FIFA: It was wrong to boot fans advocating for Iranian women out of Women's World Cup match

Cassandra Negley
GRENOBLE, FRANCE - JUNE 15: A fan waves a FIFA Women's world cup flag prior to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France group E match between Canada and New Zealand at Stade des Alpes on June 15, 2019 in Grenoble, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Fans were escorted out of a match for wearing shirts advocating for Iranian women to be able to attend their own matches. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

FIFA announced it was wrong of local officials to boot people from a Women’s World Cup match in France for wearing T-shirts advocating for women to be allowed in Iranian soccer stadiums, per a statement released Tuesday.

Two fans were removed from Canada’s 2-0 win over New Zealand on Saturday in Grenoble for the shirts. FIFA reviewed the incident and vowed to see it won’t happen again during the World Cup.

Fans wear shirts in support of Iranian women

Stadium security spotted two fans in T-shirts advocating for Iranian women’s right to attend soccer matches and escorted them out of the stadium. The shirts read “Let Iranian Women Enter Their Stadiums,” per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports TV.

The shirts included messages about hijabs, per BBC.

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Women have been prohibited from attending men’s games and other sporting events in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. It is the only country to ban women from stadiums. Women around the world have been fighting in recent years to end the discrimination, led by the Open Stadiums movement.

In March 2018, more than 30 women were detained for trying to watch a match in Tehran. That October a limited number of women were allowed to watch the national team play Bolivia in Tehran from inside the stadium for the first time in 35 years. It was mostly national soccer players and relatives of the players, per the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

FIFA denounces move, calls it social not political

FIFA reviewed the incident and released a statement Tuesday afternoon, three days after the incident, blaming local officials and vowing to do better. It said it viewed the message as a “social, not political” one and therefore should have been allowed.

“To be clear, FIFA believes that the message to allow women into football stadiums in Iran is a social, not political, matter and so the message on the front of the T-shirts worn by two fans is not against the FIFA rules, which rules always need to be applied with a sense of proportion.

“As such, in this specific case, the fans should not have been asked to remove their T-shirts or to leave the stadium by local security, even if there were other messages on the back of their shirts.

“FIFA will do its best to ensure that any similar situations do not occur at future matches during the competition.”

FIFA added promoting gender equality is a priority it remains “fully cognizant of” during the Women’s World Cup.

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