x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Arabian Gulf want to bridge financial divide

The part-timers under Sean Hurley are pointing to their humble preparations as a reason for their struggles as sponsors tighten their purse strings.

DUBAI // While Olympic super powers such as the USA plot their long-term path to sevens gold, the part-timers from the Arabian Gulf continue to try to compete by gathering crumbs from under the rich man's table. The Gulf lost all five of their matches in this year's Dubai Rugby Sevens, and appeared to have taken a step back from their competitive displays during two IRB competitions last season.

The players could point to their humble preparations as a reason for their struggles. The side touched down in destinations such as Sri Lanka, Singapore and South Africa before the last Dubai Sevens 12 months ago. Yet this time, their only warm-up came via a tournament in Al Ain against local club sides such as the Amblers, and the union admitted they were unable to finance anything more significant due to a lack of sponsorship.

"It is difficult times and it is hard for a lot of people to part with cash at the moment," said the Gulf captain Sean Hurley. "You get some sponsors who believe in you and believe in the game. They are just rugby supporters. "We have mapped out where we want to go in terms of tournaments, from as early as June all the way through [to the 2010 Sevens]. This is our home tournament and the guys have immense pride to be out there.

"It is amazing. The crowd was more supportive for us when we played South Africa, and usually it is a South Africa crowd here. It gives you goose bumps on the back of your neck." Hurley, a property services director from Australia's Sunshine Coast who has lived in Dubai for nearly 10 years, does believe the Gulf are progressing, but emphasised more needs to be done. "If you look at where we are now compared to where we were before, we are light years away," added the Dragons scrum-half, who celebrated his 32nd birthday on the eve of the tournament last Wednesday.

"We turned a corner last year. Thanks to the support of the sponsors, we were able to go to six or seven tournaments. "That is what sevens is about, playing it all the time. You have to play as many tournaments as possible, then results will come. "We are going to take that to the Gulf and say, 'Right, we need funding now'. We have a tight bunch of 18 or 20 guys who are willing to lay it down. We will go from there."

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae