The Ferrari contest giveaway is back. But now it shares top billing with a cash prize of Dh1 million.
Al Jazira have resumed an aggressive strategy of putting fans in the stands at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium. Two seasons ago, the Abu Dhabi club smashed the Pro League single-season attendance record by attracting 175,142 people to their 11 league matches.
That included a match-record throng of 36,241 for the final home game of the season, when Jean-Paul Manjan, a science teacher from Cameroon, won a red Ferrari Italia 458 in a shoot-out at half time.
Jazira will award another Ferrari at the final home match of this season, the derby against Al Wahda on May 26, but they will also determine, that night, the winner of a D1m cash prize. Those big-ticket competitions are part of a comprehensive plan by Jazira to reach out to expatriates and families, a novel pursuit in a league where the overwhelming majority of supporters are young Emirati males.
"Nobody else is doing this. We are exclusive," said Ammar Al Basheer, the commercial and operations director at Jazira.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamdan, the chairman of the Jazira board, directed club staff "to have big crowds and be No 1 in fans", Al Basheer said.
Jazira have the biggest stadium in the Pro League and have led the competition in attendance every season since the league was professionalised, in 2008/09. In 2010/11, under the flamboyant stewardship of Phil Anderton, Jazira's 11 home matches accounted for 41 per cent of the league's aggregate attendance of 427,631.
The current plan revisits several of the initiatives from two years ago, including free transportation and meals to labourers living in Mussafah, and a broad outreach to schools serving Emiratis and Arab nationals.
But Jazira also are striving to create a data base from fans who attend games, rewarding them for providing contact details. When youngsters, for instance, turn in registration cards, they receive tote bags containing vouchers and a red Jazira T-shirt. The club later can use email and telephone data to aim at return customers. The club say they have more than 6,500 fans in their data base.
For a recent home match with Al Ahli, the club created, in the car park, a youth-orientated fan zone including activities such as a giant slide, football clinics and food and drink. Inside, the club designated young men to lead songs and chants in the Muroor Road stand, and the fans created an impressive amount of noise.
"We are treating each game like a final, with separate actions for each game," said Al Basheer. "For a big game like Ahli, we needed a bigger crowd."
According to Jazira figures, 14,000 attended the match, and those who were in the stadium said that figure was plausible.
The club says 81,800 have attended their first seven home matches, nearly 12,000 on average. That leaves them behind the pace of two years ago but far ahead of any other club in the league.
Carlo Nohra, the Jazira chief executive, held a similar job with the league two years ago, and at that time he said he envisioned crowds at Pro League games as "a cross-section of the UAE's demographics". That multinational dream seemed close to realisation at the Ahli game.
"I would like to see families, expats, Emiratis, the young and old, male and female enjoying the match," he said when he was the Pro League chief executive. "I would like to see the same people you see at any successful shopping mall in the country."
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