DUBAI // The Rugby Association (UAERA) have acknowledged that the integrity of their competition structure could be damaged if clubs of the stature of Dubai Exiles continue to fail to fulfil their fixture commitments.
The semi-finals of the UAE Cup took place Friday without the country's longest-established club after the Exiles were forced to withdraw from the competition.
Dubai Wasps, a club who are less than two years old, assumed the place of the Exiles first team for their last four tie against Dubai Hurricanes.
Ostensibly, they remain a club in good health.
They have a rich history, a thriving youth section and, as a residue of their previous involvement with the Dubai Rugby Sevens, their bank balance remains healthy.
They are still hoping to use some of those funds to recruit a full-time director of rugby, yet last weekend they failed to raise a side for the final fixture of the league season.
That forfeit, which potentially might have decided where the UAE Premiership title ended up, was an indignity highly unbecoming of a club of the historical stature of the Exiles.
"It has been a consistent erosion, and it has come to a head over the past month or so," Ian Bremner, the chief executive of the UAE RA said of the malaise at the Exiles.
"There is real work to do. People can trade on a reputation or heritage for a long time, but there needs to be someone who is looking over their shoulder, wondering where the next second-row forward, for example, is coming from."
The transition from landlords at their old home in Al Awir, which was bulldozed to make way for the Meydan project, to tenants at The Sevens has been a taxing one.
They have haemorrhaged players at the senior level since then, to the point they have significantly less registered players than Wasps and Abu Dhabi Saracens, who have just completed their first.
Members of the club's senior management met with UAERA officials, including Wayne Marsters, the former Exiles director of rugby, who is now the governing body's rugby manager, on Thursday afternoon.
The club chairman, Mike Wolff, had issued a strongly-worded email to senior Exiles members this week, where he stated he had been "deeply embarrassed" to wear the club's logo on his shirt.
"Standards now need to be imposed from the top down to help recover this shocking state of affairs, even if in their imposition we suffer short term pain and friction," Wolff wrote to senior players.
The chairman pointed out the Exiles could not afford to assume they have a right to be part of the country's rugby elite, and lambasted the commitment of some players.
"We can only build around those members who understand what is required and who 'walk the walk', rather than the few who may possess great playing skill, who talk a huge game, but who somehow think they have a preordained right to wear an Exiles shirt without training or communicating," he wrote. Bremner insists the player pool is big enough in this country to support the existing number of clubs.
"I think the game is still in a growth situation in Dubai, as you have seen by the recruitment of [Jebel Ali] Dragons, Dubai Hurricanes and Wasps," he said
"I think a number of critical factors have worked Exiles into this situation. They recognise what those critical factors are.
"It is our job to make sure clubs are vibrant and healthy, and if we can offer any help down the line [they will do so]."