B2 and B3 players can compete alongside B1 athletes in IBSA women's football five-a-side competitions ©Getty Images

B2 and B3 players will now be able to compete alongside B1 athletes in International Blind Sport Federation (IBSA) women's football five-a-side competition.

The IBSA Executive Board is looking to attract more athletes to compete in women's five-a-side, with the first Blind Football Women’s World Championships scheduled for this year. 

IBSA has been developing women's blind football over the past three years, with development camps and tournaments held in Vienna in 2017 and Tokyo last February.  

"We are working hard to attract more female players with visual impairments into football," said Ulrich Pfisterer, IBSA Blind Football Committee chairperson.

"We have held various training camps and competitions, with athletes coming from around the world.

"We therefore know the demand is out there, but we are not quite at the stage where we have enough B1 players on each team.

"There are lots of reasons for this, many of which affect sport more generally.

"We are, however, determined to create a competitive environment for everyone. 

"To do this we need to start by allowing a larger number of athletes to compete together. 

"We want to encourage countries to invest in their programmes and recruit more female footballers, especially B1s.

"We think the change is a good decision by IBSA which will help us reach our goal of having more B1 women with visual impairments playing football at the highest levels."

IBSA have been developing women's blind football over the past three years through development camps and tournaments ©IBSA
IBSA have been developing women's blind football over the past three years through development camps and tournaments ©IBSA

In the men's game, players who are completely blind, B1, play separately to those who are partially sighted, B2 and B3. 

Football five-a-side for blind male players first became a part of the Paralympics at Athens 2004 and has featured in every Games since, with Brazil winning on each occasion. 

Researchers from Britain's University of Chichester are currently carrying out a review of the classification system in football 5-a-side, ensuring it will meet the International Paralympic Committee athlete classification code.

Compliance with the code, which requires sports to have an evidence-based and sport-specific system, is essential for inclusion on the Paralympic programme.

Once recommendations are received from the researchers, IBSA will review both the men's and women's game and make changes if necessary.

B1, B2 and B3 women will be able to compete together until then. 

The location and dates of the upcoming World Championships are expected to be announced soon.