Saudi Arabia launches women's football league

  • Published
Saudi families cheer at the King Abdullah Sports City known as "a radiant jewel" to attend the Saudi Football League soccer match Al Ahly and Al-Batin in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 12 January 2018.Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Women were first able to watch a football match in Saudi Arabia in January 2018

Saudi Arabia is to launch a female football league, two years after women were first allowed into stadiums in the Gulf kingdom.

The league will play its matches in the capital, Riyadh, and two other cities.

The creation of the league is the latest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reforms in Saudi Arabia, which has long been seen as one of the world's strictest societies.

Campaigners say much more remains to be done for women's rights.

Officials say the aim of the latest move is to boost female participation in sport.

"The launch of the [league] bolsters women's participation in sports at the community level and will generate increased recognition for women's sports achievements," the government-run Saudi Sports for All Federation said.

Saudi women were first allowed into a football stadium in January 2018 - the same year that the Gulf kingdom ended a decades-long ban on female drivers.

Media caption,

Women in Saudi Arabia were banned from football stadiums for decades

Last year, a royal decree allowed Saudi women to travel abroad without a male guardian's permission and restaurant segregation was scrapped.

However, several prominent women's rights advocates have been arrested even as the government has made reforms.

Media caption,

Meet Saudi Arabia's first certified female boxing coach