x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Nohra decides to walk away

The new edition of the UAE's football league not only needs a new name and identity, it now needs a new CEO. Carlo Nohra, who pushed the top-flight clubs to balance their books and market themselves to expats, has stepped down.

Carlo Nohra, who pushed the UAE's top-flight football clubs to balance their books and reach out to expatriates, has stepped down as chief executive, he confirmed on Friday.

"I was not pushed," said Nohra, who had been in his job since January 2010. "I made a personal decision that I believe is in the best interests of everyone."

Khalid Mohammed Abdullah, acting secretary general of the Football Association, has been chosen by Saeed Abdul Gaffar Hussain, chairman of the interim committee running the league, to replace Nohra, whose departure is the latest fallout from the ruling last month by the Government to dissolve the entity known as the UAE Football League and turn over operations to the FA.

Also leaving is one of Nohra's top deputies, Cherie Mansfield, the marketing and communications manager, who oversaw the creation of the league's first website.

Nohra, 43, said he will reassess his opportunities when he returns from a holiday. He said he hopes he can remain in the UAE in a football or sports capacity.

"The telephone has been ringing, and there are opportunities in the region beyond the UAE, and that is reassuring," he said.

In his 18 months as chief executive, Nohra stressed the need for a "culture change" among the nation's top clubs.

"We can't reach our business goals without a wider audience," he said in January.

"What I would like to see at a football game in this country is a cross-section of the UAE's demographics … I would like to see the same people you see at any successful shopping mall in the country." Nohra, a Lebanonese, previously had worked seven years for the Asian Football Confederation and was its director of competitions.

In his only full season as the league's top official, attendance increased by 23.8 per cent, to an average of 3,240 spectators per game.

Among challenges the new chief executive will face in his opening weeks are a marketing campaign to create a corporate identity with the league's new name, when one is chosen and approved by the Government.

The season opens on October 14. The Etisalat Cup, which is also organised by the league, begins on September 15.