ABU DHABI // Details of Abu Dhabi Harlequins' move to a new home at Zayed Sports City were confirmed last night, boosting the club's bid to become the leading force in the region. Quins, the Arabian Gulf Cup holders, have agreed to an initial five-year deal to play their home fixtures at the new premises from September.
"The 2010-11 season will be played at Zayed Sports City (ZSC)," Richard Harris said, in the chairman's report he presented at the club's general meeting last night. "After months of negotiations with various parties it was agreed that the club's new home would be the three purpose-built, floodlit pitches at ZSC. "The clubhouse will be the existing tennis stadium and a restaurant and sports bar will be developed for our use."
Since 2003 the capital's rugby club have played their fixtures on a small patch of land owned by Al Ghazal Golf Club, neighbouring the airport . However, the club, which regards itself at least among the top two sides in the Gulf along with Bahrain, have outgrown that facility. Despite all their success on the field, the Quins have been forced to look on as their rivals in the UAE have all upgraded their home grounds in recent times.
Dubai's leading clubs share the purpose-built facility at The Sevens, while the Palm Sports Resort in Al Ain is the envy of everyone else - ironically, given that the Amblers have been playing in the second tier of domestic competition until now. Quins were stationed at the same site as their new home once before, for one season, more than 20 years ago. That was one of many previous home venues, which even included sharing one of Al Wahda football club's training pitches, and on the beach near the Grand Mosque, where they played matches when the tide was out.
"I'm not sure about Harlequins - we should have changed our name to the Abu Dhabi Nomads," said Andy Cole, the chairman of the Arabian Gulf union who is a former captain of Abu Dhabi. "It was always one of the biggest issues we had, working out where we were going to play and train the next season. "Before going to Al Ghazal we were without a pitch for half a season. We did not have enough money to get our own pitch, so I put an appeal out on the radio.
"That is how we got into Al Ghazal. We never owned it, but we used it and rented it from them." The club's ambitions do not end with a new home. They have instructed their solicitors to assist them over converting from being a club to a listed company. "Having a company will allow us to employ people, and as such enter into legally binding contracts," said Harris, the South African businessman who has overseen the club's rise in recent years.
The club are also aiming to recruit a full-time head coach ahead of the new campaign, to replace Ali Thompson, the previous incumbent. Thompson, a schoolteacher and the captain of the Quins first XV, stepped down in March after two seasons in charge. He will continue to play as the side's No 8 next season, but opted to pass on his added responsibilities, after guiding them to both league and cup success in his spell at the helm.
The new man's remit will encompass all levels of coaching, from the first team down to development projects in both expatriate and Emirati schools in the capital. firstname.lastname@example.org