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Saudi women will be granted access to football stadia for the first time in 2018

In a historical breakthrough for women's rights, the Saudi Arabian government will allow women to attend football matches in the new year

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After mounting pressure from activists to increase women's rights, Saudi Arabia has taken its first steps towards sporting equality. As of 2018, female spectators and journalists will be allowed to attend both club and national fixtures in a segregated area of grounds.

The new law has been agreed with Ahmed Eid al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Football Federation and former goalkeeper, and is expected to boost attendance figures across the country by as much as 15 per cent.

"There is change, but it is slow. It has to be fast."

Although this is undoubtedly positive, many believe that true equality will never be realised. Commenting on the recent news, one Saudi journalist said: “Everything is upside down. Revolution is possible. There is change, but it is slow. It has to be fast. Nobody knows what will happen.”

The nation has also shown its intention to add girls' physical education to the private school curriculum, having sent female athletes to compete at the London 2012 Olympics for the first time.  

Others, however, are considering the latest steps something of a smokescreen to deter interest in the deeper issue of Saudi government meddling in its national sport federations. Such interference from Kuwait's ruling party led to their banishment from Asian Cup and World Cup participation.

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