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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Dubai Wasps forced to pull out of UAE's domestic rugby by spiralling costs

Club will continue in social capacity and hope to enter Eden Park Sevens and Sharjah 10s competitions, but players free to join other clubs if they want to continue playing regular rugby.

Dubai Wasps, in black and yellow, are among many rugby clubs facing a difficult financial climate. Antonie Robertson / The National
Dubai Wasps, in black and yellow, are among many rugby clubs facing a difficult financial climate. Antonie Robertson / The National

Dubai Wasps have withdrawn from domestic rugby, after spiralling costs caused the team to fold.

The club will continue in a social capacity, and hope to enter the Eden Park Sevens and Sharjah 10s competitions.

However, all their players are now free to join other clubs if they want to continue playing regular rugby.

“We lost our main sponsor, and the cost of playing rugby seems to be increasing across the board,” said Laurence Parker, the club’s co-chairman. “We didn’t have enough players to fulfill our obligations. We couldn’t keep the club running.

“A lot of the guys put in extra money last year to help fund the club. Rather than it be a sponsorship-based entity, where the players just paid their subs, a lot of the guys have been paying a significant amount more just to keep the club alive.

“We have struggled for the past two years, and it has reached a point where we are putting too much of our own money in and are still never able to compete with the bigger clubs around here.”

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Wasps achieved much after their formation in the summer of 2010, quickly securing elevation to the top flight of the domestic game, as well as providing a number of players for the UAE national team.

It was started by a group of players that included the former Samoa international Trevor Leota, who named the new entity after the club with whom he won Europe’s top club rugby competition when playing in the UK.

Leota was part of the Dubai Wasps side which played the curtain-raiser to an LV Cup match on the lawn of Emirates Palace between England’s version of Wasps and London Harlequins, against Abu Dhabi’s version of the Harlequins in 2011.

However, lean times followed as financial pressures on the game in this country started to take their toll, culminating in their withdrawal.

It will now lead the UAE Rugby Federation to redraw their competitions structure, in what has been a challenging summer for the sport here.

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Almost all clubs have been having to balance losses in sponsorship revenue – in some cases as much as Dh500,000 worth per annum – with increasing running costs.

Many have voiced doubts they will be able to continue in their present guises, with a drop in division, or even out of competitive rugby entirely, a likely outcome.

Despite the adverse financial climate, a new club has joined the fray. Dubai Sports City Eagles are entering their first season, and will be playing at the Premiership level when the season starts on September 22.

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Parker himself plans to join the Eagles, citing the fact it is ideally located for him, and he believes a number of his erstwhile Wasps colleagues might be planning to do the same.

“After speaking to a lot of the guys, they wanted to find a club that was central,” said Parker, who has played for Wasps for the past six years.

“There is nothing more central than Sports City. I want to stay playing with my mates, plus I like what Sean Carey [the Eagles founder] and Josh Ives [Eagles rugby development manager] are doing.

“They are trying to develop a club ethos. Wasps perhaps could have kept it going for another year or two, but it is just not worth it.

“If I can play with my mates at another place, which is supported by a company, then it is hands down the correct option.”

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