x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Banking on success of youth

Promising young footballers from the UAE could soon be training at the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain and playing for European clubs.

Young footballers from the UAE could soon be training at Glenn Hoddle's academy in Spain.
Young footballers from the UAE could soon be training at Glenn Hoddle's academy in Spain.

DUBAI // Promising young footballers from the UAE could soon be training at the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain and playing for European clubs. Emirates NBD, the largest banking group in the Middle East, yesterday entered the US$20billion (Dh73.4bn) global football sector with the launch of the Hero Global Football Fund, who will recruit mainly young players from around the world and make a profit by selling their registrations and other economic benefits, such as image rights, to professional clubs.

The Fund are also committed to invest in the development of football in the UAE and have signed an agreement with the Pro League club Al Ahli. They will sponsor two of the club's under 18 players for further training and development. "This initiative will take the local football to new heights as it motivates players to excel and reach the international stage," said Ahmed al Kamali, the chairman of individual games at Ahli.

"It will greatly benefit our talented young players. At the clubs, the youngsters train for an hour and a half, but at the academy they will be training twice a day. They will be fully focused on the game, developing the physical and technical sides of their game, and learning about things like eating and sleeping right. "Here, you might see some players spending hours on the phone. They will not be able to do that at the academies. It will be a complete professional education in football for them."

In the English Premier League, third-party ownership of players' rights is not permitted. However, in the UAE there is still no legislation on the issue. "At the moment, all our players are owned by the clubs," said Yusuf Abdulla, the secretary of the UAE Football Association. "There is no legislation for third-party ownership. But we have just turned professional and I am sure we will allow third party ownership of players.

"This initiative by Emirates Global Football Fund will greatly benefit our young players - they are our prime concern and developing the players of tomorrow is our main focus. So any help is much appreciated." The Fund will be headed by an investment manager, who will draw on the football expertise of an advisory board who include David Davies, the former executive director of the FA, David Elleray, a former top referee, and Alan Hansen, the former Liverpool captain.

Hansen said: "In the current financial climate, the Hero Global Football Fund will provide a vital source of funding for clubs worldwide to keep and develop their talent. As well as this, the Fund's partnership with the Glenn Hoddle Academy will make a huge contribution to nurturing young players and give them a second chance to pursue their football careers." The Fund have made a private investment into the Spain-based Glenn Hoddle Academy and the former England manager and his team of full-time coaches will nurture and develop their talents before releasing the players to clubs around the world.

However, Jamal Bin Ghalaita, the general manager for Consumer and Wealth Management, has made it clear that the purpose of the Fund is not to find a "star" player. "The business model is realistic, assuming that two thirds of players will not become professionals," he said. "Of those that do make it, many will join second-tier clubs. The financial success of the fund does not depend on finding the next David Beckham: rather, on producing a steady flow of competent, professional footballers."

The prime focos for the Fund, who have plans to raise more than Dh581m in investment, will be European clubs who are keen to recruit promising young players from Africa, South America and the Far East. They have been scouting in the UAE for potential targets. "They approached us a couple of days ago and I believe they have spoken to other clubs in the UAE," said Kamali. "There are many promising local players and I believe this scheme will benefit them a lot. With a bit of professional guidance and training, they will develop into quality products and play for clubs in Europe.

"Their experience of playing in Europe will also greatly benefit football in the UAE and the national team as well." As with the deal with Ahli, the Fund will sign two youngsters on a sponsorship basis, with no ownership rights on the players. But if they select more players, the Fund will share the ownership rights with the club and split the transfer amount if that player is sold. arizvi@thenational.ae