FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board has urged football’s global governing body to lay out a timeframe for Iran to begin allowing women to attend matches.

The board’s second report was published yesterday (Monday) and included a sub-section on discrimination against women in Iran. Women have not been able to attend men’s sporting events for the majority of the 39 years that have passed since the Islamic revolution.

The report noted that when FIFA president Gianni Infantino attended a match at Iran’s Azadi stadium on March 1 this year, a number of women sought to enter the ground disguised as men. More than 30 were detained and released within the day, although their personal information was kept by the authorities.

Infantino discussed the subject with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who promised “positive developments on this matter in the near future”.

The report said that it was “positive” that women were able to attend screenings at Azadi stadium of Iran’s final two group games at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia, but stressed that such “ad hoc decisions are obviously not the same as a formal end to the ban”.

The report went on to state: “Such a ban on women fans violates both Articles 3 and 4 of the FIFA Statutes. While Article 3 was introduced in early 2016, Article 4, prohibiting discrimination on various grounds including gender, has been in place since 2004. As a result, this expectation should not come as a surprise to any Member Association.

“In addition, FIFA’s Ethics Code specifically prohibits discrimination including on the basis of gender, which could provide the basis for a complaint to the independent Ethics Commission or for the Commission to instigate its own inquiry if it has sufficient prima facie evidence of a breach by a person to whom the Code applies.

“Accordingly, the board recommends: That FIFA should be explicit about the timeframe in which it expects its Member Association to align with FIFA’s human rights expectations and the anticipated sanctions if it does not, including under the FIFA Statutes, Disciplinary Code and Ethics Code. This should also include using other aspects of FIFA’s existing leverage, such as any decisions regarding upcoming tournaments where the Iranian Football Association is bidding since, by definition, this would pose challenges to FIFA meeting its own human rights responsibilities.”

Image: Etereuti