ZURICH: FIFA has been urged by its own human rights advisory panel to set Iran a deadline for lifting its ban on women attending male matches in order to put an end to gender discrimination.

Earlier this month, in a landmark move viewed as a partial breakthrough, hundreds of Iranian women were allowed to watch the Asian Champions League final in Tehran between Persepolis and Japan’s Kashima Antlers.

But they were separated from male fans in a crowd of around 80,000 and most were said to be relatives of players or members of women’s teams rather than female fans who simply wanted to attend.

Stadiums in Iran have been off-limits for women for much of the 39 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But now FIFA’s Human Rights Advisory Board says Iran’s ban on women fans violates FIFA’s own ethics code which “specifically prohibits discrimination including on the basis of gender”.

The panel, comprising eight independent experts from the United Nations, trade unions and FIFA sponsors, noted that women were able to attend screenings at the same venue of two of Iran’s matches during the World Cup.

It described this as a “positive” development but added that “these ad hoc decisions are obviously not the same as a formal end to the ban”.

It says FIFA “should be explicit about the timeframe in which it expects (Iran) to align with FIFA’s human rights expectations” and should warn of “anticipated sanctions if it does not.”

The Panel said in its report that Gianni Infantino had raised “the issue of discrimination against women in connection with football” as a central topic of a recent meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rohani.

The panel also recommended that FIFA give more detail about decisions taken by its ethics committee, which has banned dozens of football officials over past few years including former FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

At present, it said, FIFA only published “a few sentences that refer to clauses in the Ethics Code but do not give any detailed explanation about the merits of a case”.

“This lack of transparency means that the public cannot understand the specific reasons for sanctioning, and decisions and sanctions cannot meaningfully be compared,” it said.