x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

UFL's refusal to budge proved costly

Once the pride of football authorities, UFL pay the price for stubborn stance on naming issue.

Differences between the UFL and FA also emerged over the availability of players for the national teams.
Differences between the UFL and FA also emerged over the availability of players for the national teams.

When the Pro League came into existence in the spring of 2008, it was the source of much pride in the corridors of the Football Association.

Unlike other countries in the region, the UAE had established an independent entity to oversee the newly formed league.

"We are going towards professionalism and our target is the kind of football we see in Europe," Mohammed Khalfan Al Rumaithi, the president of FA, said in an interview with The National at the time.

"We have established an independent association to manage the league, unlike what you see in other Arab countries, where the professional league is just a committee of the governing body."

From the beginning, Al Rumaithi dismissed rumours of a rift between the FA and the Professional League Committee (PLC), which governed the new league.

He spoke about how the new body had freed up the FA to focus their resources on the development of the national teams.

"We are a family and like every family, there will be disagreements," he said. "The truth is, all of us are working for the benefit of UAE football, as one. We have a great relationship and our roles are complementary."

The first fissures in the relationship appeared in September 2008 when Hamad bin Brook, the chairman of the PLC, informed the FA about their decision to change their name to UAE Football League (UFL) following a recommendation by their marketing division.

The amendment was approved by the UFL in January 2009 and they sent a letter to the FA seeking affiliation under the new name. The FA reminded them about their registration as the League of Pro Football Clubs.

The issue dragged on, and the General Authority of Youth and Sports threatened the UFL with dissolution in February this year.

Tariq Al Tayer, who took over as the chairman of the UFL in 2009, defended the UFL's right to rename itself.

"What is wrong with changing a name?" he asked in a recent interview. "Why should there be a problem. This name was approved and adopted by the general assembly of the UFL. It has the name of the UAE and shows the activity we are involved in.

"The UFL's board of directors have an obligation to implement the resolutions of the general assembly and we did just that."

Differences between the UFL and FA also emerged over the scheduling of the league games, the recommendation to increase the top division to 14 teams, and the availability of players for the national teams.

Before the Asian Cup this year, the national team had time for just a week-long camp because of the league matches.

The UFL was also blamed for the over-spending by clubs, which has led to many of them accruing huge debts.

Matters came to a head earlier this month as officials from both sides went public with some of their objections.

Al Tayer described the FA as a "coffee shop" and called for the annulment of an article that gave the FA right to call any player at any time.

And Saleem bin Suroor Al Shamsi, the chairman of the FA's Commission on the Status and Transfer of Players, accused the UFL of going beyond their defined role.

"We respect the view of the UFL and understand that disagreements are natural," Al Shamsi said. "But we cannot have two bodies running football in the country. That is unacceptable.

"The UFL is trying to interfere with the workings of the FA and this is unacceptable because their role is limited to organising and managing the competitions."