x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Pro benefits will take time

Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, has urged patience as football in the UAE turns professional.

Sheikh Hazza (centre) called on the football officials and clubs to work hard and reach the levels of professionalism in administration, finance and marketing that would turn the league into one of the beacons of Asian football.
Sheikh Hazza (centre) called on the football officials and clubs to work hard and reach the levels of professionalism in administration, finance and marketing that would turn the league into one of the beacons of Asian football.

Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, has urged patience as football in the UAE turns professional, saying it will take at least two years before the benefits become visible. The UAE's first-ever professional season will kick off on September 14 with the Super Cup match between league champions Al Shabab and the President's Cup winners Al Ahli. The 12-team Pro League will begin a week later.

"We are about to start the first professional league from next season," said Sheikh Hazza. "But this breakthrough does not mean we are heading for a big jump or a qualitative leap in the first season of this launch. "It will take a lot hard work and over two seasons before we begin to reap the fruits of professionalism. We will benefit from experience and learn from the negatives in the practical application of the league."

Sheikh Hazza also called on the football officials and clubs to work hard and reach the levels of professionalism in administration, finance and marketing that would turn the league into one of the beacons of Asian football. He believes it will serve to enhance the appeal of the UAE leagues, which have already become an attractive career option for the youths of the nation. "In the past, we had great difficulty in attracting youngsters," said Sheikh Hazza. "Among 100 youngsters, we could get the approval of only 20 youths to join the club.

"The situation has changed now and the parents are helping and encouraging their children to join football clubs. This is a good thing and proves that the UAE league is moving in the right direction, towards professionalism with a sound foundation." Sheikh Hazza believes this shift towards professionalism and privatisation of clubs will contribute greatly to the upgrading of work inside the clubs.

He feels that clubs need to attract more fans, and he feels the way to do that is by providing the fans with good facilities inside the stands. He also urged the clubs to encourage families to attend the matches as it would help in ensuring better behaviour from the fans. @Email:arizvi@thenational.ae