x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Ospreys are latest British rugby club to expand support in UAE

The Ospreys, the Wales-based Magners League franchise, have become the latest British club to look to the UAE to expand their supporter base, after playing an exhibition match at The Sevens in Dubai.

Welsh side the Ospreys, in white, are looking to expand their brand in the Middle East.
Welsh side the Ospreys, in white, are looking to expand their brand in the Middle East.

The Ospreys, the Wales-based Magners League franchise, have become the latest British club to look to the UAE to expand their supporter base, after playing an exhibition match at The Sevens in Dubai last night.

The Swansea regional side made their first attempt to lay down roots here via a charity game against an invitational side put together by Toa Dubai.

They have joined a growing trend of sponsorship-hungry UK clubs looking to the Middle East to grow their brand.

Earlier this season, London Wasps played Harlequins at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the first time a match in an official UK competition had been staged abroad.

Harlequins had already laid their footprint here, via their association with the Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Now the Ospreys are exploring the possibility of doing the same.

"We need to find ways of taking our brand elsewhere in the world," Andrew Hore, the chief operations officer of the Ospreys, said. "We really do feel we have a lot to offer people in Dubai, with regards the political contacts we have, and help generate business through rugby as well."

The Ospreys still have one match of their Magners League campaign to play. They travel to Italy to play Aironi next week, and will stay on in the country to continue to foster their relationship with their two Italian sister clubs.

"We have looked to have an approach where we have gone into Italy to promote our brand, show what we stand for and promote business links in Italy as well," Hore said. "We want to do the same in the UAE, and in particular Dubai.

"This has been a fact-finding trip for us … What we want to do is go away and digest it, and there will be some initiatives we want to pursue in the Dubai area."

The club made a stuttering start to their first outing on these shores, as their match against Toa was delayed for more than an hour. The game had not been officially sanctioned by the UAE Rugby Association (UAERA), meaning the club were not covered by their insurance to play against the mostly amateur players of Toa.

The Ospreys players, including Ryan Jones, the former Wales captain, and the British & Irish Lions duo Alun Wyn Jones and Tommy Bowe, kept the crowd entertained as best they could with a high-paced training match.

The planned match eventually kicked off an hour late, after a UAERA official was located and granted last-minute approval for the game to go ahead.

pradley@thenational.ae