Bowing to pressure: Iran grants women spectators access to sporting event

By James M. Dorsey Iran, bowing to external pressure, has allowed women spectators to attend a premier international men’s volleyball tournament on the island of Kish. The Iranian concession constitutes a rare occasion on which the Islamic republic has not backtracked on promises to international sports associations to lift its ban on women attending men’s … [Read more…]

Women’s gyms lay bare limits of Saudi reforms

By James M. Dorsey A Saudi decision to license within weeks the kingdom’s first women-only gyms constitutes progress in a country in which women’s rights are severely curtailed. It also lays bare the limitations of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plan for social and economic reforms that would rationalize and diversify the kingdom’s economy. … [Read more…]

Trump’s presidency bolsters autocrats as Egypt designates soccer icon a terrorist

by James M. Dorsey An Egyptian government decision to designate soccer icon Mohammed Aboutreika as a terrorist coupled with the recent arrest of more than 30 militant football fans puts to bed any hopes that general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sees the game’s supporters as a way to reach out to his opponents. Mr. Al Sisi’s … [Read more…]

Qatari backtracking on labour rights and cooperation with Russia reflects new world order

By James M. Dorsey A Qatari decision to backtrack on minimal improvements of the terms of employment of migrant workers, who account for a majority of the Gulf state’s population, and a Qatari investment in Russian oil company Rosneft PJSC, symbolize the emergence of a new global power structure with the rise of populists in … [Read more…]

Qatari and FIFA pledges on worker rights have little impact on construction companies

By James M. Dorsey A recent survey of construction companies involved in World Cup-related infrastructure projects in Qatar raises questions about whether the Gulf state and world soccer body FIFA are doing all that could do to enforce international standards for the living and working conditions of migrant workers as well as adherence to human … [Read more…]

Soccer privatization: A template for Saudi reform

By James M. Dorsey Saudi Arabia has approved the privatization of state-owned sports clubs as part of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to streamline bureaucracy, curb public spending, diversify the kingdom’s oil-dependent economy, and upgrade its autocracy. The effort to clean up the sports sector follows the rare admission earlier this year of … [Read more…]