x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No payout for investment in youth programmes in Gulf rugby

Does a vibrant youth section guarantee success at senior level, too? In a fair world, it should. In the unique climate of Arabian Gulf rugby, however, it does anything but, explains Paul Radley.

Michael Sole, left, has impressed during practice sessions, above, and especially in games for the revived Dubai Exiles.
Michael Sole, left, has impressed during practice sessions, above, and especially in games for the revived Dubai Exiles.

Oversubscribed at junior level, with a bulging mini and youth trophy cabinet, it is about time the Dubai Exiles reaped the rewards of what they have sown.

But does a vibrant youth section guarantee success at senior level, too? In a fair world, it should. In the unique climate of Arabian Gulf rugby, however, it does anything but.

Like Crewe Alexandra, or more recently Southampton, in football - and South Africa in cricket - the Exiles have long had to watch as players they reared have gone on to thrive elsewhere. They are not the only ones. The Dubai Hurricanes, another club with a strong youth set up, have given a first team bow to a 17-year-old schoolboy, Mattew Travers, in recent weeks.

Judging by the composure he showed as a late replacement against the Jebel Ali Dragons, the UAE Premiership champions at the weekend, he has got the goods to excel as a No 10 in the men's game. Yet his club side are barely likely to see him for the next three years, as he plans to move to the UK to study.

The UAE national team suffers because of the exodus of players overseas when they finish school.

Other than the odd exception to the rule - such as Michael Stubbs and Michael Sole at the Exiles, and Ross Combe at Al Ain Amblers - there is a dearth of players here between the ages of 18 and 21.

It is a conundrum with no obvious solution. It goes without saying education and employment must come first. But the clubs would not mind getting a little bit back, too.

 

pradley@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE