated seating in the “family section.”
To prepare for the change, the kingdom has designated “family sections” in the stands for women. The stadiums have also been fitted with female restrooms and separate entrances and parking lots for female spectators. On Saturday, the national stadium in the capital, Riyadh, will open its gates for women to attend a soccer game.
The announcement that Saudi Arabia will allow families into three sports stadiums was made last year, in a landmark move that opened up the previously male-only venues to families.
The announcement was in line with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious reform drive shaking up the kingdom, including the decision to allow women to drive from next June.
“Starting the preparation of three stadiums in Riyadh, Jeddah and Damman to be ready to accommodate families from early 2018,” the General Sports Authority said on Twitter.
A month earlier, authorities had allowed hundreds of women to throng a sports stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day.
Saudi Arabia is changing rules as part of its “Vision 2030” plan for economic and social reforms, which aims to boost female employment.
In November 2017, the Jeddah Women's Championship organized the first women’s basketball tournament in Saudi Arabia, which was held in Al Jawhara Stadium.
A team from the University of Science and Technology in Jeddah won the competition in the presence of more than 3,000 women, among them gymnasts and boxers.
In an interview with Al Arabiya.net, Dina Arif, the owner a breast cancer awareness initiative, organized the event in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the General Authority for Sport to raise awareness among women about the importance of sport and healthy living.
(With AP inputs)