Watching competitions, in principle, is permissible with the condition that it does not lead to neglecting obligatory acts of worship or other duties such as earning one’s living. Indeed, there is much evidence from the Prophetic Sunnah to support the above argument.
Responding to the question, Dr. `Abdul-Fattah Idrees, professor of comparative jurisprudence sated the following:
Much evidence indicates that it is permissible to watch competitors and support them to win if the competition itself is lawful according to the sharia. This is some of the evidence:
1. `Urwah narrated that `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: It was the day of `Eid, and the Abyssinians were playing with shields and spears, so either I requested the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or he asked me whether I would like to see the display. I replied in the affirmative. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek and he was saying “Carry on! O Bani Arfidah” till I got tired. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked me, “Are you satisfied (is that sufficient for you)?” I replied in the affirmative and he told me to leave (Ahmad).
This indicates that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) watched them and allowed his wife `A’ishah to watch their playing, after placing her behind his back to cover her from them. Furthermore, he encouraged them to continue their playing. Also, some of his Companions watched them [the Abyssinians], as some narrations state that `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to scold them and to prevent them from playing, but the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) prevented him and said, “Leave them in order that the Jews of Madinah know that our religion is spacious [and has room for relaxation] and I have been sent with an easy and straightforward religion” (Ahmad).
2. Salamah ibn Al-Akwa` (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by some people of the tribe of Banu Aslam who were practicing archery. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O Banu Isma`il! Practice archery as your father Isma`il was a great archer. Keep on shooting arrows and I am with Banu so-and-so.” So one of the parties ceased shotting. Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Why do you not shoot?” They replied, “How should we shoot while you are with them (i.e., on their side)?” On that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Shoot, and I am with all of you” (Ahmad).
This denotes that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) watched and encouraged them; moreover, he (peace and blessings be upon him) participated with them.
Hence, these two hadiths and many others indicate that it is permissible to watch lawful competitions and to encourage the competitors to win. However, this is on condition that the watching does not lead to neglecting an obligatory worship or act, and that the watcher does not look at the `awrah (the parts of the body that are not meant to be exposed in public) of the competitors. If the watching leads to something unlawful, it becomes prohibited for men and women alike.
Moreover, Dr. `Isa Zaki `Isa, member of the Kuwaiti Fatwa Committee at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments, also said the following:
There is no harm to watch such matches on condition that the spectators not look at the `awrah of the competitors. Thus the spectators should choose the games that help them to abide by this condition. Also, watching should not distract spectators from performing an obligatory act of worship such as the prayer, or from seeking a necessary worldly matter such as the livelihood.