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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Rugby League Cup cancelled as former administrator Sol Mokdad is released from prison

Sol Mokdad, the former administrator of rugby league in the UAE, looks set to leave the country once the legal action brought against him by the UAE Rugby Federation has reached its conclusion.
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, white, and Xodus Wasps, yellow, both decided to leave the Rugby League Cup due to the ongoing issues. Christopher Pike / The National
Abu Dhabi Harlequins, white, and Xodus Wasps, yellow, both decided to leave the Rugby League Cup due to the ongoing issues. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Sol Mokdad, the former administrator of rugby league in the UAE, looks set to leave the country once the legal action brought against him by the UAE Rugby Federation has reached its conclusion.

Mokdad was released from prison on bail on Tuesday night and is unable to comment on his situation.

It is believed he plans to sign a document agreeing to conditions set out by the UAERF for them to drop the case.

He is also understood to be considering leaving Dubai as soon as he is legally permitted to, and possibly relocate to the UK.

Mokdad was arrested two weeks ago when he was at a sports function at the Sofitel Hotel in Dubai.

The UAERF had taken action against him for “unauthorised representation of the UAE sovereignty” by claiming the title of president of the Rugby League Commission, a position that could only legally be held by an Emirati.

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In a statement this week, the UAERF confirmed it had agreed to withdraw the case against the Lebanese national, upon three conditions.

In simple terms, the stipulations were that he is “no longer involved with overseeing or managing the code of league under UAE jurisdiction”. Neither is he permitted to organise any code of rugby without gaining written approval from the UAERF.

During the course of the investigation, Mokdad was also discovered to have had an expired visa.

He paid the fine to resolve that issue, but the rugby case continues, essentially because Mokdad and his lawyers have yet to be presented with the letter documenting the terms to which he must agree.

During his two-week stay in prison, the UAERF — the only government-recognised body to run rugby in the country — set up a new committee to oversee league.

It appropriated the domestic Rugby League Cup competition, which Mokdad had run, and announced new dates for the final two fixtures.

The tournament will not go ahead, though, after Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Xodus Wasps — two of the four competing teams — withdrew.

Each club decided it would be inappropriate to continue given the prevailing climate of uncertain governance.

The Rugby League International Federation, the 13-man code’s ruling body, insist they have made progress in persuading the General Authority of Youth and Sport Welfare that league is an independent sport from union.

After Harlequins signalled their intention to pull out of the competition on Monday, Wasps, who would have been guaranteed a place in the rescheduled final in the absence of Harlequins, followed suit on Thursday.

“Xodus Wasps was keen to complete the rugby league season this year and following the formation of a new UAE Rugby League committee, that looked to be possible,” said Craig Gibson, the club’s chairman.

“Unfortunately, a combination of factors has concluded the possibility of continuing rugby league in the UAE in its current state.”

Gibson pointed to the disparity in messages from the separate ruling bodies as a reason to step away from the competition.

He also suggested the “fast-tracked formation of the new UAE Rugby League committee” brought inherent challenges, “as has rugby league player despondency, following the political uncertainty”.

“Xodus Wasps consider rugby league in the UAE to be in its infancy, but there is certainly strong potential for growth, once the relevant parties have agreed a pathway for its development,” Gibson said.

“I believe due diligence, greater awareness and better management will allow rugby league to flourish in the UAE.

“That requires transparency in strategy and for all the concerned parties to be properly engaged by the governing bodies.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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