UAE wants women to lift Club World Cup crowds

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ABU DHABI - Organisers of the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates hope that more designated women-only areas in stadiums will boost attendance at the continental champions' tournament.

"We are making extra efforts to attract the local women to attend the matches," Mohammed Ibrahim al-Mahmood, secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), told Reuters in an interview.

"We experienced from local matches that there is this interest from the ladies but we also have to look at the traditional aspects."

Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, is hosting the December 9-19 tournament, which will pit continental champions against each other, including FC Barcelona and local team Al Ahli.

Buoyed by a six-year oil boom, rich Gulf states have ranped up efforts to attract international sport events and have bought into major football clubs, as they look to build a global profile and diversify their economies away from oil.

Conservative social mores, however, reinforced by religious strictures, have kept women's participation in sports lower than in other regions in the world.

Organisers have introduced family packages and tickets for as little as 10 dirhams ($2.72) to attract as many fans as possible, and boost the region's credentials as a potential host for bigger global events in future.

"Could this lead to other things?" said Chuck Blazer, member of the FIFA Executive Committee. "Obviously it is ... that point of its resume that it presents in future events by demonstrating that it will have successfully carried out a previous event."

Earlier this year, Dubai, one of the UAE's seven states, said it was studying a possible bid for the 2020 Olympics.

Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has pumped millions of dollars into Manchester City since buying the Premier League club in 2008, while Sulaiman al-Fahim, another UAE investor, completed a take-over of Portsmouth last week.

Qatar launched its bid for the 2022 World Cup finals in May, saying that its vision of the tournament would help bring together the West and the Middle East.