ABU DHABI // The country's first sports-management degree will be launched in September to bring young Emiratis into the growing sector.
Experts say that with the high-profile sporting events here, including the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Dubai Rugby Sevens and several major golf and tennis tournaments, the UAE is crying out for local talent.
The four-year undergraduate degree is being run by the Higher Colleges of Technology in partnership with the Ulster Sports Academy at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
It will be the country's first such course. The Ras Al Khaimah campus of the UK's University of Bolton was due to begin its own sports degree last year but it has yet to start.
The HCT course is supported by Emirati former champion rally driver Mohammed ben Sulayem.
It will be invaluable for former sportspeople, said Mr ben Sulayem, also head of the UAE's Automobile and Touring Club (ATC).
"At the time you're famous and everyone wants you, it's fine," he said. "But how long does a sporting career span? Ten years?
"Sportsmen are rewarded but imagine if they had the academic background. This is when they should be embarking on their academic career."
Mr ben Sulayem is calling on the likes of Etihad Airways and Emirates airline, both of which are heavily involved in sports sponsorship, to back the course. He is also looking for participation from sports councils and government entities.
"We have to educate the young Emiratis and encourage them to do this," he said.
"For us to take the next step forward in this global sporting industry, we need qualified Emiratis."
The course, which covers areas such as the social science and economics of sport, and sports management, will be taught by visiting staff from Ulster and HCT staff.
Students are already lined up to join the first intake, said Prof Marie Murphy, head of the Ulster Sports Academy.
The academy has been working with the ATC UAE for the past two years on research projects including hydration of race marshals and identifying talent in young drivers.
It is now looking at how schoolchildren develop obesity and type two diabetes.
This research work led to the initial discussions on a sports-management course.
Prof Richard Barnett, vice chancellor of the University of Ulster, said sport was a key economic driver for the UAE, and training Emiratis to run the industry was crucial.
"This [degree] is enabling Emiratis to take up leading management positions," Prof Barnett said.
As in Northern Ireland, the course will have a vocational emphasis "so our graduates can enter the workforce and contribute to economic and social development".
Having trained Emiratis will help the next generation to contribute to the further development of the sector.
At last week's opening address at Abu Dhabi Men's College, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, HCT chancellor and Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said students had a big responsibility.
"We expect great things of them," Sheikh Nahyan said.
But sporting venues and events wanting to employ the course's graduates will have to wait.
"I will be needing the first graduates for motorsports," said Mr ben Sulayem.