RIYADH, Oct 3, (AFP): Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) appointed women to the board for the first time in the kingdom’s history on Wednesday, and also named a new president. The two women are Adwa al-Arifi and Reham Al- Onaizan and the new president is Qusay bin Abdulaziz al-Fawaz.
Saudi authorities said al-Fawaz was the sole candidate who met all conditions for a post left empty after Adel Ezzat resigned on Aug 19 to run for the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation. Al-Arifiwas, Saudi media has reported, appointed in February as “the first woman committee member” in the history of SAFF. She was part of a seven-member corporate social responsiblity committee, and holds a degree in business administration. Al-Onaizan’s LinkedIn page says she was “corporate performance and initiative management Senior Manager at the (Saudi) General Entertainment Authority’.
Qusay al-Fawaz is close to the head of Saudi Arabia’s general authority for sports head Turki Al- Sheikh – who in turn is close to the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who has been making social and economic reforms. These included allowing women to enter a football stadium to watch a match for the first time in January, an easing of rules separating the sexes.
However, his reforms have been paralleled by a crackdown on all dissent, with 12 women’s rights campaigners arrested over the summer – eight of them women. Al-Fawaz has served as president of the Saudi Chess Federation and was a member of the team that oversaw Saudi Arabia’s participation in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Saudi Arabia has long been a marginal player in football’s ruling classes, unlike its Gulf rival Qatar – set to host the 2022 World Cup – with which it is embroiled in a year-long diplomatic spat. But the oil-rich kingdom is in the middle of a major push for global infl uence in football governance.