Women, children attend soccer for free in Turkey
Women and children under 16 will watch Turkish league games for free starting this weekend, part of the national soccer association's bid to reduce violence at male-dominated games.
Turkey is trying to encourage more women and children to attend games and change matches - frequently marred by violence, insults and obscenities - into more family friendly events.
The country is also hoping to revive interest in a league that has been mired in a match-fixing scandal involving 19 games last season.
The measure was announced Friday and comes on the heals of the association's other initiative to curb fan trouble. Turkish soccer's governing body changed its rules to bar men from attending games played by teams sanctioned for fan trouble. It allows women and children into stadiums for free, instead of forcing them to play in empty stadiums.
As a result, more than 41,000 women and children packed an Istanbul stadium on Sept. 20, cheering and waving club-colored flags, to watch Fenerbahce play Manisaspor.
The association said in a statement that it would reimburse the clubs for the tickets they would allocate to women and children. Free tickets would be distributed for games starting Saturday.
Top-flight clubs have designated women- and children-only stands at stadiums. Besiktas reserved a stand of between 1,000-1,500 seats, Galatasaray allocated 1,940 seats while Fenerbahce earmarked 531, according to the association.
The project will ''increase interest in the game, prevent violence and disorder, dissuade ugly and bad cheering and create an atmosphere for families to easily watch events,'' the association said.
''The beautiful game will remain so,'' it added.
The presence of women at the Fenerbahce game helped change the tone at the club's 50,000-seat Sukru Saracoglu Stadium. The visiting Manisaspor team greeted with applause rather than the usual jeers. Players from both teams tossed flowers to women in the crowd before the match.