As from 2018, women will be allowed into sports stadiums for the first time in Saudi Arabia, authorities said on Sunday, in a landmark move that will ease restrictions on women spectators in sports arenas.
It is understood that families will be able to enter the stadiums in three major cities – Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam.
The ultra-conservative kingdom, which has some of the world’s tightest restrictions on women, has long barred women from sports arenas by strict rules on segregation of the sexes in public.
The new development is another move towards giving more freedom to Saudi women, who face strict gender segregation rules, and follows the historic lifting of a driving ban.
The announcement is in line with powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious reforms shaking up the kingdom.
“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 monitor screens would be set up inside the stadiums as part of the changes, it added.
Specific seating arrangements are unclear at the moment as Saudi men and women are customarily separated in places where they are both allowed.
Last month, a royal decree said that women would be allowed to drive for the first time from next June. Concerts are once again being held and cinemas are expected to return soon.
On Wednesday, Prince Mohammed said that the return of a “moderate Islam” was key to his plans to modernise the country.
He said that 70% of the Saudi population was under 30 and that they wanted a “life in which our religion translates to tolerance”.