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banner Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 17:10 GMT
Sexual harmony aim for football
Irish players train ahead of their World Cup play-off match in Iran
Iranian women were been banned from stadia in 1979
It has been revealed that Fifa has no guidelines against sexual discrimination in football.

The revelation came to light as female Irish fans were allowed to watch their World Cup play-off in Tehran, while local Iranian women were banned from the match.

The world governing body's director of communication, Keith Cooper, admitted that it was an "anomaly" in their legislation.

However, in an era when tolerance and equality are promoted in all sports, Cooper cautioned against Fifa taking itself "too seriously".

We have a certain social power, but we shouldn't abuse the right to exercise that power
Fifa's Keith Cooper
"The reference to non-discrimination applies principally to active participation, as opposed to spectatorship," Cooper told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It does seem an anomaly in our statutes which contain precise wording on racism, religious intolerance and political discrimination.

"The introduction of one word, gender going in alongside the words race, religion and politics, will be looked at.

"But we have to be careful in committing ourselves to something that we cannot enforce," he added.

"It's all very well to come up with a statute as Fifa and say that you must allow women into football matches in Iran, but what about all other forms of activity in the country?

"We shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. We have a certain social power, but we shouldn't abuse the right to exercise that power."

Iranian women are banned from watching football as they are not allowed to see men's bare legs under Islamic law.

No complaints

Cooper was quick to point out that 1,500 women footballers are registered in Iran and that the oversight was not "a general discrimination against women as active players".

"We have never once received any type of protest from anyone remotely concerned - namely Iranian women.

"There's a huge body in exile since the revolution, a very vociferous group who have never hesitated to make their opinions known about the current regime.

"However, we have never ever received a single representation from that body saying that they wanted to see a football match.

"In the absence of such representation, it's very difficult for us to intervene," Cooper added.

See also:

26 Oct 01 |  Sports Talk
Racism in football: Your solutions
07 Jul 01 |  Football
Football owns up
12 Feb 01 |  Europe
Uefa issues racism threat
19 Jan 01 |  Football
Advert puts racists in spotlight
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