FIFA discusses women's access to football stadiums with Iranian officials, following widespread criticism over the death of a female fan prosecuted for attempting to attend a match
Iranian football fan Sahar Khodayari died on 9 September 2019 after setting herself on fire following her court appearance on charges related to her attempt to enter a football stadium in March 2019 disguised as a man. Iran's 'Blue Girl', named after her favourite team's colours, was stopped by security and subsequently detained. Iranian women have been effectively banned from entering football stadiums since 1981.
Whilst FIFA's own rules ban discrimination on the basis of gender, the sporting body faced criticism over this latest tragedy. Numerous Iranian activists, football pundits and experts have called for FIFA to take concrete action against Iran, such as suspending Iran's football federation. FIFA had previously set a deadline of August 31st 2019 for Iran to start admitting women into stadiums, yet access for women is still not guaranteed.
During a visit to Iran on 19 September, FIFA met with Iranian officials to discuss measures designed to allow women to enter football stadiums. FIFA has also issued statements reiterating its position against discrimination and noting the absence of any operational obstacles to grant women acces to stadiums . As part of World Cup qualifying matches, the Iranian national team is due to play a game against Cambodia on Oct 10th; women's rights activists and other stakeholders will not only be scrutinising Iran's preparations to allow women to attend in the lead up to this match, but also FIFA's actions to make women's access a reality.
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On 19 September, a delegation of FIFA experts visited Tehran to discuss measures designed to allow women in Iran to freely attend football matches...
FIFA reiterated its firm and clear position that women need to be allowed to enter football matches freely and that the number of women who attend the stadiums be determined by the demand... The inspections on site showed that there are no noteworthy operational obstacles to these measures being implemented at the Azadi stadium, starting with the game on 10 October 2019...
The delegation discussed the need to open stadiums for women to attend national matches.In that respect, FIFA announced that it will, based on the operational plans and results of the 10 October 2019 game, collaborate with the FFIRI in developing an operational protocol and related requirements for matches in the Iranian football league to be opened for women as well.
FIFA will continue to engage closely with the FFIRI [ Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran] and relevant government entities to implement these important changes in accordance with FIFA regulations.
I am hopeful that the Iranian Federation and the Iranian authorities were receptive to our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation.
I contacted them several times in the recent past... We have a delegation of FIFA members in Iran at the moment and I am looking forward to hearing good news from them.
Our position is clear and firm. Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran.
... now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October.
Author: Simon Evans, Reuters
A FIFA spokesman said that meetings with Iranian soccer officials... were not a specific response to [Sahar] Khodayari’s death.
[However, officials] will check the preparations made by the Iranian FA to provide access to that Oct. 10 match for women...
Jesper Moller, president of the Danish Football Union... told Danish newspaper Politiken that he expects action from the governing body...
Former Australia captain and human rights activist Craig Foster [said]
“The FIFA statutes say that discrimination on grounds of gender is punishable by suspension or expulsion...
“If the statutes are not worth upholding, then withdraw them and let football be honest to the women of Iran. Because at the moment, despite the promise, equality is a lie."
An Iranian female football fan who set herself on fire a week ago has died...
The authorities in Iran regularly stop women from entering stadiums...
The woman, named as Sahar Khodayari, was arrested in March when she tried to enter a football stadium.
After being jailed for three days she was released on bail and waited six months for her [postponed] court case...
She later returned to court to pick up her mobile phone and... is thought to have overheard someone saying that if she were convicted she could get six months to two years in prison.
She then set herself alight in front of the court house and later died in hospital.
[Sahar Khodayari’s] tragic death has prompted an outpouring from advocate, journalists and football players around the world, asking FIFA to take action to end Iran's unjust stadium ban. Here is some of the reaction to her death.