Saudi Arabia's laws regarding women in sports are among the most restrictive in the world, and although some liberalisation has taken place in the region, it's still way behind everywhere else.
As part of the Vision 2030 scheme, cinemas are now being opened in Saudi Arabia and just this week, a WWE event was held. One of several caveats, however, was that no women performers were allowed attend or participate.
However, an advertisement shown before the WWE event itself kicked off - which featured women performers in costume - caused the Saudi Arabia General Sports Authority to issue an apology over its broadcast. The translated statement, shown below, began by apologising "to the viewers and attendees of last night’s WWE event that took place in Jeddah, over the indecent scene involving women that appeared as an ad before a segment."
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"It would like to confirm it’s total disapproval of this, in the shadow of its commitment to eliminate anything that goes against the communities values. The authority has made sure to ban showing of any segment that involves women wrestling or any scenes related to it and stipulated that to the company (WWE)."
The lack of women performers wasn't the only controversy surrounding the event, however. Syrian-Canadian wrestler Sami Zayn was written out of the event. Not only that, Irish wrestler Finn Balor - who normally features the LGBT flag colours as part of his ring attire and merchandise - opted not to wear any during his performance at the event in Saudi Arabia. In each case, both the WWE and Balor cited respecting local customs as their reasons for doing so.
The event, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, was plagued with controversy to begin with, is said to be the start of a ten-year partnership with the Saudi General Sports Authority. So far, WWE have released no statement on the advertisement or the Saudi General Sports Authority's apology.