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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Middle East rugby chiefs in limbo as Qatar deadline looms

Doha Rugby Football Club, the only team to have beaten the all-conquering Abu Dhabi Harlequins in last season's West Asia Premiership, "looking it as a normal season" despite uncertainty over whether they will be able to take part.

Doha rugby team after beating Jebel Ali Dragons at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence in Dubai.
Doha rugby team after beating Jebel Ali Dragons at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence in Dubai.

Organisers of rugby in the Middle East are preparing two separate fixture lists for the new season due to uncertainty over Doha Rugby Football Club’s participation.

Doha finished second in the West Asia Premiership last season, and were the only side to beat Abu Dhabi Harlequins, the eventual champions.

The competition usually involves sides from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Doha. However, their ability to participate in the competition from now on will be greatly diminished if the dispute between Qatar and their GCC neighbours is not resolved.

Monday is the deadline for Qatar to make a decision on the 13 demands delivered by Gulf states and Egypt last week.

Ghaith Jalajel, the rugby development consultant for Asia Rugby, West, says the make up of the region’s rugby competition for next season remains unclear with the situation as it is.

“At the moment, all we can say is we are looking at producing a fixtures list with multiple options which includes and excludes the Qatar-based teams, [and are] hoping the issue will be resolved soon,” Jalajel said.

Martin Murray, Doha’s chairman, says his club are preparing for the new campaign as they would do any other.

“We are putting our rugby team together as if we were having a normal season,” Murray said.

“We are currently planning that. Brook Tremayne has remained here in the country as our director of rugby, and we are going to get him some support in terms of rugby development.

“We are looking it as a normal season. There is not much more we can do, because it could change in an instant.”

Murray says he has suggested to the sport’s administrators in Dubai that a final decision about the make up of the league be made towards the end of this month.

“At that point it becomes unfair on all teams to carry on making contingency plans,” he said.

“We will still be committed to playing as much of a part as we can in Gulf rugby. We can effectively get to all the countries in general, it will just be more time consuming travel.”