Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Rugby in UAE: Why pitches are expensive to hire for clubs

Short answer: they are world-class and maintenance costs a lot of money.

The Dubai Rugby Sevens, which hosts international teams and events, is a world-class facility for local clubs to play in. Antonie Robertson / The National
The Dubai Rugby Sevens, which hosts international teams and events, is a world-class facility for local clubs to play in. Antonie Robertson / The National

In much the same way all golf courses in the UAE are leagues above the average municipal choices of elsewhere, the few rugby pitches for hire are of a far higher standard than amateur players might otherwise be used to.

Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, and The Sevens, Dubai, regularly play host to leading international teams from professional sports.

Playing at The Sevens, for example, means players tread the same turf AC Milan and Real Madrid players have in the past, as well as international sevens players do on an annual basis.

And if it is good enough for Cristiano Ronaldo, it is likely to cost a bit.

“It has been commented on by international teams who have played here, both in rugby and in football, that the facility itself is of high standard, and the pitches are a very high standard,” said Jim Fitzsimons, the general manager at The Sevens.

“That certainly doesn’t come free of cost. There is a massive amount of cost that goes into maintaining the pitches. Every summer we spend millions of dirhams on the pitches. It is very expensive.”

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Fitzsimons estimates that, on average, all eight pitches are in use for at least three hours per day, three days per week during the peak of the rugby season.

Maintenance of the pitches is geared to ensure they are immaculate for the Dubai Rugby Sevens, which takes place over the three-day National Day weekend every year.

Currently two of the eight pitches are being completely rebuilt, with the topsoil removed, and sprinklers relocated.

“That adds even more cost to what it normally is,” Fitzsimons said. “It is the preparation you do during the summer which gets you through the Dubai Sevens.”

Dubai Hurricanes and Exiles have each been permanently based at The Sevens since it opened in 2008, and they even have their own offices on site.

Both clubs have vast mini and youth sections, with most teams catering for two training sessions per week and matches on Fridays.

As such, the clubs require thousands of hours of pitch hire per seasons. The costs are made manageable as they are long-term tenants.

“We give them preferential rates if they use us as their home club, and the same goes for all the rugby clubs,” Fitzsimons said. “If they decide this is going to be their home base, they get preferential rates as well.”

UAE rugby in numbers

5 - Year sponsorship deal between Hesco and Jebel Ali Dragons

700 - Dubai Hurricanes had more than 700 playing members last season between their mini and youth, men's and women's teams

Dh600,000 - Dubai Exiles' budget for pitch and court hire next season, for their rugby, netball and cricket teams

Dh1.8m - Dubai Hurricanes' overall budget for next season

Dh2.8m - Dubai Exiles’ overall budget for next season