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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Nissan Rugby League Cup to go ahead amid threat of legal action by UAE Rugby Federation

The second round of Nissan Rugby League Cup matches will go ahead as scheduled on Friday, despite the threat of a criminal investigation.
Action from the opening round of the Nissan Rugby League Cup between Dubai Sharks, blues, and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Victor Besa / The National
Action from the opening round of the Nissan Rugby League Cup between Dubai Sharks, blues, and Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Victor Besa / The National

DUBAI // The second round of Nissan Rugby League Cup matches will go ahead as scheduled on Friday, despite the threat of a criminal investigation.

The UAE Rugby Federation, whose remit is union, released a statement on Thursday pointing out they are the only government-recognised ruling body for rugby codes in this country.

As such, it is at their discretion as to who can officially bear the title “UAE Rugby” in their name.

The UAE RF are understood to have been infuriated by last weekend’s news that league’s backers here hope to submit a bid to host the 2021 League World Cup, without consulting them.

A side representing the country in rugby’s non-contact format are also due to fly to Australia on Monday to play in the Touch World Cup.

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The federation moved to assert their authority by releasing a statement on Thursday reminding both league and touch of their status.

“The General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare, UAE, today reiterated the UAE RF is the sole recognised and official governing body for the sport of rugby within the UAE,” the statement read.

Currently, the only endorsed national rugby teams are union’s representative XVs, sevens and Under 20 sides.

“To date, no other rugby code which includes League and Touch, have been endorsed by the Federation, or the General Authority, to represent the country or play under the ‘national team’ title, or use the term ‘UAE Rugby’ at any level of competition,” the statement said.

“This, alongside organising and managing any domestic rugby activity is considered as falsely representing the country of the UAE by the relevant government sporting authorities.

“Any code under the sport of rugby that continues to use such terms, or conduct and promote, through any and all media outlets and social media channels, any such rugby activities without seeking the relevant permissions or consent of the authorised sporting authorities, will be considered as acting outside of the authorities guidelines and where action may be taken.”

In adherence with the decree, the 13-man code’s rulers have changed their name from UAE Rugby League to Rugby League Commission.

There will be no branding or flags at the two matches at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on Friday afternoon, but the games are still scheduled to go ahead. The UAE RF say it is not their intention to curtail the competition.

Sol Mokdad, the commission’s president, says he is keen to resolve the issue “amicably” and hopes to press on with plans to grow league here, with the support of the union federation. He is awaiting advice from Rugby League International Federation, and its European subsidiary, which oversees the Middle East and Africa.

“We are trying to get government recognition for our sport and hope to speak to the Sports Council,” Mokdad said.

“We would like to sit down with UAE Rugby and find an amicable solution. We will immediately drop the UAE name.

“League and union are two different sports, with two different world governing bodies.

“The only similarities are we both throw the ball backwards and both use a rugby ball, the rest of it is totally different.”

UAE Touch also underwent a hasty rebrand after the UAE RF statement. Midway through the afternoon, their Twitter feed became “Desert Hawk Touch”. The organisation opted not to comment, as they await legal advice.

The 30-man UAE union squad to play in the Asian Rugby Championship Division 2 in Malaysia next month will be named on Friday.

pradley@thenational.ae

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