x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pro League has given UAE standing in Asia

The Pro League was born on April 22, 2008 when the Football Association signed an agreement to form a new league for the 2008/09 season.

The Pro League was born on April 22, 2008 when the Football Association (FA) signed an agreement to form a new league for the 2008/09 season.

The Football League, the Pro League's predecessor, had been around since 1973, but the FA appointed a group — the Professional League Committee — to create a league that would give the country standing in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

"The league which is played now could have been useful 30 years back, but not now," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the then president of the FA, said in 2007. "If we do not turn to a professional league, the Asian Football Confederation will ask us to play in the amateur tournaments."

The AFC revamped its Champions League for 2009, making it more like the European version, and only clubs from leagues which met their criteria of professionalism would be allowed. Leagues were required to become financially self-sufficient.

"The UAE has become a good example for Asian countries in implementing the professional league," Tokuaki Suzuki, now the AFC competitions director, said at the time. "I can say the future is bright for UAE soccer."

Romy Gai, who had worked with Italian giants Juventus, was brought in as the league's chief executive. "We want to make this league a role model for the rest of the continent," he told The National.

The Pro League sold their television rights for Dh350 million on top of a Dh250m sponsorship deal with Etisalat. Attendance at matches dwindled, however, and clubs performed poorly in Asia.

Gai was replaced by Carlos Nohra last year, and Dr Tariq Al Tayer replaced Hamad bin Brook in 2009 as chairman of the PLC, which was rebranded the UFL.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae